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Conflicts of Interest Blog by Vivian Scott
When people don’t know what’s happening they often get a movie going in their head that helps them explain the situation. The film versions they conjure up are rarely romantic comedies; rather, most resemble horror movies with terrible endings. A lack of honesty or openness at work can put everyone’s mental movie-making skills to the test.
I love a dramatic film as much as the next guy but when it comes to resolving conflict, I know I need to set my desire for a good story aside and focus on what’s real. With that said, we’ve probably all had coworkers who like to make even the most mundane topics sound intriguing and captivating. As long as you know that about them, don’t get too worked up when they want to send out those “I know something you don’t know” messages. If what you’re experiencing goes beyond that, address your concerns privately and give the person an opportunity to let you know if they’re in a position to share information. Accept that sometimes people are sworn to secrecy for a certain amount of time or that they may be in the “thinking” stages and need to explore a number of options before making an announcement.
Withholding information is one thing; one’s words not matching one’s actions is another. We’ve all had occasion to feel blindsided, disrespected, or embarrassed because we took someone at their word and then something else actually happened. When you find that someone has been less than honest give them a (private) opportunity to explain what happened. Our sense that someone didn’t tell the truth isn’t always accurate, so certainly give people the benefit of the doubt. If it turns out that your suspicions are true, let the person know that you expect more and that you’re willing to work on trusting them again. Move forward with an agreement that it won’t happen again.
We’re all human and when you find yourself in a circumstance in which you’ve been less than honest or were unnecessarily closed off about particular information, make whatever apologies you need to make, come clean, and be better than that from here on out. Keep in mind that you’re the star of your coworker’s mental movie, so work on creating a better ending.
Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator and the author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies. She spent many years in the competitive and often stress-filled world of high tech marketing where she realized resolving conflict within the confines of office politics was paramount to success. Through creative solutions to common conflicts she was able to bring various entities together, both internally and externally, for the betterment of projects and a productive working environment.
Prior to retiring from Microsoft in 1999 she developed the “America at Work” video series, a six-part program featuring small businesses employing technology in attention-grabbing ways. “America at Work” aired on the USA Network and received the Silver Screen Award from the International Film and Video Festival for outstanding creativity. Using discerning negotiation, mediation, and problem-solving skills, she successfully worked with others to co-create “How-to Guides”, “Seminar in a Box”, and even one of the first on-line Guerrilla Marketing books.
Since her retirement, Ms. Scott has gone on to earn a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences with a concentration in American Studies from the University of Washington. She completed an extensive practicum with the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish & Island Counties where she has mediated numerous cases, helping parties resolve conflict in workplace, family, and other disputes. Her private mediation practice has handled cases ranging from assisting business partners in ending their relationship to creating a new working environment within a law firm. Ms. Scott is a member of the Washington Mediation Association and spends a majority of her time advocating embracing peace in a volatile world.
Her book, Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies, can be found in bookstores, on www.amazon.com, www.dummies.com, or any number of on-line bookseller sites.
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