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Always A Godmother, Never A God—Power And Control In The Workplace

by Lorraine Segal
January 2010

From Lorraine Segal's Conflict Remedy Blog

Lorraine Segal

Unrealistic attempts to control bosses, co-workers, or employees at meetings or individually can be huge sources of conflict in the workplace. When I recently saw this humorous title of a Gilmore Girls episode, Always a Godmother, Never a God, I thought of the frustration my students and conflict coaching clients express about control issues at work. I have also dealt with these myself as a program coordinator with a supervisor, employees, and co-workers.

Many workplaces are not the most comfortable, well run places to be. I’m sure we all at times attempt to figure out what’s wrong and what needs to change. Maybe, like me, you have been sure that your analysis of the problems in the workplace is the correct one, that if only other people would listen to your brilliant ideas and do things your way, the workplace would function much better.

Years ago, I used to take this further; even if people didn’t listen at first, I explained persistently, convinced that if I could only find the perfect words, everyone would realize my suggestions were best. If that didn’t work, I would try other forms of manipulation. I unconsciously had the delusion that I was an omniscient workplace “god” who could reveal the path of truth. I would be surprised when my efforts backfired, and people would resent me or manipulate back instead of being grateful.

I have learned the hard way that we can’t control other people or make them different; we can’t even make ourselves change. But, it is possible be a “godmother” of change. We can truly listen to the concerns and ideas of others without ignoring our own. We can recognize, with compassion, that others want to be right and be heard just as much as we do, and that it strengthens an organization’s effectiveness and harmony when we honor a number of perspectives.


Lorraine Segal is a certified Conflict Management coach and teacher, specializing in communication and conflict resolution in the workplace. For many years a middle manager and tenured community college professor, she has her own business, Conflict Remedy LLC.

In her organizational consulting, classes, and coaching, she helps people learn new skills, get “unstuck” from negative stories, and shift their patterns of thinking and reacting so they can learn to: communicate clearly, resolve conflict effectively, and contribute to a more harmonious and productive workplace.

She currently teaches at Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, and St. Joseph Health Life Learning Center (Memorial Hospital) and works with various businesses and organizations. 

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