For those of us who are committed to promoting effective conflict management in our workplaces, and society, today’s news items make for depressing reading. To give you a flavour:
Eurostar Workers To Strike Over Summer Holiday – The General Secretary of Eurostar, Mick Cash said ‘our train manager members at Eurostar have a heavy commitment to shift work and unsocial hours and are sick and tired of the company’s failure to honour agreements’.
Sexual Harassment At Work Affects Two Thirds – Almost two-thirds of women aged 18 to 24 have been sexually harassed at work, according to new figures published by TUC, UK.
Trump Accused Of Gun Threat Against Clinton – Donald Trump told the crowd at the rally in Wilmington, North Carolina – ‘If (Mrs Clinton) gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people – maybe there is, I don’t know’.
I also received a tweet referring to Donald Trump’s Iowa speech in February where, in reference to a warning he received that somebody might throw a tomato at him, he told the crowd, ‘knock the crap out of them- I’ll pay the legal fees’.
It is easy for us to look at all these events and adopt a critical judgement about what appears to be grave mishandling of conflict situations, verging on incitement to hatred in the case of Donal Trump. However, before we become too righteous, it is important to look at our own responses and judge ourselves on how we respond to conflict, especially when we have been triggered into a strong reaction. While we may not have physically ‘knocked the crap’ out of someone, have there not been times where psychologically we may have done similar – because we believed we were right! These strong reactions normally happen to us when we are on the receiving end of behaviours from others that are outside our value system. That challenge beliefs and standards we hold dear.
So, what are the important questions we have to ask ourselves in relation to dealing with somebody who has sexually harassed a co-worker, or stands on a global platform and encourages a crowd to ‘knock the crap’ out of others? I think some of the questions I see as important are:
- To what extent do I allow the destructive behaviour of others to provoke a negative response in me?
- How does my lack of tolerance of people behaving badly mirror their lack of tolerance/concern for others?
- What would a constructive response be to these situations?
- Where does my personal power lie in responding to people who behave in unacceptable ways towards me or others?
In my experience of working with managers to develop effective conflict management skills, we have found that our personal power to be positive influencers and peacemakers, lies in honing our skills to take perspective (even when it is contrary to our own), expressing how we individually feel and think about situations, engaging the other in creating solutions and always being prepared to make the first move when relations breakdown.
The road to peace is by no means an easy one. At times it demands everything especially in the face of a mind-set that is alien to us and so obviously harmful to others. However, if we do not find the means and skills to influence others for the positive, what is the alternative…. A world where our politicians stand on a podium and tell us to ‘knock the crap out of each other’?