When it comes to Conflict, Beware the Office Skunk

[Career Essentials] Newsletter November 1, 2020 - When it Comes to Conflict, Beware the Office Skunk


Welcome, loyal readers and new subscribers.

Crisp, fall weather arrived last month. I love this time of year!
The air is brisk, the sky is clear and there’s a wealth of vibrant colors and activity.

Last month we visited one of our favorite places, the Greenmarket on 14th Street at the edge of Greenwich Village. Talk about an abundance of wonderful breads (cranberry walnut!), fresh vegetables (see the photo of me with the riotous assortment of peppers), and plush mum plants. It’s such fun to be among this bounty.

Speaking of bounty, my appreciation goes out to my good friend and colleague, Scott Klein, for his article in this month’s issue. I think you’ll find the topic very compelling: “When it comes to Conflict, Beware the Office Skunk.” It’s a new spin on a topic with universal applications. Thank you, Scott!

Finally, I have been reading and admiring Drew Rozell’s work for years. He speaks from the heart and his Attractionville community has garnered respect and a devoted following. If you’ve been wondering how to attract all that you want in your life, read about Drew’s community in this month’s recommended resource section below.

Have a luminous November!

To Your Success,

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What’s your deepest desire? Money? Better relationships? Freedom? Peace? Drew Rozell’s Attractionville is a virtual education center designed to fully support you in attracting exactly what you desire with ease and joy.

Attractionville offers ongoing support, audios, transcripts, books, meditations and a community designed to help you attract more and more of what you want in your life.

Drew is sincere, fun, extremely knowledgeable (he holds a Ph.D.) and is a very cool guy. I encourage you to visit his community at Attractionville.

Feature Article

“When it comes to Conflict, Beware the Office Skunk.”

By Scott Klein

My Grandpa used to say he could smell a skunk before it smelled itself. Since my grandparents lived on a farm, I thought he was speaking in a literal sense.

I may have been wrong.

I, too, can smell skunks before they smell themselves. But, instead of roaming fields and backyards, my skunks roam office corridors.

Just who are these office animals and what do they do?

When it comes to conflict in the office, there are two kinds of skunks: those with stripes, and those without.

The skunk with stripes openly handles office conflicts poorly. He points fingers, and complains to whomever will listen about whatever is “wrong.” He also campaigns to get others on “his” side. The moment you see or hear him, you want to run to the opposite side of the building.

The skunk without stripes is a more docile creature. This skunk quietly hopes conflict will blow over. He may softly lament to those who can’t do anything about it, or he may say everything is “OK” when someone in senior management asks how things are on the team.

This skunk is a sad, almost cuddly creature, but he seems so miserable, you’d rather not visit his cube.

Both varieties of skunks are of no help to teams seeking to confront conflict constructively.

But, why do we avoid confronting conflict in the first place?

Most often, it’s simply easier to not get involved, or we’re afraid our boss will think we have a bad attitude. It’s a lot easier to blame the billing department for our unhappy customer, or point the finger at a co-worker who’s using an ineffective system. Lots of times, it’s easier to complain than offer a solution.

But, at the core of the matter, we avoid confronting conflict when there is a lack of trust. We may not trust our boss, the company or even ourselves. When we spend any amount of time stressing over conflict, it’s time to take a different approach to playing with all the office animals.

Not confronting conflict can have one or many of these damaging effects:

  • Squelch creativity
  • Reduce productivity
  • Increase stress
  • Breed resentment
  • Support the status quo
  • Reduce teams to a group of individuals

Here are a few tips to handle and engage office conflict constructively:

  • Suggest an improvement to a system or process that may be ineffective rather than deride the person trying to use it
  • Speak privately to those with whom you have a conflict; say you’re committed to creating a solution in partnership
  • Don’t gossip — speak only to those with whom there is a conflict or to those who have the authority to do something about it
  • Let people know you welcome and value different points of view
  • Consider that “your” way may not be the “only” or “right” way
  • Don’t stifle your voice when something upsets you
  • Offer possible solutions instead of complaining
  • Respect the person even if you disagree with the approach or opinion

No one wants to be surrounded by office conflict skunks. Clear the air with any of the constructive approaches noted above, and your little patch of office will be a more pleasant, productive place to work.

© 2006 Scott Klein, Hudson Horizon Consulting, LLC Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Scott Klein is a Human Capital Consultant who helps successful organizations maximize productivity and employee satisfaction with customized team building, management training and change management programs. For more information, or to sign up for his fr^e monthly newsletter, visit http://www.hudsonhorizon.com.

About Dale:

Dale Kurow, M.S. is an author and a career and executive coach in NYC. She works with clients across the U.S. and internationally, helping them to become better managers, figure out their next career moves and thrive despite office politics. Click here for more information about her services.

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