it comes to Conflict, Beware the Office Skunk.”
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
I, too, can
smell skunks before they smell themselves. But, instead of roaming fields
and backyards, my skunks roam office corridors.
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.
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
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.
is a sad, almost cuddly creature, but he seems so miserable, you’d
rather not visit his cube.
of skunks are of no help to teams seeking to confront conflict constructively.
do we avoid confronting conflict in the first place?
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
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.
conflict can have one or many of these damaging effects:
the status quo
teams to a group of individuals
are a few tips to handle and engage office conflict constructively:
an improvement to a system or process that may be ineffective
rather than deride the person trying to use it
privately to those with whom you have a conflict; say you’re
committed to creating a solution in partnership
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
that “your” way may not be the “only” or “right”
stifle your voice when something upsets you
possible solutions instead of complaining
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.
Scott Klein, Hudson Horizon Consulting, LLC Reprinted with permission.
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