Saturday, 23 May 2009

Why do organisations tolerate conflict led behaviour?

Why do organisations tolerate conflict led behaviour?

Today’s example, I’m at a store and there is a young chap cursing loudly at an older colleague about a female colleague and how she is paid a lot more than he is to do less work. He’s sick and tired of it, apparently, although he put that in much more colourful language. He is angry and out of control. He storms off with another colleague, swearing very loudly as he walks through the store, past me, my young son in his pram and other customers, tourists, business people.

It just isn’t good enough.

I and the fellow customers are embarrassed, and some maybe a little frightened at being caught in this awful verbal crossfire. I know I was thinking "I hope I don't catch his eye."

This man was feeling entirely justified in his rage and indignation. He felt it was acceptable to communicate a very violent rage in the way he did. But that is no excuse. He has a duty to conduct himself appropriately, a duty he and we all owe to ourselves, our employers and colleagues. We need to stop blaming the other party in conflict and regain some awareness of how we are letting ourselves down, of how we are contributing to the situation.

The problem is that these outbursts are seen everywhere. I saw it the other day in another store, and again this afternoon in a charity shop, albeit with slightly more restrained language.

When organisations are passive in tolerating these outbursts, they damage themselves.

In a presentation I prepared and presented recently I looked at what I called the Conflict Cost Matrix, more on that later. For now though, I would dearly love to get into these organisations and share some fairly low level, non-threatening and normalising presentations with their staff at all levels. Organisations can, and must do more to educate their people. When people are seen acting in such a fashion, whether in stores, reception areas of professional service providers, call centres, then it reflects on the whole organisations.

These front of house people are the interface between your company, all it stands for and your customers. They are your ambassadors and they are letting you and themselves down badly. Give them some skills to help them to help you.