Walking out of the building after another hard day, Ellen felt ill in her heart. These meetings were so painful — it seemed that everyone just wanted to shoot at each other. The team did produce good work, but the pain of getting there was sometimes too much.
Today it was Will shooting at Betty. Her booth design was flawed, and Will did offer some real improvements, but only after he said, "This layout makes me want to walk right by." Betty sat stone-faced, and Will was clueless. It wasn't a guy thing — Ellen had seen it too many times in too many different gender combinations. Maybe it was this team, or this company. Anyway, she resolved that this would be her last trade show planning effort. Ever.
Why do we hurt each other when we work together? And when we do try to address hurt feelings, why do we hear "I didn't mean to offend you" so often?
Most of us grew up with command-and-control models of work. We learned that task is far more important than relationship. But in the team environment, both task and relationship count. Accomplishing the task at the expense of the relationships is a failure.
Since a task orientation prevents us from noticing harm to relationships, we tend to reward people who contribute to task achievements, and we tend to ignore those who contribute to relationship achievements.
Here are some tips for making your team a success in both task and relationship.Both task and relationship
count. Accomplishing the
task at the expense of
is a failure.
- Focus on ideas, not people
- Focus your comments on the idea, rather than its proposer. Combine the idea with another idea to get the benefits of both.
- Assume the best of people
- Few of us hurt others intentionally, except perhaps in anger. Most of the time, when we think that an insult is intentional, it isn't.
- When you hurt, feel — then deal
- When you hurt, let yourself feel it. If you have the strength, and the time is right, let people know what's happening for you. Unless they know that you're in pain, they probably won't change what they're doing.
- Recognize contributions as contributions
- We're usually fooling ourselves when we attribute a specific contribution to a single person, because most contributions have many authors. We can't always know for sure who contributed what.
- Recognize relationship building and preservation
- To succeed in both task and relationship a team must work at building and preserving relationships. Recognize contributions that keep personal relationships healthy.
When you introduce these ideas to others, some might feel criticized, and some might feel hurt. Perhaps, reading this, you yourself feel some regrets. Be easy on them and be easy on yourself. Focus not on the past, but on making "right now" as good as you can make it. Top Next Issue
Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- Fill in the Blanks
- When we conceal information about ourselves and our areas of responsibility, we make room for others
to speculate. Speculation is rarely helpful. It's wise to fill in the blanks.
- When Change Is Hard: I
- Sometimes changing organizations goes smoothly. More often, it doesn't. Whatever methodology we use
— and there are many methodologies available — difficulties can arise. When change is hard,
what's happening? What makes change hard?
- Human Limitations and Meeting Agendas
- Recent research has discovered a class of human limitations that constrain our ability to exert self-control
and to make wise decisions. Accounting for these effects when we construct agendas can make meetings
more productive and save us from ourselves.
- Scope Creep and Confirmation Bias
- As we've seen, some cognitive biases can contribute to the incidence of scope creep in projects and
other efforts. Confirmation bias, which causes us to prefer evidence that bolsters our preconceptions,
is one of these.
- Make Suggestions Privately
- Suggesting a better way of doing things can sometimes backfire surprisingly and intensely. Making suggestions
privately reduces that risk, but introduces a different risk.
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 22: Disjoint Awareness: Bias
- Some cognitive biases can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Confirmation bias and self-serving bias are two examples of cognitive biases that can contribute to disjoint awareness in some situations. Available here and by RSS on January 22.
- And on January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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