Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 2, Issue 19;   May 8, 2002: If You Weren't So Wrong So Often, I'd Agree with You

If You Weren't So Wrong So Often, I'd Agree with You

by

Diversity of perspectives is one of the great strengths of teams. Ideas contend and through contending they improve each other. In this process, criticism of ideas sometimes gets personal. How can we critique ideas safely, without hurting each other, while keeping focused on the work?
Pain in the heart

Photo by Magnus Lindvall

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
the relationships
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. Go to top Top  Next issue: I Think, Therefore I Laugh  Next Issue

101 Tips for Managing Conflict 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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Related articles

More articles on Emotions at Work:

FeedbackFeedback Fumbles
"Would you like some feedback on that?" Uh-oh, you think, absolutely not. But if you're like many of us, your response is something like, "Sure, I'd be very interested in your thoughts." Why is giving and receiving feedback so difficult?
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When we try to understand the behavior of others, we often make a particularly human mistake. We tend to attribute too much to character and disposition and too little to situation and context. When we seek a better balance, we can adopt a more accepting view of events around us.
Rough-toothed dolphinThe Injured Teammate: I
You're a team lead, and one of the team members is very ill or has been severely injured. How do you handle it? How do you break the news? What does the team need? What do you need?
Shackleton, Scott and Wilson, of the British Antarctic Expedition 1902The Injured Teammate: II
You're a team lead, and one of the team members is suddenly very ill or has been severely injured. How do you handle it? Here are some suggestions for breaking the news to the team.
A vizsla in a pose called the play bowWhy Dogs Make the Best Teammates
Dogs make great teammates. It's in their constitutions. We can learn a lot from dogs about being good teammates.

See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Office equipment — or is it office toys?Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
Tim Murphy, official photo for the 112th CongressAnd on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.

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