What was intended to be a short, positive meeting turned sour quickly.
The staff had gathered to discuss how changes in the department were going.  All feedback up to this point from various staff members was positive.  As the Trainer I anticipated the good vibes to continue and celebrating how the team had worked together.  When suddenly verbal punches started between the manager and one of the staff.  All hopes of positivity came to a screeching halt!  In less than a minute, the two excused themselves to work out their differences.
Have you ever been in a work meeting like this?   
  • As a manager where you felt your authority was being challenged and you needed to set a boundary about appropriate behavior?  
  • Have you been a staff member who felt singled out and embarrassed through a public put-down?
  • Have you been the innocent bystander as a staff member watching the conflict unfold and felt the awkwardness of where to look and intentionally biting your lip so you didn’t add fuel to the fire?  
Creating a psychologically safe work culture

 If the manager and staff member who exchanged words do not resolve the conflict between them it will continue to affect many aspects of the work culture.  Not only will their relationship continue to be strained, it will be like the proverbial walking on eggshells for others. The tension will contribute to gossip, people taking sides, and other negative energy that robs productivity, customer satisfaction, and profits.  

Just like in our personal relationships, conflict resolution is a process that takes time and intentionality to work through.  And just like in a family, disagreements and conflict will occur.  Each person has a stake in his or her point of view and wants to be heard and understood. How we handle it is the difference between teams who resolve conflict and deepen their relationships through better understanding or teams who become divisive.  


Tips to create a psychologically safe work culture

1.  As a leader, it is your job to model positive relationship management and performance.  If you don’t feel equipped, identify areas you need to grow and seek the resources you need.

2.  As a staff member, it is your job to contribute and respect the chain of authority.  If you don’t feel you are being treated well, first consider how you might be contributing to the problem.  Second, document the facts and go to the appropriate parties to address your concerns.  

3.  When conflict arises, both leader and staff need to know it is a cultural norm to address differences in a manner that seeks solutions without blame or retaliation.

4.  As an organization, if you don’t have policies and practices to prevent abrasive behavior, create them.  Ultimately it is the organization’s responsibility to set the work culture for respect and collaboration.  It needs to be a company norm that abrasive behavior will not be tolerated.  

 Make the Conscious Choice to contribute to a psychologically safe work culture whether you are a leader or staff member.


I would love to hear your responses and comments, including the struggle of working through conflict in the workplace.  Please let me know how I can help you create a positive and collaborative work culture.  

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