Q: I'm working with people from different departments assigned to implement a new program. Unfortunately, two individuals seem more interested in fighting each other than getting...

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Q:

I’m working with people from different departments assigned to implement a new program. Unfortunately, two individuals seem more interested in fighting each other than getting the job done. Nobody wants to get in the middle. I’m tired of wasting my time. Any ideas?


A:

Power struggles are a common emotional agenda for meetings.

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Trying to get your co-workers to admit they’re sucking up all the airtime won’t work; they’ll both just fight with you.

Instead, appeal to the group’s need to get work done. Realize that power struggles in meetings can represent unresolved conflicts in an organization.

One person may be the champion for a technology department that feels overworked by senior management.

The other person may be the champion for a management team that believes the information-technology folks are lazy.

When they both fight, other members of the group may silently cheer on their favorite team, getting vicarious thrills as each champion expresses sentiments they’re afraid to voice.

When I consult in organizations with lots of underground conflict, I notice some groups really enjoy watching people fight.

In a group that needs to vent frustration, the members may find a fight between two people to be a good outlet.

Productivity for such a team is not the goal.

Neither a well-intended co-worker nor a mediator can stop such a battle.

If your team wants to get any work done, they’ll choose a cease-fire and focus back on the group task.

If, instead, the group chooses to let the two people argue, at least you can ask for a reassignment while the rest of the team watches the wrestling match.


The last word(s):


Q:

I’ve heard most successful people have a 10-year plan. I can barely plan for the weekend. Am I hopeless?

A:
Life is a lot more like sailing than chess. Having a 10-year plan is fine, but what happens if your game board gets overturned? Instead, imagine aiming your boat in your preferred direction — and be prepared for the wind to change.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube