It’s said that on nearly every major issue, 40 percent of the people will be bright and sophisticated enough to agree with you; 40 percent somehow, for whatever tragic reason, will not. And the other 20 percent will be the ones who actually decide things.
In today’s world, it’s tough to accept the power of that 20 percent. We are all so polarized, we lump anyone who is not with us as being against us. They are perceived to be the enemy, assigned absolutely the worst of motives. We are so sure of ourselves, that it must be a mathematical certainty that everybody else — including the undecideds — are simply wrong or, worse, bad people.
This kind of us vs. them, zero-sum thinking is at the heart of
our political discord.
But that kind of logic is not limited to our political climate. We can get just as deeply fortressed in our own perceptions at work, where we can become miserable stewing over disputes and engaging in tribalism that undermine the success of our teams and, ultimately, our companies.
Most of us have been there or at least witnessed it in the
workplace. Two otherwise good employees become locked in an impasse. Neither will budge, but the conflict creates a challenging if not poisonous environment for everyone.
Often, it seems these situations are impossible to turn around.
But, in fact, they can be. There are tools at our disposal. They
require will, discipline and self-awareness. They require effort. But
these skills can be learned, if not mastered. And they do work.
One of these techniques is a practice I call: “Wear Glasses
That Work.” Have you ever discovered that your version of
the truth wasn’t so true after all? Have you ever found yourself
assuming malicious intent to a co-worker's actions, or reading
the thought bubbles over your boss’ head, only to find out later
you didn’t have the whole story? You filled in the blanks with
your own projection of what was happening.
If we are honest, we all have done it at some time or another. And that’s why when you find yourself in a judging situation,
it pays to check your own glasses — or frame of reference.
You might see two co-workers locked in a dispute and dismiss it as a personality conflict. Actually, I would call it a paradigm conflict: Two people wearing their own set of glasses, unable to see the world the same way.
Is it possible to push a reset button in these tough relationships? Give my “Wear Glasses That Work” exercise a try: In one column, list the things you think you know: “Jim thinks he’s better than
everyone. He is an award-winning web designer and is popular with the broader team. And he works long hours. But he is
skeptical about any project assigned to him and undermines the projects that come his way through his cynical manner. It’s like he’s too cool for the work, which he seems to do
under protest. It wears thin when we have deadlines to meet.”
Now, write in the next column only the facts, the things that are verifiably true: “Jim is a hard-working, award-winning designer. He’s popular with the broader team. He doesn’t seem entirely bought into the projects coming his way.”
This statement is looking through “glasses that work.” You are separating truth from perception. And it helps you see Jim in an altogether different light. Rather than being a problem employee with a big ego slowing down the team out of sheer contempt, looking through a new lens, you might see a talented worker who could be having a problem with the work — and it might be worth deeper inquiry to ensure your team is operating in efficient alignment.
“When you find yourself
in a judging situation,
it pays to check your
Set aside your perspective on why you think Jim is behaving the way he is, and rather ask what could you do to help? Try basing your view on the facts, and the facts alone: “I will schedule a
meeting with Jim to ask him how he feels about the work. I will see what we can do to help him feel a greater sense of team and purpose.”
Now there is a chance you may speak with Jim and find hard evidence that he is, indeed, an egomaniac looking to undermine the team and the company. And that you can act on.
But I’d bet that nine times out of ten you will find that the initial picture in your head was incomplete.
Try it. What do you have to lose — except a hard-earned
grudge or two? The potential is there to make tremendous
progress in what seemed like a hopeless relationship with this
Todd Davis is the Chief People Officer at Franklin Covey and author of the best-selling book Get Better – 15 ProvenPractices To Build Effective Relationships At Work as well as the co-author of the best-selling book Everyone Deserves A Great Manager – The 6 Critical Practices To Leading A Team.