Last post, I described a workplace feud between Millie and Billy that’s gotten out of hand. What to do?
Dr. Glasser suggested that the need for power is a basic human need. Because “power” is such a charged word, I want to clarify that an aspect of power is simply the knowledge that we matter; that we have worth.
Different people have different levels of this need but according to Glasser, we all have it to some degree. There are productive, helpful ways to satisfy the need, and there are distinctly unhelpful ways.
A feud, whether in the workplace or elsewhere, could be an attempt to satisfy one’s need for power. With their feud, Billy and Millie are choosing a method that is unhelpful for them and for the company.
Outside of drastic action by company management, the people who can change the situation are, of course, Millie and Billy. Others may intervene with good intentions or provide helpful information, such as, “Do you see where these actions are taking you?” But any change has to come from the people involved.
Here are three suggestions for Millie and Billy, offered in the spirit of providing helpful information. Either Millie or Billy could give them a try. It would be great if they both adopted the suggestions, but cooperation from the other party isn’t required for one person to make a change.
1. Stop all of your actions that contribute to the feud. Do so unconditionally; that is, regardless of what your opponent does.
Tell your opponent that you’ve made a change. For example, “I’ve decided to stop feuding. You’ll probably notice a difference. I don’t expect you to do anything different, but I’m not doing it anymore.”
Then follow through, regardless of how the other party might try to provoke you. You’re bigger than that, anyway. You can’t control what they do, but your actions are under your control. You don’t need to continue feuding just because someone else seems to want it.
2. Use common courtesy. If you’d say good morning and hold the door for a stranger, then do it for your feuding partner. “Is this the way I would treat a stranger?” could be a helpful way to assess your actions.
Use decent, respectful language. Smile, even if it feels artificial. It doesn’t matter if the other person continues to be unpleasant. Your behaviour, whether courteous or rude, is under your control.
3. Examine how you are satisfying (or not satisfying) your need for power, recognition, and worth in other aspects of your life. There are many ways to satisfy that need and how you choose to do so is up to you. You have a lot of control, even if at first glance it might not seem so.
Take a look at your non-work life. What do you value? What would you like to accomplish? Have you thought about it? If not, now is a good time. If you have, how’s that going for you?
Do you feel respected by others? Do you respect yourself? Are you contributing to what’s important to you (family, friends, community, your own self-development) in a way that is satisfying for you? Act on what you learn.
You get an added bonus when you choose not to react to provocation. Your reaction may have been contributing to helping your opponent satisfy their need for power! Suddenly, when you become immune to their “pushing your buttons,” their power is lost. Control over your response is back with you, where it belongs.
There’s no requirement to be good friends with people at work. But there is a considerable downside to being enemies.
Have you ever observed a workplace feud? Been involved in one? Would these suggestions help?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
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