“Working with Eric was a pleasure. We developed a good rapport and established a level of honesty and trust. I valued his counsel and recommendations. I find Eric to be very competent in a variety of disciplines. He is able to correctly diagnose organizational problems and suggest solutions that are on point. I found Eric to be a professional with the highest levels of honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior. I would not hesitate to engage his services again in the future.”
former Corporate Services Director,
Department of Planning and Development,
City of Seattle
(Kathy is now Director of Planning and Finance for Advocacy and Communications at World Vision.)
“I've worked closely with Eric on developing and presenting the Leadership Eastside community leadership program. He has that rare blend of extensive real-world experience along with a very strong background in theory and research. He moves easily between big picture strategy and the tactical details. Eric brings a superb ability to plan, execute and follow-through, both as a behind-the-scenes planner and as an upfront instructor and facilitator.”
founding board member,
You’ve just announced another round of layoffs. A recent high-visibility project went very badly, leaving work relationships in tatters. Staff members are giving each other the cold shoulder. When you ask questions to understand what’s going on, all you get are vague statements and veiled references.
How do you handle broken work relationships? What do you do when conflict seems to be bubbling just under the surface? How do you begin to restore trust and respect when anger and frustration are running high?
While you might wish to work in an environment where you never have to delve into the world of emotional or personal conflict, there are times when individuals and groups must have an opportunity to vent their concerns and feelings. They need to unload emotionally before getting down to work. They need to vent. My friend Nancy Robb, a manager at Seattle City Light, calls this “degriefing.”
In the conflict resolution and team building work I do, I have found that often the only way to decrease emotional conflict in the long term is to increase it in the short term. When emotions run so high that they cannot simply be put aside, they must be addressed head on. People need to have an opportunity to vent their feelings with each other.
Here’s an example. Recently, I have been facilitating labor contract bargaining for a government agency. When we first started out building our agenda, we found that there was a backlog of complaints, perceptions, questions and strong emotions that needed to be expressed before we could get to work on the contract itself.
We had to "vent" these other issues in order to start building a productive and healthy work relationship. Once we dealt with the pent up need, the group was able to focus on the contract and get to work. In addition, we were using a negotiating process (interest-based bargaining) that was new to people.
Venting is not easy, and most people want to avoid it. It is risky because you don’t want to make an already bad situation worse. It takes courage, patience and time for everyone feeling safe enough to say what’s on their minds. Fear of venting is one of the primary factors that hurts team performance, delays projects and thwarts team building.
Yet, I find that venting, when it happens, is almost always not as bad as people fear. Under the right conditions and with good facilitation, a group can work through venting and get on to “business matters,” provided that the venting process is allowed to play out.