The failure of many organizations to deal directly with anger and conflict often reflects fear and ignorance; fear of making things worse, and ignorance about how to make things better. The emotional and financial fallout to employees and employers alike is staggering. Wrongful dismissal suits, supervisor intimidation, sexual harassment, stress leave, low productivity and job action all could be avoided with some foresight, planning and courage.
I am frequently asked to mediate toxic work situations that have arisen precisely because managers at all levels are ill-equipped to deal with the “intensity of emotion” that occurs in conflict-ridden or angry situations. Let’s face it — these situations are notoriously uncomfortable and draining for the manager. Avoidance as a strategy, however ineffective, quickly takes on a life of its own, as wishful thinking or turning a blind eye never resolves anything. To the question, “How long has this been going on?” the response is seldom less than a year, and may be two years or more. The trigger event may have been a violent outburst, a lawsuit, a walkout, etc., but the causes are long-standing and well-known to all parties.