Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Anger is Fear

I was talking to a friend today at Toastmasters. He said that conflict comes from anger and anger comes from fear. I thought about it in relation to the conflict with my coworker. I agreed that my anger came from fear. I could even identify four things that I was afraid of. But they seemed somewhat unfounded when I said them out loud.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Getting Over It

In our work, we make mistakes. If we can recognize our mistakes or are told about them quickly enough, we can correct them and mitigate the consequences. Sometimes it even helps to try something, try anything, to see what results we get and adjust our actions accordingly. "Ready, fire, aim", someone once said. It works more quickly and accurately sometimes. And in business, it's not necessarily being able to foretell the future that leads to success, it's being able to adapt quickly when the future doesn't turn out like we planned. I don't like to make mistakes, especially when it affects other people. But I can't avoid them. I can only get quicker at correcting my mistakes, one day hoping to adapt so quickly that you will think I had intended to do it that way, that it was part of the plan. So, I don't hope to stop getting mad. I just hope to recover quickly enough so that no one has to feel the effects of it and I can speak calmly and helpfully to make everything come out all well for everyone.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Getting Mad

I think that I have said before that I learned what I know from making mistakes. So, I must be still learning because I'm still making mistakes. I didn't do the right thing today. I made myself mad. I would try to say that someone else made me mad, but I know better. People just do what they do and we decide what it means. We are the ones who make ourselves mad. Or I could have been mad intentionally. That is, I could have thought about what was said and done and decided to let people know that it was not okay with me. But that isn't what happened. I decided I had been insulted and let myself react without thinking about where my reaction would take me or even where I wanted to go. Not that I can do that in the few seconds it takes me to walk down the hall. I just shouldn't have walked down the hall until I had thought about it!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Whole Book

My friend Rob asked if I had put any of my book on my website. It's all here! The whole book. It's had a few different titles, but here I have returned to the original, which is "Doing the Right Thing and Achieving All Your Goals at the Same Time." You can find the table of contents on my home page, www.mariannepowers.com.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

For the Man Who is Suffering from Conflict in His Office

I passed out pens at a class I was teaching yesterday. They have my website address on one side, http://www.mariannepowers.com/, and on another side they have the words, "people who work in offices and why we fight". One of the people in my class asked me, "What is this, what does it mean?" I explained that I have written a book and give talks about it. She said that you are suffering from the conflicts taking place in your office. She said maybe there would be something here that might help you. There is. The book published on this website is about people who work in offices and why we fight. It’s also about how we can stop fighting, solve our problems, and accomplish all our goals together.

I know what you are going through. I have worked in over 50 offices in Washington DC, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Arkansas, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. It is the same everywhere. If there is an office where you haven’t seen any conflict, it’s almost always because you haven’t hung around long enough. For 30 years, I fought with the people I worked with and they with me. At first, I thought it was them. Later, I thought it was me. When I became a consultant, I saw people fight each other the same way. They called each other stupid and lazy and crazy. They called each other evil. Just the way my coworkers and I had done. Then I knew it wasn’t me, it wasn’t us, it wasn’t any particular person or group, it’s everybody. And it’s very destructive. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You can change how things are, how things work in your office. First of all, you can change it for yourself. If you read just the table of contents, you will start to see that you already know how to solve every problem, resolve every conflict, and achieve every goal that you have. It’s mixed up with everything else you have experienced or have heard or thought might be true. I’m pointing out that these particular things, that you already know, are effective, will work. If you are a manager, you can change it for your group. You can adopt the 25 points in the table of contents as “rules for engagement”, as the way to fight, because there will be conflict, but it doesn’t have to be destructive. And it will seem reasonable to people because it’s what they already know, too. Things like: You can talk about what someone else said or did. You cannot talk about someone else’s intelligence or character or personality. You don’t have to like her, but you do have to treat her with respect. If the any of the titles in the table of contents are not clear enough, you can read the chapter to see what it means.

You can reply to this blog or e-mail at marianne@mariannepowers.com or call me at 505-270-9150. I don’t think it will be necessary to tell me any details of the conflict. I can tell you that most coworkers fight about the way the workload is distributed. It’s common for people not to know what anyone else in their company does. And when you don’t know what somebody else is doing, it appears that they’re doing nothing. But it’s not the fact that people fight or what they fight about that is the problem, it’s the way they fight. I would also be glad to come and talk to you or your group.

Marianne Powers

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A Very Interesting Question

In a comment to the last post, Sue wrote:

"In your article on Office Politics in the Life in the USA Magazine, you state that office politics is the way people influence decisions in a company from outside the designated chain of command. I was wondering if you think this also applies to politics in government and if you have any hope that those of us outside the chain of command can ever influence real change. A big question I know!"

I hadn't thought about that before but, yes, only more so! In this country, the designated chain of command is only temporary. The incumbents tend to use the power they have while they have it, but they don't stop trying to influence people and events either. Everyone is trying to have their say on current affairs and the outcome of the future elections.

And in government, too, politics is not inherently bad.

Suppose that you were elected President of the United States. Suppose that you and everyone else in Washington had just one goal, to do what was good for America. People would have different opinions on what that was but suppose they didn't fight about it. Suppose each person or group saw a problem or opportunity, researched it, and talked to everyone involved to come up with the best solution or plan. Suppose they used the information they had gathered and their strong feelings about what was right to try to persuade you to support their plan. That would be politics, too. We wouldn't hear about it as much, but it would be better for us all. What we do hear about is the name-calling, the mud-slinging, the complaining. And we listen. It's interesting. But don't we also get a sickening feeling when we hear it. Because we know that as long as people are fighting, no matter which side they're on, there's no work going on, no problems being solved, no progress being made.

The problem is not that politicians disagree. They represent us and we disagree. They have to fight for what they believe, what we believe. The problem is the way they fight, just as in our own lives it is the way we fight. I can say what I think is right and why I think it's right. I can listen to you and try to understand your point of view. I can convince you or be convinced by you or we can agree to disagree. We can look for a third option that satisfies us both. But if I attack you or you attack me, we can only fight. Then you won't give in, I won't give in, even if there is something that we could accomplish together. We will fight each other even against our own best interests, just as politicians sometimes fight each other against the best interests of the people they represent and the country.

I think that politics is the way people outside the designated chain of command influence decisions in an office and in government. And that even far outside the chain of command, where we are, we have influence. What I hope we will use our influence for is to convince those who represent us, by showing them that we are doing it in our own lives, that we want them to work on problems, develop opportunities, and get some work done, and not waste time trying to destroy each other. We can start, and perhaps other people will join us, and then we can rely on what Margaret Mead observed:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it's the only thing that ever does."