Moving forward, even healing, after a workplace conflict is a little like playing a record with a scratch in it.
The record itself may be shiny and strong and capable of playing beautiful music. Yet it’s easy for the needle to get caught in that one scratch and mar the listening experience that awaits in the rest of the record.
Earlier this week I mediated a dispute between two business partners who haven’t been speaking. Both are smart, good folks caught up in a tense situation they hadn’t anticipated. As I sat with them and helped them navigate their difficult conversation, I found myself musing about how easy it could be for them to slide back into a place of tension after I’m out of the picture. After all, they’d felt frustrated with one another for months and several hours of talk would not suddenly erase it.
How can they play the beautiful music that is their partnership without letting the needle skip over and over that scratch? How can they avoid letting the scratch be their focus instead of the rest of the record?
I offered them this: Be kind to yourselves. Allow the other to make some mistakes as you get back on even keel. Use the ideas and plan you’ve devised in mediation to re-engage. Instead of keeping each other at arm’s length, go have coffee and catch up. Call me to step in again briefly if the tension begins to re-build, before it gets overwhelming and the divide widens.
They ended the mediation with a hug that brought tears to my eyes.
Photo credit: Ratnesh Bhatt