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Monica Wofford, CSP, teaches leaders to understand and improve their own leadership in using practice, skills, and desire as their three areas of focus.

Conflict isn’t created by magic, but making it go away can feel that way.

As the author of a book entitled Make Difficult People Disappear, I’ve been asked everything from “Does the book come with a shovel?” to “Can I get the hat and wand to go with the book?” While I’d love to say there’s a magic formula that requires no effort on your part to make office conflict and stress, go away, there isn’t. But, here are two magical methods that will feel easier than the wave of a wand.

Change your expectations

I’ll share a more personal example of how this works. A friend of mine was going through a divorce recently and he told me he was dreading the hearing because he knew his soon to be former wife would act badly and say things he wished she wouldn’t say. He was frustrated at what he “knew” she was going to do, but the frustration came from his expectations that she should do something different. He was expecting her to be nice, kind, demure, and polite versus the outspoken and apparently mean-spirited person he’d come to know in the process. It was as if he was looking at a bully, expecting her to act like a girl scout. Why do we do that? Simply alter your expectations. If you looked at a bully and expected him or her to act like a bully, you could then deal with the behaviors and determine your best course of action. If you expect that bully to be a girl scout, the only tools you prepare are those that should work with a green outfitted, kind, and well-mannered young lady. Whose fault is it then that you’re not prepared to deal with what’s coming? Hmmm…

Stop Fueling the Fire

So much of what we do is habitual behavior and that includes how we talk to or deal with people we know to be difficult. We say hello to them and then we ask the fatal question… out of nothing more than habit… we say “How ARE you?” The truth is we really don’t want to know and as I read This is How, the latest release by Augusten Burroughs recently, I laughed when he pointed out this very behavior that I’ve taught for years. We ask those who whine, complain, grumble, and groan because their ice cream is too cold, how they are doing and expect them to whip out their pom-poms and say “great!”. Then we stand there and listen to their tale of woe and wish we could find a way to exit stage left. Here’s a thought. Say “hi” and just keep walking. It’s not rude. It’s not ugly. It’s honest and it will keep you from feeling frustrated by a story or complaint that YOU asked to hear and be a part of in the first place.

Office stress and conflict may keep Human Resources in business, but it also keeps you from being productive, developing those who need it and crave the growth, and frankly, doing your job. Unless, your business card doesn’t say leader or manager and the words “Complaint Department” fill in that space where the title goes, your job isn’t to handle all the whining, but to keep from having so much space for it to exist.

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