How much energy is lost squabbling or mired by tension? We may not be aware but conflict and evolving events can create their own culture. Disputes can become personal, dissent can be acted out in public and energy may be dissipated by situations spiralling out of control. In my work I have seen conflicts cripple an entire board, executive team and even separate volunteers. The bottom line? Conflict can be costly relationally and financially. Living constantly in conflict situations can unhealthy, whereas being in healthy relationships can be productive. This does not mean that relationships will always be smooth. What it does mean is that people who are secure in relationships can express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction knowing that they are in secure environments and things can be worked through.
Dealing with Tensions
Tension can emerge in a range of ways. For instance there may be disagreements about strategy or about the board’s role in raising funds for the organisations. Different factions can form with a range of people holding a variety of perspectives. Email trails and patterns of communication can be toxic and there may be great difficulty in moving forward as the situation becomes more deadlocked.
When tensions or difficulties show up, it is easy to do nothing in the hope that it will resolve itself. This is probably the worse thing to do as an eruption may occur at any point, particularly when you least expect it. The answer? Resolve things as early as possible. Learn how to engage in conflict and difficult situation with more ease and awareness. Skilfully separate out the issues. Recognise that what may occur as personal may not be. There may be systematic or structural difficulties that cause frustration or anger. Remember the iceberg? The presenting problem is usually not the underlying cause. The symptoms usually mask something much deeper.
In Part II of Culture of Conflict we will explore practical steps and solutions that we can take when we are wadding through trickle.