The deadline looms large and the book or report is far from being published and delivered in time for its launch. Nerves are on edge. Tempers flare. Blame is passed around. The computer that is being used to design the publication crashes, else the printers cannot work with your new deadline to deliver… Murphy’s Law at play, that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Let me tell you a story about my friend Tony and which is inspired by a weekend conflict between my neighbours and which I managed to solve amicably. Once, Tony was working as an errand boy for a certain British expatriate. As is to be expected, the expatriate was housed in a lush neighbourhood, in the Blue Zone, to be specific, where the ilk of the diplomatic corps lives. A large shopping mall – everything under one roof – was 500 yards away. A hundred yards from the shopping mall were a few kiosks, an eatery and a butchery that mainly served the support staff in the neighbourhood.
Now, Tony’s boss had some friends coming over one Friday afternoon for a barbeque. He instructed Tony to go and buy ten kilos of meat from the butchery. If you know Tony, he has a good heart, so I will not say he set out deliberately to ignore his boss’ orders. Still, he had some supplies to pick at the shopping mall, and in his infinite wisdom, decided that he might as well as buy the meat from the shopping mall which had a meat section.
Tony’s boss comes early. Did you get the meat? Yes. From the butchery? No, I bought everything from the shopping mall in the interest of saving time. Okay, but I wanted meat from the butchery as it is fresh. Here, take this money and go get another ten kilos from the butchery. This time, Tony did explicitly as requested.
Anyway, the barbeque was a great success, with a few of the boss’ friends promising to pass by this particular butchery and take home some meat. As Tony was leaving for home, his boss called him and requested him to take home the meat from the shopping mall as he would not be needing it. So, Tony arrived home with ten kilos… and the missus suspicions were, rightly, aroused. I mean, who just waltzes into the house with ten kilos of meat on a Friday evening for no apparent reason? Could Tony be involved in the illicit bush meat (or donkey meat) trade?
So, what happened the next morning? I asked Tony. Nothing, apart from the fact that my wife did not talk to me. The boss inquired after my wellbeing and gave me my assignments for the day. And he never reprimanded me any day after that; in fact, it was as if the whole fiasco had never happened. Still, I was so wracked with guilt I felt that it was a hundred times better to be scolded severely.
The lesson? I totally understood why the behemoth he was heading was reporting huge profits year in year out and was rated as among the best organisations to work for. Needless to say, my respect for him soared greatly to the point of adoration. Just so you know, Tony named his son after his boss. And he did explain, foolishly, to his wife about the meat. The whole ten kilos of it.
So, how do you resolve conflict at your workplace? Does the conflict management style build the staff or does it leave them broken? This in view of the fact that life (and work) will go on long after the publication. And I did narrate this tale to my feuding neighbours who wondered what it had to do with the matter at hand that was the dispute over the clotheslines. Still, I must say, it did manage to cool tempers towards finding an amicable solution.