'Working Wounded': Conflict Resolution

DEAR WOUNDED: There is a lot of tension where I work. It seems like someone is always fighting with someone else. Is there anything that I can do to change the attitude in our office?

ANSWER: My hero when it comes to resolving conflict at work is Jeffrey Pumo. He's not a business professor, a CEO or an author. He's a Montana State University student who was arrested and charged on a series of marble shootings at people, according to the News of the Weird. Pumo was quoted in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle saying, "I'm looking forward to proving my innocence on the majority of these counts."

Pumo reminds us that it is rare that we are totally innocent when there is a problem at work; often we share some of the blame. To being the process of creating a better workplace each of us needs to acknowledge how we contribute to the mess. I've included strategies to increase the peace, below. For more, check out the co-founder of the Giraffe Project, John Graham's, book, "Stick Your Neck Out" (Berrett Koehler, 2005).

Can you acknowledge past wrongs and hurts? Have you ever held a grudge against someone? We all have. That's why it's so important to reduce the impact of these past hurts by acknowledging them. A sincere apology is a great place to start.

Do you take the time to understand their perspective? Have you ever felt strongly about something at work? Usually you have a lot of reasons for reaching the conclusion that you've reached. Don't forget that it's often no different for the people that you work with. They usually have their reasons for their actions. Honor them by taking the time to walk in their shoes to try to understand where they're coming from. But don't stop there at what they believe, dig deeper to learn the reasons behind their actions.

Can you learn to suspend your judgment? Most people are successful in business because of their intuition. As important as gut feelings can be, there are also plenty of times where it's important to suspend judgment and give someone the benefit of the doubt.

Can you give something back? It's easy to get into a battle over precious resources. One thing that I've found that really can change the entire dynamic is to look for opportunities to give stuff away. Resources, interesting projects, advice -- stand up for people and chances are they'll start standing up for you.

Do you explain your position with more candor than usual? According to my mail, there seems to be less and less candor at work today. Buck this trend by bringing all the honesty you can to work. Some people may complain about TMI (too much information) but most will appreciate your honesty.

Pumo lost his marbles, but you don't have to. Use the strategies above and work could become a more hospitable place.

We'd like to hear your strategy for creative responses to conflict at work. I'll give an autographed copy of "Working Wounded: Advice that adds insight to injury" (Warner, 2000) to the best submission. Send your entry, name & address via: http://workingwounded.com or via e-mail: bob@workingwounded.com. Entries must be received by Wednesday (July 27).

Online Ballot and Contest

Here are the results from a recent workingwounded.com/ABCnews.com online ballot:
Which statement best describes your company?

       The rules are clear for all to see, 21.6 percent
       My company says one thing and people do another, 40.7 percent
       This place is a riddle wrapped inside an enigma, 37.7 percent

Winning Strategy

Our winning strategy for being more ethical at work comes from D.A. in Tacoma, Wash.:

"My company makes ethics easy. We have a code of conduct that outlines specifically what the organization expects us to do in a wide variety of difficult situations. And we are encouraged to discuss it in our staff meetings. I believe that if more companies did these two simple steps we would see a lot fewer executives doing perp walks. Which makes me wonder if companies really want to reduce ethical challenges at work."

List of the Week

Disney rules … How Americans feel about Disney characters at work

(Disney is the parent company of ABCNews.com)

      American executives identify most with Mickey Mouse's leadership ability (after all, he is the leader of the club made for you and me!).

      U.S. Military personnel admit to being a bit "Grumpy," which could be explained by cots and early wake-up calls.

      Teachers put Minnie Mouse at the head of the class.

      Doctors were most likely to call themselves Dopey, while nurses chose Cinderella.

Source: Walt Disney Company

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, speaker and internationally syndicated columnist. His newest best seller, "GRAY MATTERS: The Workplace Survival Guide" (Wiley, 2004), is a business comic book that trades cynicism for solutions. Ask Bob a question: bob@workingwounded.com or http://graymattersbook.com.

ABCNEWS.com publishes a new Working Wounded column every Friday.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.