Posted May 7, 2020
The conversation continued to get louder and louder. The intensity grew and soon all professional restraint was gone. What started as a minor meeting to communicate some necessary but relatively normal information turned into a shouting match in front of others who had no business knowing the business of the leaders who were arguing in front of them.
With one last shout and a profanity one of the leaders slammed down his binder, stood up abruptly and marched out of the room. With a mighty swing of the door it smashed closed and the wind blew papers around on the credenza next to the conference room door.
As he walked back to his office, he was outraged the first 20 paces. Embarrassed the next 20 steps and ashamed by the time he turned in his own office. Ironically, he gently closed his door and sat at his desk and tried not to hyperventilate.
How could he have lost control over such a small matter. What would he say to his coworker and friend that he humiliated in front of their subordinates and team-mates? Would he even get the chance, or would HR show up and escort him to the parking lot with a box of his belongings?
Before he could think much more there was a knock on his door. “Oh no, here we go he,” muttered to himself and rose to open the door. To his surprise it was not HR with an escort but his friend whom he’d just argued with publicly. With a rye grin and soft voice, he asked if he could come in. “Sure”, was the answer, and he stepped back and allowed him to enter.
Closing the door and turning to his friend he said, “man, that got out of control quick”. “Yeah, it did” was the reply and he motioned him to sit. His friend said, “listen I need to apologize. I knew we weren’t in line on this and I brought it up anyway. This is my bad and I really want you to know how sorry I am. It won’t happen again.” That simple act allowed him to acknowledge his own mistakes in the argument and ask for forgiveness as well. They discuss how to handle the issue and agreed to reschedule a meeting with the team and set things straight publicly to minimize the damage their outburst had caused.
Conflict resolution is seldom that simple, especially if not handled the right away.
But three keys that will help are as follows:
You will not be a perfect leader so don’t pretend you are. And please don’t confuse strength for stubbornness. Being strong means being humble, keeping your ears open and your mouth closed as much as you can. When you’re stubborn you’re just being an idiot.
Our friends went home that night, they felt much better than carrying that grudge with them and allowing it to wreck their home life too. Confession cleanses the soul. You will feel better and be seen as a much stronger leader when you own your mistakes, fess up and get back on a healthy course.