The elephant in the room 

By  Debbie Nicol

The elephant in the room

Most workplaces have rules and regulations, policies and procedures which exist in some form. Varying levels of understanding and commitment exist for these and the degree to which they are kept alive, relevant and dynamic comes down to the importance of measurement, as determined by the management.

What is often not covered in these resources is clarification on that deemed to be unacceptable behavior and procedures. Clearly the inclusion of too many negative determining factors would add an unintended energy, yet shouldn’t those aspects that could be the ‘make or break’ of in-house or external business relations be worth making explicit?

The elephant in the room in most workplaces is often an avoidance of dispute. Corporations tend to keep these under wraps, so as not to open cans of worms which could morph into canister-like issues. For some cultures such as the Emirati culture, it is an unwritten law not to seek dispute in order to keep a peaceful and respectful workplace environment. For some workplaces, it is seen to be opening a topic which may not be easily resolved.

What if we turned this on its head, and introduced the creation of a charter as an activity for business start-ups and existing corporations alike. This charter would cover as many priorities as exist, with one of those being a mandatory statement on the preferred way to handle disputes.

That charter for my company looks something like this:

  1. Anticipate undisclosed or undiscussed elements of a business arrangement, and bring them to the fore
  2. Add these to the list of priorities that have already been raised explicitly
  3. Dedicate quality time to each:
    1. For those points that elicit agreement, add the statement to the charter as a commitment and promise.
    2. For those where agreement cannot be reached, these are likely the ones that will result in dispute at a later stage. Dedicate time with the people and the issue as if conflict has already arisen, gripping and undeniably impairing workplace relationships. When facilitating that (#ORSC is one process that can be applied here), take note of what surfaces through this process, as this is what any charter must block entry to. Ensure charter is written accordingly.

Elephants are mighty, fierce and aggressive animals when caged, just as dispute can be in the small, restrictive area of a workplace. Rather than place the elephant in the room and only then discover he does not like being there, why not proactively bring potential disagreement and dispute out in the open, effectively closing the door and opportunity for anything unwanted to walk on in when we you are least prepared.

Preparation is the key to success; failing to prepare is preparing to fail!

Debbie Nicol

Debbie is tenacious, resilient, can break complexity and ambiguity into concrete simplicity, eats the stage, loves to challenge, Author.
Debbie is a Change Practitioner, Facilitator, Conceptualizer, Design Capability, Asks the right questions, Builds Customized Solutions, Life's Mirror

Debbie Nicol

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