When we were growing up, we were always embroiled in sibling rivalry as you would expect of a small homestead accommodating a total of 5 energetic boys and one girl. On several occasions, we would fight and in an attempt to run away and hide, we would realize the only space available was within the house.
And the house was a little small room that was self contained, hosting all possible functions of a family home ranging from the kitchen, living room, bedrooms for each person who considered the place a home. Running around this space in a bid to avoid being caught by the angry elder brother for a beating was a tough calling. We would run yes, but only within the box.
This scenario comes to mind when I observe the goings on in many places of work. The most obvious is the experience of staff running away from their bosses. In cases when bosses and staff conflict, there is always the tendency for the staff to want to be as far as possible from the respective boss. They do all within their means to ensure their eyes do not meet and that their paths don’t cross.
The workplace is an interesting environment. Staff and management are constantly in conflict in the process of undertaking their daily tasks. The conflicts range from professional and task related disagreements to highly personalized conflicts. You will once in a while hear staff talking about their boss who never appreciates anything good they do and only capitalizes on their weaknesses.
On the other hand, you will hear of bosses lamenting of a certain staff who does not seem to toe the line. They would be found discussing about a staff who does not seem to appreciate their leadership and is ever demanding for more space than what they are provided.
At some moments, these conflicts are open and clear for all to see. The verbal and non verbal messages are legible and other staff realize that certain persons around them are not in talking terms. During this tense season, the conflicting parties tend to pool others around them with the aim of consolidating support and making the other person appear as the bad one. As this happens, the workplace is split into camps, with perceptions and attitudes built one against the other. Schisms appear and people start running away from each other.
When the attitudes are ripe and well cooked, staff start making moves against each other. It seems like everyone starts to suspect the other as no one knows who initiated the hate campaign and none seems to trust the other anymore. Everyone gets thrown into a race, a race against each other yet within the same office space.
You don’t want to be seen laughing with so and so since it may be interpreted to indicate you are buddies and may become an enemy of the rest. The use of words changes and caution becomes the utmost concern. You never know who is in which camp hence must be clear on who you talk to and on what issues.
Eventually, you find the workplace embroiled in the game of mystery friend and assassin. In this game, within the space provided, each person considers another as a friend and another as a foe. You never disclose who plays which role. When requested to move towards your friend and as far away from your foe, you notice weird movements. Whoever you may have picked as your friend could have picked on you as a foe hence the closer you tend to move towards them, the further they want to move away from you. A crisis.
The only way out of this circus is open communication. Talk to each other and eliminate suspicion. Build trust and address conflicts as they arise. Do not propagate discord against each other otherwise; you will initiate a silent run, a run away from each other, among the staff. And remember, you have only one space to run around. You better run in peace. Run towards each other, not in conflict and the run will be enjoyable within the box.