I was invited by a colleague to mediate a conflict between two of her employees. Both worked in the area of public relations managing customers for a large firm. One was an office manager, the other was on the team of receptionists. The receptionist quit her position because she was tired of being publicly scolded by the office manager.
The mediation went well. Both intelligent women, both kind hearted, both felt hurt by the other. The office manager thought the receptionist was gossiping and behaving in an unprofessional manner with another employee, when in actuality, she came to find out through the mediation, they were working to resolve a management problem and doing it on unpaid time.
The receptionist withheld the fact that she had been working off the clock on this issue with another employee. This was important information as the office manager was working on the same issue. Withholding that information resulted in unnecessary wasted effort on both sides.
The receptionist didn’t tell the office manager because she was afraid the office manager wouldn’t support her action plan. The receptionist wanted more trust and to be given the benefit of the doubt for her actions. She wanted more leadership and independence from the office manager, although she had never communicated these desires.
The office manager wanted more transparency. She felt disrespected and as though the receptionist was overstepping her bounds by not consulting or reporting in. At the same time, she highly valued this employee’s dedication and was hoping the receptionist would not leave her position.
The receptionist was struggling. She was having a hard time letting go of the humiliation she felt at being publicly scolded.
I love this quote by C.S. Lewis…
“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.”
Where we get triggered, is where our work lives. Sometimes that work looks like reaching out to make greater communication, sometimes it means letting go of pride and opening our heart. Sometimes it means forgiving a wrong for no good reason. Sometimes it’s an opportunity for spiritual growth, to exercise tolerance, patience or flexibility.
I find most conflict is a result of not enough communication. Both of them were surprised by what they learned about each other’s motives in the mediation. When we withhold communication, we withhold the potential for resolution, growth and love. It requires humbleness to reach out when it’s uncomfortable. I was moved by the willingness of these two women to stay in the ring together. A few days passed. Just as they were about to hire a replacement, the receptionist called and asked for her job back. The office manager was happy to give it to her. My colleague tells me there is greater harmony in the office now. A happy ending.
Laura Fine, MFT degree, MA, Director: Lionheart Institute of Transpersonal Energy Healing