And instead of working together to solve problems, they go to war with each other and make more problems.
Yes, there are power politics and plenty of my slice of the pie versus your slice of the pie–whose slice is bigger, whose got more cheese and toppings, and whose slice is pipping hot.
Most often these office controversies happen behind the scenes or closed doors.
Behind the scenes, you can’t see the knives violently slashing and behind paper-thin closed doors you (usually) can’t hear the screaming!
But every once in a while the “passion” of the work spills over into the public domain–sometimes in a meeting, hallway, cafeteria, or the even the company picnic.
In all these cases, the professionalism goes out the window way too fast and out comes the drawing of lines in sand, the I’m right and you’re wrong (including wagers for a good lunch or even maybe a nice crisp $100 bill), and threats to escalate (as if this wasn’t ugly enough already).
What comes over people in the moment–perhaps they simply feel like they are in the right or that they are simply defending themselves, or maybe there is spillover from problems at home, ego at play, socialization issues, or even personality disorders.
Whatever the reason, as one of my best friend’s fathers used to say, “When 2 people fight, they are both wrong!”
Or some people say that “they both end up with black eyes”–even if one comes away worse than the other…
And I think if you’ve ever had a car accident with another driver, you would know that the insurance companies agree with this principle, and attribute some portion of blame to each driver–whether 50/50 or 99/1–everybody plays a part whether in an accident, dispute, or an all out brawl.
What’s interesting watching these unfold is how the participants are almost in their own world with everyone else as bystanders, sort of just fading into the distance–so they do everything wrong:
They speak emphatically in absolutes (and maybe even yell a little), cite chapter and verse (but from different books), name drop (ever bigger executives in the organization whether they really know them or their positions on the issues or not), name call and make personal digs, and perhaps–although it should absolutely never come to this–get physical (like slamming their portfolios, coffee mugs, and doors, or I heard one person who even threw something at their colleague).
Aside from these folks typically losing the argument and whatever they were after, what’s worse is they lose everyone’s respect, and maybe even their jobs.
The arrow of the workplace fight shoots way up, and comes down hard and fast right in their behinds…it’s a stupid, but endlessly painful and deserved ouch. 😉
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)