It's pancake day today! Having treated my daughter to Nutella smothered pancakes for breakfast this morning, and her seeing me tossing them in the air (semi-successfully) it was nice to hear that word used in a fun and innocent sense. That isn't always the case in the work I do - words like these are usually used to describe colleagues who somebody has lost respect for, or whose opinion they just don't agree with.
Whatever horrible names we choose to call others, it isn't usually true. Not many people are naturally toxic and choose to make your life difficult - they probably have some frustrations that you're not aware of, and that's why they're acting like they are. If you're honest with yourself that's probably true for you too.
The problem with human nature is we tend to be judgemental - we judge others by their actions, and we judge ourselves by our intentions. This isn't a good mixture - in fact it's a recipe for disaster and usually the relationship goes as flat as a ... yes, you get the pun!
It's very true - whilst the perfect pancake is made through the right combination of eggs, milk and flour the same goes for relationships (whether in work or not) - there must be the right mix of listening, empathy and honesty.
However, just mixing the raw ingredients together doesn't make the perfect pancake - what about the heat level? What about the length of time on the heat? When will you know when and how many times to toss it? All of this comes down to a touch of pragmatism - each one will need to be judged; every pancake will be that little bit different. Some may need to be tossed several times, others just once. Somebody must have the skills and confidence to make those decisions. Leading people is the same, and therefore I will always come back to leadership as the root cause of workplace issues. To lead people effectively, you need the art of being able to make different decisions for different people situations - there isn't a perfect recipe, or a book that will tell you the answer. Leading people is an art, not a science.
People who know me will be very familiar with my complete distain for formal grievances. They don't resolve issues, they normally make them much worse - to continue the analogy, it's like trying to cure a burnt pancake by turning up the heat and leaving it there longer. Why would you choose to do that? This is why we train people in mediation skills within the workplace - if you can sense that something is burning, the right thing to do is remove the heat and resolve the issue or get somebody with the right skills and confidence to help you do this. There's then a high probability that you'll still produce an amazing outcome for everybody.
That's the skill of a mediator - helping people to get those raw ingredients together and combine listening, empathy, and honesty through facilitation to produce an outcome which everybody can move forward with. When you have internally trained mediators in your organisation, issues can be nipped in the bud very quickly, and nobody gets burnt. Even more importantly, nobody feels the need to go through a formal grievance process and those nasty ingredients that they bring - wasted time, unnecessary cost and (most importantly) intense and often debilitating stress.
With internal mediators you start to effect real and proper cultural change. If you'd like to know more about learning mediation skills, please click the link below or drop me an email.