Welcome to our latest feature, Coaches Corner, where we feature questions and answers discussed during our “Meet the Career Coaches” panels at our Women in Retail Leadership Circle events. In today’s installment, our coaches answer a question asked during our WIRLC On the Road: Los Angeles event. The question was, “How do you handle toxicity or conflicts in the workplace?”

The coaches on the panel included:

The Meet the Career Coaches panel was moderated by Lizzie Alberga, founder and CEO of Collective Gain. Their answers to the question are as follows:

Courtney A. Seard: “Sometimes it has to be internal. I find a lot of time people in toxic work environments want people to mind read and they’re not taking the accountability on themselves as to how they show up. A lot of time I find individuals wanting their companies to change problems, but they really need to change themselves. The agency is within you. Are you getting these toxic environments everywhere you go, or is it actually the environment in and of itself? I’m a firm believer that everything starts from within.”

Kristina Dopson: “Managing conflict starts with taking a really deep breath. Our bodies tend to react, and we need to move through and allow our bodies to feel that emotion. Whatever works for you — whether that’s taking a deep breath, dancing it out, shaking it out, screaming at the top of your lungs. Let the emotion move you, and then really get quiet. Also, start from a place of empathy and assume good intent. Whomever you have a conflict with, try and put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, ‘What are they afraid of? What are their goals? What do they need emotionally?’ Then turn back to yourself and ask yourself the same questions. Once you calm down, move it out or shake it out, and get really quiet, you’ll start to open up new solutions that work for both of you, and also bring a new perspective into this conversation. You’ll begin to acknowledge where these people are coming from, acknowledge their fears and maybe even help them move through their fears.”

Beth MacLean: “Conflict is actually a really good thing. Conflict shows that people have passion, and that they have ideas and differing points of view. So, it’s a matter of how do I manage conflict and manage circumstance, rather than assuming it’s a personal-level issue. In my work managing conflict, I use a framework called the GRPI model. Here’s how it works:

  • G is for goal. When thinking about conflict, the people in conflict should first focus on what their goals are. Do they have the same goals? Maybe they don’t, and maybe that in and of itself is the source of conflict. Or maybe they assume they have the same goals but realize that they don’t mean the same thing.
  • R is for role. Are we clear on our roles? Sometimes conflict comes because people’s roles are clashing into one another. Maybe someone is doing a role that you think is yours.
  • P is for process. Here it’s important to think about what our process is. How do we meet? To what end? How do we progress forward? What are our processes for working together?
  • I is for interpersonal. What’s your personal style, trust and relationship?

I’ve found in my experience that so often conflict is resolved by clarifying goals, roles and processes well before you get to the I. People often want to start at the trust and relationship level, but they find that they can’t ever resolve the conflict because the conflict actually is in their goals, roles, or processes of working together.”

What are some ways you deal with toxicity or conflicts in the workplace? Please let us know by dropping me a line at mcampanelli@napco.com. We’d love to get more perspectives on this important topic!

To hear more from these career coaches and leadership experts, members can click here to watch the full Career Coaches panel from the 2019 On the Road: Los Angeles event.

If you’re not a WIRLC member, click here to apply. WIRLC members receive many benefits, including access to premium content, networking opportunities with executive-level women, discounts to our annual Summit, and more. Join us today!