Françoise Mathieu and Diana Tikasz chat about grounding skills and strategies – how do they work? Why are they so effective?
I recently had a challenging week managing my secondary traumatic stress reactions.
What happened felt long past and yet familiar – I had not experienced symptoms this strong since leaving full-time clinical work. It kind of caught me by surprise, although, in hindsight, it shouldn’t have, and I think I know why it happened:
I had been working long hours in the office and sleeping less than I needed – because summer is short in Canada, and the sun was shining, and the nights were balmy, and there was live street music to be enjoyed, and late-night conversations with dear friends to be had, and BBQs to be cooked and shared with my wonderful children and their friends.
I had also been reading a beautiful, but deeply disturbing, fiction book before bed (I know, I know) and had spent six hours on a drive listening to a podcast about a con artist who ruins people’s lives. (I KNOW – “What the heck?!” right?)
Basically, I was doing all the things that I tell other people not to do – lack of sleep, extraneous trauma exposure, poor pacing…and my fatigue and vulnerability sort of crept up on me.
Then, in rapid succession during that same week, I heard a series of terrible trauma stories at work. If you work in this field, you know the ones that I mean: those that bring up another case that you thought you had long forgotten and had stored far in the recesses of your brain; or an image that sends a chill right up your spine; or stories that make you stop breathing for just a second as you lean towards the pain and suffering of the person in front of you, in a state of deep empathy.
To top it all – and this is important – one of these stories wasn’t something that I heard at work: I was visiting with a friend, having a lovely catch-up, sitting in the garden, and forty minutes into our chat, she shared, without warning, a terrible story that had just happened to someone in her life on this very same day. She shared all of the sounds and images of the accident as people do when they are processing trauma. I don’t blame her for doing that, she was traumatized and needed my support and that is absolutely fine, but because we were chatting casually and I didn’t know the story was coming, it caught me off guard and hitched a ride with me for a few hours.
When there is a lot of secondary traumatic stress (STS) in me, I tend to withdraw from my family or steer all conversations towards hard topics related to my work. I still “show up” and cook and clean and do groceries and hug my kids, but I have very little mental energy left to engage in non-trauma conversation – especially if the topics are “civilian” concerns (the latest Congressional hearing? Blah) or one of my family’s three favourite topics (politics, gender politics, college basketball – someone save me). I normally enjoy a good smart debate about all of these topics, but when I’m full of STS, I just wish everyone would talk about cute puppies OR trauma.
This, in and of itself, is a solid warning sign for me, and I noted it as it occurred.
At the end of that week, my partner and I went on a lovely drive to visit some friends who live upstate New York – lush rolling hills and great music playing in the car.
I was quiet and reflective for the first hour. Finally, I told him – “This was a hard week for me. I heard a lot of difficult things, and although I won’t slime you with the content, it made me reflect on how it used to be for you when I did front-line trauma work full-time.”
He looked far off into the distance, took a deep breath, and replied: “Those times were really hard.”
Ok, so he’s a man of few words, but I knew what he was saying because we have been together for 30 years, and he has been a witness to my entire journey as a trauma clinician. We have discussed, in the past, my sometimes difficult transitions back into our home life, my irritability and lack of engagement in things that he is passionate or interested in. The way I sometimes withdraw to bed at 8pm because I am completely maxed out.
What is it like to be in a relationship with us? What is it like to be our friend when we don’t return calls for weeks or show up at birthday parties and tell a trauma story we think is hilarious but no one else does?
Resetting our Foundation
So yes, I hear a lot of hard things in my job – and I am sure you do too – and it’s normally fine because I have a whole arsenal of tools to pace and reset myself, but that week, because of my “summer 2019 extravaganza” behaviours, I wasn’t as prepared and grounded as I usually am. I was working with a shakier foundation.
Since I teach and write about secondary trauma for a living, I also watch myself very carefully and take mental notes:
“Feeling very anxious for no reason”
“Hmm, interesting choice of night-time reading…”
“Check me out picking a fight with my son before I even put my briefcase down – even though I had told myself ALL THE WAY HOME not to talk about this immediately as I walked in the door.” (Awesome parent of the year award…)
By Friday midday, I was feeling completely out of sorts. However, because I know my STS symptoms so well, I didn’t let these things go on for very long.
I decided to call it a day and took myself offline for a bit. I went to do some non-trauma related stuff for myself (insert your favourite self-care activity here) which, on that day, involved a pedicure and buying a tool at the plumbing supply store.
(And, yes, both things can co-exist in a person – a pedi and some bad-ass DIY.)
Yet during this mini-break, I noted my persistent level of hyperarousal. Throughout the afternoon, I was unable to shut off the overactive thinking and the list making.
So, I took a deep breath, went home, put the terribly sad fiction book away, watched an episode of Queer Eye (I LOVE THEM) and went to bed early for a proper night’s sleep.
Coming home to STS is an ongoing process – we need to remain self-aware, take notes of shifts in our behaviours, pace ourselves and listen to our loved one’s feedback when they say “you are not yourself today” (without biting their heads off). We also need to rest and restore our bodies and our brains, so that we can continue being present to all aspects of our lives.Coming home to secondary traumatic stress is an ongoing process. We need to remain self-aware, take notes of shifts in our behaviours, pace ourselves, and listen to our loved one’s feedback. Click To Tweet
This leads me to asking you the following questions:
If you are a trauma-exposed professional, have you asked your loved ones/friends what it’s like to live/hang out with you when you are in the Yellow zone?
What would they say about the impact hard stories and cases have on you? On them?
Have you developed a keen self-awareness about your warning signs and when it’s time to take stock and reset yourself?
As I finish writing this post, I am sitting in my garden on a cool Sunday morning. There is a light breeze blowing and my daisies are gently bending in the wind. The raccoons that live under my shed just came home from their night of carousing and gave me a nod as they crawled back in their den (we have an understanding – they don’t bother me, I don’t bother them).
I feel strong and rested, but I am also keeping a close watch on my thoughts, behaviours and choices that I make about taking care of myself. I love trauma work, but it can’t dominate every aspect of our lives if we are to continue providing high quality, ethical care.
There are so many things that we have no control over in our work – but how we take care of our bodies and our brains must remain at the top of the list.
“Mental Health and the Classroom” with Dr. Mike Condra
Presented as part of a panel discussion on mental health in Kingston, ON, April 11, 2015.
TEND Associate Dr. Mike Condra is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Queen’s University and has taught in the undergraduate and graduate programs in the Department of Psychology and in the faculties of Education and Law.
If you’re interested in having Dr. Condra speak at your organization, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about Dr. Condra’s live training.
Contact us for a customized training for your workshop.
Protocol for the Hot Walk and Talk
©2012 Patricia Fisher, Ph.D.
This protocol applies when there has been no physical injury and the person is stable enough in the aftermath to proceed. In the event that the individual has been physically injured or is in shock you would need to follow emergency procedures and get the appropriate immediate medical resources.
This protocol is designed to provide helpful first aid immediately after a team member experiences a particularly distressing or disturbing incident and is undergoing a completely normal stress reaction. This is something either supervisors or peers can offer each other and you will consider what would work best for you in your particular circumstances.
Remember that when we are experiencing a high stress response our body is in the flight, fight or freeze state and we are flooding with stress hormones and all the physical, emotional and cognitive responses that go with that. So, our first response introduces safety and containment for the person.
The following steps in the process are typically helpful:
- Go to the individual, ensure that they are physically out of danger, and ask them to come walk with you.
- Walk away from the area where the incident occurred and toward a neutral or safe area (if you can get outside that can be even more grounding).
- Walk beside them and set a pace that is brisk enough to engage the individual and help them discharge some of the distress… as the walk proceeds you may find that they naturally slow the pace – let them progressively have more control over the pace as the debriefing proceeds.
- Bring a bottle of water and have them drink the water as you walk
- Let them know that they are safe now and you are here to support them as they move through this absolutely normal response to high stress.
- Ask them to tell you what happened in their own words, if they seem stuck in the incident, prompt them to move on with the narrative by asking “and then what happened”. You want to help them move through the whole narrative from beginning to the end – until they get to the present where they are walking with you in safety and are no longer at risk.
- After you have gone through this initial debrief you may work in an environment where you are required to complete an incident report. If this is the case, go with the individual and ask them how you can help in completing the report. They may want you to type in the information as they dictate it, or they may simply appreciate your presence while they complete the report.
- Remember to remind them to focus on their breathing and open posture to help them deescalate from the stress response – especially after you have stopped walking and may be standing or sitting.
- After the initial debrief and report (if required), ask the person what they would find helpful now? Do they want to phone a family member, get a sandwich, take a break, go back to work? They need to have control over their choices while attending to their needs.
- Let the individual know that you will remain available to them and encourage them to access addition supports that may be available if they would find them helpful (e.g., Employee Assistance Programs, counselling, other community resources)
Following, and sometimes parallel to, this immediate first aid response, there may be additional steps needed from an institutional perspective. These may include:
- The debriefer stays with the affected person, and asks a colleague to notify the supervisor about the incident. The debriefer can provide updates to the supervisor as needed.
- The supervisor speaks with the affected person(s) and assesses whether the person should remain at work following the incident. The debriefer or supervisor assists with making travel arrangements if the affected person is not in a condition to drive home. If the affected person goes home early, the supervisor phones the affected person to ensure that they arrived home safely.
- The debriefer emails a summary of the incident to the supervisor, based on the information gathered from the affected person. The supervisor may also be responsible for submitting paperwork.
- The supervisor updates other staff in the office about the incident, as needed.
- The supervisor works with the affected person(s) to discuss any case management or other relevant
decisions in relation to the incident.
- The supervisor will check-in periodically with the affected person and continue to offer support in the weeks that follow.
Michael V. Genovese, M.D., J.D., is the chief medical officer of Acadia Healthcare which operates a network of 585 behavioral health facilities with approximately 17,900 beds in 40 States, the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico. As well, he is the Medical Director of the Officer Safety and Wellness Committee of the FBI National Academy Associates. Dr. Genovese is also an advocate for attorneys and first responders seeking treatment for addiction and co-occurring disorders.
Dr. Genovese writes, speaks, teaches and consults widely in the disciplines of pharmacology, neuromodulation and pharmacogenomics. He has kindly agreed to allow us to share his article on the impact of trauma on first responders.
Bravery is one act, but courage is consistent. And our nation’s first responders are the very definition of courage. Each day, they make the difficult choice to run towards the danger that we run from. In doing so, these officers experience significant trauma, yet rarely have the opportunity to process those experiences before speeding off to the next emergency.
Science shows that repeated trauma alters the neural pathways and injures the brain. These Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries are linked to startling, yet often unreported, rates of mental health illness, which can manifest into substance abuse or worse. In fact, first responders are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.
So why are our heroes not receiving the help they need? In my role as medical director of the Officer Safety and Wellness Committee of the FBI National Academy Associates, I’ve met countless officers who have struggled to overcome the trauma experienced in their line of work. Many say they’re expected to be mentally and physically tough, and the stigma around mental health treatment prevails. Admitting they have a problem may cost them their badge – and their identity.
This is quickly becoming a national crisis, but too many departments are reluctant to admit this crisis exists, much less implement programs to address it. Here are four ways we can change that:
Acknowledge mental health injury
Post-traumatic stress is an injury, not a weakness. If a first responder broke his or her leg in the line of duty, treatment would be a no-brainer. We must recognize and treat brain injuries in the same way.
Build resiliency through training
It is not enough to wait until officers are injured. We need to proactively provide training to help officers build resiliency. Resiliency can be learned and can help officers manage the extreme pressure and trauma inherent in the job.
Shift the culture, from the top
Law enforcement agencies must normalize mental health care by proactively offering support services and treatment. This requires a shift in culture which must be led from the top. Support systems can include employee assistance programs, peer support policies and confidential resources, to name just a few.
I am proud to be a part of Treatment Placement Specialists, which provides treatment guidance that reflects the individualized needs of officers. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also provides excellent resources for mental health treatment.
Build pathways back to work
In most professions, overcoming personal challenges, such as depression or substance abuse, is supported and celebrated. But for first responders, the result is often the loss of their job. This severe punishment is unnecessary and leads to further trauma and depression. We need to formalize a pathway back to service, so individuals aren’t penalized for seeking help.
These are not just academic suggestions. These are practical measures that progressive departments are already taking – and they are working.
We all know the saying, “To whom much is given, much is required.” When we consider all that is asked of our first responders, we should consider a new phrase:
From whom much is required, much should be given.
We must support those who serve by acknowledging the trauma they experience and providing treatment to address the very real impacts on their health. Will you join me?
Genovese, M. (2018, October). How Trauma Causes Alternate Pathways in the Brain. Rebuilding Officer Resiliency: A Treatment Guide, 4-6.
Heyman, M., Dill, J., & Douglas, R. (2018). Mental Health and Suicide of First Responders [White Paper].
Dr. Deb Thompson is a registered psychologist, certified Integral Master Coach™ and longtime colleague of Françoise’s. They met over 23 years ago while working as clinicians at a University Student Counselling Service and subsequently shared a private practice office for many years.
In this guest blog post, Dr. Thompson share’s tips gained from her many years working with clients in the field of body wellness. You can find out more about Deb on her website or follow her on Facebook.
As a psychologist/coach and course facilitator specializing in weight wellness, I’ve noticed time and time again how over-eating in the evening is such a common and maddening challenge. I also know this terrain personally, as someone who struggled mightily with food, self-care and weight from my teens to late 30’s.
Are you frustrated by the wheels falling off your wellness bus after work and/or at night despite nourishing yourself fairly well during the day?
Our Inner Critics can attribute this to weakness, but I encourage your Inner Mentor to get more grounded in knowing that our evening over-eating arises from the perfect storm of being hungry, depleted and/or churning with emotions.
Here are ten tips for circumventing these vulnerabilities with some new or renewed habits, practices and mindset moves:
1. Don’t arrive home ravenous!
Plan and pack or buy a snack for late afternoon because high, high hunger is high, high risk! When our blood sugar is dropping and our bellies are growling, our primal brains direct us to mow down, which can make for chunks of cheddar or handfuls of trail mix that not only derail our dinners, but also our wellness over the long run.
Snacks with some protein, such as whole grain crackers with hummus, a hard-boiled egg or cheese string, almonds with an apple, Greek yogurt or a decaf latte, will stick to your ribs and see you through your commute and transition to home. Higher fiber foods like apples or popcorn can be filling too.
See if eating in a planful way during the late afternoon helps you eat less in the evenings, and thereby, helps you to eat less overall. It almost always does!
2. Prep a snack
Alternatively, prepare a snack to be ready for you when you get home — a kindly gift from earlier-more-energetic-you to later-whipped-you! If you have kids, this can also help you get through what I used to call the “Arsenic Hour” when everyone is hangry.
Cut up veggies or fruits with different healthy dips are handy, as well as helpful for getting in our seven or more recommended daily servings of produce.
3. Disrupt your pathway
Aside from a planned snack, don’t mindlessly head to the kitchen as soon as you get in the door or you are off duty for the night. Go to a different room, do something different — even a few minutes of belly breathing, getting into comfies, or washing your face can break the auto-pilot pattern of cruising the cupboards or fridge.
As Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — creating the gap is key!
4. Take a few minutes to transition
In this space, take a few minutes to transition — after work, change your clothes, put on upbeat or chill music, bring in nice scents with lotions or essential oils, create your own shifting gears ritual…
You may have to train other people to leave you alone for a few minutes, especially if those people are wee ones, but it can be done. You can also create a non-food ritual for exhaling at the end of your second shift… once you are off duty for the evening (more on this in Tip #8).
5. Meal planning for success
A little meal planning and preparation can go a long way to ensure faster and easier healthy suppers on busy work nights… you don’t have to be Martha Stewart, but having veggies ready to stir fry or roast, planned-overs to warm up, a soup or stew or chili in the slow cooker, or a sheet pan dinner ready to assemble in minutes are all golden.
Again, re-frame this as an empathic gift from the person that you are on Sunday afternoons to the person you sometimes become by Tuesday 7pm when you are more depleted, hungry and feeling worn out. Try to keep perfectionism out of the equation to avoid tipping into all-or-nothing thinking or what has been called the “what the hell” phenomenon where we overeat to deal with our emotional frustrations and feelings of self-blame.
Having a sticky note reminder of some quicker-than-take out and healthier-than-cheese-and-crackers options, like scrambled eggs or ready-made soup, is also helpful.
6. Process your thoughts and feelings
The emotional residue of our days often rumbles through us into the evening, and it is so very tempting to soothe, numb and reward with food (and wine!).
One strategy is to use free writing to honour and process thoughts and feelings — set a timer for 7 minutes and write without pausing the pen (or editing — this is a *dump* — not journaling or essay writing!) to help process your day…let it rip, say *anything*… vent, rant, complain, yearn.
When the timer goes, aim to have your Inner Mentor extend kindness and empathy to yourself, as well as see if there are any *Actions* or *Don’t forget* items that need put on your To Do list. Then shred or burn the papers over the sink, wash up and exhale.
Cultivating compassion for having done your best… as well as showing yourself kindness and generosity for the true complexity of the challenges of our work is also a powerful component of this practice. For further strategies for lessening the grip of emotional eating, check out these downloadable resources:
Getting support, such as through coaching, counselling and the excellent courses here at TEND also helps with reducing the burnout, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma that can leave us overly vulnerable to turning to food as a (lousy) “friend”.
7. Build a Nourished Life
Indeed, everyone benefits from support to build nourished lives such that we have less depletion and stress to prompt us to over-eat after work or at night. This can include creating more belonging, boundaries, a less taxing workload, play/fun/hobbies, rest and sleep, regular enjoyable exercise, emotional supports, and especially: alignment between our core values and our actual lives.
Building a nourished life takes time, and guidance/supports, but it’s important that we put some energy into the prevention of being spread thin, not just coping with it.
What’s ONE thing you might do this week to move the needle a tiny bit on behalf of more movement, rest, play, or connection? You could get to bed 20 minutes earlier, you could do a 15 minute yoga video in your living room, you could plan a coffee date with an old friend, you could sign up for art lessons, you could explore options for coaching or counselling.
8. Curate a Menu of Alternatives
Ok, back to more directly disrupting the habit of eating at the end-of-day when you are finally off duty… it’s helpful to develop a menu of alternatives to snacking or imbibing.
Perhaps a bath, a good book, magazine, podcast or show on Netflix? Colouring, crafts, games or texting? A warm drink? Some puttering or light tidying up or getting things ready? Or if this last one feels like more work (which may prompt eating as an escape or reward), then leaving those tasks for morning?
Looking over your menu can help you choose what will soothe, restore and calm you tonight.
9. Enjoy a Low Calorie Treat
For end of day, you may like to plan for a yummy-to-you low calorie treat (eating at night is not necessarily problematic unless it involves EXTRA calories)… winter seems like a wonderful time for a baked apple (here’s a microwave recipe).
It’s helpful to keep high temptation treats like chocolate, chips, ice cream, cookies, etc. either out of the house, or at least out of sight and hard to access… as we do tend to eat more in response to availability. Forbidding these foods is not necessary (and often really backfires into all-or-none yo-yo-ing), but often having single serving options, planned treats when eating out, and healthier alternatives such as popcorn instead of Doritos; broth, decaf or herbal tea instead of wine; or Fudgsicles instead of Hagen Daz are very supportive.
10. Reconsider the Division of Labour
If part of your evening over-eating is related to feeling beleaguered and exhausted regarding the division of labour in your home, it can be helpful to have a series of conversations about who does what when with your partner/family. Teaching kids to pitch in can be an investment that pays off in the long run.
If you live alone, get creative in how you might outsource some work such as cleaning or getting more ready-made foods from the grocery store, and/or have chore or cooking parties with other single friends. Finally, most of us can also lessen our weariness (and vulnerability to emotional or “Eff It” eating) by softening our standards, letting go of impeccability and embracing imperfection with more compassion.
For more, check out this webinar with Dr. Deb Thompson and Françoise Mathieu on how to curb emotional eating [from December 4th, 2017]
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Edition No. 9 – July 4th, 2019: What is burnout? Does deeply caring about our work contribute to burnout – or is it in fact a protective factor?
Edition No. 8 – June 5th, 2019: All about the brain – protecting your brain from stress
Edition No. 7 – May 3rd, 2019: All About ACES + being trauma-informed in the classroom
Edition No. 6 – March 8th, 2019: What is Self-Care? + whatever happened to the sick day?
Edition No. 5 – Feb. 6th, 2019: Looking into Mental Health – how can we support students + ourselves?
Edition No. 4 – Jan. 9th, 2019: Happy New Year – create good habits, sleeping better + eat more plants.
Edition No. 3 – Nov. 27th, 2018: Toxic workplaces – what is it, how bad is it and what can we do about it?
Edition No. 2 – Oct. 30th, 2018: Overwhelm – behind at work, don’t check those after-work emails!
Edition No. 1 – Sept. 25th, 2018: Feeling Fried – how to revive, CF from the news? + tips to help burnout
In today’s world of work, we can be certain of three things: there will be change, there will be stress and these two factors may eventually cause conflict between staff and/or their leaders.
We speak to many professionals who work in a wide range of sectors and the most common source of distress is the ever-increasing pace and volume of work. The expectations of working faster with fewer resources and having to do more with less, are causing serious problems. These problems can cause team members to experience resentment and internal conflict.
Many of these issues stem from budget cutbacks. As a result, companies and organizations face massive changes: layoffs, reorganizations, job abolitions, changes in mandate, elevated conflict and a lot of uncertainty and fear of what is yet to come.
Perhaps one of the most significant changes we have seen in the last few years – again, directly related to budget cutbacks – is the increase in competitive relationships in the workplace. This can directly contribute to interpersonal conflict, increased stress and sick leave, and a general dissatisfaction with work.
Navigating through these challenging times can be hard – even for the most resilient.
So, what can we do about all this change?
While conflict and stress are never truly preventable, we can learn effective approaches for maximizing positive outcomes. Here are three strategies to help you navigate change and conflict.
Understand the Transition Phase
We all know that change can be difficult, however, even more stressful is the time between the end of the old and the beginning of the new – the transition phase.
The ability to navigate through the transition phase is all about the practice of resiliency. By recognizing our strengths and working on our areas of growth, we will be better equipped to deal with the uncertainty of this phase.
It is also important to explore what about the unknown is causing us the most stress. Is it that we are afraid of losing our job? Losing a good manager? Losing control over certain roles and responsibilities?
A good strategy is to focus on the areas of our lives where we have control. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey presents the circles of concern and influence. He encourages us to focus on those things in our lives that we have influence over and avoid squandering our energy on those that are outside of our control.
However, there will be times when we truly have no control over the future. During these times, we can fall into what psychologists refer to as “fortune-telling.” This is when we obsess over all the possible scenarios that may or may not take place. Fortune-telling can be a normal response to uncertainty, but if it dominates our days and nights, we may need to seek outside support from a counsellor, coach or a mentor.
Reflect on Your Reactions to Stress
Change can be hard for many of us, and it can elicit a whole host of reactions among different people. Understanding your unique response to stress can help you be proactive about taking positive steps to care for yourself.
A good strategy is to reflect on the question: “What does change and uncertainty mean for me?” Consider this question in general terms, not just as it relates to work.
Here are a few more questions to consider:
- Am I someone who thrives on change? Or, does change make me anxious and irritable?
- What are my stress responses? How do I act when I am stressed?
- Are my reactions to stress similar or vastly different from those of my colleagues? How can I use this information?
- Are my negative reactions to change short-term or longer lasting?
Some of us dislike change and uncertainty but can, with time, adjust extremely well to the new situation. Sharing this process with your close colleague and even a trusted supervisor can help prevent some misunderstandings and ruffled feelings.
As we navigate through our work days, we are confronted with conflict on different scales – perhaps someone drank the last cup of coffee and didn’t make more; maybe someone jammed the photocopier and walked away; or maybe you are experiencing bullying and harassment.
The fact of the matter is that conflict has a ubiquitous influence on our working relationships.
A 2008 study conducted by CPP Global found that employees spend an average of 2.8 to 3.3 hours a week dealing with conflict. Human resource workers spend upwards of 51% of their week addressing conflicts.
Unmanaged conflict is costly. It affects the mental health of employees, which results in absenteeism, employee retention issues and a negative institutional reputation.
Good employees and strong leaders are those who are not only aware of their conflict and communication styles, but are those who are able to direct those styles and skills towards win-win outcomes and positive working relationships.
Let’s face it – the work can be fulfilling, but if the relationships are bad, the ship will sink quickly. Anchor yourself at work with the knowledge and skills you need to participate in meaningful conflict.
There are two elements to understanding conflict:
If you know your default response to conflict, you will be better prepared to deal with conflicts when they arise. There are many benefits to knowing your style, including; the ability to move seamlessly between styles based on the situation; the ability to adapt your style based on the style of those you are in conflict with; and increased confidence with your ability to deal with conflict.
Know your organizational conflict culture
All companies, organizations and workplaces have unique cultures of conflict. Do you work in an environment where conflict is embraced and seen as a force multiplier, or is conflict avoided at all costs? If you know the culture, you will be better equipped when conflict arises to be a positive contributor to the culture.
Conflict can be fun! People often laugh at this statement, but it is true. Conflict is inevitable, and the best strategy is to develop a good understanding of your own responses to conflict. Learn to welcome conflict as a productive and enhancing workplace force.
Not all workplaces can afford to send their staff to outside training, so employees may need to take matters into their own hands.
Invest in your future by attending workshops and trainings that will enhance your interpersonal skills. Many not-for profit organizations offer inexpensive workshops on conflict management and communication skills.
Here are some great resources to get started:
Resolving Conflicts at Work by Kenneth Cloke
Conflict Resolution for the Helping Professions by Allan Barsky
Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s prescription for treating workplace stress by David Posen
Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success by Rick Newman
Building Resilient Teams by Dr. Patricia Fisher
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health trumps everything else in business by Patrick Lencioni
Author: By the TEND team with files from Meaghan Welfare.