Office rivalries, feuds and brawls; who wins?

With a tight economy, a shrinking social skills repertoire, and a clash of personalities, offices and workplaces are getting all charged up with tensions. If not so, they already are imploding as a result of fierce rivalries and feuds. Well, the modern day workplace is never short of one or two individuals that perennially drive you batty. However, most feuds stem from backstabbing, gossiping, fierce competition, simple misunderstandings, clashing personalities, and even good old jealousy. Top managers are not spared from this malady, only they adopt subtle feuding techniques like sarcasm and other metaphorical weapons. So what causes these feuds, tensions and unhealthy rivalries?

Let’s face it; people enjoy fights and rivalries; they are the themes of most movies in recent times. Employees love to get some action of those adrenaline-packed moments of hostility whenever feuding factions spoil for a duel. After all aren’t they common topics in much of the office gossip? Negativity can spread so quickly within the office which results in cliques springing up all over the place. One person is enough to start a string of negativity. However, It is unwise to be dragged into any such cabals that fuel divisions. My advice: if they are non issues, stay out of them and don’t give them the time of day.

Healthy competitions within organizations can motivate individuals and groups to become more effective and productive. However, when managers bluntly pit individuals or groups against each other without clear objectives and sound the war trumpets, they are most likely have a battle ground, rife with tensions and hostilities. Research now reveals that rewards systems are double-edged swords which can actually exacerbate feuding situations around the office by provide breeding grounds for indifference within teams. Dissent then checks into the organization and out walks initiative, passion, and loyalty; like bored guests in a cocktail party. Tom Peters, a renowned management consultant, has a perfect philosophy to even out these rivalries: “punish mediocre successes, reward excellent failures”.

The best thing of course is to always avoid these kinds of situations in totality by addressing potential causes of unhealthy rivalries. Cutting the streams and cords of negativity and gossip around the office also helps but is often elusive. Though every case is unique, here are two broad ways of getting a grip on these feuds:

  1. Mediation: Often a dicey role to play, it is a noble one and should be considered by everyone (who is not a party to the conflict of course). Mediation calls for a lot of patience, listening skills, and soberness that will ensure you remain neutral. If any of the factions detects the slightest whim of bias or favoritism, you could be thrown right into the midst of the feud, and become kindling for its fiery flames. However, many feuds and conflicts are resolved this way, especially if the mediator is neutral, in the eyes of both the parties that is. If perhaps you feel up to the task [and have seen enough of it], step up and mediate. Stick to the issues and ensure all the parties do so as well.
  2. Eliminating the source: Identifying the exact cause of the conflict always ensures quick resolution. This shatters the foundations of any kind of feud and helps both the parties see just how unnecessary the whole conflict is. Misunderstandings are sadly, and quite often a source of many conflicts in the office. They should be picked out and everyone should always seek clarity if anything seems hazy. Some rules, procedures, and conditions around the office may need to be revised or jettisoned all together if they are a constant supplier of conflicts.

Whatever the causes, office feuds and unhealthy rivalries need to be dealt with. Post-haste!  They have adverse implications on the productivity and effectiveness of the organization as a whole. Is it any wonder such values like teamwork and creative co-operation continue to be a chimera in most of the organizations that rant the most about them?

If you are part of one, realize that it is not worth the time and energy, even if you are not the problem. If you are the problem, consider taking the higher moral ground and set things straight. Make the initial steps to nip it in the bud so you can remain productive at the office as they can be a huge source of distraction.

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