Welcome to HEN - Transforming Conflict for our Health, Environment, Negotiation
HEN is published each month by Julia Menard:
Helping the Workplace Engage - One Tough Conversation at a Time! juliamenard.com
HEN arrives at the full moon -
because light transforms darkness.
Full Moon: June 13, 2014 - Year 12, Issue 6
Table of Contents:
1. HEALTH - Ostracism More Damaging than Bullying
That was the headline of a recent study from the University of BC. The study looks at the impact of "ostracism" in the workplace. This includes the subtle behaviours like not saying hello, not making eye contact or other ways of not acknowledging an individual's presence.
I don’t know about you, but I have found at times, when I’ve been upset about something, it seems easier to simply walk away. Like the old adage says: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
However, over the years, I learned that although I may need to walk away to calm down (especially with family members!) - I need to say when I will return.
This small addition has made all the difference. It changed my impact from abandonment to taking a break.
This study says that being ignored at work is "worse for physical and mental well-being than harassment or bullying. Feeling excluded is significantly more likely to lead to job dissatisfaction, quitting and health problems. Ostracism actually leads people to feel more helpless, like they’re not worthy of any attention at all.”
Through a series of surveys, the researchers discovered that “people who claimed to have experienced ostracism were significantly more likely to report a degraded sense of workplace belonging and commitment, a stronger intention to quit their job, and a larger proportion of health problems.”
In one large organization, they have written into their policy that “ignoring someone” is one example of “bullying” behaviour.
Putting ignoring behaviour into your bullying policy allows employers a lot more leeway with how to deal with the behaviour in provinces in Canada that have personal bullying and harassment legislation. It can also give employees more concrete vocabulary to identify behaviours that aren’t working for them and speak up.
Ostracism, according to Purdue University psychologist Kipling D. Williams, is experienced in three stages. In the first, “immediate,” stage, the rejected person feels pain. Williams’ research has found that it doesn’t matter who you’re being rejected by or “how slight the slight appears”. People playing a computerized ball-toss game feel “the grief of exclusion” when a cartoon figure ignores them. In the lab, “African-Americans feel immediate pain when a Ku Klux Klan member leaves them out.”
An alarm has gone off in the brain — the same part that registers physical pain: Belonging, self-esteem, control, and meaningful recognition are under attack.
The second stage is the “coping” stage, when people figure out how to “improve their inclusionary status.” They pay attention to every social cue; they cooperate, conform, and obey. If belonging is a lost cause, they look to regain control. In extreme cases, “they may try to force people to pay attention.” For instance, a 2003 analysis of school shootings found that 13 of the 15 perpetrators had been ostracized.”
The third stage is resignation. Ostracism is depleting, so at some point, you give up. You become depressed, helpless, and despairing. Even memories of rejections that are from a long time ago can bring up those feelings.
What is the action going forward if you think ostracism might be a way of coping in your team or organization?
The first step could be to talk about it generally – with a few people and eventually with your whole team, your supervisor, your organization. Decide together what you think about ostracism. Enage in an inquiry together. What do you think about it? What do you think it looks like? How does it impact you? What’s a person to do instead of ignoring someone? After all, even small children are taught to “walk away” when they can’t cope with the present situation. We also don’t want workplaces where everyone is forced to talk with each other. So what are the minimum standards for respectful behaviours when upset? And what are the mechanisms to engage in conflict constructively? And to repair harm?
You could also share information – this article or the link to the new study. This can also be a starting point for more conversation about people’s opinions about ignoring as a coping mechanism for upset feelings.
You can review your bullying policy. Does it have specific agreements around what ostracism look like in your organization? Do people know about the policy? Does the policy work or does it need to be revised in some way?
If you have any stories to share about how to deal with ostracism at work, I’d love to hear them!
"In contrast to how a child belongs in the world, adult belonging is never as natural, innocent, or playful. Adult belonging has to be chosen, received, and renewed. It is a lifetime's work."
… John O'Donohue
2. ENVIRONMENT - Block Farming
I like to buy my food local if I can. If not, then from BC or the west coast. If not, then from Canada or the US.
Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of produce from China. Most snap peas I look at seem to come from there, and the only garlic I could find in the store the other day was also from China.
That’s a troubling trend. Can you imagine if we are dependant on one country to supply all our food?
We’ve been fairly dependant on California for our produce. They are the US’s leading producer of almonds, avocados, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, grapes, lettuce, milk, onions, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, walnuts, and dozens of other commodities, according to a US 2012 Department of Agriculture report. The state produces one-third of all American vegetables and two-thirds of their nuts and fruits each year.
But as climate change–fueled droughts continue to desiccate California, we are starting to see a reliance on other sources to feed us.
My hope is we can continue to build local growers to supply fresh produce closer to home. My long-held vision is to have a farmer on every block – block farming.
Block farming would look like a few people on the block deciding to share the load of growing food. They could decide each year anew who will grow what, or they could become the “supplier” of their specialty item for the street.
So, for example, I could be the garlic growing for the block. I would work out a system of rotation and get really good at knowing about garlic. Maybe onions too – they seem to go together. I would need to plant enough to meet the needs of the others on the street. Maybe there could be a nut supplier – hazelnuts and almonds. Someone else do grapes. Another person the farmer of the spinach and lettuces. The tomato lady and the crucifer man.
I know it’s just a dream. For now. Meantime, I’ll work on encouraging the green thumbs on my street. I see them out there growing their produce. It could happen!
“Much of our food system depends on our not knowing much about it, beyond the price disclosed by the checkout scanner; cheapness and ignorance are mutually reinforcing. And it's a short way from not knowing who's at the other end of your food chain to not caring to the carelessness of both producers and consumers that characterizes our economy today. Of course, the global economy couldn't very well function without this wall of ignorance and the indifference it breeds. This is why the American food industry and its international counterparts fight to keep their products from telling even the simplest stories “dolphin safe," "humanely slaughtered," etc. about how they were produced. The more knowledge people have about the way their food is produced, the more likely it is that their values and not just "value" will inform their purchasing decisions.”
… Michael Pollan
3. NEGOTIATION - From Allegation to Concern
One of the realities of being human, I’ve come to believe, is that most people are afraid of bringing up conflict. We tend to avoid the issue by either pushing ourselves away (avoiding) or by getting angry and thereby pushing the other person away.
Either way, we don’t get down to discussing what’s really going on.
What is the explanation for this fear so many of us have?
There are many explanations – here are a few:
- Our brains are pre-disposed to scan for danger. Given that, we tend to read more conflict into situations than were probably there at the start (before our own reactions added fuel to a possible small fire). Through mirror neurons, we tend to feed each other’s stress levels, increasing the conflict and misunderstandings exponentially.
- Our history as a species is fairly violent. I believe we have an innate, built-in memory about that. If this history is of interest, check out Steve Pinker's research in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature - Why Violence Has Declined or check out one of his talks on the subject.
- There's also the societal angle which feeds the idea of an inherited fear of conflict. Research by anthropologist William Ury (of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In) – suggests more peaceful cultures see by-standers acting as peacemakers. In our culture, we either think someone else’s conflict is none of our business, or we see our role as taking one side or the other – instead of a more neutral “third side” approach.
What are we to do?
I find it generally helps to start small. Start with sharing something fairly benign. In one leadership program I am involved with, they teach the concept of “pinches.” If something a team member said or did confused you or bothered you a bit, then you’ve been pinched. Keeping things fairly small and light allows us to try to resolve things at a level of less risk, less seriousness, less pressure.
Here is one person’s experience with introducing this pinch idea into a workplace.
Since we tend to find conflict threatening, whatever we can do to help another feel safe and save face, will increase the chances of being able to hang in long enough to get at the substance of the conflict - instead of just the emotions of it.
I love to hear your stories!
“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.”
… James Stephens
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training