In today’s “Discussion Monday,” let’s think through a scenario.
The scenario is set in an office (or similar professional environment)…
Imagine that Chris works in a small company. He supervises two technicians, Rachel and Andrew.
Rachel, one of the technicians, has been working at the company for 3 years. She is an introvert, mostly keeping to herself, and very quiet. She works hard, and has proven herself to be dependable and professional. She’s usually the first to arrive at the office, and the last to leave. Rachel and her boss Chris have always gotten along very well. They have also always had a great collaborative relationship.
Andrew, the other technician, was hired just a couple months ago. He is an extrovert, with a big outgoing personality. He’s very friendly and loves to get to know people. In the short time he has been working at the company, he has befriended many other technicians in the department. Although Andrew hasn’t been at the company long, he gets along well with his boss Chris.
For the past few years, Rachel has had her own office. When Andrew was hired, Chris decided to put Andrew in the same office as Rachel. After all, the two technicians work on some of the same projects.
Chris, Rachel, and Andrew meet as a group every month to discuss team projects. Additionally, Chris also meet one-on-one with each technician to discuss their individual projects.
Chris is impressed that Rachel and Andrew are able to get along so well, despite their obvious personality differences.
After a few months go by.
During one of Chris’s one-on-one meetings with Andrew, Chris is surprised to see that Andrew suddenly gets emotional. Andrew tells Chris that he is experiencing tension with Rachel. Chris can hardly believe it; he thought the two of them were getting along so well!
A few days later, Chris has one of his one-on-one meetings with Rachel. He thinks she might mention something about tension with Andrew, but she does not say anything out of the ordinary.
Chris decides that since Rachel didn’t bring anything up, it must not be a big deal. Maybe Andrew was overreacting about the whole thing. Chris hopes that it will all blow over.
A few weeks later, Chris notices that Rachel has gotten even more withdrawn and quiet than usual. She says she is simply busy with her work, so he assumes that she is just a little stressed.
Another month goes by.
In Chris’s next one-on-one meeting with Andrew, he is surprised once again to see that Andrew gets emotional and breaks down. He says that there is still a lot of tension with Rachel. Andrew says that he is miserable, and wants to quit.
In that moment, Chris is filled with frustration.
On an impulse, Chris decides to call Rachel into the office right then and there.
Rachel enters. As soon as she sees the look on Andrew’s face, she gets visibly uncomfortable.
Out of frustration, Chris forcefully tells both Rachel that she needs to figure out how to get along with Andrew. In his anger, Chris accidentally gets carried away, and ends up yelling.
Rachel looks surprised and on the verge of tears. She is totally caught off guard.
Later, Chris feels very bad about the way he handled the meeting. He genuinely wants to make the situation better for both of the technicians. He didn’t mean to come off as though he was angry.
As the manager, Chris does not want the technicians’ work to be affected. But more importantly, Chris actually cares about both of Rachel and Andrew. He wants to improve the situation… he just is not sure how to do that.
Chris believes that the tension in the air is due to a clash of personalities. Andrew and Rachel share a small office, and have very different approaches to work and interaction. Maybe everything would be smoother if they weren’t sharing an office.
Chris decides to move Andrew into the office next door. He thinks that they will both be happier with the new arrangement.
Although Rachel and Andrew no longer share an office, they still work on overlapping projects. They also participate at the same team meetings. They seem to be able to work professionally, but Chris knows that the dynamics in the office are not the same.
In the months that follow, Andrew returns to his usual boisterous, extroverted self. However, Rachel continues to grow more withdrawn than ever before. Eventually, she accepts a job at a different company.
Just a couple comments on the above scenario.
Like many of you, I have spent the past 20 years (give or take) working in a professional environment. Even in the most benign setting, sometimes personalities simply don’t “jive.” That’s life. From what I’ve seen, when coworkers don’t get along, it can play out in various ways. Sometimes both parties are able to get over it, and it doesn’t turn into anything. But other times, it turns into a big deal.
I genuinely feel for and relate to each of the characters in the scenario. Chris is just trying to “fix” this issue. Andrew, being the extrovert, wants to talk it out. Rachel, an introvert, wants to avoid confrontation. I can understand why each of them acted and reacted in their own way.
All the characters in this scenario are fictional, but there are many REAL situations like this that happen in the workplace.
And you know what? I have yet to see one of these scenarios play out where all parties equally feel that it was handled well. It seems like there is always at least one person who feels “jipped.”
I would love to know what you think!
Oh, and check out some previous discussions!
- Discussion about whether sick people should pay higher health insurance premiums than healthy people.
- Discussion about weird habits and surprising things they can do for us!
Which character do you relate to most? Share your wisdom for handling workplace conflict!