Discussion Monday: A case of coworker conflict…


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A few weeks later, Chris notices that Rachel has gotten even more withdrawn and quiet than usual.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!

Which character do you relate to most? Share your wisdom for handling workplace conflict!   


Discussion: What the health? Should sicker people pay higher premiums? 

Around 12 years ago, when we lived in Houston, we were out to dinner with some friends.

Over the course of dinner, we had a lively and interesting discussion about healthcare. Talk of health insurance was all over the national media, and as many of our friends are health professionals, there were a lot of opinions.

I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went, but at some point, our one friend Mike (not his real name) said that he was firmly and adamantly against universal healthcare.

Mike went on to say that healthcare premiums should be based on the person’s health status… that healthy people should pay less than “unhealthy” people.

His perspective was that healthy people aren’t a huge burden to the system, and therefore shouldn’t have to pay as much as their sicker counterparts.

Mike also felt that incentivizing healthcare by offering lower premiums to those who are healthy would encourage everyone to do things like exercise, avoid excessive drinking, smoking, etc.

Our other friend James (not his real name either) was in complete disagreement with Mike.

James argued that it would be unfair to expect the sickest people to pay the highest insurance premiums. After all, these individuals are also most likely to be too sick to work or generate income.

Listening to Mike and James go back and forth was interesting and thought-provoking. I realized then that there were good points to be made for both.

I would love for you all to share your perspectives on this topic. There are no right or wrong answers! :)

Are you Team Mike or Team James? 

Discussion Monday: Would you delete someone from your life and memory?


What is everyone up to this holiday weekend? We went golfing this morning (well Joel did, I just watched). It was a perfect day.

We don’t have major plans for the weekend. Most of what we’ll do consists of errands and a few projects around the house.

I thought I would share what is on my mind today…

A friend recently saw the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and posed the question: “Is there anyone that you would like to permanently erase from your memory?”

While I have yet to see this movie, I find her question intriguing.

My first instinct was to think of anyone who had ever caused me pain, or any situation that made me miserable. Would removing this person or these situations from my memory be akin to never having known the misery they caused?

The ability to simply and permanently delete your misery with a single swipe? Yes please.

I can’t deny this sounds appealing.

However, with further thinking, I realized that anyone or any situation that caused me pain, is by default a significant part of my life.

After a great deal of thought, I came to recognize that in experiencing and processing through the miseries, my character and self have been undeniably shaped.

Indeed, my current self is as it is, due at least in part, to exposure to the full range of experiences, including agony, joy, and everything in-between.

So it would seem that to wish to permanently delete pain from my memory is to also wish to regress the very parts of myself that changed as a result of experiencing it.

Thus, I suppose the question then becomes: “Would you want to change the parts about your current self that were shaped as a function of pain?”

My response to this is… it depends.

Did those parts change for the better, or did they change for the worse? For example: Did the misery make me more compassionate, or did it actually make me more resentful?

In other words, did any good come of it?

It has taken me years (years!) to see the positive side of one experience in particular.

I now realized what I should have learned long ago, which is that it does not matter what people say or do. We cannot control others, only how we respond and react. And how we interact with others has a huge impact on the health of those relationships.

I learned a lot about forgiveness. Forgiving can be freeing. Once I chose not to hold a grudge, all the baggage of resentment and pain were tossed aside.

Another thing I learned is that forgiveness does not necessitate a relationship with someone who hurt you. It is possible to forgive while maintaining some healthy distance and boundaries.

So back to the original question: “Is there anyone that you would like to permanently erase from your memory?”

At this point, I would have to say no. Even the most absolute garbage experience has left me with some new piece of knowledge, or smoothed over some rough edge. And once the rawness of pain abates, I almost always realize that I am newly equipped with something to be grateful for.

Anyway, that ends my musings for today. I hope you all have a very relaxing and fun holiday weekend, wherever you are!