Emotional reactivity (which comes in various forms) can render people “difficult to work with.” Last month I noted that there are 6 common reactive patterns for individuals working in groups: Fusion, Conflict, Distance/Cut-Off, Over-Functioning, Under-Functioning, and Triangling. These patterns are far more prevalent than we realize and they can significantly hinder communication, collaboration, and ultimately, work productivity.
Let’s look at the first two in more depth.
- Fusion: Under stress it’s very common for a group to glom together emotionally; it’s a natural response to real or perceived threat. That is, there’s an automatic tendency for people to pull together – to think and act alike under stress.
Pros: In real crisis or emergency situations there often isn’t time to think deeply or strategically. The group has to act and quickly and in unison to resolve the issue.
Cons: In non-emergency situations, though, fusion can be risky. In the form of group-think, it can hinder creative solutions by forcing everyone to think alike. Those leaders prone to a more democratic approach might actually be engaging in a form of fusion. They simply will not act until they believe that every one is on-board. Buy-in is fine. But often, leaders must make the tough calls even when they don’t have full support.
- Conflict: The idea of discord among team members is not new news. However, it helps to recognize that under stress, some people have an automatic tendency to move toward another, either verbally or literally.
Pros: As the book title suggests, some conflict is necessary. As leaders, there are times when we must engage others in crucial and difficult conversations to ensure that things either do or don’t happen. And in these cases it’s a matter not just of what needs to be said, but how it’s said. Healthy confrontation doesn’t always need to be nasty.
Cons: Of course we have far too many examples of those leaders who only know one tool to use – a hammer. They are aggressive and verbally dominant in most of their interactions; listening skills are virtually non-existent. Even when trying to be “nice” their tendency to dominate often shuts down real productivity.
Self- Management: If you find yourself falling into these patterns, consider the following:
- Keep observing yourself; watch for these tendencies; this simple awareness is critical
- Keep a basic journal. In a quiet moment (i.e. early morning) write down your observations and beliefs about the potential impact of your behaviors.
- Get the feedback from several trusted confidants. Ask them what behaviors they observe. Can they tell you under what circumstances you tend to engage these? Can they tell you what the impact of these behaviors has been?
Staying objective about how you show up is more than half the battle. Engage in deliberate acts of objectivity!
Read Part 1 HERE
Read Part 3 HERE
Read Part 4 HERE