Understanding the Narrative in Workplace Relationships

 I have been in a protracted discussion with a friend over an issue and clearly, we see the same events in different ways.  My friend steadfastly holds to the “facts” of the situation and I am trying to explain my interpretation.  This reminded me of how this dynamic occurs in the workplace.

As organizations make decisions, take actions, solve problems, and conduct business the workplace grapevine gets started and what the organization thought was very good decisions are now being viewed and categorized in less than pleasant ways.  Leadership often becomes frustrated, as they believe employees are not informed about the “facts.”  They expend a great deal of energy trying to correct misinformation but unfortunately, this has little effect on changing minds. 

So, what is really going on?  The narrative of the mind takes over and the elements of mistrust, doubt, and questionable motives start to frame the discussion.  If you add cultural norms, personal backgrounds, unresolved pain, stereotypes, and bias … Whew! 

 Allow me to suggest:

  • Before you act, think about how your behavior, decisions, etc maybe interpreted by your audience. 
  • Do not assume you know how others will react to your decisions, behaviors, etc.  As previously noted, reactions can and will be based on a number of factors including cultural norms, personal backgrounds, generational issues, unresolved pain, stereotypes, and bias. 
  • Even when presented with “facts,” people will also include hunches, expectations, and guesses in their thought processes.  Do not discount the power of one’s “spiddy senses.” 
  • You have heard it many times before; it is not the intent, but the impact! 
  • If you have unresolved issues not addressed and properly reconciled they will resurface in later conflict and drive the narrative.  This is why mediation and other conflict resolution tools need to be incorporated into workplaces to help rebuild broken relationships.  I recommend transformative mediation as one tool. 
  • Never forget, Interpretations are more powerful than facts.
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One thought on “Understanding the Narrative in Workplace Relationships

  1. I couldn’t have said it better. I’ve been doing employment discrimination mediations for 8 years (privately and for the EEOC & USPS) and it is nearly always about the interpretations of the facts and the accompanying negative attribution about the other’s actions. Transformative mediation recognizes and supports those recognition and empowerment shifts, which are often the key to resolving workplace disputes.

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