A company can easily train some of their own employees to become communication coaches. Some employees who have conflict difficulties might even become communication coaches, as suggested in the following dialog.
Coach: As you both know your management has asked me to see if I can help you learn how to reduce some conflict you are having.
Person A: Sometimes we can get into it.
Coach: I can’t reduce your conflict but you can if you’re willing to use some communication skills.
Person A: How’s this going to work?
Coach: Well, first, I’d like to ask that each of you please come back tomorrow with two pages. On the first page write down a list of what you appreciate about each other. On the second page write down a list of concerns you have about each other. Start each concern with the words, “I feel uncomfortable when you…” followed by a description of what you feel uncomfortable about. Then, after each concern, write down a request that, if agreed to, might resolve that concern. Please list as many concerns that you can think of. Then tomorrow I will ask both of you to discuss each concern on your lists, hoping to arrive at a resolution for each one. During your discussion I may at times interrupt and ask you to use a communication skill that may help your discussion. Here is a list of the skills. They are simple and easy to use. Of course you already have some effective communication skills. Maybe we can add to those you already use.
Person B: That’s it?
Coach: After discussing the items on your lists, I’ll ask you to talk about projects you’re working on together where there is conflict. Again, I may interrupt and ask you to use one or more of the communication skills.
Person A: How long is this going to take?
Coach: I’ll work with you for probably one or two hours. Maybe longer, but probably not. Then hopefully you’ll both continue working together to make these skills become habits. I’ve been working on using these skills for many years and I’m still working at it. I call getting along with others the eternal journey.
Person A: We’ve been having lots of conflict for a long time. You think one or two hours will do it?
Coach: That’s entirely up to you. I’ve seen some people make remarkable progress in a surprisingly short amount of time when they get serious about using these skills. Our most challenging technologies are child’s play compared to the complexity of people getting along with people. The skills are simple, but they can be surprisingly effective. They can help you move past a lot of the complex difficulties you’ve been having. They can help you deal with anger, grief, envy, fear, and the desire we all have to appreciate and be appreciated.
Person B: What if I don’t want to use your skills?
Coach: Well, first, they’re not my skills. They come from about 25 books on communication. Currently you have job security. Our discussion tomorrow can be a safe place, and using the skills may enhance your job security. Refusing to use the skills may create results that you don’t like.
Person B: That sounds a lot like a threat.
Coach: That’s not a threat. It’s more like a promise. Improving your communication skills and reducing conflict is your best option. Your management wants authenticity, communication, presence, and honesty at all levels. They want effective manager-employee relationships. They want co-worker teamwork and collaboration. They want their leadership to be open and transparent. They want job satisfaction and enjoyment. Your management definitely does not want threats. They want connection to vision and clarity of purpose. They would prefer to not have to play around with carrots and sticks. They want you to use your strengths and be proud of what you accomplish.
Coach: During your conversation tomorrow I’ll make observations and suggestions. I’ll be making no threats. Tomorrow you will either gain a better working relationship, or you won’t. You’re in charge of your job security, not me. And if you like the results, then you both may eventually want to become communication coaches, and do what I’m doing, and try to help others learn to use these communication skills and become better team players.
Coach: Your management is paying me good money to help you, on your company time, to learn to have better job security. They’re serious. Your management wishes they had started this process sooner. They know its harmful when employees sense that some people’s conflict is easily tolerated and overlooked. They understand that if what they want is not accomplished, then that can actually reduce, rather than increase engagement in your company’s culture. I sincerely hope that your relationship going forward has less conflict and sets an example that helps others become better collaborators and happier more productive team players.