Everything seems to be going well. Things are humming along on schedule, progress is being made toward team goals and your team seems to be functioning like a well-oiled machine. There is one person you think might be being a little quiet, but maybe she is just having a bad day. Suddenly, there is yelling and finger pointing, maybe even tears. The whole team screeches to a halt. “What just happened” you wonder. “Things were going so well. I don’t understand.”
I can tell you what happened. Your team, or at least a member or two has been using the volcano method to conflict management. The thought process looks generally looks like this:
“I really don’t like how Danielle is talking to me… It’s not a big deal and I don’t want to cause waves. I’ll just let it go.”
“I think we could be more productive if we changed this one little thing. But they have been doing it like this for a long time and seem to like it so I’m not going to say anything.”
“It annoys me that Mark and Abe disappear on a break every day just as the heaviest workload arrives. I wish someone would say something to them. It isn’t my job to talk to them.”
“Why does Susan insist on taking calls on speaker? I can’t concentrate at all.”
“Really? I have to be the one to go out to the fence again today to pick up practice balls?”
On and on seemingly little things get piled into the emotional ‘it’s just not that big of a deal’ box. But each thing takes up a tiny bit of space. And because nothing is ever taken out of the box, over time it gets full. Then bulging. Finally, it explodes. And not surprisingly the explosion is usually caused by something small.
You don’t have to let the use of the volcano plan damage your team. Remember, if a team has no conflict someone is lying (or at least hiding the truth). A few quick tips to avoid an explosion:
- Agree as a team that even ‘small’ issues are okay to bring up
- Create a norm that issues which could be labeled petty are important to talk about
- If you have an emotional bully who railroads other team members into silence – address it (we will talk about how next week)
- Check in with team members in private who are less likely to speak up in the group setting. Help them feel safe addressing any issues they might have with the group
- If you notice a change in how someone is communicating with the group, don’t let it slide. Ask if everything is okay
- It is important that you understand the typical running temperature of your team. That way you will notice change and be able to do something about it before it gets out of hand.
Have you seen the volcano method in action? Looking back, what was going on before the explosion that should have tipped you off that a problem was brewing? What happened in the aftermath? Tell us your story!
Next week: Emotional Bullies
Last week: Dealing with the Loss of a Teammate
Tags :Champion Performance Development, communication, conflict, conflict management, cracking under pressure, Doc Robyn, effective communication, ignoring issues, ignoring problems, Robyn Odegaard, straw that broke the camel's back, team development, toxic person, volcano