Category Archives: Organizational Conflict

Admitting when you are wrong

I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I have hurt a lot of people. There is no excuse for it, and I take full responsibility for it. In 44 years of my life, I have been blaming others for my inadequacies; I have blamed others for not reaching my goals, and not doing the right thing. I am not a law breaker, I don’t do drugs, and I very rarely drink if any. My life compared to most is pretty boring you might say. I have never owned a house, and I have lived outside of my means, living pay check to pay check, with nothing more to show than debt. I have always felt like a failure, but what I have managed to see is that it is my own fault. I have no one else to blame. The decisions I have made were my own. More than anything, I had to forgive my self, which is a hard burden to shoulder.


Now, I have focus, now I have a support system that encourages me. I am a better man, and every person that comes into my life serves a purpose, to make me a better person. In other words, I have goals, plans, and dreams. I have things I want to accomplish. It is about the process, and it is about learning what to do and what not to do. At the end of the day, it is about being better than the day before. I will never take advantage of anyone, I will never intentionally hurt anyone, and I will do my best each day to live life to the fullest.


I am not looking for anything from anyone, I am just saying regardless of who you are we all make mistakes. I have tried all my life to do it all alone, and I can no longer do it. I am doing things the right way, trying my best to live by the words I write. In the next few months you will start to learn more about me, my life, the people in it, and how we all can relate to one another. There will be some really good things to come out of this transition, and I hope you will be apart of this journey.


There is a delicate line we must balance when dealing with our emotions. On one hand, the excitement and happiness we experience are feelings we never want to go away. Yet, the pain and suffering we experience are feelings we search for answers too. Some people do not wish the harsh reality of life on others, and there are some who wish for the very worst on others. Especially if they feel as though someone is responsible for those negative emotions.


Sometimes we forget just how powerful our emotions can be. They have the ability to consume us to our core, and they cause us to do things we usually would not do under normal circumstances. Look at any conflict and you will see how the emotions of each stake holder played a role in how the conflict was managed or resolved. It is about perspective, understanding, emotional control, acceptance, finding peace, and knowing our limitations.


Jim Camp, in an article titled, “Decisions are Emotional, Not Logical: The Neuroscience behind Decision Making” argues that emotions, not logic are the driving force in decision making. Negotiators are doomed to fail if they think facts, statistics, reason, and logic are going to win. These things are only one side of the conflict. You cannot tell someone what to think, how to feel, or what is best for them. Instead, you help them discover what is best for them, what feels right, and what gives them the most advantage. It is human nature that decision making be based on personal interest. Camp goes on to say that when we reveal the problems, pain, and unmet objectives can you start the healing or resolution process by helping them build a vision for themselves.


Emotions play a definitive role in our decision making process. Good or bad, these decisions can have dire consequences for those involved. Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the over all picture, not just the immediate one, and think before acting. In the end, only you can control you, while other people may influence you, you are solely responsible for your actions or inaction’s.

Team Work

From a professional standpoint, there is nothing more rewarding than team work. When every person knows how to do their job, and they work together with the precision of a watch to get the job done, it is impressive to see. Every moving part is important. It is effective and efficient, and each part depends on the other in order to work in harmony.

However, what I have seen time and time again is a lack of team work in most companies and governmental agencies. People are more concerned with back stabbing and working their way to the top, and it does not matter who they run over in the process. Gossiping, lying to your co-workers and subordinates, no accountability for personal actions on and off duty, lack of supervision, and out dated policy and procedures serve as the catalyst for these actions.

What is team work? It is the cumulation of ongoing training, repetitions, focus, dependability, loyalty, knowing how to do your job and the job of your team mates, and trust. Whether in battle or in life, you must be able to depend on the person to your left and to your right. You are only as good as your weakest link.

In an article titled, “Business Lessons Learned from a Day of Navy SEAL Training” by Sujan Patel, he provides several key lessons we can all take from Navy SEALs. These include:

Communication- It is important that each person takes the time to communicate. It is the only way to know what the other person is doing, and an open line of communication prevents ambiguity.

Trust- There has to be trust between all team members, without trust you can never be a cohesive unit. This is one of the most covenant things that Special Forces ingrain in their members. There is never a reason to lie or bend the truth because it means the others cannot trust you as a person or to get the job done.  There will always be doubt in the minds of those around you, and your word will mean nothing.

Mastery- Know your skills and the skills of those around you. When things go bad, make sure you know your job better than anyone else, and if you know the job of those around you, when someone gets knocked down or doesn’t come to work, you can fill in without losing efficiency. If you are lacking in one area or another, train, and train hard. Be a master of your craft.

Planning- 7 p’s. Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance. “Hope for the best, and plan for the worst.” These are the words you should try to live by. When you are planning for something, take a step back, and look at the event or issue from a different perspective. What I like to do is have a co-worker look at the same set of circumstances and provide feedback. Maybe they were able to see something I wasn’t able to see. I want to have a contingency plan in place for any situation. Because when things go wrong, they usually go very wrong. This is where team work can have a huge impact. Each member should feel as though they have had a say in the planning process.

Be Tough- Life is hard, suck it up. When ever you get hit in the face by life, deal with it. It is not going to be easy, but you must have the will to push forward. Never freaking quit. If you do not get anything else from this post, do not quit. However, poor team work makes things harder, so step up when you need to do so. Be able to fill multiple roles as both a leader and follower.

Life is Good- remember, it can always be worse. No matter your situation, there are people in the world who have it much worse than you do. Try to display a good attitude and be positive even in the face of adversity.

In the end, team work is the back bone of any organization. There will always be those who complain, but the most successful organizations and teams, weed out those who cannot be team players. They have a zero tolerance for these types of people. Instead of complaining, help those who need it. Lead by example, show support for your coworkers. If all else fails, at least you did everything you could do to make the team better.


There are some things in life that are bigger than the individual. Sometimes we don’t understand the selflessness it takes to put others in front of oneself, and we question the way life has treated us. It takes a unique individual to keep going when things get tough. Look no further than the men and women of our all volunteer military force. They are making the ultimate sacrifice each day knowing there could be a time in their lives when they are faced with death.

There is honor in other facets of life as well. Look at the single mom or dad who works tirelessly to provide for their family, knowing they will miss some of the most important accomplishments in her child’s life because they are working to put food on the table and clothes on their children’s back. They are willing to go without eating if it means it benefits their child.

What is honor? Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines honor as: respect that is given to someone who is admired, good reputation, good quality or character as judged by other people, and high moral standards of behavior. There are some people who believe honor doesn’t exist, and it is nothing more than empty words.  Like many things, it is left up to the individual to interpret and develop their own definition of the word. Factors such as life experiences, culture, and upbringing have a huge influence on their behavior. Who are we to judge? Just because society develops a set of behaviors based on the majority of the population, doesn’t really mean that the minority of the population is wrong. It is not left up to you or me to determine, it is only left to the individual to decide their course of action. While we may or may not agree with their actions, we must understand that common law drives our cultural norms and behavior in society and without it, any of us would act in a very different manner.

However, honor is not based on common law. It is based on a very deep belief that we live our life in such a manner that no matter what happens, I will not sacrifice the things I believe most deeply in. Freedom, liberty, and justice are not empty words, as they are the deeply embedded roots of this country. Many people have sacrificed their lives to protect us from oppression. Look no further than Michael Murphy, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, who was killed in Afghanistan exposing himself to enemy fire, knowing he would be killed. There are times in our lives when we have to make hard decisions. It is these decisions which will define our lives and the type of person we are going to be in life. We can either make the sacrifice or we can sit by and watch the events unfold, always asking ourselves: could I have done something to make a difference?

Let’s be honest, the majority of the population will never see military combat, but you have the ability to live a life of honor in other ways. As we age, we start to see things from a different perspective. Our priorities change, we understand life is taken for granted, and we want to believe in something more meaningful than the everyday flow of life. Time goes by fast, and this life is nothing more than a blink of an eye before it is taken from us. We must embrace the opportunities given to us, “Carpe Diem”- seize the day! Do the same for all the people you meet during your life time. Some of these relationships will not be pleasant, but there is a reason these people came into our lives. Maybe it was to change a behavior, learn something new, or change our perspective on life. Take the time to appreciate one another because we all have something to offer. There is honor in understanding, listening, helping, and building relationships.

In the end, be honorable in all you do. If you have to question your actions, then it is probably best not to do it. Never bring disgrace or dishonor to your family, live a life of high moral character, always look ahead and not back, strive for self improvement, be open to learning something new, and take criticism. When life hits you in the gut, suck it up, push forward, and redirect your emotions. The pain you face will only make you stronger. Yes, it sucks at the time, and you should take time to heal. The amount of time needed depends on the person and the circumstance, and you may never get all the answers you are looking for at the time.

I found the following quote from Marcus Luttrell (Ret. Navy SEAL), the lone survivor of Operation Redwings, and it can be applied to all aspects of life. “No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets or no matter how far you fall, you are never out of the fight.”


Blog-CIA-motto-300x157One of the worst traits anyone can have is to be labeled a liar. There is nothing more disgraceful or dishonest. Your word should be your bond. When you look someone in the eyes, and you give them your word, mean it. Liars are the lowest people on the earth in my opinion. They have no back bone, integrity, ethics, or morals. They are a disgrace to their family, their country, and they represent the lowest life forms in the universe. They are useless, and I do not have the time or tolerance for those people.

Why is lying acceptable? It could be our culture tolerates it. We have all lied to someone in our lives for a wide variety of reasons, and there is no excuse for it. However, it comes down to what we learned from that experience. I have made many mistakes, hurt many people, and there were times I just didn’t care. I do not claim to be perfect. What I am saying is time creates opportunity, vision, and clarity in our lives. Sometimes we have to loose the most important things in our lives before we can see the things we need to change the most. Life is hard enough and when we hurt the ones we love the most, two things will happen, you will either continue to take advantage of them or you will correct your behavior and be a better person. Take responsibility for your actions, and do whatever it takes to prevent the unacceptable behavior from happening again.

There are a variety of views about lying. Some see lying as harmful and self-interest, while others see it as an acceptable behavior when you are trying to protect someone’s feelings or get out of a relationship, as long as you are always honest with yourself. The only time you should lie would be in a life or death situation in my opinion. At that point, you have to do whatever it takes to keep you alive, no exceptions.  Otherwise, be honest because you would want someone to be honest with you. Honesty builds trust. As I previously discussed in one of my other articles, trust is the foundation for most relationships, when it is lost, you may never get it back. Without a doubt, lying is the number one killer of trust. Look at any type of conflict and you will see when one party lies to the other, trust is completely lost. I know there will be many of you who will disagree with me, and we all live by a different set of rules. My way, may or may not be your way, and it is ok. We just can’t be friends or colleagues.

What is the Solution? Tell the truth no matter the circumstances. The other person may not be happy at the time, but they will respect you more later on down the road. Most people appreciate someone being honest with them instead of trying to hide the truth. Sometimes you have to be brutally honest with people because they just don’t get it other wise. Think about how you would feel in the same situation and let your morals and ethics guide you.

S.O.S! We need help! Organization Conflict

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit in on a great organizational seminar called “Herding Ostriches” developed by Kate Sheridan. This was the second time she had been in our organization. She is well spoken, articulate, and she is very easy to talk to about organizational problems, mainly because her background has been very successful in leading organizations. She understands the nuisance of making any organization, no matter the size, successful.

I tend to be outspoken, but I only speak when there are serious issues that need to be addressed. What I have found is most people are afraid to speak openly and honestly to their employers because they will be ostracized from the group. This is especially true in governmental run organizations. There is a clear lack of thinking outside the box, and the leadership from top to bottom lacks the ability to see how successful businesses are run. The “good ole boy” system promotes based on political back rubbing, not on the experience, education, or forward thinking by other employees. This is the reason why governmental organizations use a hierarchical chain of command, in which its employees are unable to think for themselves. While GOG’s or SOP’s are important, those who use these policies should be the very ones who develop these polices. This is the reason why organizations like Charleston EMS are successful. They encourage their employees to find results because they know ultimately these employees are the ones who are going to use them, so they should be the ones to develop the procedures, which streamline work productivity, producing effective and efficient work.

The class I attended pushed for our honest and open feedback, and we were told to speak freely, so she could do an honest assessment on our organization. It has been several months since the class, and nothing has been done to create an environment that inspires others. I have heard she is not welcome back because it created such a hot topic for discussion. I also found there were people who talked about the organization and some of the issues that needed to be addressed outside of work, but when it came time to discuss them in an open forum, they closed down, and they changed their tone. They pretended as though nothing was ever said. If you look at organizations like Google, Apple, or Microsoft, they allow and encourage their employees to find solutions to the company’s problems. While the ultimate decision rests on management, the employees are given the tools to find a solution. This is the reason why the greatest minds are working for these companies, and this is the same reason why there is low pay, over worked, and under appreciated employees in most governmental systems.

There has to be a shift in this type of thinking. New policy implementation does not always work out the way we intend, and there should be an alternative plan ready. Many supervisors have lost touch with reality, they see things as their way and their ideas, without understanding or seeing the problems associated with their inept decisions. It has been years since many of them have worked in these positions, and they have not had to deal with the increased work load and unrealistic working environment that could get someone killed. Yes, I said killed.

So here is a question I would like to pose to you. What do you when you know the policy you are using can have catastrophic consequences for not only you and your co-workers, but the public and responders? How would you handle it? Documentation, research, and a wide variety of incidents have been reported to your superiors, but they are not changing the current policies. Even the terms malfeasance and misfeasance have been brought to their attention, and yet they continue to ignore your cry for help. Does this ultimately hold you responsible for their lack of action? or Are you just as at fault because you did not do anything about it?

Conflict management in the work place?

This is not going to be your average boring article I promise. I shoot from the hip and tell it like it is because most people do not speak openly and honestly. Why? They do not want to be seen as a trouble maker, but there are some issues and topics that need to be discussed in an open forum. Those of you who do not like honesty, and do not like confrontation, this is probably not for you. If you want to understand and deal with conflict in a manner which could produce a win-win solution, then this is for you.

How many times have you been in the room working and there is that one person who seems to get on your last nerves. In your mind, you are thinking, will they ever shut up? How do they talk so much? They have got to be the worse employee ever! How did they ever get hired? They are so stupid! In addition to these thoughts going through your head, the gossiping starts. Who are they talking about? Are they talking about me? Worse, you are caught in the middle of the gossiping. He is the worst supervisor ever! How many times have you had someone tell you to watch your back, or they tell you to stay away from that person. These are real issues, with real people. I hope many of you are laughing, because you can relate to the issues I have presented, but you can see there are serious problems that need to be addressed.
Now that I have got your attention, let’s talk about it. In reality, emergency services is without a doubt one of the worse places for gossip, high divorce rates, and disgruntled employees. I know you are thinking, “This guy has lost his mind!” We work long hours with the same people, there are bound to be problems. The public expects us to be held to a higher standard, and our actions on duty and off, can make us look like hero or a zero. The job is stressful enough, and many times we bring our personal feelings to work. We blame others for the way we feel about our job, poor performance, or problems at work. I will be the first to admit I have done all these things. If you are looking for a cookie cutter approach to conflict resolution you are wrong. There is not one, and all the management classes in world are not going to teach you effectively how to handle employees and co-workers.
One of my classmates was the second oldest active Navy SEAL. When I found out, we started talking about his career. One of the first things he ever said to me about being a SEAL, dealt with humility. Here was this man, who still holds most of the PT records mind you, 6’0, at least 225 pounds, well spoken and educated, speaking about humility. He said, “if you can’t be humble, what can you be?” He didn’t think twice about it. He was one of the few SEAL’s who started in the enlisted ranks and moved up to get his commission. Now 33 years later, he is still humble regardless of his accomplishments.
What’s my point? Many times we forget we all make mistakes, and none of us are perfect. Be humble, if someone is struggling offer to help, instead of putting them down. You never know what is happening in their lives. I know you have heard the old saying, “put the shoe on the other foot.” It is hard to put your self in someone else’s situation without knowing all the facts. There are always three sides to every story, their side, your side, and the truth. If you decide to listen to someone, keep the conversation to yourself. Trust is hard to come by, but it is easy to destroy. Gossip is the number one killer of trust in the workplace along with lying.
When I am in public, I always treat people the way I want to be treated, which was with respect and dignity. However, I could have cared less about my co-workers and their personal issues. I was so busy being mad because I felt unappreciated and undervalued, I let my own weaknesses and faults consume me. Instead of taking control of my situation, I blamed others, and I stayed mad all the time. Because people didn’t really know me they assumed I had a chip on my shoulder. In reality, I am fortunate to have done a lot of things, stay healthy and physically fit, and I am a naturally confident person. However, I never accepted responsibility for my past, and it caused me to see others as being below me. It wasn’t until I accepted my own faults, could I start not to judge others. Don’t get me wrong, there are people you cannot please or get along with no matter what you do. Just avoid those people, remain professional, and mind your own business. What I should have been doing is treating people the way they want to be treated. If you don’t know, ask, most people will appreciate the kind gesture.
Take the time to know the people you work with because it lets them know you are interested in them. You might build long-lasting relationships, and you never know what will happen in the future. The most important aspect of these relationships is it builds teamwork, respect, and understanding of each others weaknesses and strengths. I cannot stress the importance of trust in the work place. Without it, there is nothing and it causes a lot of problems which could be avoided. Never lie to a co-worker or supervisor. There are some things people do not want to talk about or discuss. Respect their decision and do not judge them. Again, there is always three sides to every story. The same holds true for supervisors. There is nothing worse than being written up without being interviewed or having all the facts. I have been there. It is the most aggravating thing in the world because instead of discussing the issues, you are having to defend yourself. In most cases, there was a misunderstanding and it was blown way out of proportion. If you mess up, take responsibility and learn from it.
Every person is different. We come from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and cultures. Become open-minded to the way other people interact. Just because you aren’t a talker in the mornings, does not mean everyone in the room has to be that way. Some people just like to talk and interact. Keep your thoughts to yourself. If you have nothing positive to say, then keep it to your self. Negativity and distrust is the root of under minding teamwork. Whenever someone is being negative, walk away. If you stay in the conversation you will be the subject of rumors and gossip.
Use the chain of command and keep detailed records, times, dates, and facts of issues. This will cover you incase something is ever brought up again. Make sure to use the chain of command first, if all else fails go to human resources as a last resort. Hostile work environments are looked down upon, but you better make sure you have the facts. There are people who are very vindictive and will do anything they can to get you fired. Make sure you are following GOG’s and SOP’s. If your supervisor asks you to fix something then fix it. If you are having a problem with a co-worker, ask to sit down with them, with a supervisor present, and discuss the issues. You may find out there is a simple misunderstanding, at the very least you will know what is going on. Explain the problem to them in a way they fully understand. Be very specific about their actions, how it affects you, and why it affects you.
Many of you will disagree, but it will save you a lot of heart ache down the road if you keep your private relationships outside of work. In other words, do not date a co-worker. It has the potential to cause so many problems not only between the two of you, but it puts your co-workers and supervisors in a position that will ultimately not be good for either one of you. We work long hours together, and I understand relationships will develop, if at all possible, be good friends. I have seen too many career’s ruined over poor decisions because of this issue.
In conclusion, there is no magical formula for conflict resolution. The ideas presented are common sense approaches to conflict management in the work place, but you would be amazed how many times we forget the simple things. Our job is very stressful and we must rely on each other to remain positive, push forward, and have someone to lean on in difficult times. At the end of the day, it is all about trust, respect, and humility.

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