When Advocacy Crosses the Line: Repairing Organizational Damage

Hump Day Wisdom: Ideas for Action- Delivered Mid-Week.

Repairing the damage done in an overly spirited debate can be hard.  Assuming that there is not the need for a clear apology on one side or the other, those who advocated passionately for opposing points of view are left with the need to normalize the relationship after the dust of the debate settles.  While national politics gives us a timely example, we have them every day at work.  Vociferous arguments abound over an engineering decision in product development, competitive strategy, pricing, organizational issues… you name it.  We argue passionately because we have a point of view we believe in and we feel strongly about our own opinion.  But eventually the decision is made and there is a need to work together again, no matter which side of the decision you are on.

Anthropologists and social scientists tell us that after such a conflict, one side or the other will make a “repair offer”.  In packs of baboons, it may be an offer to groom or a simple effort to be in the same place at the same time to normalize the relationship.  In offices, it tends to look more like the chance meeting at the coffee pot and the seemingly unimportant attempt at conversation.  “Do you believe that they had to decide the match on penalties?” or “Have you seen the morning paper?” are more than distractions from an awkward moment.  They are important attempts to normalize a damaged relationship.

Here is the odd thing.  A rejected repair offer does more damage to the relationship (and the environment that is tiptoeing around it) than the original conflict.

Are you carrying a grudge?  Avoiding a conversation or person at the office? Wondering how to reconnect after a debate that may have gotten out of hand?  If you are still carrying the detritus of an overly enthusiastic debate or a vociferous meeting, now would be a good time to make a repair offer.  Keep in mind that doing so is neither a admission of wrong doing or a desertion of your point of view.  A repair offer simply offers to attempt normal relations again.  Keep in mind that a repair offer does not replace an apology where one is called for.

Mid week is a great time to begin to build bridges.  No sense letting the week get away while everyone is stewing.

Hump Day Wisdom is published to arrive in your RSS/ mailbox on Wednesdays as an invitation to consider a mid week course correction and goes to thousands of requesters on 4 continents.