Managing Museum Workplace Conflict
Model the behavior you want: If you get angry, direct your anger toward situations and things rather than people and their personalities.
Treat everyone with honesty and respect. When you meet with disgruntled co-workers, be impartial. If it appears you've already sided with one of them, your attempt at mediation will die on the vine.
Don't let conflict fester. If you get wind of a problem, sit down with your team members sooner rather than later.
Talk to your staff not just about what they're doing, but how they feel about what they're doing. Perceived and real inequities create stress, which prompts conflict.
Remember to listen, and when beginning conflict resolution, remember to promise confidentiality.And if you're a staff member?
Treat everyone with honesty and respect.
Try not to take sides. This isn't 8th grade. Strong bonds between co-workers may force colleagues to take sides, choosing one faction over another.
Don't let conflict fester. If you're having issues with a co-worker that don't go away in a day or two, talk it out with your department leader or ED.
Try not to personalize conflict. This isn't about you as much as it's about work. Keep your focus on what you're asked to do. If you're a museum leader, can you ignore conflict, believing that unless you see people yelling at one another, your workplace is a little Nirvana? Of course. You can follow the path of the middle school teachers in the opening story, but unlike middle school students, your staff chooses to work for your organization. If coming to work leaves them psychological wrecks, they may quit. And conflict is costly: It jeopardizes projects; stressed employees may take sick days; and conflict leads to costly resignations. And, while engaged workers make everything easier, toxic ones cost your museum money. In one for-profit study from Harvard, a toxic worker cost her organization $12,000 annually, while an engaged worker added $5,000 in terms of productivity. Museums aren't the high-paying stars of the non-profit world. They get by, in part, because staff has a deep love for art, science, and human experience, translating them into something experiential and understandable, and, more recently, engaging communities they serve in dialog, story telling and knowledge sharing. But organizations who don't pay well must compensate in other ways. Creating work places where it's fine to disagree, but where bullying and toxic behavior aren't tolerated is a small step toward building healthy museum work environments. #bekind. Yours for a conflict-free workplace, Joan Baldwin