Dealing with conflict at work

With so many factors and variables in the mix, from internal and 3rd party dependencies, to technology and the pressure of client deadlines and paying the bills, conflict will always rear its ugly head from time to time.

But, do you ever find yourself experiencing the same kind of draining disagreements or bad feeling?

Because if your life sometimes feels like you’re stuck in ‘ground hog day’, then I’m going to share one of the best pieces of psychology I’ve ever found, that can help you.

It’s so simple and yet astonishingly effective that it will save you getting into needless and exhausting patterns of conflict, freeing you up to concentrate on what matters most.

Effectively managing and growing your business.

The Drama Triangle

To start let’s have a quick look at Steve Karpman’s amazing Drama Triangle, which can help you to understand what’s going on in those frustrating ‘conflict’ situations.Each of these 3 positions are roles that we play, unconsciously, when we are in conflict situations.

Let me tell you about them and see if you recognise your favourites.

  • Persecutor – When we are feeling persecutory we are critical, judgemental, and bossy. We think we are the only ones who can do the job just right and that unless we tell people what to do and take control of the situation, it will all fall apart. We think we know better, that we are more experienced, faster, more efficient and get cross when people don’t do things the way we would have done them.
  • Rescuer – This role sounds much nicer doesn’t it, but still, at its heart is the belief that we are better than the person we are trying to Rescue. When we are in Rescuer role we do things to ‘help’ other people without checking whether they want the help or not. So when I do part of someone else’s role or job without checking what they want first, I am rescuing.
  • Victim – This role is a hopeless role. This is when we are down on ourselves and down on other people, life, the universe and everything. When we are feeling like a Victim, we feel out of control and we can’t see what we can do to make things better. We’ve lost trust in ourselves and the world. We all have days like this; when we wonder what we ever started this business for, as nothing seems to be going right and we don’t feel like we’re up to the job.

It is possible to play all these roles in our own head in quick succession.

For example ‘Why did she do that? Now we’ve missed that deadline, what was I thinking leaving it to her (Persecutor)?

Oh what’s the point, I’ll never be any good at this and I was never going to get that pitch anyway (Victim).

She looks really upset, I can’t let her know how cross I am, maybe I’ll tell her to take a long lunch break so she can relax (Rescuer).

All of this goes on in our own head but the one thing that doesn’t happen is ‘addressing the problem and finding a solution’.

It takes two to tango!

Of course, it’s not just us who play these roles. Our clients, our staff, our sub-contractors and our family do too.

If one of our sub-contractors tells us last minute, they are going to miss the launch date for the new website because they’ve had so much work to do, we can respond in a number of ways.

We might want to tear them off a strip for being so unprofessional (Persecutor) or you might want to give them more time even though it puts your business at a disadvantage (Rescuer) or we might not say anything and just feel defeated and hopeless (Victim).

If we do shout at the sub-contractor, they might criticize us back, telling us how demanding we are, or they might go into Victim and admit to not managing at the moment,

Once we are on the Drama Triangle, we move round the positions, so we might start off feeling critical (Persecutor) and end up feeling hopeless (Victim).

The only thing that is for certain, is that once we fall into the trap of playing the roles on the triangle, everyone involved will come away feeling bad.

So what can you do to avoid the trap?

We can switch to the Winner’s Triangle instead.

Here’s the approach.

So instead of Persecuting, we Powerfully state what we need and what we want.

Instead of Rescuing we take Responsibility for our own needs and we Respond to the needs of the other party to find a way forward.

And instead of being a Victim, we allow ourselves to be Vulnerable, if only to our self.

We tune in to how we are feeling and we take Responsibility for our own needs and feelings.

So when that web designer phones up to let you down you:

Tune in to how you feel about the situation (Vulnerable) – maybe it’s OK, as the content needs tweaking – so more time is OK, or maybe it’s critical that it goes live ASAP.

Respond to the designer, taking responsibility for your own needs, respond to their needs and take responsibility to find a solution that works for you in a Powerful and Potent way.

Sounds simple, yes?

Well like any new skill, it takes practice but it is without doubt worth the effort, as mastering the Winner Triangle can help you to master managing your business.

Let me know in the comments if you recognise yourself in these positions.

Julie Leoni

Dr Julie Leoni runs her own coaching and training companies: is focused on supporting women in their personal and professional life and offers training, mentoring, lecturing and coaching support for educational professionals and students. Julie has also written an amazing book called Love Being Me which you can find on Amazon.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


Join the Community
Subscribe to the
Women Unlimited Newsletter
Keep up to date with the latest articles, webinars and events that we are running to support you on your journey to being a change maker and change leader
I'm in!
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.
Join the Women Unlimited Community
Join now