A Mystery: Intent vs. Impact

When workplace conflict arises, most often someone or several people have been impacted in a negative way.

What do you think of when you get impacted in a way that feels awful?  Here are some reported reactions.

  • “I feel stunned!”
  • ” I feel very angry!”
  • “I think this is so unfair!”
  • “I want to get even!”
  • “I feel helpless to do anything about this!”

    The above reports describe reactivity – a natural response to an unwanted impact.

    What is so interesting is when participants in a conflict situation are interviewed, we find they are amazed that they had a negative impact on anyone.

    Most people believe they are well intentioned, and are extremely surprised when they find out they have had such a negative impact on someone else.

    So, what do you do when conflict occurs and you are the person in charge?  Try asking people what their intentions were prior to the conflict becoming apparent.  What we often discover is they did not have a clue when it came to thinking about how their actions or words might impact another person or even a group.

    In working to resolve conflicts it is a good to give participants an idea of how their behavior has impacted someone else.  A question about their intent brings out the positives in the situation.

    When people become aware that even though they had positive intentions, their behavior or words impacted the other person in a negative way, they are in a position to clarify, apologize, and then seek out a compromise.

    Employees really do prefer an environment where they can be heard, understood, and treated fairly as the adults they are.

    So, the mystery of intent vs. impact doesn’t have to remain a mystery when careful inquiry can resolve misunderstandings.

    %d bloggers like this: