Stop Dishing Out Bad Juju by Flipping Your Inner Conflict Script


We all have to work with other people in our careers and we’re never going to get along with every single person but we can definitely take an active role in attempting to. Conflicts exist in all work places and in the public sector there are some antagonists that can lead to additional strain on relationships. One of them is transparency. For instance, it is easy to find out how much the new hire whose doing your same level job makes and perceived inequalities can burn little jealousy marks into your brain. Another is a lack of authority. Not all government organizations have this problem, but it is common for public sector entities to have some fuzzy lines mucking up their org charts; receiving orders from someone who is “not your boss” can cause some sticky situations.

If you’ve ever said “I hate you” under your breath to someone you’ve just put worthless bad juju from you to that other person. Picture it as it flies through the air and lands on that person — you may as well be putting a curse on them. Maybe you’ve never said “I hate you” to a co-worker, but you might just have a not so nice nickname for someone; I can think of some that could be just as bad or worse than hate.

Throwing the word hate around and name calling can lead to enemy centric based motivation which will reflect negatively on you. Enemy centric motivation leads a person to be focused on wishing, hoping, and even sometimes acting to bring someone else down which is a waste of time and energy that will ultimately distract you from accomplishing your own goals.

So what is this simple solution to stop hurdling bad juju around the office? It’s a few things:

  • It’s a way to get to heart of what you’re feeling and what the issue is
  • It’s a way to take that issue and not make it personal
  • It’s a way to open the door to a rational conversation

And here is how you do it:

Instead of saying “I hate you” or name calling, you’re going to re-write the script. Instead of saying “I hate you” you say, “you make me feel [insert adjective]”(Adjective = angry, frustrated, irritated, uncomfortable, whatever it is). The new script is about the problem, not the person. This is something you can work with; simple as that.

For example, when Martha (not your boss) comes over for the 3rd week in a row and says, “Hey Joe, I need that TPA report asap.”  Just as you’re about to hurdle the bad juju under your breath, stop and say to yourself: “It is really frustrating to me when Martha asks me to do something without going through the proper channel.”  Or, how about just stating the issue to Martha? Once you’ve taken the person out of it and put the issue on the process being straight forward just might be your best course of action. Try saying something like: “Hey Martha, I will do this this time but I’m getting a little frustrated that the proper process isn’t being followed.” Martha will probably say, “I didn’t know there was a different process” or she’ll do it differently next time. Relationship saved, crisis averted, and no bad juju thrown this day.

In summary, if you regularly focus bad juju on your co-workers, you likely process a lot of stuff internally. Tactics like this usually take some practice. If you can continue to remove the issue from the person and place it on the process you’ll see some improvements in your relationships, and improve your inner chi.

Try it out and comment on how it went.

Laura Thorne is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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“you make me feel [insert adjective]”(Adjective = angry, frustrated, irritated, uncomfortable, whatever it is). The new script is about the problem, not the person.

Based on what I’ve learned from Nonviolent Communication, you might want to tweak your formula to “I feel [insert adjective].” There are a lot of personal reasons we may feel the way we feel that don’t have much to do with the other person, but no one can dispute a simple statement of how we feel.