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  • gossip-in-the-workplaceI remember in high school I naïvely thought that once you graduated all the cliques and catty behavior would stop. The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines catty behavior as “Subtly cruel or malicious; spiteful.” I was surprised to find out that work environments are very similar to high school. When I worked in a restaurant, one group of waitresses were all very close friends and had worked together for a long time. They would often exclude all the other waitresses and even talked poorly about them behind their backs. When I worked in the law firm, I observed on my very first day a group of female co-workers sit all huddled together at one lunch table excluding others. I have witnessed the formation of cliques and catty behavior in both working environments with men too! The cooks at the one restaurant where I worked did not like the new waiter; I watched them purposely ignore his questions or walk away when he was talking. Cliques and catty behavior can be detrimental to the work environment, especially if it interferes with day-to-day activities.

    I have heard many stories from friends who have experienced these behaviors and felt excluded. My friend Christine told me about her previous job where the head boss had complimented her work more than once in front of a group of female co-workers. She noticed in the lunch room that her co-workers wouldn’t invite her to sit with them. Or they would stop talking the moment she walked in the room or talk about getting together on the weekend in front of her and not invite her to come. Christine said they all began to act passive aggressively towards her, such as taking a long time to complete their part of the group projects, or not suggesting ideas at all to help, and it got to a point where she hated coming into work. I asked why she hadn’t spoken up and said something? Christine said that her immediate supervisor was among the female co-workers acting this way, and she felt like going to her or Human Resource would only make the situation worse. Christine took another job where she was much happier; however, was this best? Perhaps for Christine yes, but the company lost a valuable asset.

    Humans naturally form into groups, often with people that are similar to themselves. But it is the catty behavior and the formation of cliques that results in a hostile and toxic work environment. Companies are losing money, woman/manpower, and skills. Depending on the organization one or more of these items lost can be bad for business.

    How can cliques and catty behavior be stopped?

    The truth is, cliques will never be able to be stopped. People will always associate with like-minded people. However, if you notice you sit with the same people everyday maybe try and switch it up and sit with someone new. Or, if you notice someone else sitting by themselves most days invite them to sit with you. If you hang out with your work friends outside of work and don’t invite everyone, then it is best not to discuss openly these interactions. Exercising empathy can also help, try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. How would you feel if you were being excluded?

    Catty Behavior should and needs to be addressed. You could approach those acting catty one-by-one and calmly let them know how (name the specific behavior) is impacting you. And then, simply ask them to stop. If the behavior continues, you could approach your immediate supervisor or human resources. While I understand where Christine was coming from in her situation, not everyone can or wants to leave their job. A situation may not become better immediately, but at least the situation is brought to your supervisor’s attention or Human Resources have the behavior on record.

    Toxic work environments can ruin companies and cause employees to be unhappy. The best companies are the ones that promote positivity, quash gossip, and encourage inclusivity.

    Abigail R. C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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  • Cowardly-Lion-1In the classic 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, I remember the scene with the Cowardly Lion who says,

    Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?


    So what does it really mean to have courage especially in times of disagreement? Courage is the ability to stay strong and address what you find difficult, scary and challenging. Courage is a choice. Being courageous and fearless takes practice; it takes being vulnerable; it means making hard decisions and it requires action. Like any skill or behavior, it takes concerted effort to build.

    For many people, including myself, encountering disagreements and facing escalating interpersonal conflict is scary. Interpersonal conflicts challenge our beliefs, values systems and our self-image. The closer we are to someone in a relationship whether it be our teenager, coworker, spouse, sibling, best friend, boss or neighbor, we are presented with opportunities to practice being vulnerable and courageous. So what steps can you take to build your courage muscle?

    • Name your fear or anxiety. Simply speak out loud to yourself and name the fear. For example,” I am afraid she will not talk to me anymore if I raise the issue.” Naming “it” lessens the emotional impact.
    • Take a deep breath. Breathing slows your brain’s defensive reaction and helps you focus. When building muscle, you isolate the exercise to a specific muscle group which in turn strengthens the ability to use the muscle in a different way. Breathing helps manage anxiety.
    • Set your intention. What is a new courageous goal you will set for yourself when facing interpersonal conflict? For example, “My goal is to communicate my needs in a respectful manner regardless of whether the other person disagrees.”
    • Acknowledge every tiny step you take. It is important to build self-confidence by acknowledging every small risk, step or effort in building courage as you work toward your goal.
    • Speak your truth. This is not about debating who is right or wrong. It is about speaking from your heart and being vulnerable with the other person to share your deeper thoughts and emotions. It is about being authentic and genuine to who you are in the face of conflict.
    • Listen to the other person’s truth. Building our courage muscle also means receiving feedback and listening deeply to the other person’s truth and be willing to be present with them.

    These are just a few strategies to practice courage and build your courage muscle.

    Pattie Porter. LCSW


    Listen and learn more with Eric Galton and Unbearable Conflict Requires Courageous Conversations

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  • angrymumteenagerdaughterMy blog post from last week provided teens with points to keep in mind when in conflict with their parents. Some parents may have read this post and smiled with satisfaction that a twenty-something agreed with them. Teens’ hormones are all over the place; they are changing physically and emotionally. When conflicts are regularly occurring, it must be those hormones to blame! Or perhaps, your teen is trying to challenge your rules and prove they are an adult, and conflict continues to arise because of their persistence? Either way, the conflict fault line falls to your teen, right? I’m being facetious, but only for the sake of setting up this week’s post.

    Parents have all the power in their relationship with their teen. When parents are arguing with their kid, taking advantage of the power imbalance can cause more damage than good. I should mention that I am not a parent. However, I have observed and listened to many teens rant about their parents and vice versa. Therefore, I have compiled a list of points and tips below that parents need to keep in mind when in conflict with their teens.

    • Be honest. Many teens complain that their parents treat them like children. Parents will sugarcoat and omit information because they want to protect their children. However, teenagers become resentful of these omissions and the sugar coating, they want honesty, they want communication. When my Great-Grandmother was passing away, my parents explained to me exactly what was happening. They gave me the choice to continue visiting her or to stop and remember her how she had been. When my parents were honest about what was going on and gave me the choice, I felt mature and responsible. Unfortunately, parents cannot protect their children for life. If you shelter your child too much then once they hit adulthood, they are naïve about the world, and the reality might be overly shocking.
    • Communicate your reasons. If you don’t want your child to go somewhere or wear something, communicate your reservations to your teen. When my parents would use, “Because I said so” as their reasoning for not letting me go to a party or out with friends, I thought they didn’t have a reason. I thought; they just didn’t want me to go. Perhaps, they felt it was too unsafe? Or they just wanted me to stay home for a night? Regardless, they wouldn’t communicate their true reasons to me. Parents, if you are honest and upfront about your hesitations, then maybe it would inspire your child to be truthful and upfront with you. There is an opportunity for a discussion where you and your teen can communicate reservations and build understanding from one another’s point of view.
    • Let mistakes happen. Let me be clear, I am not saying that if you see your child making a mistake that could seriously harm themselves or someone else, do nothing. However, for a child to learn and grow, they have to make mistakes. I imagine it’s hard to watch your kid slip-up, even when you believe you know what is best for them. But, by letting your child make mistakes they learn how to handle tough situations, make judgment calls, and take responsibility for their actions.
    • Trust your parenting. My mom was never one to coddle her children. She gave us independence and room to make mistakes. I once asked why that was? Many of my friend’s parents were over-protective. My mom said, “I cannot follow you around for the rest of your life. I know the values I taught you and I have to trust in my parenting.” Parents, have confidence in how you raised your children. The values you instilled in them are there, it may take a bit for your child to realize it, but they will!

    It is important to remember, that for children to grow into well-rounded, mature adults, they need their parents to guide them. However, just because you’re the parent does not necessarily mean you are always right.


    Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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Welcome to Texas Conflict Coach®. I am your host Pattie Porter, conflict resolution expert, mediator, conflict coach, facilitator and speaker. - Read More

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