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As the year draws to an end, many people start to make resolutions to ensure “next year” is a better one.   This is particularly true in the case of work.  Though some may be toasting a great past year – and wishing for an even brighter new year; most will be hoping for a better year – one with less stress, and less conflict.

In a previous Blog  “Punishing Your Best People” I was overwhelmed by the huge amount of feedback from people who identified with the sense of being “punished” for doing their job too well.

If this is you; if you find yourself barely crawling to the end of year break, desperate for some time out, you should try to spend some of that time thinking about how you might make next year better.

There are many reasons why people fall into the trap of feeling like they are working too hard for too little.  It is usually pretty easy to identify the other people who are contributing to this, but quite a bit harder to work out your own role in the situation.  But if you don’t work this out, you may swap jobs next year just to find yourself in the same situation again in about 6 to 12 months time.

I have been coaching a client who had previously been happy in her role, but in the most recent six months, had found her boss increasingly difficult to work with.  In our first session, her description of her boss pretty much summed up a classic corporate psychopath!

If your manager is a corporate psychopath – with no empathy, no capacity to listen to a different viewpoint, and no interest in anyone but themselves, your options may be limited.

But in this case, my client *Holly had worked well with her boss for a couple of years before things started getting difficult.  Holly acknowledged her boss was difficult, short tempered and emotional, but felt that previously these behaviours were less pronounced, and easier to deal with.

When we worked through the impact of her boss’s changed behaviour on her, it became clear that Holly had also changed her behaviour in response. Holly realised she had become less confident, less willing to put her own clear ideas forward, and more concerned about second guessing her boss’s responses.  Holly had lost her own core way of behaving.  Holly was now bouncing around unsure of what to do or say, because she wasn’t being herself anymore.

As we worked together Holly’s situation improved greatly over time.  Holly found a new confidence and identified a new “role” to play at work – counterbalancing her boss’s emotional responses.  Holly is stronger and happier, and feeling like she has found her energy again.

Now this will not be the end of Holly’s story.  There will be more challenges ahead.  Ultimately, Holly may decide to move on.  But if she does, it will be on much more comfortable terms for her.

The moral to this story is, that we can be more effected by other people’s behaviours than we recognise.  Although obviously there is another person behaving badly, over time we can slowly change and find ourselves feeling extremely stressed because we are actually not working authentically.  There is nothing more exhausting – and stressful – than pretending to be someone you are not!

Most bosses – even bosses who punish rather than reward – want you to do a great a job.  That is one thing you will usually have in common.

Regardless of what type of boss you have, the same principals apply.  You need to step away from their influence long enough to identify what role you are playing.  When you find your own centre, your own strength, you can reduce your current sense of stress (and distress) and set some boundaries for yourself.  This is not an easy process and most people require the help of a professional third party to be able to clearly and objectively work their way through this process.

Not all work conflicts are caused by inherently difficult people.  Most people are just like you – trying their best to do their best.  But wherever you have two or more people, you will have the opportunity for conflict.  And some people just struggle to express their concerns positively.  Have you ever found yourself behaving in a less than professional manner towards someone who irritates you?

Most managers have never had the training or coaching to develop the skills to effectively solve these conflicts. For many managers, conflict is something that chews up their time and stops them doing their “real job”!  It is hard to see conflict resolution as a core responsibility.

But as you probably know, a conflict that is ignored does not actually go away.  It will continue to reappear in other guises until it is finally too big to ignore.  And in the meantime, good people leave their jobs.

So my wish for the New Year is that we all make a resolution to resolve conflicts in our workplaces!

Conflicts are not an aberration – they are an inevitable part of our workplaces and work lives.  But remarkably good things can happen when we look at the issues head on and work out a resolution.  People find new strength, new insight, and better ways of working together.

If you have conflicts you wish to resolve, then make a resolution to resolve them.  Get in touch with me at Worksense.

And have a wonderful New Year!

Let’s make 2014 a year of peace and goodwill for all at work.

*Holly is based on actual consulting work undertaken and is a compilation of clients