Any company that is made of, well, humans will inevitably experience conflict. Graphium believes conflict is not only essential, but can be very healthy. Here’s how.
Earlier this year, the leadership at Graphium met together to discuss a too-often overlooked topic: Company Culture. The team wanted to not only define Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and typical mission/vision statements, but also to develop a foundation for interpersonal interactions. Creating a culture where our clients and our personnel could thrive became a top priority. While running lean, pricing affordably, and developing practical & intuitive software for anesthesia is who we are on the front end, nurturing a flexible and culture-driven workspace is an equally important objective behind the scenes.
One of the greatest challenges that the leadership team identified was conflict in the workplace.
Different personalities, backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas are all part of a great, diverse team–but these are the same differences that can also create conflict. What did that tell us? That conflict was a good thing.
But when conflict does arise, which behaviors should be expected, and which ones should be barred? On the other hand, if conflict is healthy, then mindless complicity and apathy can be just as antithetical and counterproductive to the company’s mission as unhealthy conflict.
Conflict was never the issue: we want it! In fact, the leadership team determined that conflict was so important, that it ought to be nurtured by the following Graphium Health Rules of Engagement.
We Aren’t Dismissive
As ideas and solutions are generated and passed around, none will ever be met with outright dismissal. A response such as “That’s not going to work” is completely unhelpful, and it generates a fear in the environment–not just for the recipient of the response, but also for all witnesses. The fear shuts down good communication, which festers and spreads like a bad infection.
Asking for elaboration? That’s great. Arguing why you think the idea won’t work and inviting discussion? It doesn’t get much better than that.
We Are Passionate But Not Emotional
Occasionally, both sides of a conflict are going to have their heels dug in. We get it. You both really feel that you’re right on this one. We want you to feel that way–why else would you have conflict? So we’re going to make this rule even simpler:
This may sound overly simplistic. But consider why people feel the need to yell. Just like animals, this is to instill fear (are you seeing a common thread?). Yelling is a tactic utilized to win an argument. Discussion is a tactic utilized to come to a solution. A simple solution, but an enormous difference.
A “Forelock Tugger” is better known in the business world as a sycophant or a “Yes-man.” For a fun read, check out this article that explains the phrase’s origin.
At Graphium Health, we never respond to new ideas or directions with “Sure, whatever you want to do,” especially if we actually have reservations about the idea or direction. Speak! We want to hear what you have to say!
And, perhaps most importantly, don’t tug the forelocks at the discussion table only to criticize later. We’ve found a common pattern of behavior in today’s business world: a tendency to be agreeable when an idea or direction is presented, but to later return to the water cooler and bash the idea and/or its creator.
We Come Prepared With The Facts
So you don’t agree with the new marketing strategy. What do you base your disagreement on? Have you seen this method tried before with failing results? Perhaps you’ve just finished reading research that demonstrates trends in the marketplace that are disagreeable to the current strategic considerations.
And you, marketing team: are you backing up your idea with tried/tested methodology? If not, are your new ideas founded on your own research.
But if either of you are coming to the table with a disagreement based on your own preference or, especially, your distaste for the others’ personality–your thoughts may not be the most welcome at the moment.
This is just one example, but you get the picture. Facts and measurable data are far superior to guesses and opinions.
One caveat, perhaps, is important to mention: Neither facts nor data negate the other rules of engagement listed here.
You, as the reader, probably have one of several different reactions to this one.
Swearing, in American culture, has become very nuanced. For some it is a common part of speech, while for others it remains completely taboo. A third group of people doesn’t bar swearing altogether from its speech, but is more selective than others in the employment of profanity.
Because of such contextual variations in what swearing might mean to a speaker versus how it might be received by a listener, Graphium believes that swearing inside of conflict at the workplace must be restrained.
While it may perchance be that both parties accept swearing as normal — we roll some heavily weighted dice when employing foul language during conflict. Swearing can unnecessarily heat up a disagreement to the point of no return, where conflict is no longer healthy, and any solution is a bygone notion.
So, during conflict, we’re just going to ban swearing.
Neither Fight Nor Flight
Like all instinctive creatures, we have the tendency to either fight or fly–to bow up and throw punches or to simply evade altogether. Neither behavior is helpful in the workplace.
And while we want to inhibit heading into conflict with bared knuckles, we don’t want to do so at the expense of healthy conflict.
We encourage our personnel not to give in to Flight, which is completely instinctive for some personalities. We’re so glad that personalities that seek for peace are part of our company–but, to be clear, we didn’t just hire you to be complicit. We hired you because we believe in you. That means we need your insights and crave your points of disagreement. Without it, our company will not be nearly as strong as it could be.
Silence Means Disagreement
To help those who may choose flight over fight, we’ve had to learn to listen a little bit differently. One of the biggest changes is this:
If you are silent, you are disagreeing.
The automatic response from the rest of the table or the discussion leader, then, will be to dig in a little bit deeper to see what your reservations may be. Like we said–we need your insights. But we also realize that not everyone is going to be comfortable on the front lines of conflict. For some, voicing disagreement is no big deal. But for others, when a disagreement enters the mind, the heart begins racing and pounding, anxiety shoots through the roof, an inner voice begins to evaluate every possible arrangement of words and every different potential reaction from the room, and — in order to keep peace — keep silent.
We get it. And this rule was put in place for you, you wonderful peace-loving, people-pleasing, friendliest person in the office. We think you’re great. But the best way that we could express that to you is to elicit your disagreements. Sorry…not sorry.
We Verbally Commit To All Resolutions
If we interpret silence as disagreement, then it becomes absolutely necessary to get verbal agreement to any resolution from 100% of the involved parties.
While we’ve prevented insincere assent, we still want your actual commitment here.
Notice something extremely important: we don’t demand your agreement with our forward motion. But when conflict isn’t completely resolved, we still have to move in some direction. If you disagree, we want to hear about it. And sure–we may regret it later, but we have to move. And we need you with us.
You don’t agree 100%, but can you commit to the resolution with the rest of the team? If not, we’re not done discussing. If never…well there may need to be a different discussion altogether. Remember: we’re in this for the company and the clients: not for ourselves.
We Don’t Interrupt
Is this article beginning to sound like an old lecture from your mom?
Well, she was right all along.
Think about what interrupting someone else immediately tells the interuptee and the rest of the room. You may not say it out loud, but what they all hear is: “What I have to say is more important than what you have to say. I don’t value you. I am uninterested in what you already said, because I am uninterested in what else you’re going to say.”
Rather than placing being understood at the top of the priority list, Graphium’s personnel seek for understanding first. We don’t interrupt one another because what you have to say is important. We do value you. We are interested in everything you have to bring to the table.
We Don’t Take Things Personally…And We Don’t Use Personal Attacks
Like many of these Rules of Engagement, this one is a two-way street.
When someone disagrees with what you are saying, it can be easy to interpret their disagreement with a personal vendetta they have against you. That’s ridiculous…unless it’s true.
The responsibility, then, is on both sides of the table. Neither side of a conflict can take disagreement personally. But, at the same time, both sides of the conflict must be committed to avoiding personal attacks at all costs. The trust that results from such an agreement is paramount — the very converse of the fear that we’re trying to eradicate from our company’s ecosystem.
Perlman, M. (2018, July 23). Sycophants, yes-men, and forelock-tuggers. Retrieved July 29,
Jay, T., & Janschewitz, K. (n.d.). The pragmatics of swearing. Retrieved July 29, 2019, from
Graphium Health understands that you entered anesthesia to help patients– not to get caught up in EMRs & RCMs. To find out more about how efficient revenue cycle management & the right EMR pays for itself, call us at (844)693-6767 or email us at [email protected].