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No matter the industry, tension can reign supreme in the workplace.
Essentially, epic tension arises over the things that matter most to people. It exists between departments, between people and tasks, and between budgets and deadlines.
To make matters worse, if you add in remote teams, diverse cultural/generational views and a need for speed, you’ve got a recipe for ongoing conflict—and extreme emotional strain—throughout your entire workforce.
It’s up to leaders to deal with tension. But unfortunately, one of the most common leadership responses to tension is to avoid it.
Let’s get real here: tension cannot sort itself out on its own. In fact, left to fester, it will often turn into an emergent situation.
That’s why it’s critical that leaders take measures to step into those uncomfortable tension-filled conversations—not just once, but on a regular basis.
Turning tension around
No doubt about it: tension can be scary. But believe it or not, there is treasure in the tension.
And that treasure is energy.
As a leader, you get to decide whether the tension will be destructive or creative energy (by the way: you want creative energy!).
The challenge is to move not away from tension, but toward it.
And here’s why: when you approach tension strategically as a source of creative energy, it can actually become a driver of opportunity, innovation and personal connection.
Fight, flight and partner mode
The key is in the ability to step into tension-filled moments in a skillful way.
Tension can provoke your flight/fight wiring:
Neither of these approaches is effective. Luckily, there is one other option: partner mode.
Leaders can achieve partner mode by employing a few proven emotional intelligence skills that allow them to stand in the middle of tension, harmonize the competing needs of each party, and draw out a solution that serves the employee experience as well as the global goals of the business.
When employees see their managers bravely stepping into tension, they begin to model that same behaviour.
Imagine all the benefits of a tension-less work environment: less time worrying about the small stuff, and more time to focus on all the real things related to the business.
Approach tension differently. Don’t run away from it: move toward tension—and reap the rewards.
Learn more about Juice's employee engagement training program, Beyond Engagement.
Read the entire exciting Beyond Engagement blog series!
#1: Manage energy, not engagement
#2: Minimize surveys; maximize energy checks
#3: Switch from parenting to partnering
#4: Move toward tension
#5: Tap into what matters most
#6: Remove interference
#7: Create felt support
#8: Unlock emotional engagement
#9: Release innovation
#10: Orchestrate integration
Co-Founder of Juice Inc, Thought Leader & Author
Co-Founder of Juice Inc.
General Manager and Director of Sales
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Senior Facilitator & Keynote Speaker