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The Fight at the Dump | Conflict

The Fight at the Dump | Written By: Katie K. Snapp

Weekend afternoons are always busy at the city dump, and this one was no exception.

The city had anticipated this and, to keep things orderly, a second parallel line was established to handle the string of junk-packed cars. A city employee was assigned to the merge point, somewhere in the city yard closer to the point of entry. After all, this was not just a go-find-a-place-to-dump system. It was a “convenience” point whereby you entered a vast building and dumped into a central waste-way, so that a large tractor could then shove it into a haul truck.

Don’t ask me why I was there, I just WAS. Besides .. call me a process nerd but the whole system is pretty cool.

So this story goes like this: two cars get to the merge point simultaneously. The city handler waves one through. The jilted car feels it was a foul call. Hey! How come THAT guy got to go before me?

Someone starts yelling. Thirty seconds later – a fight. Mostly yelling. Some peacock posturing and near-miss chest bumping.

Oh good God. Really? You cannot wait an extra 30 seconds. Evidently it is a contest to get to the dump site first.

Generally ugly behavior and for those of us waiting in the line behind these junkyard folk, it was actually kinda entertaining. 

Okay I know it’s a letdown but that’t the end of the story. I just wanted to draw you in to the setup for a discussion in conflict and how dumb it can sometimes be. 

Conflict is tricky. Mostly, it is a culmination of several variables showing themselves: ego, unclear rules, mood swings, heartburn from the morning’s breakfast burrito, “hey you looked at me funny”, or simply ill-informed participants about where to draw the line. At the dump, it was too many people, too different from one another, trying to get to the same place.

Conflict offers us two options: engage or ignore (fight or flight). And knowing when to do what is important. Judging from what I see clients asking for, I believe we error on the side of flight. We too often lean toward hoping the problem goes away on its own. For those times, we should learn to push through.

Great leaders know how to quickly diagnose what is needed and then they control their emotions and work through the situation.  Leadership is not about winning all the conflicts. It is about knowing how to draw the various viewpoints in and using them to your advantage.

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