It amazes me how many times the elephant in the room is skirted around to the point that poor decisions get made. I have seen corporate structures disintegrate because elephants haven’t been discussed.
So let’s start with why we don’t discuss them:
- Fear of repercussions. This is especially true if you are the “junior” person in the discussion or if the other person can impact your pay.
- Fear you may not really be seeing what the elephant is. At times you may think your are mistaken in your perception of what the elephant is but you don’t know how to ask questions to test your hypothesis on what the elephant really is
- Fear the other person will take it personally. Here you weigh how well you think the person is to receiving the message. People who get very emotional or feisty when given feedback often never get to hear the elephant in the room because the pain of living through their teeth gnashing and tears is too much of a price to pay so you live with the elephant instead.
Why these occur:
The primary problem is that we often see conflict as being an “either/or” equation. Either I am right or the other person is. This then sets your brain up to develop an “argument” that justifies your side.
What you run into then is defense listening on both sides, blame and then the final stage of walking away with scars on both sides.
How to get past this with corporate leadership solutions:
You need to build a culture where blame becomes nonexistent. You do this by getting people to consistently DEBRIEF so they see it is about results- it is not personal. This rids your culture from blaming and shaming and instead moves it to constantly improving quality and quantity.
Stop protecting people based on years with the company, etc. People aren’t icons. Instead they should be value contributors to the organization.
When you do converse about the elephant in the room, avoid all judgmental language. Feel how different it feels if I say, “Tom you continually protect your projects like you don’t trust us to do the work. You need to let go of trying to control us.” Can you feel the judgment? Here all you are going to dialogue about is control.
Instead talk in terms of the outcome, “Tom if we are to run with this project and fully carry it, what do you need from us in order to feel like you can let go and know we will do that?” Get him to share what you can do so he can stop being what you view as controlling.