Poetry at Work, Chapter 14: The Poetry of Interpersonal Conflict

A conflict in the workplace is not uncommon. A workplace conflict battled out on Facebook, however, pulling in co-workers and the company, is not something you see every day.

It happened at my company. And Human Resources asked that my team, the corporate social media team, do something about it. The fact that it was happening outside business hours was a complication.

It was a nasty fight. Things someone would never say in an office setting were erupting on a daily basis. Friends and family members were egging the two combatants on. At the time, social media were relatively new, and this was something new on social media. Twitter trolling parties were already common, but I’d never seen two fellow employees arguing on Facebook.

They were in different but complementary departments. Supervisors were unaware of it, but colleagues certainly were. The fight also had a personal relationship component to it. And I was expected to “do something.”

Poetry at Work mainThe easiest thing would have been to talk to the supervisors and let them take care of it. But, given the level of anger and how far things had gone, someone (or two someones) might have faced being fired. Instead, I talked to two employees separately, explaining how many people were seeing this, why social media was a bad platform to argue, and why it reflected poorly on the company. I suggested they rethink what they were doing and look for a way to resolve their differences privately. Both asked me what I would do, and I said that, at a minimum, I would delete all posts that reflected the argument and refuse any opportunity to renew it online.

They both did. They were both embarrassed that it had reached this level of concern. They were both in high-stress jobs and they were using Facebook to relive that stress in a negative way. All they were really doing was increasing the stress.

It was the first time I had seen an example of how people seem to transform themselves when a difference or issue or argument was online instead of face to face. Numerous studies have been done since then, documenting the same thing and suggesting reasons why, but at the time we were all flying blind.

When I’ve found myself in workplace conflicts, one of the things I do is write a poem or even a story (but not for publication). Putting a conflict on paper helps to clarify the issues; it can even lead to understanding the other person’s perspective.

I’ve done it many times, and it works.

From Poetry at Work: Few jobs today are stress-free or even low-stress. People must work despite limited resources, limited staff, organizational politics and conflicts, reorganizations and layoffs, clashes between work and family demands, the speed and volume of information (and how it’s delivered). Workplace stress has been the new normal for almost three decades, and I’m old enough to know it wasn’t always this way. We relieve stress in different ways. Why not turn to poetry?


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Glynn Young

Glynn Young is an award-winning speechwriter and public relations executive and is a Fellow of the Public Relations Society of America and a member of the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame. He blogs at Faith, Fiction, Friends. Glynn is the author of three published novels in the Dancing Priest series – Dancing Priest (2012), A Light Shining (2013), Dancing King(2017), and Dancing Prophet (2018). He is the author of the non-fiction book Poetry at Work. He is also a contributing editor at Tweetspeak Poetry.