Creating a drama-free workplace: The insider’s guide to managing conflict, incivility and mistrust
Review by Sabrina Fernandez, Registered Nurse
Maravelas, A. (2020). Career Press
Workplace conflict can be challenging, as it can greatly affect productivity and the wellbeing of everyone, be it employees or managers. Acting on ‘reflexive’ responses such as blaming, hostility, judging, withdrawal and exclusion are some of the negative mental pathways discussed in this book by psychologist Anna Maravelas. After reading the book, readers will have an inclination to examine their own human tendencies and ways of thinking that can influence how they react to conflict, solve problems and deal with workplace relationships.
The author, with her extensive experience in successfully resolving workplace conflicts, incorporated into this book evidence- based studies, statistics and real life workplace scenarios to expertly support her points. Admittedly, the book has the tendency to be a heavy read at times, because it is loaded with information that is crucial in understanding her topic. In the book, she discussed the importance of focusing on the problem—and not on the person—that we might be having a conflict with. This can be achieved by shifting to a reflective approach, which is more practical and allows space for feelings of empathy and compassion. This is the part where I had an Aha! moment while reading. I have personally experienced and observed that people tend to react and take things personally so this insight is truly revolutionary!
Anna also explored the relationship between workplace productivity and workplace drama. She argued that having a culture of blame and hostility in the workplace impairs our capacity to effectively tackle a problem and achieve a resolution. I think this is one of the strongest points in this book, as it openly talks about the all-too-familiar situation in some workplaces that people feel uncomfortable to address. Hopefully bringing this to light will open doors to having more open conversations and reflections within organisations and achieve results that are truly rewarding.
Although mainly based on an American context, the central themes make it suitable for New Zealand workplace settings. The book is rich with helpful strategies on how to promote a culture of positivity, connectedness and appreciation in the workplace that can also be applied in New Zealand.
To summarise, Anna’s expert exploration on the influence of human tendencies and ways of thinking in resolving conflicts is coupled with solutions towards promoting a positive environment for workplace wellbeing. Readers can begin to develop a conscious approach towards fixing problems in a manner that is collaborative and problem-focused, thereby increasing their productivity and workplace welfare. To quote the book, “These solutions are compelling answers to universal dilemmas and you will discover why my clients have often lamented, ‘Why didn’t someone tell me this before?’. (Maravelas, 2020, p.2).