Reasons for Internal Conflict

So often I hear "If only we could find more effective ways to eliminate the internal conflicts, our Spa would be a much more peaceful place." It is a challenge for leaders everywhere not just in Spas. And the good news is that Spa leaders are more likely to be able to create such a place. We know the value of harmony and can clearly describe the many important reasons why we need it. In the book The Leadership Challenge, Authors Kouzes and Posner ask the question: "Are you on this planet to do something, or are you here just for something to do?" It is likely that leaders of Spas have asked and answered that question. What they may not have are proven and effective ways to move their staff through the conflict to achieve a harmonious workplace.

Another name for conflict is "horizontal violence". It includes acts of unkindness, discourtesy, sabotaging, divisiveness, infighting, lack of cohesiveness, backbiting, gossiping, blaming, scapegoating and criticizing. The most common causes are a lack of a compelling vision, lack of desire or belief that it can be better and the perception that someone is more powerful than another.

From my experience, the most common of those is the lack of vision. When a compelling vision is established, the desire to reach that goal becomes more important than the desire to clash with coworkers. The difference between the current situation and the vision of what we want to do creates the challenge. To be compelling, every person involved in the endeavor must be able to "see it", "smell it", "taste it", "feel it", and "hear it". The future state must be defined so clearly that everyone wants "to go". Without such a future focus, the staff focuses on "what is" and finds infinite ways to criticize and blame coworkers. The choice is clear; focus on what is or what can be. It is the leader who is in the best position to "paint the picture". Their view is a clearer and longer range view. Someone once said that it is "A leader's job is to create a vision that's simple enough for everyone to understand and then create a bridge that is wide enough so that everyone can get across." The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King created that vision for an entire country in his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. The desire to build the bridge is still under construction in 2007.

A second cause of horizontal violence is a belief that it will never be different. The natural reactions to violence in any form are Fight, Flight, or Freeze. There are readily available indicators to leaders who are interested in creating a more harmonious workplace. Key performance indicators include such measures as staff retention, staff satisfaction, and staff referrals. Without measurable indicators of staff harmony, it is unlikely that a Spa can create harmony for Guests. Without a clearly defined way for Staff to express their degree of harmony and an effective way to address the surfaced issues rather than continue the violence through blame and scapegoating, the violence will continue and be passed along to Guests.

A third cause of horizontal violence is the perception of a powerful entity. When any group is perceived as "better than" or "privileged" in any way, there will be a lack of harmony. Again, key indicators can help effective leaders recognize the perception. In fact, key performance indicators are critical since by definition the leaders will not perceive inequity. Here is a key indicator...How many times have you heard the leader say that it feels more like babysitting than work? Perception is the reality, and internal "competition" is a guaranteed way to create the perception of the "powerful" and the "powerless". "Employee of the month", "Retail leader" and similar win/lose competitions will set up an atmosphere for horizontal violence to thrive.

By Linda Bankoski, Spa Quality