Two colleagues have a problem at work. They are unable to communicate effectively at a vulnerable enough level and rather than be reconciliatory, a mediation attempt probably made things worse. Since I didn’t witness these things first hand all I can really be sure of is that there is an atmosphere in the workplace and there are people avoiding each other. This is a difficult situation in any workplace particularly within a small company in our business sector. Being a partner in the company means that I have a duty of care to people I employ (as would all the partners) but I also care about them because of the friendships we have developed. I am also the confidante of the partner trying to mediate between the workers. The many roles I play make it difficult to enter into directly supporting my colleagues aside from discussing interpretation of behaviour and possible with the partner trying to be a working relationship going again. As such I have stayed clear of dealing with the issue directly.
After the initial explosion and the resulting attempt at mediation, it feels like this issue has been simmering along for months now. It is taking up a lot of discussion time and angst on trying to work out how much support and encouragement to exert to keep a mediation process going. There is also a personal level to this. It seems that the roles the two people are taking echo pretty closely to the roles my wife and I take when we have a disagreement. The seemingly more difficult to understand person behaves very much as I do. In fact I would say they are showing strong autistic traits and there seems to be a lack of understanding about their own behaviour. They feel they are losing their mind.
From the background, I have advised on how that person might be feeling or thinking and why their behaviour makes sense to me but is alien to others. At the end of the day though the person I am indirectly supporting needs to move out of fight mode and allow themselves to become aware of the hurt inflicted. That is no easy task for somebody that knows they are autistic let alone someone who has no clue. Equally I am no trained diagnostician, my eyes are tinted autistic and it is only a theory to fit the facts. What is a guy to do?
Yesterday I felt it was time to show direct support to this person. I didn’t know how it would go but at the end of their meetings, I asked the person whether we could have a short chat. I explained why I was aware of the situation and that I was really sorry that they were going through such a difficult time. I said I thought I understood some of the behaviour and that I knew how lonely such a situation could be. I tried to reassure them that this situation would pass.
I said enough of the right things to strike a chord. We hugged and cried. Then we talked. We talked about many things and I shared my understanding of my behaviour in similarly difficult situations. I think that person left the workplace feeling a bit lighter and supported. I certainly believe it was worth taking that risks I did, to end up with such a positive experience.