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Posted by on May 4, 2010

Straight Off the 7th-Grade Playground

If you learn much about how capital, technology and other “hard” assets are managed, it’s hard to not be impressed.

Sophisticated, cutting edge formulae, research and precision are evident. Financiers chase the third digit in rate of return, and in our lifetimes we’ve all seen how fast, and sometimes breathtakingly, technology moves ahead.

These assets are truly optimized, with best practices identified and implemented.

However, if you think about where the next big productivity boost could come from – and if you’ve seen the contrast between a truly high-performance and low-performance organization — you know the difference resides largely in the people.

Some people come to work everyday and put in their customary 30%. Some do the minimum to not get fired.

While these phenomena are the subject of another blog, they point to another fascinating fact about human beings at work: For all the science, elegance and sophistication surrounding hard assets, behaviors seen in workplace conflict are often straight off the 7th-grade playground.

You know what I mean: talking about the problem with everyone except the person who apparently owns the problem; name-calling, marginalization, enrolling others in camps and cliques, refusing to acknowledge it at all.

So on the one hand, we have P.h.D-level sophistication around money, technology, law, intellectual property, etc., and one the other we have teen years’ behavior.

The truth is, it’s much easier to study up and learn how to tweak an IT system, float the right kind of bond or know the law that applies in any case. The hard stuff is actually not that hard.

But the “soft stuff” of human interaction, particularly conflict? Now that’s hard.

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