NVC, EI, and Conflict Resolution – Looking at When They Can Work and When They Can’t

In NVC (non-violent communication), we learn that NVC is not for every situation. For example, you may not want to connect with someone. You may want to resolve something with them, and there are many ways to do that, but connection isn’t always necessary.

NVC TOOLS For Men and Women:
Please click on the letters “NVC” (below) to learn more about how NVC can help us all:


View more presentations from UCSC.

NVC Feelings List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

NVC Needs List: www.cnvc.org/en/learn-online/feelings-list/feelings-inventory

For example, look at bullying or harassment in the workplace. If you learn that persons with whom you work take pleasure in ridiculing employees, perhaps even you, how do you address this? Smart Workplaces have policies prohibiting such conduct even if it is not “unlawful harassment”, however many corporations still do not have these rules in place.

Do you really want to connect with someone who finds ridiculing others enjoyable? Probably not. But you can still resolve these issues by complaining to an appropriate person who will share your understandable outrage, take the matter seriously, and has the authority to take swift and appropriate action. If there is no such person at your workplace, you may want to speak with a counselor or someone at your city or state Human Rights Commission just to ensure that your legal rights are not being violated and to protect yourself from the very real harm that results from any form of harassment.

We can use NVC in such situations, however, to generate self-empathy and to give empathy to those who have been harmed by such reprehensible conduct. We can use Emotional Intelligence to manage our emotions through the complaint process. We can use conflict resolution and NVC skills if we have to write a written or official complaint or participate in any kind of mediation.

Harassment in the workplace is a serious issue. What is extremely disturbing is when workplace leaders allow harassment to happen and to continue. Retaliation is also of great concern. When there is increased scrutiny on an employee’s job performance, when an employee’s job performance is held to higher or different standards than other similar employees, and when for example an employee is singled out for discipline and given much more harsh discipline for something like a few errors but someone else in the organization who has engaged in harassment, policy violations, and/or ethical violations is not disciplined or is not given any real consequences or is not documented in performance evaluations, then there is disparate treatment and it certainly appears to be retaliation.

Many employers sadly do not understand their compliance responsibilities. Shockingly, they don’t understand what retaliation is.

There definitely ought to be a licensing exam for anyone running a corporation, government entity, educational entity, or non-profit organization. It would save a lot of grief.

MHS is developing an instrument that measures integrity. This will be a fascinating new development.

Wouldn’t it be great if it really worked?

HR/OD professionals must be aware of their own personal legal liability exposure. When business leaders or corporate attorneys engage in, sanction, or knowingly look the other way when unlawful harassment, discrimination, and/or employment retaliation occur, many HR/OD professionals believe they should be fined; and in egregious cases, lose their positions and/or their legal licenses.

Many state Bar Associations do not have clear enough codes of conduct for lawyers in employment situations. Certainly, employees and former employees who are experiencing retaliation or who have experienced harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation from attorneys in the workplace may consider the option of filing formal ethics violations complaints about any attorney who participated in unlawful harassment, discrimination and/or retaliation with their state bar association’s professional responsibility division.

Retaliation is a primitive abuse of power. It says: “I have more power than you do and I have the power to make you suffer because even though you just filed a complaint or brought a concern to my attention and you are well within your rights to do this; I don’t like you doing this and therefore I don’t like you. So, I’m going to get rid of you and cause you stress and grief because I can.”

Retaliation often takes the form of increased scrutiny, such as the use of video and/or audio recording equipment for surveillance of someone who has made a legitimate EEO complaint. Retaliation can also take the form of holding job performance and interpersonal behavior to standards that others are not held to around those things, which is “disparate treatment”. Retaliation should be documented by any employee experiencing it and witness statements should be obtained whenever possible. Complaint options are many for people experiencing retaliation: EEOC, State or City Human Rights Division or Commission, and other options if you work in government: Public Integrity Commission, Inspector General’s office, Attorney General’s office, etc.

This is a very disturbing problem because of what is at stake and because it’s so unnecessary. What is at stake? Everything!
The company’s corporate culture
The tension every employee will feel as they witness this happening
The stress on the employees being retaliated against which will become contagious
The rumor mills
The complaints that may be filed against the company
The trust other employees will now not have in the company’s non-retaliation policies
The trust other employees will now not have in any grievance or complaint procedure
The company’s reputation as employees talk to their friends and family
Wasted energy and time on retaliation efforts
Excellent employees either quitting or being wrongfully terminated
The possibility of negative media attention
The possibility of extremely expensive lawsuits against the company
If there is a group of harassed employees, there may also be the possibility of a class-action lawsuit against the company

For HR professionals, this is particularly alarming as it is our job to raise certain issues and concerns with our corporations. But, what is an HR-person to do when the people they are earnestly trying to warn and educate about not retaliating or looking the other way when unlawful harassment and discrimination occur don’t want to hear it?

CEO Consultant, Heather Anderson says, “if your fly was down or you had spinach in your teeth, wouldn’t you want to know?”

Believe it or not, there are some business leaders who do not want to know. OR, they are willing to hear it from others, but not their HR person.

This is just like someone you happen to dislike for whatever reason who calls you up or rings your doorbell and says, “Hey! Your house is on fire!” and you ignore the message because you do not like this person and you give no credence to anything they say. So, you stay home, watching tv, as your home burns down.

Then, a neighbor of yours whom you like tells you “Hey, Your house is burning down!” And you look around and say, “My house is burning down!” and you run out and call the fire department. Think of what could have been saved had you listened to the first person who told you this! Why would you refuse to hear a crucial message from one person but not from another?

Why is this? It is very destructive. It’s also an extremely fascinating workplace dynamic called “power-sharing”–or, in many cases–“Refusal to Share Power”. Refusal to Share Power indicates deficiencies in Emotional Intelligence. See below:

To Learn More about Emotional Intelligence and How it Can Help Men and Women:

When we combine EI skill development, NVC skill development, and sound conflict resolution skill development, we create healthy, functioning, safe, profitable, and legally compliant workplaces.

Look for my new book which will discuss many solutions for HR Professionals around this issue of “refusal to share power” and other HR/OD challenges!



About Denise A Romano

Denise A Romano is the author of The HR Toolkit: An Indispensable Resource for Being a Credible Activist, published by McGraw Hill in 2010. She is a workplace expert and has a strong interest in government, business, workplace, and personal ethics. She can be found on LinkedIn. View all posts by Denise A Romano

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