The same problem can be solved in different ways
Cats have nine lives, so they say.
I’m not sure how many our two-year-old orange tabby kitties, Oliver and Dodger, have already used. But they were put to the test this past week.
While we were watching our friends’ energetic and active silver lab, Raegan, the cats had a challenge to face. Would they let Raegan bully them? (Harassing the cats was not Raegan’s true intent; she just wanted to play, unlike Grace who has no interest in them and wishes they would move to someone else’s home. The cats were not used to this much attention!) Or would they take control of the situation and roam around the house without fear of four large paws and a big, wet tongue on them?
I mentioned in my last past that Oliver had started to bravely enter the territory and face Raegan. With each exchange, Oliver got bolder. And Raegan got calmer. I think they were on their way to finding a middle ground.
Dodger took much longer. It was Day Seven before he ventured outside the basement and his safety zone. He was cautious and alert and always put himself in a location where he’d have fast access to his kitty door, back to safety.
These are two brothers that faced the same dilemma. How do we interact with this thing in our house? And they each took a different approach. After a few days, Oliver walked by as if he really was telling Raegan: “Back off. This is my house.” (Yet he also ran for his life when he had the opportunity.) He was probably scared to death but felt the need to take control. I can certainly relate to times when I’ve felt that way.
Dodger is the usually the more social of the two. So it surprised us that Oliver would be the one to take greater risks to join the activity upstairs. Maybe his courage helped Dodger eventually come out of his shell or maybe Dodger hit his limit and he didn’t want to be holed up the basement any longer. Either way, they moved at their own pace.
As a manager, we tend to have preconceived notions of how a person will react in a certain situation. Sometimes we’re right. Sometimes we’re wrong. I would have guessed the reverse reaction from Oliver and Dodger.
We didn’t push or coax the cats in any direction. We kept Raegan out of the basement and held her at certain times to avoid a mad scramble when we sensed a potential explosion about to occur. Beyond that, we let them work it out on their own terms. We were sensitive to Raegan’s desire to play and the cats’ desire to be left alone. We went down to the basement and gave them attention there so they knew we cared about them, too. But we tried not to interfere and let nature run its course.
In the workplace, I find that a manager will too often ignore the dynamics of a conflict. It can be a stressful situation, or at least one that can be irritating to those involved (and sometimes even to those who observe it), and if left too long, can fester to an eruption resembling a cat fight. Acknowledging the situation is really important, along with setting the expectation that it should be addressed. And whenever possible, let the parties work it out between them.
Raegan left yesterday just as Dodger was starting to interact with her. They probably both needed the break. But next time Raegan visits, Oliver and Dodger will have a newfound confidence to handle the situation, minimizing the threat of any cat fights.