Would it surprise you to learn that over 95% of workplace disputes can be resolved within the first 3 – 5 occurrences: if someone makes a choice to speak up.

The problem is that the vast majority of us don’t make that choice. Research, confirmed by my own experience, confirms that individuals on the receiving end of disrespect at work generally make the choice to avoid, ignore, to, as I refer to it, “put up and shut up.” That choice often leads to one of these outcomes: the employee goes off on a medical (stress) leave and/or quits his/her job.

One of my most popular presentations Speak Up: Speak Out – Personal Power and Respect at Work examines the choices we make when dealing with workplace conflict, including those that can be defined as harassment and bullying. The objective is to inform and inspire the audience to make a different choice – a choice to step into their power and speak up with respect.

Last spring I had the opportunity to develop a new training session for a client for whom I had already delivered multiple sessions of Speak Up: Speak Out. The client was interested in having a session that focused more specifically on the skill piece – the how of respectful communication. We chose the title Conquer Conflict – Step into Your Power and Resolve with Respect.

A couple of weeks prior to the first delivery date, I travelled to Las Vegas to attend a business development event with Lisa Sasevich, the Queen of Sales Conversion. Ms. Sasevich, who I interviewed last fall for Canadian Small Business Week  built a multi-million dollar business in four short years. She shares her systems and formula for success with other “heart centered entrepreneurs” in her live events, on line offerings and products.

Throughout the 3 day event, Ms. Sasevich showed us, gave us examples of, and shared ideas about what might be possible for us in our businesses. On the second day I noticed that my response upon hearing these ideas was both negative and defensive. I realized that I had all kinds of excuses and reasons that were almost like auto-responders – ‘that won’t work for me because’…, ‘I can’t do that because’….

I chose to get curious about those auto-responders. It occurred to me that these were simply excuses that allowed me to avoid stepping out of my comfort zone, taking a risk, playing bigger, increasing my sphere of influence and achieving a greater level of success. I realized that these auto-responders supported a whole host of beliefs around what I thought might be possible for me.

On the trip home, as I imagined all of the new products, strategies and initiatives I could develop and implement to support growth in my business, I began to appreciate how transformative it can when one is really open to what might be possible; when one chooses to believe that a certain outcome can in fact happen.

It occurred to me that Ms. Sasevich had allowed me to discover the Power of Possibility.

As I resumed preparing for my upcoming Conquer Conflict workshop I started thinking about the choices we make in conflict: the choice to “put up and shut up”, the choice to accept that this conflict will never be resolved, to give up, identified as the resignation stage in the conflict cycle.

The choice to give up, like our choice to “put up and shut up” is one that does not serve or support us. Such choices contribute to a whole host of undesirable personal and organizational outcomes.

As I started to wonder about what causes so many of us to make these choices, I had one of those “light bulb” moments. It became clear to me that the reason so many of us make such choices is because we fail to access the Power of Possibility.

If we can’t aren’t open to the possibility that a conflict can be resolved, the possibility that behaviour can change, the possibility that a toxic relationship can be rebuilt, the possibility that the status quo can shift, the possibility that we can learn to speak up with respect, chance are we probably won’t choose to step into our power and speak up about what is happening to us. I mean, what would motivate us to make that choice, given that our underlying belief is it would be pointless to do so because there is no possibility that our choice to speak up will make any difference.

One of the characteristics that makes Lisa Sasevich such a powerful and influential leader is her ability to inspire others to action by sharing her experience and vision of what is possible.

Workplace leaders– managers, supervisors, HR professionals and union reps are typically the first point of contact in organizational complaint processes. I often hear from these leaders that one of the most challenging situations they face is when an employee comes to speak to them about a problem but frames it as “I don’t want you to do anything about it.” Leaders can choose to be curious about what is behind that statement. Is it fear about what might happen if… or does the employee believe that taking action won’t make any difference. A leader can help an employee to question that belief and realize that a change is possible. In doing so, that leader can inspire and empower that employee to choose to be part of the solution to their problem or conflict.

Assisting an employee to believe that resolution is possible might prove to be one of the most valuable tools in a leaders’ tool kit. Why wait? The next conversation you have may be an opportunity to access the Power of Possibility.