Overcome the biggest block to communications

The plant engineering department was busy with projects. For the third day in a row, Chief Engineer Phil Walker had taken a 20-min lunch hour. The last thing he needed was another fracas involving Joe Cristy.
By Raymond Dreyfack March 1, 1999

The plant engineering department was busy with projects. For the third day in a row, Chief Engineer Phil Walker had taken a 20-min lunch hour. The last thing he needed was another fracas involving Joe Cristy.

Walker made no effort to conceal his impatience when Cristy came to him with a beef about Frank Hoe who had been assigned to work with him on a roofing estimate.

“I can’t work with that guy; he’s impossible.”

“Stop acting like a child,” Walker snapped. “There’s a job to be done. Just do it.”

“But — “

“No buts. Just do the job.”

The chief stomped off.

Later that day Plant Engineer George Larkin phoned Walker.

“What’s happening with the roofing estimate? It’s bogged down again.”

Walker swore under his breath. “It’s Joe Cristy; he’s got some kind of a beef with Frank Hoe.”

“Send him to my office,” Larkin instructed.

A half hour later Walker observed Cristy and Hoe on the floor, shaking hands and grinning at each other. Soon after that, the roofing job was well under way.

Question: What would you guess Larkin told Cristy to reconcile the two men and get production moving?

Larkin’s solution: Larkin summoned the chief to his office. “Psychologist Carl Rogers once said, ‘The biggest block to communications is one person’s failure to listen attentively, intelligently, and sympathetically to the other person.’ All Cristy wanted to do was get his story across.”

“What was his beef?”

“That’s irrelevant. But it’s the question you should have asked him when he registered his gripe. Had you just listened to him, the problem would have been resolved at the outset.”