Jenny from Associate Veterinary Clinics gave me this great tip that she calls hero, victim, villain, and it explains how conflict triangulation happens in our businesses.
The cycle starts with the victim being hurt by the villain. So, the victim, not wanting to confront the villain directly (who wants to talk to a villain? They’re BAD PEOPLE!) goes to speak with the hero. The hero is easy to talk to. They’re a listening ear. They empathize with the victim.
Now the victim leaves, feeling great about life. Their problem with the villain has been shifted to the hero to deal with and they can now forget about it.
So the hero, motivated by a misguided belief that the victim’s problem is now their problem, confronts the villain with the victim’s allegations.
This goes one of two directions:
- The hero uses the victim’s name, resulting in the villain now hating the victim. The reason the victim is now hated is that they ratted out the villain to the boss rather than having the courtesy to speak directly to their face.
- The hero doesn’t use the victim’s name, but instead says “People are saying…” Now trust is broken between the hero and the villain, because the villain knows that they have the right to face their accuser, and that right is denied them by the hero.
Here’s how it should work. When the victim comes to the hero, the hero should say, “Victim, have you spoken directly to the villain about this issue? If not, do that first.” If the victim speaks with the villain and can’t make any headway, the hero can be a true hero by mediating the situation and helping these two people deal with their conflict face-to-face in a healthy way.