How to Restore a Breakdown in Unity


Jesse doesn’t like the way Lisa makes the coffee too weak in the break room, so he makes it himself. In the process, he leaves coffee grounds all over the table and doesn’t clean the carafe at the end of the day. Lisa, being a neat freak, is stressed out because she wants the break room to be clean, but she was told not to worry about it.

Lisa goes to her coworker and vents, “What am I supposed to do? Jesse is driving me crazy with leaving things so messy in the break room. I can’t stand it, but I don’t know what to do about it. I’m not cleaning that up! I shouldn’t have to – he’s the one making the mess!”

Do you think Lisa went to her coworker to find a solution that will lead to unity in this scenario? What was she really doing?


Some might say, “She just needed to vent.” But, she wasn’t looking for a way to make things better or restore unity (nor did she have the right attitude about the situation.)

Gossip is one of the key contributors to a breakdown of unity.


[Jesse is still messy.]

Lisa goes to her coworker and says, “I need your opinion about how to handle something — and I need to know if I’m overreacting. Someone is leaving the break room kind of a mess, and I need to figure out the best way to help without letting people off the hook. I mean, I understand – sometimes I leave something in the sink to clean up later, and I’m sure that’s annoying to others. I can do better with that. I’d like to see everyone do their part. Can you help me think of a good way to approach this person to talk about how we can work together to keep the break room clean?”

Did you see the venting? Yes, she’s still human. But it softened and became about how she, with the help of her coworker, could solve the overall issue. There’s a difference between gossip and healthy thought-processing. In this scenario, Lisa admitted her own faults and sought to come up with a solution to the whole problem. 


Lisa realized that the problem wasn’t just one person; it was a common issue in the office, and she realized that she was not currently part of a solution. She could start by asking herself if she models cleanliness.


Instead of looking at how to handle people who rub you the wrong way, the best place to start is with “me.” In Leadership and Self Deception (Getting Out of the Box), by The Arbinger Institute, there’s one quote that has become embedded in my memory. 

“As far as I’m concerned, the problem is me.”

What do you mean, “the problem is me?” you might be asking. It’s a fair question.

It’s hard to admit that you may be any part of the problem. But by starting with you, it is easier to shift your thinking to where you can find a solution. As long as the total blame is on someone else, you will be hard-pressed to find ideas to initiate change.

Here’s why it’s so easy to blame others:

  • It takes very little effort to tear down someone else
  • “I don’t have to change myself; the other person does”
  • It’s satisfying and more comfortable
  • It’s easier to blame someone else

[This maintains a disconnection with others]

People are blind to their own issues and faults. As long as the problem is someone else’s fault, there will never be unity or a solution. There will always be something wrong at any given time because it’s in our nature to find fault with others and never look at ourselves.

Why it’s hard to blame yourself:

  • You have to see yourself as having caused an issue or at minimum have a part in bringing restoration
  • You have to work hard to get to the root of the problem
  • You may have to admit faults to yourself and possibly to coworkers
  • You have to swallow your pride
  • You have to be open to correction
  • You have to CHANGE!

[This maintains a connection with others]

You have a choice to make when faced with problems at work or in your personal life. If you adopt the idea that as far as you know, the problem is you, then you will be resolving issues faster. It doesn’t matter if other people are partially to blame. Blaming others, as you know, does not solve problems. Building and maintaining healthy relationships is not about assigning blame at all. It is about coming together to reach solutions, agreements.

With unity as your goal, you can concentrate on growing and improving yourself so you can deal with whatever disconnects happen and work on building a reconnect.

What will you do the next time you come face-to-face with an issue at work or home? The knee-jerk reaction is to blame someone else, but take ten seconds and a deep breath. Align your focus on which part of the problem you may have contributed. Then go to work, finding a way to solve it.

We can sum it up this way:

Desire for Restoration

PLUS Seeking to Understand Others

PLUS Candid Discussions

PLUS Hard Work on Your Part

EQUALS The Beginning of Unity

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