165. The Hawaiian Pizza Dilemma
Hawaiian pizza was created in Canada by a Greek immigrant who was inspired by Chinese food. (Yup, I’m serious.)
It’s the most controversial of all pizzas this side of the great anchovy debate. In fact, Hawaiian pizza is one of the most polarizing subjects in our society.
People are fiercely adamant about their position on Hawaiian pizza. Unlike the thin vs thick crust controversy, in which there is far more appreciative crossover, there is no grey area when it comes to the Hawaiian pie. Each side will insist, with the staunch vehemence of a civil war reenactment, that any other position on the matter must be from the mind of the criminally insane.
For the three of you who don’t know what a Hawaiian pizza is, it’s a pizza with pineapple and ham as the toppings (though replacing ham for bacon is considered acceptable amongst the cognoscenti).
In 2014, Time Magazine listed Hawaiian pizza on the top of their list of “The 13 Most Influential Pizzas of All Time". Still, in a 2019 poll, 24% of Americans indicated that pineapple was one of their least favorite pizza toppings whereas only 12% listed it as one of their faves.
The Hawaiian pizza debate has slightly less chance of a resolution than peace in the Mideast.
Speaking of heated debates...
The Hawaiian Pizza of Leadership
Every leader, at some point in their career, is going to be confronted with a Hawaiian Pizza moment at work.
Two people in the office will passionately disagree with each other - neither of whom is willing to accept the other person’s position on the matter.
I’m not talking about an easily resolved difference of opinion on how to accomplish a task. I’m talking about deep-seeded, 800 degree heated, in-grained hostility betwixt the two. A hostility that reverberates through other aspects of the organization.
When they can’t stand to be in the same room together, the unspoken toxicity will spread like poison ivy at a hugging convention if it isn’t addressed.
So what do you do? How does a successful leader resolve seemingly unresolvable issues?
I’m really glad you asked because we went through that entire Hawaiian pizza schtick to get us here.
There are three basic guidelines you must follow to resolve the seemingly unresolvable. Here they are:
1. Open Your Mind
As so eloquently stated by En Vogue in 1992, “Free your mind and the rest will follow”
In the case of toxic inter-office relationships, it’s very important that leaders don’t choose sides.
If you want to retain both employees you need to open your mind to each person’s perspective. I know, it could be a hard thing to do. But I have faith in you. You can do hard things.
(If you don’t want to retain both employees, fire one of them and we can consider this conversation over and done with.)
2. Guide, Don’t Rule
Each person wants to feel heard and understood. Your understanding of this is critically important. Oftentimes leaders will walk in a room and, well, start leading. They’ll talk and talk and focus on finding solutions.
Don’t do that.
The employees don’t want you to force them into a decision. They don’t even really want your opinion. If you try to demand they just “work it. out”, it won’t work out.
If you force one person’s position on the other (or your position on both of them), you’ll just create resentment. Resentment is bad.
You’re a guide, not a ruler. Remember that. Your job is to guide them towards the common ground but let them figure it out on their own.
3. Be Patient
It’s a slow process. Strong wills don’t bend quickly. They each need to get to a point on their own. where they can accept the other person’s perspective. It will take time.
Check in with each of them often - see how they are feeling about the relationship. Doing this will help build trust so that eventually they will be open to your feedback.
Also, it’s important that, whenever you see movement towards common ground, you acknowledge those efforts. A simple acknowledgment is a powerful reward.
Don’t forget, though you alone can’t resolve their issues, they can’t resolve their issues without you.
This dilemma is one of the trickiest, most nuanced leadership challenges in all of leadership challenges. Come to think of it, it’d be easier to find a consensus on Hawaiian pizza.
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“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations about pizza toppings."
- Dr. Mae Jemison