Work Through The Workplace Conflict BS With Pamela Cournoyer

by | May 27, 2021 | Podcasts

SWGR 567 | Workplace Conflict


The workplace can be a battlefield sometimes. With all the workplace drama these days, it’s really hard to know who is on the right and who is on the wrong. This can all be resolved with conflict resolution and that is where Pamela Cournoyer comes in. Pamela is a community policing expert specialist and conflict resolution expert who has been asked to resolve nationwide conflicts in post-war Kosovo. Pamela is an expert in resolving workplace conflicts and giving managers the confidence to step up and fix their teams. Join in as she sits down with Elizabeth Bachman to talk about conflict resolution in the workplace. Find out how she uses some post-war Kosovo experience to solve these conflicts.

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Work Through The Workplace Conflict BS With Pamela Cournoyer

Lessons From A Post-War Conflict Manager

This is the show where we interview experts from around the world on presentation skills, communication challenges, leadership, and what you need to do in order to get the results that you need when you show up in front of a group. My guest is Pamela Cournoyer. She is a community policing expert specialist. She’s a conflict resolution specialist. I wanted to ask her about how we can apply the conflict resolution tactics, the techniques that she used in post-war Kosovo to the workplace. Before I move into talking to Pamela though, I’d like to invite you to take our free assessment. It only takes four minutes at That’s where you can find out where your speaking is getting great results and where a little bit of support could give you the recognition and the success that you’re looking for.

Pamela Cournoyer’s bio is very impressive. She’s been nationally and internationally recognized as a conflict management maven. She skillfully instills upper and middle management leaders to reclaim their disenchanted teams and their disenchanted workplaces. She has been successfully coaching and training high-profile leaders for many years. It’s fun to watch as Pamela awakens diverse audiences, including executives, teams, corporations, government, large and small businesses. Her clientele ranges from Nike, KPMG, to the Oregon State Police, the US Department of Justice, and many other services.

She brings to the table her extensive experience in professional consulting, executive leadership coaching, business coaching, executive coach coaching, leadership training, conflict facilitation, and DISC assessments. Her Leadership Forte Marketing mindset, her boundary setting, and advancing communications, resolving conflicts, and dynamic public speaking raises her client’s life quality both at work and at home. It’s truly transformational as she instantly shifts success-blocking belief systems. These impressive gifts and talents make her a savvy catalyst for positive change for any organization. Now, onto the interview.

Pamela Cournoyer, thank you so much for joining us on the show. Welcome.

Thank you. I’m delighted to be here.

I’m glad we found each other. It took us a while to get this organized. You have some interesting things that I want to ask you about because workplace conflict is something that I’m not very good at. I grew up in a family where you didn’t say anything, you stuffed it down. It took me years to learn how to deal with it, so I’m always interested in learning for people who are good at managing these sorts of things. Before we get into your story and all of that, the question I ask all my guests is if you could have a dream interview, an interview with somebody from history, someone who’s no longer with us, who would it be? What would you ask them? Who should be listening?

It would be Abraham Lincoln. I have so much respect for that man. I feel like Abraham is like EF Hutton. When EF Hutton speaks, everyone listens. A lot of people argued with him and disagreed with him, and yet he motivated people and he got people to vote for something that they didn’t even want to vote for. He seemed like he was such a wise man with so much conflict in his world and his life. I want to follow him around and listen to what he does, maybe do an interview, because he is going to model it and the modeling is the fun part. I’d love to see a bunch of people throw things at him and see how he handles it.

When there is conflict, you have to remember that we are all just people with feelings. Click To Tweet

I’m always thinking about how we get there and wondering what Abraham Lincoln, the actual person, was like, as opposed to the saint who is portrayed in the history books. I’m always curious about that. It would be interesting to be able to peek, not going to destroy or play at the feet of the saint.

That’s why I believe that he lived in so much conflict and he had many enemies including in his own family, that for this man to lead a nation when he had so much conflict around him. He would get in arguments with people easily. He was an attorney. He always had an opposing side. Yet our country did what he suggested that they do. He is now modeled as a great man. There are lots of people who are great leaders. The reason why they are leaders is they did something different. They were not status quo.

When they made a speech, they’ve got a result. People listened. Pamela, one of the things that’s interesting about you is that you were invited to go to Kosovo after the war to help resolve conflicts. This now informs your work with corporations, at least most of the time, please God, we are not actually shooting at each other at work. How did you get involved in conflict resolution? Tell us a little bit about what it was like to come in post-war. Was the war really over even?

When a war is over, that means that the officials that are fighting have stopped. It doesn’t mean that people have lost their feelings, they aren’t anxious about the people that are around them, or what could happen next. They’re in a place where they don’t have to set up a gun and everybody knows it. There was so much propaganda when I was in Kosovo that was being infiltrated into communities to continue the war that it was really an interesting job to go in there and talk to people and say, “Let’s look at this. Did your neighbor really say that or is this what the propaganda set up?”

For the readers who are not familiar with the details or who have forgotten the details, can you give us the three-sentence outline of who was fighting and for what?

There were Serbians and Albanians who live together in the same country. The Serbians usually took all the leadership roles and the Albanians took servitude roles. The chiefs of police would be for the most part Serbian, and then the police officers would be Albanian. The judges would be Serbian and then the court clerks would be Albanian. It seemed like there was an imbalance of power in the country and civil rights started rising up in all over the world. This is Pamela’s take, not what you probably read in the paper. As civil rights started happening, Albanians started saying, “There’s some injustice here and there’s some imbalance.”

What year is this?

I don’t know the year. I know I went in 2004 and the houses were still burning.

SWGR 567 | Workplace Conflict

Workplace Conflict: Great leaders do things differently and are not status quo.


I think Abraham Lincoln would be a fascinating person to interview. I’m curious about that. The reason I wanted to interview you specifically is because you are an expert in conflict and conflict resolution. You have a very interesting story about having gone to Kosovo in the aftermath of the Balkan war. That then informs what you do with corporations and how we deal with conflict in the workplace. Please tell us more about that.

I was invited to go into Kosovo as a community policing effort because Albanians and Serbians started the war in 1996. This is 2004 and supposedly, the communities had agreed that they wanted to work together and get back together. Yet when I landed, some of the houses were still burning. There was smoke coming out of them and not out of chimneys. There were houses that were unfinished that had literally been bombed. It was a war-torn land. It looked devastated and the people were just as devastated. When I went in, I had language assistance and a great assistant. The challenge was that Albanians and Serbians were neighbors that had always lived together, but there was propaganda floating around that was still telling the Serbians that the Albanians were plotting against them.

When we would go in and do this training, when they first came in, the Serbians would sit on one side of the room and the Albanians would sit on another. Our goal was to have them do a lot of team-building exercises, so we kept incorporating them. They had to work together. Pretty soon, we have them laughing, running around the room, having a great time, and being the neighbors that they were. There were moments when they would forget. We would bring them around and say, “This is what these people really are like. They are people like you. Each of us are the same people. We have the same feelings, not the same people.”

Who invited you? Who sent you over there? How did you get onto that list?

The Department of Justice did these things through this organization called NCTAP. It was an investigative leg or arm of the Department of Justice. I went in under the UN, the United Nations. There was a contingency of Americans, but we were working with people from Germany, people from Zimbabwe, and people from Sweden. It was all over the world, whoever was a part of the UN effort. They were military stations. I remember going to the French cantina and having some of the best food I’ve ever had. They had a French army that was there to keep the peace. At one point, we were rushed out of a restaurant and they bombed it right after we left. We had armed guards around us frequently to do the work because we were trying to bring the people back together and get them to work together.

You were trained as a community policing conflict manager?

Yes, specialist.

What made you realize that experiences in getting warring people to talk to each other was also applied to the workplace where it’s actually a lot more subtle but still it could be war?

People don't really want to be mad at people all day. Nobody wants to live in hatred. Click To Tweet

I think probably the biggest dawning was when we were giving team building exercises and we would assign people to be on teams. We’re walking around and we’re pushing them to work together. It’s that they wanted to. People don’t want to be mad at people all day. They don’t want to hate people. They don’t want to live in hatred. We feel better when our dopamines are going in and our endorphins rather than being angry. We release something totally different in our bodies when we’re smiling. Everybody inside wants to get along. Sometimes we have this story that’s running through the back of our head that prevents us from really being able to connect.

Now I get to ask you some very specific questions about how we deal with this. You’re certainly plenty credible. You’ve got people who are working for you. I work with a lot of female leaders, women who are either running companies or running divisions or running departments. When people are acting out, how do you get them to stop? You said something about the dreaded drama triangle.

There are a couple of things. First of all, there’s always a place. There’s always an event that happened that causes a conflict. We don’t hire people who come in like this. We hire people who have a smile and who are engaged. People have six months. I know I did many jobs where I had to prove that I was a credible person, and I wanted to work with other people. It’s like here’s this wonderful person and then 1.5 years down the road, they turn into an old sourpuss. What happened? Usually there’s an event. If that event didn’t get handled, then that person is going to continue to cause more conflict and other people will start making their opinions and their judgments and then it starts dividing company.

That’s one of the first things I have people do. It’s look for the event. What was it that happened? 99% of the time, people go, “Raise your hand,” and they say, “Yeah. I remember. It’s when so-and-so put in for a new position or a raise and we didn’t give it to them, but we gave it to this other person.” There’s the conflict. It’s going to be that simple and now they don’t think that the company did them wrong, that they deserve better than this and they didn’t feel the other person and now they’re going to resist that new person in leadership because they didn’t get their job. It goes on. Have you seen that, Elizabeth?

Yeah, over and over again. For that matter, there have been a few times in my career where I had done bad too. I remember every detail, people who lied about me and sabotaged me. I’m a fairly happy person and I don’t lose my temper often, but there were a couple of times where people told lies about me and I lost a job. I try not to dwell on it but I remember.

If we can, we clear up the event. If we can clean up that event, that is going to help reduce the conflict and help that person regain themselves and come back, and literally meld back into the workplace. If that does not work, then another thing is that I talk about is the drama triangle, which is where you have the victim, “I’ve been done wrong,” Two, you have the persecutor who says, “If you weren’t better, see. This is the attitude. This is why we didn’t hire you and put you in this new position in the first place.” That’s the persecutor and then there’s a rescuer who stands between them and says, “They’re a good person. They didn’t mean it. You really should reconsider them. Let’s facilitate this to the table.” All three of them are all victims.

The person who had this happen to them, the back of their hand is glued to their forehead with the “Woe is me” look. There is the persecutor who is pointing their finger at the other person. There’s a rescuer that puts their arms out to try to stop what’s going on between the persecutor and victim. The thing is the rescuer, which is generally most coaches or anybody who likes to help people, that’s their downside. We have to replace it with something different, something that’s not going to rescue people because usually rescue happens when nobody asks for permission. You step in. You fix it.

The victim never sees a way out. They stay in victim. The persecutor is so filled like they’ve still taken advantage of and they’ve bent over backward. They did all these things that they start disliking that person. Here’s the real fun part of the drama triangle. Let’s put it on a pinwheel and pretend you can spin it. At any given moment, I can be the victim, I can be the rescuer or I can be the persecutor. It goes around.

SWGR 567 | Workplace Conflict

Workplace Conflict: The drama triangle consists of the victim, the persecutor, and the rescuer. And all three of them can be victims.


People step into those roles all the time. If I didn’t get the job, I’m the victim, but then I hate the person that did get the job, so now I’m the persecutor. Somebody says something that’s nice about somebody else, and again I’m the persecutor. I’m angry but there might be a moment when I rescue myself and say, “I did well too. In fact, I had five more degrees than that person did, so I don’t understand.” You see, it’s a continuous thing. The best thing you can do is stop and get off the triangle. Stop being a victim, stop rescuing people, and stop persecuting.

That is where you need someone from the outside because it’s so hard to see it from the inside.

It makes a difference. We have one more piece on top of this. It’s that if we want to be healthy with it, then the victim becomes the creator. What do you want? We work from that place. We work with people all the time. They’re frustrated that things aren’t going their way. Their career is not going the way they want it to go. People are talking about them. How do you become the creator? What is it that you want? “I want people to like me.” “What do you think is going to have to happen?” “I have to give in.” Let’s talk because giving in means that they’re rescuing everybody else. They’re not living. We talk about that. How can you be a creator?

The persecutor, we have them become the challenger, “What could you do? How could we do this differently? If you want this position, which I think you have all the qualifications for, here’s what I see is missing. What are you willing to do to get to that place? I’d like to give you that job. I’d like to see you there.” That is a challenge. They’re challenging them to step it up in a way that’s positive instead of you pointing fingers.

If you find yourself managing a group where this is happening, you’ve got this drama triangle going. How can you recognize that that’s what’s going on instead of that person just being horrible? How can you recognize if you as a manager have unconsciously played a part in the situation?

Usually, managers are asked to be rescuers. This person will work with us on this project and this project is due tomorrow. They won’t do X. Joe is not going to work with Jane. They go to the manager and they say, “Manager, help.” You step in. It’s your job. They want the manager to do a rescue. The typical rescue is, “Joe and Jane, you get in the office now. We’re going to talk.” They try to get the two to work together and all that. That’s a rescue. One person asks him to do it. The other person didn’t want it. They’re upset and angry.

If you instead become the coach, which is what we do, and you help that manager figure out, “How do I step out of the triangle? How do I see that this is a triangle? That they’re wanting me to fix this and it’s not my job. My job is to do my job and to oversee them and empower people to solve their own problems. How can I empower that person to solve this problem?” To be a creator and to maybe challenge that person to do a better job instead of stepping in the middle and do the rescue.

What if the victim is in love with their victimhood?

There's always an event that causes a person to change because people are not naturally spiteful. Click To Tweet

Many are. We’ve got the V. We’re in victimhood. We’ve got the sweatshirt.

What if the victim refuses to admit that they had any part in creating the situation?

Usually, victims don’t think they’re innocent. Part of this is figuring out what is it that you want. If you’re the manager, you’re coaching the victim, “What is it that you want?” I want so-and-so to stop bugging me. If they stopped bugging you, then what would happen? I would keep following it. What we’re doing is we’re pulling the creator out of them and sometimes it’s painful because it’s drop by drop at the same time. After a while, they’re going to figure it out. Once you’ve got somebody and they can see that they’ve been in the victim place, it changes. They get it. It’s helping people see it.

Sometimes, I go in and I do a training, so everybody can see what the drama triangle looks like. It’s not just for managers, but it’s for everybody to see. Here’s the drama triangle, here’s what that looks like, and how we play it. I do it with donut holes, “Somebody stole my donut hole. What do I do?” The manager steps in and says, “I’ll buy you new donut holes. You’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.” The persecutor says, “You’re always losing your donut hole. You never did.” We have people create places in that triangle. We have them literally role-play. I have a lot of fun with it, but there are ways you can do it so people are laughing and then they finally raised their hands. They say, “I live in this.” It’s all over the world.

I have a whole list of questions here for you. Can you boil all of this down into maybe three ways? Give us a list of three bullet points because clearly, they’re not going to be able to get through this in the course of one episode. Where could one start? If you find yourself with this situation at work, where could you start to untangle it?

The first place that I tell everybody to start is start building awareness. If you know what the drama triangle is, you want to become aware. What is happening? All of a sudden, I’m feeling like people are picking on me. I’m angry. You have to stop and become aware that I stepped into the drama triangle. I don’t know that there’s any time that when we get angry that we’re not stepping into a victim, persecuting role or rescuer. I think when you’re angry or frustrated or hurt, that’s your number one tool. Be aware, “I stepped into the drama triangle.”

The second one is you stop and drop the role. If you can stop being the victim and you drop the role, you say, “I want to yell at you and tell you what a terrible job you did or how you never show up to these meetings on time or whatever it is. I’m going to stop. I’m not going to step into that role.” That person says, “I had five phone calls and they were phone calls that you’d put onto me,” so it starts the triangle. If we can stop and drop our roles after we become aware that we are in them, that is the second one.

The third one is to shift and to change into the new role. We put on a new role. I become a creator. Ultimately, what is it that I want that would be a benefit for everyone? The persecutor becomes a challenger, “How can I challenge this person to a higher level?” The coach is, “What kind of questions? How can I be supportive to them to help them step into creator?” Everything is about getting everybody into a certain role, level of creator, but it depends on where you are in the triangle in that moment. We want to be a rescuer, so I’ve got to be on coach. I want to persecute that person. I need a challenge. I want to say, “Woe is me,” so I need to think about what do I want?

SWGR 567 | Workplace Conflict

Workplace Conflict: Usually managers are asked to be rescuers.


Pamela Cournoyer, this is amazing. Clearly, this is a huge topic. There’s a lot can learn from you. How can we find out more from you?

Actually, I have this really cool tool. It’s called Conflict in the Workplace Identity Tool, and it’s not about the drama triangle so much as it’s helping you figure out where your dramas are starting, where the issues start. It’s like, “How do I figure out what is going on?” In this identity tool, I help people name their conflicts, then they investigate further where they’re coming from and who’s involved in it. We’re laying the scene to the play, then we identify where they fit. Do they fit in a people section? We usually think it’s all people, but it’s not. Is it data or is it environment? I give some examples of it and say, “Here’s what this looks like.” Once people figure out where that is and they go back and listen to the conflict and say, “I need to drop the role, or I need to step into this.” You can google drama triangle. There are many videos and many things about it. This is certainly not my drama triangle. It’s Karpman’s drama triangle.

How do we find about your identity?

It’s Powerful and True. It’s my website,

This is fascinating and I’m going to have to call you a lot more times to get more advice about how to deal with these things. I think about some of the times where awareness made me actually stop a habitual behavior way back when a conversation with my mother where I realized, “I know where this conversation is going. We’ve had this conversation a million times.” We were on the phone and I said, “I know where this conversation is going. I’m going to step off the cycle. I’ll just say, ‘I love you,’” and I hung up. She was horrified. She called both my sisters. She said, “She hung up on me. She didn’t want to finish the conversation.” I think maybe for next time I talk to you about how about what happens if someone is not willing to step out of that.

Usually they aren’t, so this is all good. If you step up your role, then you’re no longer in the triangle. That’s the first place you have to go. The other one is don’t pick up the rope in a tug of war. You picked it up and drop it.

Pamela, this has been wonderful. I’m glad and honored to have you as a guest on the show. Please subscribe to the show if you aren’t already. Check us out on YouTube. If you’re curious at how your presentation skills are strong and where maybe you could use a little help, take my free four-minute assessment at That’s where you can see where you’re strong in your presentation skills and where a little support might give you the results and the recognition that you need. I’ll see you on the next one.


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About Pamela Cournoyer

SWGR 567 | Workplace ConflictMeet Pamela Cournoyer, nationally and internationally recognized conflict management maven. Pamela skillfully instills upper and middle management leaders to reclaim their disenchanted teams and workplaces. Pamela has been successfully coaching and training high-profile leaders for over 15-years.

It’s fun to watch as Pamela awakens diverse audiences including executives, teams, corporations, government, and large and small businesses. Her Clientele Includes • Nike • KPMG • Oregon State Police • The US Department of Justice • The Republic of Kosovo • Trinidad, West Indies Corporate, Tobago House Assembly, Trinidad Ministry and Coast Guard upper and mid-level management Services

Pamela brings to the table her extensive experience in professional consulting, executive leadership coaching, business coaching, executive coach-coaching, leadership training, conflict facilitation, Everything DiSC® assessments and public speaking training and coaching.

Pamela’s Leadership Forte Mastering mindset, boundary setting, advancing communication, resolving conflict, dynamic public speaking, and in raising her client’s life quality both at work and home. It is truly transformational as she instantly shifts success-blocking belief systems.

These impressive gifts and talents make her a savvy catalyst for positive change for both you and your organization.