Being at the top matters because there’s room at the top for only a few. Scarcity makes being at the top worth something… Where does the scarcity come from? It comes from the hurdles that the markets and our society set up.” – Seth Godin, THE DIP.


Whether you already work in the oil and gas sector or you currently aspire to, becoming an expert is an idea that likely appeals to you.

Experts are supervisors, managers, and senior executives who oversee the most important activities and get the highest pay.

They are consultants who get called in to offer advice and strategic direction when things don’t go as desired.

Experts are the experienced oil and gas workers who get invites to join boards, give a speech or cofound startups in the sector.

Being an expert is cool.

But as bestselling marketing author, marketer and former Yahoo executive, Seth Godin writes in his groundbreaking book, The Dip, getting to the top of any field – the oil and gas industry included – is always tough.

Demands of Being an Expert

There are many hurdles that you’ll face on the road to expertise. The demand for intellectual ability is just one of them.

In the oil and gas sector, particularly, your ability to work cordially with others and to contribute to the group’s effort is an equally important factor. This is because most of the tasks are performed by teams of professionals – from the upstream to the midstream and downstream sectors.

Workgroups are expected to act in unison, support each other, and achieve the set target with military-like commitment. But even in groups driven by obsessive goals, such work standards are unlikely to be met. Many times, these failures can be traced to conflict.

Workplace conflict is a serious disagreement between workers. It could be a small issue; perhaps an argument between roustabouts where one party reacts verbally to gossipy coworkers, or a big issue; a situation where the verbal argument escalates into a violent fight.

Various factors contribute to conflicts at work. Some of the more common factors are lack of effective communication, different work ethics, values and opinions, contrasting personalities, and workplace bullying or harassment.

How workplace conflict can derail your career in the oil and gas sector.

If you’re ambitious, diligent and hope to become an industry expert one day, unresolved conflict in the workplace can affect your professional aspirations in the following ways:

  1. Conflict can reduce your self-esteem.

According to conflict researchers Bernard Omisore and Ashimi Abiodun, workplace conflict can affect your satisfaction at work, increase your anxiety, and exclude you from others even during group activities.

Conflict can also cause you stress and pressure, as emphasized in this article, “In some instances, organization members may avoid meetings to prevent themselves from experiencing stress and stress-related symptoms.”

Stress, anxiety, and exclusion are all closely related to low self-esteem – the measure of love and regard that you have for yourself.

Conflict can make you doubt your abilities in an unhealthy way. You compare yourself to others and you doubt your strengths; leading to low self-esteem. This is likelier to happen if you are always on the receiving end of workplace disagreements, for example; if your supervisor and coworkers constantly berate you for having a different attitude or opinion during group activities.

Is self-esteem important for success?


“Without self-esteem, one lacks the courage to attempt new challenges and is hesitant to interact with others.” Goes an evergreen statement in an article by Sandra Hirst and Barbara Metcalf in a 1984 issue of the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.

Oil and gas workers with high self-esteem are more motivated, can withstand difficult situations, and are pro-active in their professional developments. They’re also happier, more comfortable to work with and they are always the first on the line for a promotion.

  1. Conflict can affect your productivity.

How many times have you been mentally distracted at work because of recent disagreements with a coworker? How often has this tainted your performance?

According to a whitepaper by the Mediation Training Institute at Eckerd College,

“Poorly managed or dysfunctional conflict hurts productivity, escalates out-of-pocket costs, increases risks, degrades decision making, and impedes an organization’s ability to achieve strategic goals.”

Worrying about the conflict, complaining to other coworkers about the conflict and avoiding those involved in the conflict are unproductive tactics that will hinder your ability to cope with new challenges and can put your employment at risk.

  1. Conflict can endanger your job.

A study by Psychometrics Canada Ltd, published in 2009, revealed that “Over 81% of human resource personnel have seen someone leave an organization as a result of conflict, and almost half (43%) have seen someone fired because of it.”

Although the focus of the study was on the Canadian workforce, their findings on the effects of conflict are strikingly similar to what is obtainable around the world.

Unresolved conflicts could force you to resign.

Also, when you respond to a conflict in an unproductive, violent, or undesirable manner – such as fighting, cursing, lying or threatening coworkers – you may lose your job.

Losing your job can affect your self-esteem, your interpersonal skills, and professional ambitions.

Bernard Omisore and Abiodun Ashimi’s “10 Mistakes To Avoid During A Conflict.”

Want to improve your conflict management or resolution skills? You can start from the tips provided by Bernard Omisore and Abiodun Ashimi in their paper on organizational conflict in the International Journal of Academic Research in Economics and Management Sciences;

Excellent communication can strengthen relationships and develop trust and support, while poor communication can create mistrust and misunderstanding.  Some negative attitude and communication patterns that worsen the conflict situation in relationships include:

  • Avoiding Conflict Altogether:

    Rather than discussing disagreements in a calm, respectful way, some people do not say anything to their partner until they are ready to explode, and then they are prepared to speak in an angry, hurtful manner. This seems to be less stressful to avoid the conflict situation, but usually, it causes more stress to both parties as tensions rise to more significant conflict.

  • Being Defensive:

    Rather than understanding the complaints of a partner and his/her point of view, defensive people steadfastly deny their wrong behavior and work hard to avoid looking at the possibility that they could continue to contribute to a problem. It creates long-term problems when partners do not feel listened to and understood. In this case, unresolved conflicts continue to grow.

  • Over Generalizing:

    While addressing complaints, a person should not use generalizations. For example, he/she should avoid starting sentences with “you always,” “you never,” “you always come home late” or “you never do what I want you to do!” It is irritating to the other person. Bringing up past conflicts can increase the level of the current conflict.

  • Being right:

    Some people decide the “right” way look at things and the “wrong” way to look at things, and they are sure that only their view on things is right. It is necessary not to demand that your partner see things the same way and don’t take it as a personal attack if there are differences in opinion. It is important to reach a compromise and remember that two points of view can both be valid.

  • “Psycho Analysing” / Mind – Reading:

    Sometimes people think negative about a partner because they give faulty interpretations of their actions. They do this because they do not think about the thoughts and feelings of the partner, and it creates hostility and misunderstandings. It is essential to let the other person express his/her thoughts and feelings.

  • Forgetting To Listen:

    Some people are not good listeners: they interrupt, roll their eyes, and release whatever they are going to say next. People should develop listening skills to strengthen the communication process.

  • Playing The Blame Game:

    Some people in conflict situations always criticize the other person. They always find ways or embarrassing others Instead of blaming the other person it is necessary to view conflict as an opportunity to analyze the situation objectively and understand the needs of both parties and come up with a solution that is helpful to both parties.

  • Trying To “Win” The Argument:

    People who are focused on “winning” the argument can lose the relationship. There should be mutual understanding and respect

  • Making Character Attacks:

    Sometimes negative actions from a person can be blown up into a personality flow.  This can lead to negative perceptions on both sides.  It is important to respect the person even if he/she has bad behavior.

  • Stone Walling:

    Some people behave like a “stonewall” and refuse to talk or listen to their partners when disagreements occur. Stonewalling does not solve the problem but creates hard feelings and damages relationships.


  1. Hirst, S & Metcalf, B. Promoting Self Esteem. Journal of Gerontological Nursing. 1984;(2).
  2. Omisore, B & Abiodun, A. Organizational Conflicts: Causes, Effects, and Remedies. International Journal of Academic Research in Economics and Management Sciences. 2014;3(6).
  3. Psychometrics Canada Limited. Warring Egos, Toxic Individuals, Feeble Leadership: A study of conflict in the Canadian workplace. 2009.

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