Opening a Can of Worms


Open (up) a can of worms: to create a situation that will cause trouble or be unpleasant            (

In my conflict management work, I occasionally hear a senior leader say that addressing a workplace issue (fill in your own workplace-issue-blank) will only “open a can of worms.” I translate this statement as, “I won’t admit it but I’m conflict avoidant and don’t want to deal with this issue that I know is a problem. Let’s leave it alone and maybe it will go away.”

I applaud leaders who not only open cans but shake them as well! There may be rich topics that will surface – issues we need to explore.

 I’m not a proponent of inventing issues or lingering on issues that have little merit (i.e. the non-issues that are raised to distract.)

I am, however, seeking courageous leaders who know that in this can of worms may be clues, lessons and discussions that can enhance our workplace environment. It’s time for leaders to do some responsible shaking. We may be surprised what we find.

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