The woman shook her head. “You’re Ms. Evans?” She consulted a paper on the desk.

“Easton, yes.”

The woman gave a nod but said nothing more, kept her eyes on the desk.

Kim Banks, customer service manager, was the last one to arrive, whooshing into the room like she’d been blown in by a heavy wind at exactly 7:00 p.m.

“All right,” the brunette said, and took a seat in one of the two remaining chairs. She smiled warmly, set down some papers on the table in front of her, and crossed her legs. “My name is Bella Hunt and I’ll be running this conflict resolution group for the next six weeks. Every Wednesday, seven p.m., right here. If you have to miss one, you can tell me, but just know that I have to let your boss”—she consulted the paper—“Mr. Joplin know. Not that I’m tattling on you, but you need all six classes in order to be passed. Understood?” Nods and murmurs went around the table. “Good. Okay.” Bella Hunt sat forward and folded her hands on top of the stack of papers.

Easton watched as she spoke, liked the calming quality of her voice, found herself sitting up a little straighter.

“Now, I know that, for the most part, conflict resolution sounds like it has some violence attached to it. I’m guessing you’re not all beating up your employees?”

“Not because we don’t want to,” muttered Henry Deets, their traffic manager. Henry was no-nonsense and organized and did not take kindly to having his abilities challenged or criticized.

The others chuckled, as did Bella.

“I know the story behind your company,” she told them, moving her eyes from one manager to the next but skipping over Easton. “And let me assure you that this is a very common practice for new managers of established staff. There’s almost always strife, ill feelings. The established staff often feel like they’ve been betrayed, so they resist warming to new management. My point being: none of this is unusual. You guys are not special.” She said the last line with a wink of sarcasm and teasing. “So, what we’ll do is talk through some scenarios, do a little role-playing, and generally just be open about some of the issues you find yourselves dealing with. I’ll help you with ways to best handle them without causing more hard feelings or resentment. Sound good?”

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