The expression, 'throwing your toys out of the sandpit,' has been around a long time, and is usually said in the context of describing either a toddler (or, on occasion, an adult), who has decided not to play nicely and has thrown a tantrum.
Playing in the sandpit with others can be a useful metaphor for a work organisation. Space is confined, people might compete for the same things, one person might not like the way someone else plays, or they might not even be allowed to play with certain other people because of workplace dynamics.
If one thinks about the strategies involved with children learning to play in the sandpit together, there are some basic principles which can be applied to organisations.
1. Ensure the communication is clear on expectations (organisational culture) for playing in the same space. Get buy-in from all and constantly revisit those expectations.
2. Create a culture where individuals can express their interests, not just their position. Move beyond 'I want this....now!' Dig down to the reasons for their view. Questions that are open and begin with 'What...' and/or 'How...' are your best friends for getting to interests.
3. Have a clear and transparent process for the times when someone 'loses it' because their needs are not being met. Ideally it will be a process that is based on mutual respect and allows growth. Sometimes bringing in external help to facilitate this can be helpful, as well. Often managers forget they are playing in the same sandpit, and that they might be part of the reason for the person losing it in the first place.
A lot of the facilitation, mediation, and conflict coaching work I do is about getting people to play nicely with each other in their workplace sandpit through gaining a better understanding of the other person's perspective, needs and interests.
A very effective way to assist individual(s) to resolve workplace issues and concerns is with a trained conflict management coach. This is when an individual gets to work through the issues independent of the other person. It can be a very cost effective way of resolving issues when people have stopped playing nicely in that very small sandpit!