Archive for August, 2017

Dealing With Difficult Employees

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

difficult employeeThere are a few employees at my store who are great workers, but who really create tension among other staff members. How should I address this situation?

Understanding why some employees become more difficult or negative, and when they are more likely to act that way can prevent that build up of tension from happening.

So why are people difficult?

The answers may lie in different areas, some related to the environment and some related to the “payoff” of using certain behaviours.

Some employees learn very early on that the more noise they make, the more likely those around them will respond to their “squeaky-wheel” or “my-way-or-the-highway” approach. These are the employees who use their bodies and voices to intimidate.

Some employees feel so hopeless and powerless in their life that they may develop the attitude of “what difference does it make?” These employees may be hard for us to work with, because they are often indecisive, resistant to change or have difficulty expressing their opinion.

For others, negative attitudes and behaviours are expressed when they are stressed out and just don’t have the energy to use better communication skills, judgment and manners. Being stressed out is chronic in today’s society. We often have too much to do, are running behind schedule or working with incomplete information. It takes a lot of energy to be positive, to keep things in perspective and to actively look for the good in someone.

The difficulty behind these attitudes and behaviours is that they are highly “toxic.” We may be functioning just fine when we suddenly have to change gears and deal with someone else’s difficult behaviour or negative attitude. This brings us down, makes us feel grouchy and out-ofcontrol.

Before you know it, we ourselves start to complain, grow stubborn and get more negative or difficult. This bad attitude then ripples out to those around us, infecting them and becoming entrenched in the workplace.

Our goal is to stop rewarding these irritating behaviours. To do this, we must understand what employees expect to gain from being so difficult. Some want to feel more in control. Some want to feel important and listened to, and some want to avoid outright conflict, but will act out their annoyance or disagreement through other negative behaviours.

Here are a few tips on ways to stop difficult behaviours and reduce the impact of negative attitudes that we encounter in our workplaces.

1. How can we help someone to feel more in control? Well, we need to ensure that we have clear job descriptions, are not overloaded and have realistic expectations for what we can accomplish.

2. Even though it is very easy to give the impression to those we are talking to and interacting with that they are important to us, we often forget or ignore these simple strategies. We need to start with our body language. Have you ever been in a hurry and talked without looking directly at the other person? What message does that convey? Turn and face the person. Make eye contact. Be in the moment and treat each person as if they are all that matters. It is hard to be difficult with someone who makes us feel special.

3. Watch how you are communicating. Bring potential or recurring problems out into the open. Are you listening to people or are you formulating your answer while they are still talking? Are you raising your voice or becoming agitated? Give as much  information as you can.

4. What does your workplace environment convey? Is it comfortable, peaceful and engaging? Though the “extras” may seem unnecessary in accomplishing the business of the day, to decrease the incidence of difficult behaviours and negative attitudes, make your workplace a visual, auditory and aromatic haven in their hectic day.

5. Get a feel for some typical reactions and attitudes that you may face and prepare yourself in advance to deal with them. Be sure not to reward difficult behaviours by giving in or backing off. For some personality types, you need to keep your composure, be assertive and know exactly what it is you want to communicate. Get comfortable with people who need to vent and express themselves – however, do not tolerate abuse.

Try using the person’s name to gain their attention when they are on a rant. Sometimes, you will get more useful information if you ask the person to write out the issue that concerns them, as there is less chance of the situation escalating into a “big production.”

6. Move difficult people away from problem identification and into problem-solving. Help them generate ways to improve the situation. When we are stressed out, we often have difficulty looking forward. However, if you hear the same complaints time and again, it may be that it is you who needs to move into problem-solving mode.

7. It is essential that you take care of yourself. Dealing with difficult people requires extra energy and focus. Maintain balance in your life – be sure to have other pursuits that you can count on for pleasure and distraction. Eat properly to control mood swings and to feel more energetic. Cut out caffeine, which heightens our responses and makes us more sensitive to those around us. Get plenty of sleep – probably more than what you are getting now. This too will give you the energy you need to think on your feet and provide the extra attention that some people need. Have someone to vent to – but not so often and for so long that you alienate that person. Lighten up, have fun and remember to smile. All of these positive behaviours will buffer you against the effects of dealing with tough situations.

To sum up, by understanding what employees expect to gain from using undesirable behaviours, we are in a much better position to deflect and defeat the difficult behaviour and move the person from problem identification to problem-solving. We need to help our employees feel more in control, more important and listened to. And we need to ensure that we are taking care of ourselves and maintaining our own sense of humour and balance. By using these tips, we may be able to stop difficult behaviours and reduce the impact of negative attitudes in your workplace.

WRITTEN BY BEVERLY BEUERMANN-KING

Building Resiliency Through Stress and Wellness Strategies. Stress and resiliency strategist, Beverly Beuermann-King, CSP, translates current research and best practices information into a realistic, accessible and more practical approach through her dynamic stress and wellness workshops, on-line stress and resiliency articles, books, e-briefs and media interviews.

Managing Conflict at Work

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Confrontation and conflict between people is as old as, well, people. Any time you have humans operating together there are going to be times when people disagree, don’t get on, have differences of opinion or just plain can’t stand each other! So how should conflict be managed in teams?

It is a mistake to think that no conflict means the team is effective. Maybe that is true for some teams, but it is more likely that people are focused on maintaining the status quo, not rocking the boat, following the team “rules” or staying friendly with others no matter what the cost.

Lots of conflict is unhealthy too. Team members who bicker, run each other down, oppose ideas, power play, compete and freeze each other out are toxic.

Effective teams do have conflicts, but they have methods of resolving it constructively. Conflict is seen as a necessary part of life, disagreements are aired, explained, explored and acknowledged.

So how do you create a team environment where disagreements are constructive?

1 — Have team ground rules or behaviors. These should be developed by the team in a workshop environment and facilitated so all views are heard and the whole team signs off and agrees to “live by the rules.” The rules should include “how we manage conflict respectfully.”

2 — Develop a good balance of praise and challenge. If every idea is challenged by the team eventually people stop bringing ideas. Have an agreement that challenge is about improving or building on the idea, not cutting it down.

3 — Develop coaching skills in the team. A good coach doesn’t say “that idea won’t work,” but rather “who do you think will be most impacted by the proposed change? Do you think our customers are ready for a change of this magnitude?” Testing ideas using coaching skills promotes learning rather than shutting the ideas down.

4 — When disagreements occur, encourage people to air them constructively. If the issue is too great a neutral third party can help work it through.

5 — The leader needs to manage issues between people as they occur. Don’t assume the people will work it out. Team conflict when left to fester detracts from performance, impacts engagement and can lead to serious issues, like bullying claims.

When conflict happens:

  • Explore the source of the conflict
  • Bring the parties together to discuss
  • Clarify everyone’s expectations
  • Agree a way forward
  • Evaluate the results

On the receiving end of bad workplace behavior? Raise the issue with the person concerned.

  • Outline the behavior: “I often feel that you shut me down when I am speaking.”
  • Be specific: “It happened at the team meeting on Monday, when I was giving my project update and you spoke over me a number of times.”
  • Explain how it impacts you: “When this happens, I find it frustrating as it feels as if you place no value on my contributions.”
  • State your preferred outcome: “It would add more value for me if in team meetings you could listen to my ideas and save your comments and questions until the end.”
  • Ask them to agree to behave differently: “I would appreciate it if you could agree to this change.”

If you are suddenly confronted by a colleague who is angry and making a point in public:

Keep your own behavior constructive. Ask them politely to stop the discussion and book a meeting to discuss. This will give them time to calm down and you time to prepare. (If the behavior was extreme and you felt threatened, report it immediately to your manager and/or HR.)

Don’t be afraid to ask for a third party to mediate if you feel that you won’t be able to have a calm and constructive discussion.

In the meeting, listen with an open mind. Stay calm, don’t get either defensive or aggressive. Walk your colleague through these steps:

  • What is the issue?
  • Can you give me an example, or specifics?
  • What is the impact?
  • What would you like to happen instead? What would be a good outcome?
  • How can we resolve this? What specifically can we both do?
  • And finally: What have we agreed to do?

By keeping your own behavior as positive and constructive as possible you will be working to a resolution, not fueling workplace conflict.

In any workplace conflict there are often two sides. Asking yourself “what contribution am I making to the issue” and being honest in your answer is always a good place to start.

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Article by, Rosalind Cardinal

Rosalind Cardinal is The Leadership Alchemist and Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, an Australian consultancy specializing in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organizations. You can interact with Ros, learn more about leadership and management, and download a complimentary copy of her e-guide on leading change at her website.

Rosalind CardinalPrincipal Consultant of Shaping Change, a consulting firm that helps companies leverage the talents of their team members.

Five Conflict Management Strategies

Friday, August 4th, 2017

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Kenneth Kaye once said, “Conflict is neither good nor bad. Properly managed, it is absolutely vital.”

Highly effective leaders identify, understand and develop swift and smart resolutions to workplace conflicts, most of which demand some level of confrontation. Yet I’ve found many coaching clients dread confrontation, shifting the focus toward diversionary topics or simply turning a blind eye to avoid tough conversations. But running from conflict will not serve anyone well. Ultimately, the elephant in the room only grows or becomes much more unwieldy.

The implications of shunning confrontation range from a breakdown of communication and damaged relationships to lowered organizational productivity and morale. Here are some questions to consider when evaluating your ability to effectively confront employees during times of conflict. Be sure to write down your answers:

• On a scale of 1-5, how comfortable are you with having tough conversations?

• What is your go-to method for handling conflict with employees? E-mail, phone, face-to-face or other?

• Is it hard for you to manage your emotions effectively when talking about a challenging or fear-inducing situation?

• How do you create an open dialogue with your team, regardless of difficult circumstances?

• How do you exhibit poise and self-control in the presence of confrontations?

• How comfortable are you with giving what might be perceived as negative feedback?

If your answers to the above are less than appealing, the following tips can guide you to build a healthy workplace culture that faces confrontation at the right time with courage and confidence:

1. Identify the opportunity. Shift the lens through which you view conflict. By adopting a positive outlook on confrontation, you’ll discover that every conflict is a new opportunity for both the other party and you to grow, develop and learn. After all, if you have tended to avoid conflict, the underlying topics and details are likely things that you have rarely, if ever, discussed, representing growth opportunities and innovative approaches you have yet to uncover.

2. Build a culture that encourages giving and receiving feedback. Ask your team for their frequent, healthy feedback, and you will begin to show boldness and encourage transparency through your example. Allowing unpleasant truths to trickle out gradually fosters a sense of camaraderie and understanding within your organization, in turn reducing the risk of future conflict. What’s more, creating honest dialogue lets your employees know their opinions are valued, raising their level of engagement. Finally, when confrontations do arise, they will feel far more inclined to receive your concerns with an open mind and an appreciation of your opinion instead of reflexively thinking the sky is falling.

3. Be proactive, but resist jumping to conclusions. Prevent problematic behavior from escalating beyond repair by taking swift action, but do not jump to conclusions before reaching a full understanding of the situation. Assume positive intent to immediately activate a spirit that diffuses the situation. Another way to be proactive is to measure your words to avoid being the source of conflict in the first place. Saying, “I need to see you in my office at 3 p.m.” has the potential to spiral reactions that “Can we prioritize the risks on your project in my office at 3 p.m.?” would otherwise sidestep.

4. Do not use e-mail for conflict. If e-mail is your go-to to manage conflict, it is time to get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations. Let your level of fear be your compass. The more emotion you are feeling, the more the situation is likely to be faced in person. If you don’t, you are subjecting yourself to the gravitational forces that pull these types of situations southward. Effective conflict management will require real-time awareness of the facts and your undivided attention.

5. Engage productively using storytelling. Before any confrontation, consider that the other person may be right from the beginning and question your own opinion. When you do present your concerns, start with storytelling if you can, rather than headlining with any abrupt, premature summaries of your stance on the matter(s) at hand. We experience our lives through stories, which are entertaining and engaging. Make your case and then create space for the other person to process and respond to you, and truly listen to them.

Using Humor To Alleviate The Burden Of Confrontation

Here’s an example conflict of a peer ignoring your emails or requests. Say you have an eight-year-old named Janet.

You: “You know, it’s hilarious that lately when I call Janet in the other room, I can holler four or five times, and no answer.”

Peer: “You, too, huh? Yeah, no one is exempt.”

You: “But if I yell something like ‘Hey, it’s time for ice cream!’ she’ll break furniture and run over the dog to get to me.”

Peer: (laughing) “As I said, no one is exempt.”

You: “I think I’m going to start sending you e-mails about ice cream.”

Now it’s all in the delivery, and every relationship requires its own special touch, but humor and storytelling, like in the example above, are much more effective than just sending an instant message or e-mail. Wouldn’t that be ironic saying, “Why don’t you answer any of my e-mails?”

By being fully accountable to the demands of leadership, and committing yourself to the above steps, almost every confrontation you have can be redirected toward a productive outcome. Those former self-doubts and insecurities that hindered your ability to face conflict will be replaced with confident, courageous resolve and an understanding of the healthy dynamics that can move your business forward faster than you ever thought possible.


Article by, Laura Berger
Laura Berger is principal at the Berdeo Group


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