Top 10 ways to manage conflict in a business

June 15th, 2017

When conflict arises in the workplace—as it inevitably does—many smaller organizations and family enterprises are not prepared to handle it. It takes some careful crafting of policies, as well as genuine self-reflection, to get the team back on track. These tips will get you started.

1. Understand and evaluate people’s emotional responses When employees have strong emotional reactions to a workplace dispute, their whole internal defence mechanism may resort to a fight or flight reaction, and their ability to think and reason will typically take second place. The best strategy is to communicate with those involved after the anger and upset has dissipated. Arguing with someone who is emotionally triggered usually leads nowhere.

2. Be self-aware Are you a conflict avoider or an aggressive leader? Be aware of who you are, how you deal with conflict, and the significant impact you are having on the situation. Not everyone may respond well to your style and there will be times where you may need to adapt and demonstrate better leadership.

3. Consider the views of all parties involved No one wants to be told they are wrong. In fact, dialogue is often halted when someone is made to be wrong. Are the leaders in your organization creating conflict by not allowing others to have a voice or make contributions? Are team members too righteous to foster team work? It’s important to always consider different points of view.

4. Get to the root of the issue Sometimes a conflict is a manifestation of a deeper issue, either at the management level or on the ground. A great resource is the 1981 classic bestselling book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury. It provides a simple step-by-step method for getting to the source of the issue and moving beyond it.

5. Accept people for who they are and who they are not People process information and make decisions differently. Knowing how your team members approach their work provides invaluable understanding, allowing them to draw on the strength of others rather than discredit their work styles or habits.

6. Implement regular feedback meetings Consider implementing weekly “open sessions” for the sole purpose of brainstorming what is working and what isn’t. This will allow you to address issues when they are small before they escalate.

7. Have the team create a conflict resolution protocol where everyone buys in People tend to accept what they helped to create. Investing the time to create a conflict resolution protocol will pay huge dividends in the long run.

8. Have the team adopt communication guidelines Not all forms of communications are acceptable in the workplace. Have your team recognize unacceptable and counterproductive manners of communication and create guidelines that they are willing to abide by. Include yourself in this exercise because you may be communicating in a way that is not fostering open dialogue, which in the long run may be the source of much conflict within the organization.

9. Be vigilant and enforce the measures that the team developed No one likes to deal with conflict or reprimand people. However, once there are clear conflict resolution and communication guidelines, they must be implemented in a strategic and consistent way.

10. Do you have the right people? If a team member is not functioning well or is creating conflict, evaluate if that person’s skills would be better suited for a different team or position, or whether that person fits in at your organization.

Article by, Nathalie Boutet

Toronto lawyer and family law expert Nathalie Boutet focuses on negotiating to keep disputes out of court. A pioneer in the field of neuro family law, which integrates brain science, psychology and legal negotiation, Ms. Boutet was nominated in 2015 to receive the prestigious Canada’s Top 25 Changemakers award by Canadian Lawyer.

As appeared on theglobeandmail.com

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How to Deal With Difficult People at Work

June 2nd, 2017

Why You Must Deal With Difficult People

Boxing glove punching hand

Dealing with difficult people is easier when the person is just generally obnoxious or when the behavior affects more than one person. Dealing with them is much tougher when they are attacking you or undermining your professional contribution.

Difficult people come in every conceivable variety. Some talk constantly and never listen. Others must always have the last word. Some coworkers fail to keep commitments. Others criticize anything that they did not create. Difficult coworkers compete with you for power, privilege, and the spotlight; some go way too far in courting the boss’s positive opinion – to your detriment.

Some coworkers attempt to undermine you and you constantly feel as if you need to watch your back. Your boss plays favorites and the favored party lords it over you; people form cliques and leave you out. Difficult people and situations exist in every workplace.

They all have one thing in common. You must address them. No matter the type of difficult situation in which you find yourself, dealing with difficult people or situations is a must.

Why You Must Deal With Difficult People

Trust me. Your situation won’t get better; left unaddressed, it usually gets worse. Unaddressed, necessary conflict simmers just below – and often erupts counter-productively above – the surface at work.

Initially, people go into shock when they are treated unprofessionally, so if you take some time to understand exactly what is happening to you, you are not alone. Once you are fully aware of what is happening, deciding to live with the situation long term is not an option.

You become so angry and feel so much pain that your efforts to address the situation become irrational.

It’s far better to address the difficult person while you can maintain some objectivity and emotional control.

Constant complaining about the coworker or situation can quickly earn you the title of whiner or complainer. Managers wonder why you are unable to solve your own problems – even if the manager’s tolerance or encouragement of the situation is part of the problem.

Worse Case Scenario If You Fail to Deal With Difficult People

Most importantly, if you are embroiled in a constant conflict at work, you may not only get blamed for being “unable to handle the situation like a mature professional,” you may be labeled as a “difficult” person, too. This label is hard to escape and can have devastating consequences for your career.

Finally, if the situation continues to deteriorate over time, the organization and your boss may tire of you. The boss may decide you are a “high maintenance” employee, easily replaced with a more professional or cooperative person, and you could lose your job.

Dealing With the Difficult Coworker

I’ve experienced workplaces in which all sorts of dysfunctional approaches to dealing with a difficult coworker have been tried. Putting an anonymous note in the person’s mailbox is not an option.

Placing a can of deodorant on a hygiene-challenged coworker’s desk is not a productive option either. Confronting the ​bully publicly can often lead to disaster. Putting dead bugs in his desk drawer can leave your boss no option other than to fire you. So, let’s look at more productive ways to address your difficult coworker.

Are you convinced that in almost all cases you need to productively deal with your difficult coworker? Good. Then, read on to find ten ways to approach dealing with difficult people.

These are ten productive ways to deal with your difficult coworker. Let’s start with the first five.

  • Start out by examining yourself. Are you sure that the other person is really the problem and that you’re not overreacting? Have you always experienced difficulty with the same type of person or actions?Does a pattern exist for you in your interaction with coworkers? Do you recognize that you have hot buttons that are easily pushed? (We all do, you know.) Always start with self-examination to determine that the object of your attention really is a difficult person’s actions.
  • Explore what you are experiencing with a trusted friend or colleague. Brainstorm ways to address the situation. When you are the object of an attack, or your boss appears to support the dysfunctional actions of a coworker, it is often difficult to objectively assess your options. Anger, pain, humiliation, fear, and concern about making the situation worse are legitimate emotions.Pay attention to the unspoken agreement you create when you solicit another’s assistance. You are committing to act unless you agree actions will only hurt the situation. Otherwise, you risk becoming a whiner or complainer in the eyes of your colleague.
  • Approach the person with whom you are having the problem for a private discussion.Talk to the coworker about what you are experiencing in “I” messages. (Using “I” messages is a communication approach that focuses on your experience of the situation rather than on attacking or accusing the other person.) You can also explain to your coworker the impact of their actions on you.Be pleasant and agreeable as you talk with the other person. They may not be aware of the impact of their words or actions on you. They may be learning about their impact on you for the first time. Or, they may have to consider and confront a pattern in their own interaction with people. Worst case?

    They may know their impact on you and deny it or try to explain it away. Unfortunately, some difficult people just don’t care. During the discussion, attempt to reach agreement about positive and supportive actions going forward.

  • Follow-up after the initial discussion. Has the behavior changed? Gotten better? Or worse? Determine whether a follow-up discussion is needed. Determine whether a follow-up discussion will have any impact. Decide if you want to continue to confront the difficult person by yourself.Become a peacemaker. (Decide how badly you want to make peace with the other person and how much you want your current job. Determine whether you have experienced a pattern of support from your boss.) If you answer, “yes,” to these questions, hold another discussion. If not, escalate and move to the next idea.
  • You can confront your difficult coworker’s behavior publicly. Deal with the person with gentle humor or slight sarcasm. Or, make an exaggerated physical gesture – no, not that one – such as a salute or place your hand over your heart to indicate a serious wounding.You can also tell the difficult person that you’d like them to consider important history in their decision making or similar words expressed positively, depending on the subject. Direct confrontation does work well for some people in some situations. I don’t think it works to ask the person to stop doing what they’re doing, publicly, but you can employ more positive confrontational tactics.

    Their success for you will depend on your ability to pull them off. Each of us is not spur-of-the-moment funny, but if you are, you can use the humor well with difficult coworkers.

Want five more tips? Fleeing is definitely an option.

  • If you have done what you can do and employed the first five recommended approaches with little or no success, it’s time to involve others – your boss or a manager. Note that you are escalating the situation. Prepare to talk with your boss.Take notes and address the issues, not as interpersonal problems, but as issues affecting your productivity, the work and your progress on projects. Tell your boss exactly what the difficult person does.

    Make a plan to address the issues. Perhaps involve your coworker’s boss. Recognize that a good boss is likely to bring your difficult coworker and his supervisor into a three or four-way discussion at this point. Expect to participate in follow-up over time.

  • Rally the other employees who might have an issue with the difficult person, too – carefully. Sometimes, a group approach convinces the boss that the impact of the behavior is wider and deeper than she had originally determined. Be careful with this approach, however. Know what works with your boss. You want to solve your problem, not make it look as if you are rabble-rousing and ganging up on another employee.
  • If these approaches fail to work, try to limit the difficult person’s access to you. Protect the needs of your business, but avoid working with the person when possible. Leave voluntary committees, Choose projects he or she does not impact. Don’t hurt your own career or your business, but avoidance is an option.
  • Transfer to a new job within your organization. Depending on the size of your company, you may never have to work with this difficult coworker again. Fleeing is definitely an option.
  • If all else fails, you can quit your job. What, flee, you ask? But, I wasn’t the employee with the problem. I was not the difficult coworker. All I tried to do was my job. You’re right. But, what price, in terms of your happiness and success, are you willing to pay to stay? You need to decide whether the good in your current situation outweighs the bad or whether the bad outweighs the good.If the good wins, stop complaining and get back to work. Backtrack on these recommended steps and retry some of them when appropriate. If the bad wins, redirect your energy to leaving your current employment. You’ll be glad you did. Check out the second part of this article to find out how to conduct a stealth job search and much more about job searching.

Article by, Susan M. Heathfield
As appeared on thebalance.com

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How to Manage Conflict

May 25th, 2017

Last November, Philippe, a 33-year-old French banker, left Paris for a new challenge in London. He thought that a new job in a fast-growing British investment bank would give him valuable international experience and develop some new skills. The bigger salary and bonus were also a draw.

One year on, Philippe has a different view of his move. When I met him last week, he explained that the year had been a disaster and his job was in danger as staff had made formal complaints about his management style. He had found it difficult to adjust to his new role, but he had not realised that his style had created such conflict within his team.

Philippe felt he had been acting appropriately, but his colleagues and team members felt he had been inconsistent, favouring some members of his team and undermining others. His line manager had recommended coaching to help him improve his communication skills, understand the culture and develop his people skills. Philippe had agreed to the coaching but felt aggrieved that the bank had not done more to prepare him for his role with training and a proper induction. The main problem, he said, was the bank’s matrix structure and its focus on profit-making, which encouraged managers to fight for territory and resources rather than building teams and developing people. In short, the bank deliberately created a culture of conflict rather than collaboration.

Of course, both sides have a point. Philippe needs to change, but so does the environment in which he is operating. I am often asked to work with individuals in a conflict situation, but rarely does the organisation ask for feedback on why the conflict occurred and what they might do to prevent it. In truth, little is done at the organisational level to mitigate conflict.

Organisational conflict is emerging as a key workplace issue among the people I coach. They tell me that there is a lack of will and/or skills to deal with conflict and have many theories as to why it occurs and what happens when it takes root. From being an unwelcome distraction, conflict in a team or department can quickly spread, to damage relationships, lower productivity and morale and in extreme cases lead absenteeism, sabotage, litigation and even strikes.

So why are so many people experiencing conflict at work? There are two key factors.

First, the matrix structure adopted by many organisations has resulted in unclear reporting lines, increased competition for resources and attention and general confusion as managers try to develop an appropriate management style.

Second, globalisation has caused change and restructuring so that businesses operate more flexibly. There has been a rapid growth in virtual teams, with people from different backgrounds and cultures working across vast regions and time zones. Email and electronic communication are the most practical ways to connect, but these can be anonymous and lead to misunderstanding.

In addition to matrix management styles and globalisation, there are a number of other sources of conflict, including:

• Different cultures and assumptions
• Differing values, opinions and beliefs
• Lack of sensitivity to race, gender, age, class, education and ability
• Poor people skills, especially communication
• Volatile, fast-changing workplaces
• Limits on resources, physical and psychological

So what are the ways to manage conflict? How can managers ensure that it does not escalate out of control? According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Instrument, there are five key styles for managing conflict:

• Forcing — using your formal authority or power to satisfy your concerns without regard to the other party’s concerns
• Accommodating — allowing the other party to satisfy their concerns while neglecting your own
• Avoiding — not paying attention to the conflict and not taking any action to resolve it
• Compromising — attempting to resolve the conflict by identifying a solution that is partially satisfactory to both parties but completely satisfactory to neither
• Collaborating — co-operating with the other party to understand their concerns in an effort to find a mutually satisfying solution

Another way to look at conflict is to decide the relative importance of the issue and to consider the extent to which priorities, principles, relationships or values are at stake. Power is also an important issue – how much power do you have relative to the other person?

As a rule, I would suggest collaboration is the way to deal with important issues, although forcing can sometimes be appropriate if time is an issue. For moderately important issues, compromising can lead to quick solutions but it doesn’t satisfy either side, nor does it foster innovation, so collaboration is probably better. Accommodating is the best approach for unimportant issues as it leads to quick resolution without straining the relationship.

And lest we forget, conflict does have a positive side: it can promote collaboration, improve performance, foster creativity and innovation and build deeper relationships. As Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great, “all the good-to-great companies had a penchant for intense dialogue. Phrases like ‘loud debate’, ‘heated discussions’ and ‘healthy conflict’ peppered the articles and transcripts from all companies.” The more skilled managers become in handling differences and change without creating or getting involved in conflict, the more successful their teams and companies will become.

 

Article by, Gill Corkindale

As appeared on https://hbr.org/2007/11/how-to-manage-conflict

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