The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
There’s a saying in the north of England that goes something like, ‘There’s nought so queer as folk!’
With apologies to our northern readers, the saying is absolutely correct. If you’ve ever had to have dealings with human beings, the best way you can describe different people is…well…different!
As managers we meet a complex mixture of characteristics in others, and the best managers we come across are those that can adapt to the strange ways of other folk.
You may recognise aspects of the personalities or behaviour in your colleagues in the following ‘types’.
* Lazy Shirkers – The best way to approach slackers and skivers who don’t do their share of work is to use involvement and feedback. Explain that you are having challenges and that you need help or suggestions. Tell them how you see it, and then ask for the person’s help in actually solving it. They may then offer to take their share of responsibility.
* The Buck-Passers – These may do the barest minimum and try to shift responsibilities across to others, sometimes to give themselves an easy life, and sometimes to cover up some kind of deficiency in their abilities. You should get facts and information from job descriptions, team briefings and documents that define the responsibilities of the individual. Make sure you get their agreement to specific outlines of their obligations. Help them feel positive about taking on their responsibilities by encouraging their contributions and involvements.
* Pessimists and Negatives – If someone is consistently negative or pessimistic about things at work, don’t try to make them look at the positive side. These Kind of people will be able to justify every thought pattern they hold and they won’t want to be seen as wrong by having to ‘accentuate the positive’. Instead, calmly acknowledge there may be some truth in what the person is saying, and get their acknowledgement that things need to change, and what would they suggest would be an alternative. Encourage them to be constructive, not just positive. Discuss responsibilities for the changes that would have to be made. Concentrate on what could be done, instead of reasons why they can’t. Ask them to come up with solutions; this way, they have to be looking forward instead of viewing things through dark-coloured glasses.
* Competitive Types – There are some who feel they have to constantly prove themselves, take credit for things and generally have to compete in one-upmanship. That’s just the way they are, I’m afraid. It could be they lack the self-confidence to face reality for what it really is, and have to cover up their own deficiencies by raising their self-esteem through hot air. Resist the temptation to indulge in competing with them; instead, emphasise the need for teamwork and stress common goals that you all should be working towards. That way, they may start thinking about how to collaborate instead of compete.
Whoever you have to deal with at work, there will be times when you need to be flexible and adaptable in your approach. If you face some of the people listed above, try out some of the ideas and see if you can influence their behaviour. Who knows, you may have an impact!
Looking for more help when dealing with difficult people? Try this article:
Head of Training
Is your boss sometimes wrong? Do you know it and they don’t? Does confronting your boss make you quiver with fear and make you want to ‘just get on with your job and not rock the boat’? I know what you mean. You’re worried that you might be seen as negative, or the boss might trigger a defensive reaction and you’ll suffer in the short and long-term. However, my discussions with top managers and senior directors tell me that they would welcome some new perspectives, and most tell me they don’t get nearly enough. Remember, the boss isn’t some fabulous guru, gaining all their knowledge through osmosis and making sensational, well-informed decisions every moment of the day. They need information, feedback and advice just like anyone else. Knowing the methods of how to give that feedback will give you the confidence to approach them and drive change forward. Here are my tips on how to do it: Relate your feedback or new ideas back into your manager’s and company’s goals and objectives: For example “I think the customer care feedback system could be improved, as we are losing a lot of valuable information with the current one” Bring up actionable suggestions rather than just objections: For example “What if I talk to other companies who use different systems and identify if any of them provide better results than what we get at the moment?” Explain how your ideas help protect against possible risks or challenges: For example “A new system will help us gain better feedback and prevent us from losing potential customers. If we try a new, more robust way of getting information, we could improve our customer loyalty” Offer more choices to your manager: For example “Either I could do the analysis myself, or we could get IT to support the new mechanism and find out if new systems could give us more valuable information” Reflect their concerns in your conversation: For example “I know you’ll be concerned about the extra costs, so I’ve done some research on developing new systems and in the long-run it would be more cost-effective to maintain loyalty rather than marketing for new customers all the time” Remember to always share the same goals as your manager…that way, you won’t get bogged down with methodologies or minutia, and disagreements will be less likely. Identify your boss’s main motivations and present them in such a way as to encourage positive discussion and make your boss look good. That way, you’ll get a hearing ear and potential agreement to your ideas. Thanks again Sean Sean McPheat Managing Director
What do we actually mean by conflict? It can range from a difference of opinion right up to a world-war (and everything in between, of course).
Conflict is the end result of a disagreement between two parties. One party things/feels one thing or takes one position, the other sees it from a different perspective.
So what can you do when faced with this situation that might end up with conflict occurring and how can you approach it so it doesn’t get out of hand?
When in confrontation with a person you may be finding difficult to get along with, ask yourself four questions:
#1 How is my personal belief system creating a picture of the situation?
#2 How is his or her personal belief system creating a picture of the situation?
#3 What questions can I ask this person that will clarify my understanding of their version of the truth (their belief system)?
#4 What information can I give that will help them clarify their understanding of my version of the truth (my belief system)?
Now, asking these questions will help you see things from a different perspective, identifying first of all what you are personally gaining from holding your particular point of view.
Then, by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, you identify their perspective, and the quality questions you ask will help you achieve this goal.
By explaining your view to the other person so they can see your view, both of you are now in a position to look for solutions, rather than digging in to you own positions, unwilling to compromise or collaborate with the other.
Following these questions will clarify the disagreement before they become matters of conflict and help you both focus on finding answers because of understanding each others’ views.
Sooner or later, unless you’re a brilliant manager or extremely lucky, you will get a situation where two members of your team have a disagreement. This may result in conflict and you have to do something about it.
Most conflicts occur because of a role conflict. It’s seldom these days that it’s a personality conflict where two people can’t stand to be in the same room with each other. So how do you deal with a situation that requires your input? Learn More
Management is a key position within any business, and can be a very rewarding role to play. It’s not always plain sailing, though, and you sometimes have to deal with people who cause difficult situations for you.
For example, you may be in a situation where you find it difficult to deal with a team member. This can be caused by many reasons, including differences in positions and interests, motivations, personality styles, perceptions, cultural backgrounds, experience and many others.
Here are some questions you may like to consider to isolate the source of these differences and help you consider a way to deal with them:
How is your perception of the situation different from the other person?
How might their motivations differ from yours?
What do you find difficult about the other person’s style?
Does the other person’s communication style differ from yours?
What is the other person’s interest in this matter?
Are they taking a position that you find hard to deal with?
What experience or background does the person have that might be influencing they way they consider the situation?
Are other people involved in the situation, whose views you may have to consider?
Having answered those questions, what conclusions can you come to about the source of the difficulty?
The answers to these questions will give you a clear view as to why the difficulties are occurring in the first place, and give you a firm foundation on which to build a solution-focused conversation.
Personal differences in the workplace often cause conflict to occur because people have their own viewpoints, attitudes and characteristics that determine how things should be. The more concrete these views, the more likely people are to be entrenched in them, simply because they feel that a different view may affect their self-worth or self-concept.
People decide to either accept differences in some ways or stand their ground. And it’s this stubbornness that can sometimes cause the conflict we often see in the workplace.
How can you manage the situation, and help the parties identify a way of dealing with it?
You might try the concept of ‘perspective change’ that allows both to see things from a different angle and hence achieve a better understanding of what a solution looks like.
For example, if someone has a fixed view and you want to see the bigger picture, questions like ‘what’s your intention behind this?’ or ‘what are you trying to achieve with this?’ will help the individual shift upwards in their perception, and give you a bigger picture of the rationale they are using to back up their viewpoint.
If both people answer the question, you may get closer to achieving a similar goal. You can ask the question again to achieve a bigger picture, and you may get to the point where both are looking for the same result or goal.
Now, if you hear they are being too generic in their descriptions of what is wrong, you may ask them to be more detailed by asking ‘how specifically does this affect you?’ or ‘how does this impact you?’
This gives you the opportunity to see precisely how they view the situation, and how it could be dealt with.
By achieving a different perspective from each of the people involved, you get them to see it from a position they probably hadn’t appreciated before, and maybe will be driven to a better and more agreeable response.
One of the most popular sections of our management open courses is the discussion on managing conflict in the workplace. Everyone, it seems, has to cope with situations where factions, differences of opinion, or worse, occur between two or more people.
Our trainers often ask what proactive measures managers put into place to avoid conflict happening in the first place, and very often they’re met with glazed expressions and silence.
Many managers feel this is something that can only be dealt with after it occurs. After all, why would you put something into place to deal with events that aren’t happening?
But putting measures into place that can avoid conflict in the first place is not only sound practice, but relationship-building as well.
Let’s look at some ideas that will help you avoid conflict in the workplace:
• Keep your team involved and informed. Keeping information back can cause rumour and worry, the first stages of possible conflict. Misinterpretation of situations can result in accusations, blame and personal attacks. Keep the communication lines open to avoid this
• Resist becoming involved in conflict-generating games that people play. Think before judging others in public. Don’t make personal attacks on people behind their backs. Your example will be looked upon by others as something to follow, and it may cause conflict to be raised when there shouldn’t have been any
• Be cautious with any criticism you offer. Check before you over-react to situations and fact-find before making any decisions. Did you mishear or misunderstand? Check it out first
• Support staff rather than criticise them. The way you deal with potentially conflict-building situations could determine whether they cool down or heat up
• Tolerate others’ opinions and values. Although difficult, it may be better to view others as simply being human, and admit their ideas are different to yours. Always trying to prove yourself right may not be in the long-term interests of all concerned
• If there is a difference in opinion or misunderstanding, get each party to state their positions and get everyone to understand those positions before making themselves heard. This is part of Stephen Covey’s fifth effective habit out of the seven he wrote about (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Simon & Shuster Ltd). The situation becomes less emotional, as both people have to think and listen, using different parts of their brain. The more rational people become, the less likely they are accelerate towards conflict
These proactive ideas may help you identify situations where you can avoid conflict rather than have to deal with it.
This is one area that managers are concerned about, mainly because conflict within team members often appears to be very personal and can affect morale very deeply. What causes it and how can you deal with it?
Firstly, why does it happen?
The main reasons for conflict appear to be:
• Disagreements over responsibilities (who should do what)
• Disagreements over policy (how things should be done)
• Conflicts of personality and style
These are some of the ways we typically deal with conflict.
Do you see yourself in any of them?
• Avoid the conflict.
• Deny it exists; wait until it goes away.
• Change the subject.
• React emotionally; become aggressive, abusive, in denial or frightening.
• Find someone to blame.
• Make excuses.
• Delegate the situation to someone else.
Can you imagine the results if this is allowed to continue?
What would happen to trust, morale, teamwork and efficiency?
This is why it’s important to deal with conflict within the team before it blows out of proportion.
Factors That Affect How People Manage Conflict
Some of the factors that affect how we behave in the face of conflict are:
• Status: People in higher-status positions usually feel freer to engage in conflict and are less likely to avoid confrontation.
• Gender differences: Males are generally encouraged to be more confrontational than females.
• Learned behaviours: In some teams, conflict and confrontation are a communication style. In others, conflict always remains hidden.
Conflict Resolution Skills
Conflict resolution is a set of skills that can be learned. Firstly we’ll look at how you can understand the conflict through effective listening skills, then we’ll look at ways to deal with it.
Improve your Listening Skills
By listening actively, you show a level of understanding of the situation without casting judgement. You are also able to identify the emotions that have brought about the situation in the first place.
People in conflict often get emotional, so your role is to see through the emotions by really listening to the real issues, rather than the person’s opinions or judgements.
Your responses should be made up of two parts:
(1) naming the feeling that the other person is conveying, and
(2) stating the reason for the feeling.
Here are some examples of active-listening statements:
“It sounds like you’re upset by Jenny’s remarks.”
“So, you’re angry about the mistakes Pat made. Is that correct?”
“I get the feeling you have different expectations on this project to Mike”
Notice that you just state the facts, as you see it, rather than judging the feeling.
Remember, actively listening is not the same as agreement. It is a way of demonstrating that you intend to hear and understand another’s point of view.
• It feels good when another person makes an effort to understand what you are thinking and feeling.
• Restating what you’ve heard, and checking for understanding, promotes better communication and produces fewer misunderstandings.
• Responding with active listening has a calming effect in an emotional situation.
Actions to deal with conflict
I’m sure you’ve seen conflicts escalate and cause even more problems, so what can you do to heighten your chances of dealing with conflict?
• Use “I” and “me” statements; “you” statements sound accusatory and blaming
• Avoid name-calling and put-downs (“Any logical person could see that…”).
• Soften your tone.
• Take a time-out (“Let’s take a break and cool down”).
• Acknowledge the other person’s point of view (agreement is not necessary).
• Avoid defensive or hostile body language (rolling eyes, crossing arms in front of body, tapping foot).
• Be specific and factual; avoid generalities.
Can you avoid conflict?
Is there a way you could avoid conflict in the first place, so you don’t have to go through all this pain? Some ideas may include:
• Handle situations as they are occurring, rather than allowing them time to fester and gain momentum.
• Become aware of what sets off conflict in your area. What touchpoints do you notice that causes people to have minor disagreements that build into exasperation, then full blown conflict?
• Coach everyone in the team on how to deal with conflict if it’s an issue. Prevention is always better than cure
By building conflict-handling skills within yourself and your team, you create better chances of nipping this potential motivation-killer in the bud.