The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
In his book Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says that the fifth habit is, ‘Seek first to understand and then to be understood’. Most conflict occurs when people are stuck in their own position and are not prepared to see or appreciate the other person’s point of view. Learn More
Giving instructions and bossing people around is easy when people do as you say. The problems come when we realise that we are dealing with people and not robots.
Managers are paid to manage and motivate real human beings and this is bound to involve people problems from time to time. Learn More
Dealing with conflict situations is not an easy option for most people at work. They tend to lean toward the extremes, rather than the solution, that is, they either become aggressive, passive-aggressive or submissive.
None of these behavioural traits are the most effective way of dealing with a conflict or disagreement at work.
One area that seems to raise its head in these situations is the need to hold on to some sort of power. To share power does not mean to give up power. You can liken it to sharing the light of a candle. When you light another person’s candle, your light doesn’t go out. You have more light for everyone. This enlightened approach to resolving conflict involves respect.
Respect is about recognising others as being different from you, not better or worse. The other person may well have a different set of values, beliefs and principles to you, and if you recognise that the other has different needs, you will appreciate the differences, rather than the things that are inherently ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’.
Thinking ‘win-win’ in this scenario will help achieve a resolution rather than an escalation.
Here are some ways to head towards this mutually-agreeable solution…
If you appear to be against the other person and simply trying to win yourself, the other will become naturally defensive. Being open, receptive and willing to co-operate will lead to collaboration.
Try to create an atmosphere where everyone can be seen to be ‘gaining’ from the solution. It may be that you won’t get what you want until others see that they get what they want.
Looking for more help with managing conflict at work? Try this article:
Head of Training
So, you’ve made all the plans on how to deal with that difficult situation. You know exactly what you are going to say to that person. You are confident that you’ve considered all the options and you’ve covered all the bases when it comes to their reaction.
And then they go and do something you hadn’t planned for.
Challenging reactions sometimes do occur, and if you get caught up in those reactions, you may not end up with the desired result you had planned for. One such reaction you may encounter is when the person becomes defensive and thinks you are actually attacking them.
Trying to get your point across when they are being defensive is difficult. How do they show defensiveness? Interrupting you, counter-attacks, blame, loud voice and defensive body language are all signs of this method of dealing with difficult situations.
What can you do when faced with this style of reaction?
1) Try to avoid debating the issue. This fuels any disagreement that may exist, because the other person will always try to justify their position from their standpoint. You sound defensive as well. If you try to out-debate or out-argue them, tempers may flare and you get nowhere near a solution.
2) Don’t avoid the issue. If you give up the moment the other person goes defensive, it perpetuates their behavioural style and you end up in a worse position than before you started. You will never get agreement and the other person will accentuate this behaviour every time in the future, because they see it working.
3) Show you understand their position. Through active listening, you gain a clear understanding of their point of view, a position the other person would have wanted in the first place. Reflectively paraphrase your understanding of the message they have given you. As Steven Covey says in his ‘7 Habits’ book, you don’t have to agree with them, you just have to understand them.
4) Respond to clarify, not to counter-attack. Ensure at this point you clarify the meaning of what the other has said. You’re not countering here, you are simply trying to make sure you are totally clear on the meaning of what they have said.
5) Clarify your position. After you have listened and ensured you are clear on their position, you can describe your position, without making it appear blaming or judgemental. Stick to facts, not opinions. They can dispute opinions but facts can be backed up.
6) Be positive in your intentions. Recognise their defensiveness is often a sign of either a lack of personal responsibility or some form of insecurity on their behalf. By being positive in what your expectations are, you allow the other to see how being positive themselves may help them achieve a desirable outcome.
7) Work on a compatible solution together. You are trying to work out a resolution to the conflict, so move ahead as quickly as possible to attempting to work out a solution. Focus on what you can do, rather on what you can’t, on what’s right, rather than what’s wrong. Take the other person forward with you to achieve that outcome you are both working towards.
Think through why the person is being defensive in the first place. That should enable you to determine the appropriate steps that will lessen the need for them to defend their position all the time.
Looking for more advice on dealing with difficult reactions from others? Try this article:
Head of Training
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
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.
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.
Anger is a natural human reaction to a difficult situation. Humans use anger to convey a change in attitude and to signal others to modify their behavior or suffer the consequences, whether that consequence be in the form violence, loss of job, or some other punishment. Learn More