Workplace Relationships

Diffusing Tension in the Workplace

Resolve conflict and bring peace to the work world

The workplace is complicated. It doesn’t matter if you work on an assembly line, type away at a cubicle, make cold calls in a call center, or take customer orders at a dinner table; you always deal with other people.

We’re all human and we have bad days. And sometimes you might do something inadvertently to make someone’s day worse. It could be a miscommunication via email, perhaps you chew loudly, or maybe there’s a scheduling conflict you just can’t agree on. These little things add up and suddenly there’s tension between the two of you.

Getting rid of that tension is one of the most important workplace soft skills. An employee who can effectively resolve conflict is priceless. So, how is this accomplished?

There are five main styles for managing conflict, according to Thomas, Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann originators of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. The key is to figure out the right mix of styles for any given situation, and recognize your coworker’s preferred conflict management style.

Here are those given conflict management styles, as outlined by SourcesOfInsight.com.

  1. Accommodating

Think of this as killing your enemy with kindness.

Basically, if accommodating is your style of choice, your tendency is to give into the other person’s desires without making sure you get what you want. Maybe you think your boss’ idea is less than great, but don’t tell them because that would make waves.

Although it might sound cowardly on paper, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the accommodating style. All styles are valid. For example, it’s usually better to defer to those with more experience when you’re new to the job.

  1. Avoiding 

With this style, you avoid conflict at all costs. You never win arguments and prefer to stay out of the combat zone entirely. You don’t want to say no so you end up saying nothing. Think of this as the “let well enough alone” mentality.

Avoidance is a great for when emotions are running high and you need time to think, when you know you can’t win, or just don’t feel like the situation is worth the effort. Why engage when there will be minimal gains?

  1. Collaborating

Think of this as the “win-win” scenario. You want to work with your coworker in order to achieve common ground and for everyone to get what they want.

This is a great conflict resolution style when everyone is already on the same page. You trust each other, value teamwork,  say what you mean, and don’t have to worry about hurt feelings. It’s not a great choice when emotions are running high or people’s viewpoints are diametrically opposed.

  1. Competing

This is the “might makes right” mentality. You want to get what you want no matter what, and the opposing side’s wishes aren’t important.

Again, this sounds like the angry boss who intimidates his direct reports into getting something done. In that case, it’s not the best decision. But if you’re an accountant on a deadline and someone on another team is trying to tell you how to do your job, competing is a perfect response. You know your job better than someone in a different department, and don’t have time to worry about hurt feelings.

  1. Compromising

Think of this as standard negotiating procedure. The “give and take” approach. You and your coworker both work toward a solution by giving things up until common ground is reached.

The main problem with this one is that it takes time and isn’t affective when someone is unwilling to give anything up. That means it’s best used when you need a temporary solution or when both sides have important goals. However, beware: compromising can frequently be the result when collaborating is the better choice because it’s easier to get done. But if everyone can get what they want with a bit of hard work, why not go that route?

If you’re partial to any of these conflict resolution tactics, ask yourself if you’re trying the same solution in every situation and not getting the results you need. If you are, you might want to explore other methods to get rid of the problem.

Have you ever had to solve a workplace dispute? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below.

Does Your CEO Connect with Frontline Workers?

Most companies dedicate substantial time and energy to researching, planning, and implementing communication strategies that build stronger relationships with their customers, but the most successful also dedicate an equally significant amount of energy to communicating with their employees.

Legendary former General Electric CEO Jack Welch once said, “There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”

Why Employee Communication Matters

Employee communication is vitally important to building a successful company. In addition to building an informed workforce that clearly understands the why and how of the work they do each day, effective and genuine communication between a company’s senior leadership and its frontline workers can make or break employee engagement. For instance, if your CEO sees you in the hall every day and never remembers your name, you’re probably not going to feel valued as an employee. But if he or she both knows your name and asks for your opinion on big company changes? You’ll know you’re valued, and have a tangible company goal to work toward.

According to a Gallup study, only 22% of employees “strongly agree that their company’s leaders have a clear direction for their organization. And only 13% strongly agree that their organization’s leadership communicates effectively.” Similarly, a study by IBM and Globoforce found that “44% of employees do not feel their senior leaders provide clear direction about where the organization is headed.”

In many cases, a company’s senior leadership may very well have a detailed plan for the organization’s future, however, if it’s not being effectively communicated down the line to workers like you, it’s more difficult for employees to rally around a common goal. Opening the lines of communication with frontline workers makes it easier for everyone to work together toward a common goal.

Where Companies Fall Short in Their Communication Strategies

A poll from the Harvard Business Review highlighted some of the top communication issues that prevent effective leadership, including “not recognizing employee achievements” (63%), “not giving clear directions” (57%), “not having time to meet with employees” (52%), “not knowing employees’ names” (36%), and “not asking about employees’ lives outside of work” (23%).

The Solution

Whether it’s implementing a formal internal communication tool or organizing a weekly “coffee with the CEO” roundtable in the breakroom, it’s in a company’s best interest to make a deliberate and genuine effort to bridge the gap between the “C-suite” and frontline workers.

In fact, according to a study from Towers Watson on how businesses capitalize on effective communication, “Companies that are highly effective communicators had 47% higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years compared with firms that are the least effective communicators.”

Bottom line, employees care more when leadership takes the time to get to know them. They want to know where the company is headed. The less mystery, the better.

Does your CEO care about frontline workers? Let us know in the comments below!

Poll Results: What’s the Worst Food Your Co-Workers Bring for Lunch?

Spoiler alert: microwaved fish isn’t a favorite.

Last month, we held a poll asking all of you, “What’s the worst food your co-workers bring for lunch?” It was one of the most popular polls we’ve ever held.

Why? Bad smells are bad. Bad for our minds and bad for our noses. A fiendishly fishy aroma or the undesired scent of an undercooked egg can ruin a workday. It’s distracting! But we can’t always blame the person that brought the smell in—frequently, they don’t even know how their food affects the rest of the office. But when you share this blog, they can! Here are the results:

“Fish of Any Kind” took the top spot, earning over 50% of the vote. So stay away from salmon, tuna, flounder, catfish, and anything else with fins. “Other” came in second with 9% of the vote. The biggest alternate answer? Broccoli, especially if it’s steamed.

“Eggs” was next with 8%, and “Raw Onions” followed at 6%.  “Reheated Chinese,” “Kimchi,” “Popcorn,” and “Fast Food” squared off at around 5%. Everything else ranked 2% or lower.

So play it safe and don’t bring any of those high-ranking items to your workplace!

Any other lunch smells that bother you? Let us know about them in the comments below!

 

How to Survive a Millennial Manager

He watched The Office you watched Cheers—how do you communicate?

Tips_For_Working_With_Younger_Boss_Dec2013

It’s happening across the nation. As baby boomers start to retire (the ones who can, anyway), the millennials are closing in. They like to job hop, and it’s hard for companies to get them to stay. This generation spans fifteen years, and many have built a career and are already getting promoted. Now one is your boss. He can’t stop talking about virtual reality and you miss the simplicity of an age before social media.  It doesn’t seem like you’re ever on the same page.

But does it really matter if you get along with your younger boss as long as the work gets done? As noted by The Washington Post, the answer is a resounding yes. A study was recently published in the Journal of Organizational Psychology that surveyed 8,000 employees from 61 German companies. The results showed that a higher percentage of younger people managing older employees resulted in a 12% increase in negative emotions. And those negative emotions, in turn, led to less than stellar manager reports in regard to financial and organizational performance.

How are you supposed to take orders from someone who reminds you of your child?

1.       Steer Clear of Judgment

No two career paths are identical. This holds true regardless of age. All workers have different experiences and skills that lead them to where they are in life. Even if your boss is younger, try to trust that she gained the position for a good reason. Regardless of whether or not that reason was because of “who she knew” or not, it’s out of your hands. So try to assume the best.

After all, assuming the worst isn’t going to help anyone, even if it turns out to be true. Being younger doesn’t mean your boss is going to be a bad manager. Despite her age and fewer years on the job, she may have a variety of unique skills that make her a great boss.

Of course, it’s also quite possible that you’ll eventually come to find out that she’s wholly unprepared for the position. Even then, avoid complaining.  It’s still in your best interest to get along—you may even want to help guide her in the right direction.

2.       Become an Advisor

Regardless of whether your new millennial pal is well-suited for his new position, he’s probably not going to know as much about the industry as you do. You’ve been working longer, so you know who the players are and how they operate. You can draw on these past experiences and apply them to current events, imparting knowledge to your manager.

All of these things are incredibly valuable to a young manager. Although his tools may be sharp, he might not know how to use them yet. You can help him avoid first time mistakes by giving him advice and sharing the wisdom of your past experiences. Just be sure to come across as a helpful advisor rather than patronizing. Think of your manager as a co-worker and peer rather than an inexperienced child.

3.       Be Open to Communication

The key to any relationship is communication. So make sure to talk! If you play it right, you can create a real connection with your younger boss. Embrace team-building activities and really get to know her. Maybe take her out to lunch once in a while. If she really is out of her element with this position, she’ll want a co-worker she can trust and rely on. And, once you become familiar with her on a personal level, it can really change the dynamic—you start to see her as an actual person rather than “The Millennial.”

Do you have a younger boss? How do you handle it? Let us know about it in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

How Not to Decorate Your Desk

Cabin of officeIf you have an office job, you probably spend a lot of time sitting at your desk. And with so much time spent in one place, it’s natural to want your space to reflect your style and make you feel comfortable. After all, your cubicle, office, or workspace is basically your home-away-from-home.

But when it comes to decorating a space you don’t technically own, there are some do’s and don’ts. In fact, if you’re decorating is too heavy on the “don’ts,” it may be costing you your reputation.

According to Barbara Pachter, author of New Rules at Work, “It’s hard to function in a messy office, and people assume your office chaos will spill over to their project and their files will be lost in your mess.”

To avoid this workspace blunder, take a look at these design tips and tricks.

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Three Ways to Show You Appreciate Your Co-Workers

Appreciation at WorkPositive relationships in the workplace have never been more important than in today’s fast-paced and competitive marketplace. At the end of the day, your success often depends on your co-worker’s willingness to partner with you. So it’s essential that your colleagues feel you are thankful for all they do.

Three Ways To Say Thanks
It helps to pay attention to the type of thanks that best resonates with your teammates. Then, consider which of these would appeal most to them as individuals.

1. Verbal Attention
Most people love compliments, especially when they are genuine. Just saying “I really appreciate all you did for this project” can make someone’s day. It’s even better if you do so within earshot of the boss, such as a compliment passed along in a staff meeting.

2. Notes of Appreciation
Some people are embarrassed by any kind of public display of attention. It’s just the way they are built. For those co-workers, consider sending an email and copying the boss, if your team has access.

If a co-worker has really gone an extra mile so that your whole team can succeed, consider sending a greeting card or eCard to make them feel appreciated.

3. Small Acts of Kindness
Every workplace has days when one person on a team is deluged with tasks, works late, and feels under pressure. That’s when a random act of kindness is a perfect way to show how you value their efforts.

It can be as simple as offering them a hot cup of coffee, a cold bottle of water, or their favorite candy bar from the vending machine.

Thankfulness is Contagious
Don’t be surprised if your thankfulness comes back to you in unexpected ways. Thankfulness tends to be contagious, and your co-workers will likely be inspired to pass thanks along.

Movin’ On Up is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.

The Results Are In: Do You Have a Mentor?

what_to_expect_mentorship_webMentors are people who can help you in your career or personal growth. They can be of any age, profession, or education level. The ultimate goal of mentorships is to help you develop and succeed. Since they are so important, we wanted to know how many Movin’ On Up readers currently have a mentor.

Our poll revealed that the majority of respondents (52%) said they’ve never had a mentor. That means more than half of readers have missed out on the benefits of a mentoring relationship. Only 21% of respondents reported currently having a mentor, and 14% responded that they don’t have a mentor right now but have at one time.

Another 10% of respondents said they are a mentor, and 3% selected the “Other” option and added their own responses, including:

  • “I would love to have a mentor.”
  • “I’ve been looking for one for 30 years.”

For tips on mentorship and finding the right mentor for you, check out this article.

Do you have a mentor? Do you have tips for finding one? Let us know in the comments section below!

Movin’ On Up is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.