Tag Archives: management

Constructive Confrontation in the Workplace: Three Things to Keep in Mind

Tomas-GarzaBy Tomás Garza

To successfully navigate workplace conflict, managers must be able to confront team members in a positive, productive manner. Whatever the situation, whether two people are actively quarreling, or whether one person’s behavior is impacting the entire work culture, a manager must be able to step in, take charge and do so in a way that does not contribute to the drama.

How, then, do you constructively confront team members? How do you both get your point across and preserve team chemistry?

For any manager, these conversations can be crucial. Ongoing conflict and drama can, of course, have a ripple effect on everyone, and the last thing any organization needs is a dip in morale. Assuming this is not a situation that calls for firing, there is a great deal a manager can do to help resolve the problem, be firm and preserve group harmony.

In having these conversations, here are three things to keep in mind:

1) Use non-accusatory language: For many of us, it is tempting to place blame and pin an entire problem directly on someone else. After all, aren’t they the ones causing the disturbance in the first place? A constructive solution, despite our first impressions, involves shelving the urge to blame and taking a step back.

How you phrase things here makes all the difference. You can make the conversation productive by focusing the language on you. For example, you can say, “I notice you missed the last two staff meetings,” or “The other day I overheard your comments about the director.” The alternative would look like this: “You missed the last two staff meetings,” or “You made those comments about the director.” One statement talks about your observations, what you saw, noticed, or heard. The other puts everything squarely on them.

This may seem subtle, just a matter of semantics, but in constructive confrontation your word choice matters. When you talk about your observations, people naturally feel less defensive. When people do not have their guard up, you will be able to get more accomplished.

2) Be clear: As a manager attempting to put a stop to harmful behavior, you must be clear in this conversation. Your group cannot afford any mixed messages. Therefore, be as clear as you can about the following:

  • What you heard or saw – Make sure there are no ambiguities here. If you didn’t experience any of the events first-hand, be sure you have gathered sufficient information. The person you are talking to needs to know exactly what it is they are doing that damages your group chemistry.
  • How this impacts the group – Be very clear on this. Often, people do not intend any sabotage, but their behavior may, nonetheless, have a detrimental impact. It is perfectly fine to be direct about this impact; often the person really needs to hear it.
  • Your expectations – If you don’t clearly state your expectations for future behavior, this conversation will be a waste of your time. Unclear expectations create needless confusion and can lead to future problems. As a manager, you must say what you expect. Luckily, this can be done in a non-accusatory manner that strengthens the group rather than pulls it apart.

3) Listen: A conversation—even one you must have with an employee about their behavior—is just that, a conversation. This means it involves two people. Though you will need to come into the dialogue with an agenda and get your point across, the process will be infinitely more productive if you give the other person a chance to speak and, more importantly, to be heard. This means you must take the opportunity to listen.

When the other person speaks and feels you have heard them, their tension level goes down. Defensive posturing that might otherwise stand in your way will disappear. The person may even feel grateful for your hearing them out, and appreciated. This can be crucial to maintaining group harmony. Provided you take the opportunity to clearly state your expectations, there is absolutely nothing to lose in taking a moment and listening.

Also, if you listen attentively enough, the other person may offer suggestions or solutions you hadn’t considered. You will never know unless they get an opportunity to speak, too.

Consider these three suggestions the next time you have to confront somebody in the workplace. In most situations, you can preserve group harmony, show respect and appreciation for the other person, and be sure you have clearly stated your expectations. It is indeed possible to become a pro at constructive confrontation. Do it, and your organization will benefit.

Tomás Garza is a conflict resolution and personal development expert with over 12 years of experience helping people erase pain, turmoil, and doubt from their lives. Tomás has served on the faculty of Portland State University, and is a former President of the Oregon Mediation Association. He has worked with thousands of people as a presenter, facilitator, and mediator, and believes that people CAN move beyond habitual patterns and fear and connect with their deepest selves and purpose. For more information on Tomás’ programs, please visit www.garzainitiative.com, email him at tomas@garzainitiative.com, or call 541-230-4477.

Our Actions Are Nothing to Sneeze About

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

A few years ago, I had a strange realization. It began when I sneezed. My sneeze sounded just like my dad’s. Not that there’s anything wrong or strange about how he sneezes, just that it’s distinctive. At first, I chalked this up to heredity. But why did it take four decades for me to become aware of this similarity? A look at how other family members sneezed, didn’t support a genetic connection. Indeed, everyone else has a unique sneeze.

Since then, I’ve become aware of other mannerisms my dad and I share. My conclusion is this is not a byproduct of genes but environment. More succinctly, as I spend more time with my father, I become more like him. If this went no further than physical idiosyncrasies, this would be a trivial observation. But there are more valuable characteristics I learned from Dad over the years. A good, strong work ethic is a prime example. Dad never told me to work hard, he merely did so, and I emulated his example. Other traits include integrity, honesty, caution, sound decision-making, carefulness with what I say, and an analytical prowess.

If I unknowingly learned these things by being around my dad, what sort of things do those who spend time with me pick up? While I hope they absorb good and positive traits, I fear they could also acquire some less admirable tendencies as well. Each time a child, friend, employee, or client treats me in a less than ideal way, I ask myself, “Did they pick this up from me? Are they mirroring what they see me do?”

Children: When parents see things in their children they don’t like, they often do some soul searching and ask, “Where did they learn this?” and “What did I do wrong?” Although, children have many spheres of influence, parents are a key source. The saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” is usually true. Words can influence and direct, but actions are the prime training tools. Actions that match words, send a strong and consistent message.

Customers: I’ve seen this same principle carry over to the work place as well, to both employees and clients. First, consider clients. Every business has a few difficult clients – the kind everyone wishes would just go away. But if a company has all difficult clients, some tough introspection is warranted. Quite simply, one should wonder, “Are my bad clients merely treating me the way I treat them?” I once saw this dramatically demonstrated through an acquisition, where the prior owners were less than honorable in their client interactions. Dealing with their client base was quite a challenge. It took several years to get those clients to stop yelling at managers, cursing staff, and challenging every bill. But who is to blame them? They were simply responding as they had been taught, matching how the former owner treated them.

Staff: From the employee aspect, I’ve seen this occur on several levels. First, witnessing how a shift supervisor destroyed the effectiveness of the employees on her shift. Her staff became lazy, took long breaks, and lost all loyalty towards the company. The worst offenders were fired and replacements hired and trained; yet, they quickly fell into the same mode. Eventually the supervisor was investigated, revealing the reality that her position of authority was too much for her to handle. She had become lazy, took long breaks, and had no respect for the company. Her charges were merely emulating the negative characteristics of their supervisor. A new supervisor was brought in, and things slowly turned around.

More dramatically, I have seen this happen in an entire office. It seemed that a good employee couldn’t be found in the entire city. Each new hire turned out to be a liar, a manipulator, and a denigrator of company policy and procedure. Alas, after endlessly turning over staff, the manager was scrutinized. Ultimately, her true colors were revealed: she was a compulsive liar, shamelessly manipulated her staff, and had open contempt for company expectations. This manager was let go, and suddenly good employees could be found. Though it took years to negate her damaging example, the office slowly began to function as it should.

Lastly, is a situation where a company owner lamented his terrible employees. His staff falsified time cards, stole company supplies and assets, lodged complaints, and filed lawsuits on a seemingly continuous basis. The owner was perplexed at why this was happening, but to even a casual outsider the cause was clear. The owner underreported income on his tax return, cheated employees out of their rightful pay, and threatened to sue everyone who caused him consternation.

True, not all children, friends, clients, and employees are perfect, but when a consistent trend of unacceptable behavior is evident within the entire group, it might be time to look at one’s own actions as a possible cause. After all, our actions are nothing to sneeze about.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD is a commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services and does ghostwriting.

12 Reasons Why Employee Training Fails

By John TschohlJohn Tschohl

Most of the money and time companies spend on training is wasted. That’s because the majority of companies use outdated training ideas and boring training methods.

Training that is poorly presented goes in one ear and out the other. It’s no wonder employees don’t change their attitudes or behaviors after they attend a badly presented training session.

After working in the training field for more than 40 years on six continents, I’ve seen 12 reasons why group training fails:

  1. Large groups: You can’t have a good group discussion if 100 people are in the room. Try to limit training sessions to 15 people so everyone has a chance to participate. If the group size is larger, most employees will not participate and hence will not change their behaviors or learn new skills.
  2. A small number of people dominate the conversation: It’s natural in groups for three people to speak up while everyone else stays silent. Facilitators must call on everyone in the room to participate. If people don’t talk, they won’t buy into the training goals.
  3. Stupid games: People don’t like role-playing games. Games and exercises have to do with something that builds success as a team. People need to be actively involved in the exercise.
  4. Complicated training materials: If the material is not easily understood, it will not be implemented. Make sure the information is easily comprehended. Test the material on several small groups. Make adjustments and then roll out the final version to the entire organization.
  5. Facilitator dominated: Facilitators should be seen and seldom heard. They should steer the conversation, but they should not dominate the discussion. They should ask leading questions of the participants and make sure everyone talks at some time. The facilitator is a juggler. He/she needs to keep the conversation going. The more discussion there is, the more likely attitudes and behaviors will improve.
  6. Lectures: Remember how you fell asleep when boring professors spoke in college? Your employees are no different. Lectures are not an effective way to get people to change their attitudes and beliefs.
  7. Irrelevant Information: If the material is not relevant to their jobs, people will not accept the information. They want ideas they can use immediately.
  8. Bad physical environment: Learning can’t take place if people are not comfortable. Invest in a room that looks pleasant and professional. It sounds basic, but make sure the room is well heated or cooled and has comfortable seats. Offer refreshments. Add audio and video presentation equipment. Make sure there aren’t any outside distractions, such as noise.
  9. Not offering enough training sessions: If training isn’t offered regularly, skills won’t be learned and attitudes will not change. Consider offering training every four months. Companies need to reinforce and refresh training every few months with something new. A one-shot program will have one-shot results.
  10. Repeating the same training programs and materials: A child can watch the same program 50 times, but an adult can’t watch the same training materials twice. Companies need to bring in new trainers who have new information and different teaching styles. Companies should also invest in new training materials to spice things up.
  11. Not having supplemental training materials: People learn by using a variety of techniques. Good training techniques require that discussions be supplemented with videos and reading materials that can reinforce the message. The old saying, “A picture is worth 1,000 words” is even more relevant in today’s video age.
  12. Not taking today’s young people’s learning styles into mind: The vast majority of workers are young people. They learn differently than previous generations and they get bored easily. Look at the games they play on their phones. They want to be entertained. If the training isn’t entertaining, you lose the participation.

Training costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time. Labor time is your single biggest cost. If the listening switch for participants is off you waste all your money. If you do it right, then training is a wise investment. If you make mistakes, it will hurt the company and the employees.

John Tschohl, President, Service Quality Institute – described by Time and Entrepreneur magazines as a customer service guru and service strategist – presents strategic keynote speeches to companies worldwide. He is the author of “Empowerment, A Way of Life.” Contact him at John@servicequality.com or http://www.customer-service.com.

Employee Rivalry: Deal with It! 5 Tips for Managing Dueling Staffers

By Barbara JaurequiBarbara Jaurequi

Child Psychiatrist David Levy introduced the term “sibling rivalry” in 1941. Self-explanatory in its terminology, the concept of sibling rivalry is easy to grasp. The mechanism of employee rivalry works essentially the same way, with the employees in a competitive relationship, striving for greater approval from their employer or manager.

Many managers, in a desperate attempt to be perceived as “fair,” find themselves going crazy as they try to distribute praise evenly and acknowledge hard work equally. Moreover, when they are delivering criticism to one, they feel compelled to deliver it to the other, whether he or she deserves it or not, so they aren’t accused of playing favorites. Rivaling employees who are constantly trying to “best” each other don’t always deliver superior work because of their competition. In fact, the animosity they feel towards one another can stifle their creativity and cause them to deliberately undermine their “opponent’s” efforts. Furthermore, the tension between them can corrupt the attitudes of other employees and cause managers to lose objectivity regarding the rivalry.

Managers who recognize troublesome rivalries between two or more valuable staff members, should seek to resolve these rivalries before they upset otherwise harmonious workplaces. The following is a list of tips that are easy to enact. Consistent application of these suggestions is likely to eliminate or lessen the negative impact of employee rivalries.

1) Collect data. Managers should keep their eyes and ears open when milling amongst their staff. Observe the two rivaling staff members as they interact with each other. Notice attitudes, body language, and temperament. Pay close attention to the things that trigger negativity. Write your observations down. See if you can identify patterns of behavior. The important thing is for managers to recognize the symptoms of the problem such as arguing, gossiping and tattling on each other. Total resolution of employee rivalry may not be possible in certain circumstances; that’s when symptom management becomes the goal. Effective management of the symptoms of employee rivalry can significantly improve an otherwise hostile work environment for everyone concerned.

2) Be willing to separate rivaling employees to reduce tension. This particular tip is a good way for managers to solve their rivalry problems with minimal managerial exertion. Consider, for example, that some personalities are very strong and, while not offensive to the majority of coworkers, may grate on the nerves of other employees. It is often like this with rivaling employees: they just don’t like each other. Their dislike for one another causes them to be overly observant about what the other is doing or not doing. They are too aware of the other’s responsibilities, deficiencies, and positive qualities (which are usually deeply resented). Even the most brilliant conflict resolution specialist would not be able to overcome this sort of interpersonal problem, because the problem is personality based and personality traits are enduring aspects of the self. They don’t change. Therefore, managers’ willingness to move people around could help reduce the kind of tension that leads to declines in productivity and employee morale. It may also reduce the number of “tattle-tale” sessions managers have to endure.

3) Know your limits. Managers need to decide how much energy they should spend on the problem of employee rivalry. If it has become a major disruption in the office, managers should address the problem with a plan for resolution in mind. On the other hand, if “conflict resolution” meetings are nothing more than fodder for drama loving gossipers, a simple, private discussion with each of the rivaling employees would be a better way to go. Specifically, don’t make a big deal out of a small matter that might correct itself in time, but don’t ignore a spreading cancer either.

4) Don’t strive for perfect fairness. Managers should not expect themselves to be perfectly fair, as per the opinions of rivaling employees. Rather, managers should strive to treat their employees impartially. For example, if you decide that one employee should be given an extra week to complete a particular project for whatever reason you deem worthy of the extension, then do so. But be prepared to do the same for the other employee if and when that employee needs extra time. However, don’t automatically extend the other employee’s deadline whether it’s needed or not just to be “fair”. Make your decisions on a case by case basis. If one employee comes to you crying “Unfair!” simply tell the employee that he or she does not have, nor is he or she privy to, all the information that went into your decision. Stick to your guns. Be unemotional, calm, deliberate, and firm. Managers should not explain certain decisions or they will open themselves up to an inappropriate debate with a subordinate.

5) Conduct an honest self-appraisal of favortist behaviors. It’s important for managers to be aware of how their behaviors and attitudes may be perceived by those they supervise. It’s only natural for managers to have preferences when it comes to personalities and work habits. You may have a particular affinity for an employee who has, for example, a similar sense of humor as yours. Unintentionally, you may be favoring that person to a degree that is obvious and offensive to your favored employee’s rival. Consider if your preference for one employee over another is personality based or is that employee truly superior in terms of quality of work? If your favoritism is fueled by the former, it would be wise to check that! Better for you to make some behavioral changes than for you to lose a valuable employee who legitimately views your management style as inequitable.

One final thought about conflict resolution: Do some research about best practices before launching into a process with which you are totally unfamiliar. Better yet, get some hands on direction about how to proceed. You will gain indispensable knowledge about how to handle similar situations in the future. Any consulting fees you may pay for such training would be money well spent. You will learn where, when and how to conduct resolution sessions. You will learn how to be objective, judicial, and specific when laying out your directives and expectations and you won’t be blindsided by new cases of employee rivalry in the future as you are sure to encounter them as long as you are managing humans.

Barbara Jaurequi, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Nationally Certified Master Addiction Counselor, speaks on a variety of personal and professional topics and is the author of A.C.E.S. – Adult-Child Entitlement Syndrome, available on Amazon and other online booksellers. A.C.E.S. teaches parents of adult-children how to compassionately launch their adult-children into the world of personal responsibility in a straight-forward step-by-step approach. Contact Ms. Jaurequi by email at Barbara@BarbaraJPublications.com or phone her office at 909-944-6611.

How to Manage Distracted Employees

By Dr. Marty MartinMarty Martin

As all managers know, workday distractions are everywhere, stealing your employees’ precious time and productivity. Between new technologies that beg for people’s attention to the prevalence of shortened attention spans, everyone on your team has the opportunity to be more distracted today than in the past. Of course, being distracted at work creates numerous problems from missed opportunities to strained business relationships. Therefore, you need to effectively manage your employees so their distractions are minimized.

First, realize that there are two categories of distraction. One is internal distraction, and the other is external distraction. Internal distractions include any physiological, emotional, attitudinal, biological, or physical discomfort. Some examples include having an upset stomach or a headache, worrying about a personal or professional matter, feeling overwhelmed with tasks, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, experiencing anger toward a co-worker, grieving a loss, etc. Any of these things can quickly take an employee off track from his or her tasks.

External distractions include other people and technology. Some examples include co-workers who stop by someone’s office to chat, social media and text alerts ringing on a smart phone, email notifications popping up on a computer screen, other employees who talk loudly in the office, etc. These seemingly innocuous items easily divert people’s attention.

The real challenge is that most employees aren’t experiencing just one or two of these distractions. They’re facing multiple each day. Consider this common scenario: A customer service representative is responsible for telephone, email, and chat communications. When a customer calls in, the rep has scripts to follow for each scenario. In addition to working from the memorized scripts, she is also instant messaging with customers and answering emails. In fact, her computer screen is divided into quarters: one quadrant has the details of the caller on the phone, and the other three quadrants are active chats she’s engaging in simultaneously. She’s also in an office space where the physical difference between her and the next customer service representative may be 5 to 8 feet. Even though she’s wearing a headset, she can still hear the other reps talking. The person to her right likes to stand while he talks, so that visually distracts her. The chair she is sitting on is old and uncomfortable. And because the company is trying to save money, they have the thermostat set to 80 degrees in the middle of summer. The distractions seem never-ending!

On top of all the internal and external distractions, organizational structures have changed over the years, packing in more duties and responsibilities to every job description. That means your employees today have to spread their attention thin just to complete their expected workload. With all of these factors, it’s no wonder so many people feel distracted at work.

Fortunately, most distractions can be eliminated from the workplace, if you take the time to manage them. Here’s how.

Design or redesign a job from a distractibility point of view: When a manager has a distracted employee, it’s natural to blame the person and say things like, “He’s not a team player,” “She’s not motivated,” or “He doesn’t work well here.” The manager may even reprimand the individual for poor performance. But before you go that route, take a good look at the job and environment to see if it’s making the employee distracted.

In other words, look at the job from a distractibility point of view. What are the job duties, both the ones explicitly stated in the job description and the ones that person just always seems to do? What’s the working environment like? What visual or auditory distraction triggers are present? How is the office set up? How are the lighting, the chair, and the desk layout? What other factors impact the employee’s efficiency, effectiveness, and performance?

Realize that if the work environment and the job are poorly designed, you will continue to bring in highly talented individuals who will not do well—not because of them, but because of the bad job design. Therefore, before you reprimand, analyze! What you find may surprise you.

Create a Distraction Elimination Plan for your distracted employees: Think back to your elementary school days. You likely had a few kids in the class who always bothered others, threw spit balls, or just stared out the window for hours. What did the teacher do? She had a plan. If the kids were disruptive to the class, she’d move them up front near her. If they were window gazers, she’d orient their desk so they could no longer see the window. No matter what the disruptive behavior, she knew what to do because she had a plan in mind for it.

Good managers do the same. They sit down with the distracted employee and together create a Distraction Elimination Plan (DEP). By working together, they may decide on some physical changes in the office that can help, such as moving to a new cubicle or changing the lighting, or they may figure out some strategies the employee can use to maintain focus, such as not having an email program always open or disabling smart phone alerts.

The great thing about a plan is that it gives you something concrete to reference and use as a benchmark to gauge progress. Additionally, all organizations have risk management plans, strategic plans, operational plans, and business plans … so why not also have distraction elimination plans? Remember, distractions rarely self-resolve. So the better the plan, the better the results.

Offer other resources when needed: Sometimes, even with the manager’s help and a solid DEP in place, the employee is still distracted. In these cases, the manager has to know when to offer additional resources. If your organization has an employee assistance program, you may want to consider making a recommendation to an appropriate resource or service.

If your organization does not have an employee assistance program, then present the idea of additional help in a supportive and neutral fashion. You could even suggest it as a step in the DEP, as in “If the outlined steps in this plan don’t resolve the issue, then the employee will seek outside assistance in the form of a counselor or therapist.” The key is to help the employee find the needed resources in order to determine if their situation is more serious than simple distractions.

No More Distractions: The next time you notice you have some employees who are underperforming, don’t immediately reprimand them. Instead, take the time to determine if there’s something you or the company can do to remove the distractions from the workplace. Distractions don’t have to be a major part of the workday. You can help minimize them. Remember, the fewer distractions people have, the more productive they’ll be.

Dr. Marty Martin, known for his state-of-the art content presented in an engaging, dynamic fashion, has been speaking and training nationally and internationally for many years. His book, Taming Disruptive Behavior, is being published by The American College of Physician Executives (ACPE). Dr. Martin is the Director of the Health Sector Management MBA Concentration and Associate Professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit his website: www.drmartymartin.com.