According to an association that tracks such things, about 20 percent of a manager’s time at work is spent dealing with such disputes. In other words, those in charge lose an average of one day a week to staff conflicts.
Why? Often because those in the tiff–whether workers or management–don’t know how to play nice and aren’t willing to look in the mirror before they open their mouth. Most people who complain about colleagues need to first consider how to make their own business relationships more effective. The most common problems we see in these situations are:
• Clashing Communication Styles. Some leaders like to be interactive while others just want to show you they can, you know, relate to what you are saying. Others express everything and feel your pain. Many analyze disputes to the polar cap and back. Some just expect everyone to shut up, get in line and do what they’re told. What’s most crucial in avoiding a communication clash is recognizing the difference between the sender and receiver.
• Poor Listening Skills. How does a simple miscommunication turn into a formal complaint alleging harassment? Poor listening skills are often at fault.
• Failure to take Responsibility. Face it: when confronted with a situation where their behavior has been perhaps less than stellar, many employees will do anything to point the finger elsewhere. Some even lie in a misguided attempt to save face. However, leaders must take care to insure that conflict resolution is at least as much about fixing the problem as it is fixing the blame.
• A Lack of Humility. There is a reason we respect leaders who walk the work floor and can communicate easily with everyone. They are one of us. We are on their team. If those involved in the dispute are big on emotion but vague on facts they probably lack any knowledge of internal customer service and may need training. Being a leader takes more than a big smile and occasional attaboy.
When effective leaders examine a communication problem they should always look at themselves first. Then they should ask the same of those they supervise. One approach is to have dueling employees conduct a thorough review of their communication styles and listening abilities. Remind them–as leaders and employees responsible for internal customer service–they must first look at what the other person needs. It’s not just about them. It’s also about the other person.
Ask them if, when they interact with others, they are placing bricks in their wall or taking them down? And yes, it’s okay for leadership to demand better. Why tolerate such behavior at work when you wouldn’t let your kid get away with it on the playground?
Yes, you can expect those in your company to grow up, act like an adult, and get back to work.
But you can’t just say it, you must also show it.
By Darrell L. Browning