GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: 3 “Magical” Methods to Eliminate Office Conflict…Even if Your Wand is Broken by Monica Wofford, CSP author of "Make Difficult People Disappear: How to Deal with Stressful Behavior and Eliminate Conflict."
Selma is whining that Frank isn’t pulling his weight; Bob is barking at James for not coming in on time and you’re about to burst if one more person yells, fusses, or utters another negative word that interrupts your work.
Office conflict is rampant and it seems to be spreading to your office faster than a plague, but how do you stop it?
I share in my book "Make Difficult People Disappear," a plethora of powerful antidotes to the disease of negativity, stress, and conflict at the office, yet here are three of the top ideas you can use quickly, even if your magic wand seems perpetually in the shop.
Increase the Rewards and Consequences
People do what they get paid attention to for doing. When a leader listens and adds to a conflict ridden conversation, that leader is actually rewarding and reinforcing the sharing of negativity.
If Bob’s bark is much worse than his bite, James learns and is trained to tolerate the barking and keep doing what he’s been doing. If nothing is done about Frank’s shirking of the workload, Frank will continue his actions and Selma, who may be a high performer, will eventually tire and leave.
Not only do people do what they are paid attention for, in the absence of compelling rewards and consequences, they will do whatever is easiest. Many leaders, though well meaning, miss this mark.
More work provided when the initial work is done is not a reward that says “yay, you”, it’s a consequence and trains workers to finish projects more slowly. When a significant policy is broken and nothing is said beyond “please don’t do that again”, this is not a consequence of note and depending on the policy may actually reward the very behavior that needs to stop.
Implement motivating rewards and enforceable consequences and conflict among employees trying to manage each other will rapidly dissipate.
While most know intellectually that all do not communicate the same, our conscious awareness of those differences or the lack thereof, creates conflict.
Raise the awareness and the emotional intelligence at the office by helping all understand the distinct styles and motivations of their colleagues.
Someone who is motivated by “getting things done,” referred to in the book as a Commander, will communicate much more in bullet form, with an emphasis on immediate action, results, and efficiency. An employee who is more laid back, easy going, focused on the needs of team members and skilled in empathy, likely motivated by “getting along with others”, a complete stranger to conflict, and what the book refers to as Relaters, will not be focused on efficiency, but effectiveness of team member inclusivity and engagement.
While both provide immeasurable value to the team, their communication style couldn’t be farther apart and more readily misunderstood by the other party, creating an environment ripe for continued conflict born out of simple misunderstanding and miscommunications.
With a raised awareness comes a shift in expectations of the behavior of others. Without it, employees expect their colleagues to behave in just the same way with just the same needs and expectations. It’s as if we look at a German shepherd expecting it to act like a Jack Russell and then get mad at the small dog for not acting big and regal. The same occurs when we label a colleague as difficult and continue to expect them to act in way that is colored with sunshine and roses.
How we expect others to behave guides our reactions and yet it is our own expectations that have fallen short, not the other party. For example, when an employee is expected to fully analyze a situation, gather all data and assimilate it into a methodical formula, what would be referred to as the behavior of an Organizer in "Make Difficult People Disappear", but finds it more important to light up a room, focus on a positive and social environment, and inspire or demonstrate spontaneous creativity, referred to as Entertainer behaviors, the aforementioned expectations will cause frustration with the outcome.
Conflict occurs when we demand and expect others to behave in a way that is not natural or known.
"Make Difficult People" isn’t about magic really, it’s about mindset. Those we work with who create conflict are often not being difficult, but are truly different in their approach. With a raised awareness, more rewards and consequences and an altered and shared set of expectations that conflict effectively vanishes. You can make conflict, stress, and difficult people disappear…even if your wand is broken.