Remember when you were a kid and went trick-or-treating on Halloween? Oh, the fond memories of fun-size chocolate bars and mini packs of candies. Sometimes you discovered a house that was giving out full-size candy bars, and you etched that house into your memory to go to every year thereafter. Some people even handed out things like glow sticks, small toys, or drinks (the colorful barrel drinks were always a favorite).
But invariably, when you got home to survey your haul, you came across one candy that you knew was destined to stay at the bottom of your bag, never to see the light of day. Or you might have feigned generosity and tried to pawn it off on your siblings or parents. What was that candy for you? Mary Janes? Bit-O-Honey? (No, they aren’t the same thing, and yes, I was just as surprised as you.) Don’t even think about saying candy corn — I’m firmly on Team Candy Corn.
Your colleagues at work are similar to a bag, bucket, or pillowcase of Halloween candy. You have peers who are like the ever-faithful, tried-and-true candies that you looked forward to every year; like that candy, these people never disappoint. Then you have one or two superstar coworkers who always go above and beyond, much like a full-size chocolate bar. You might have a few people on your team who are great at coming up with inventive ideas and seeing things from a different perspective; they are like the non-candy, but no less fun, toys and treats. But then there is that one person who brings down the party with their unwillingness to help, their negativity, or their sour demeanor — and not the good sour like Lemonheads.
How do you deal with this type of individual? Unlike that icky candy, you can’t unload your coworker on someone else. You have to find a way to work with this person in a peaceful, or at least tolerable, way.
Trying to understand your coworker’s perspective, and the life experiences that influence those perspectives, can go a long way in getting along with them. While it doesn’t excuse any undesirable behavior, putting yourself in their place may give you ideas on how to improve the rapport with your peer. It can also provide the opportunity to show grace and compassion. And growing empathy within your team is never a fruitless endeavor. It might just spill over to that difficult colleague too!
While you’re at it, examine your own behaviors and attitudes to see if you have been contributing to the difficulty in any way. Be realistic about how your reactions could be fueling the situation, and develop new, more productive ways to respond to your coworker. Most importantly, do not be goaded into unprofessional behavior, like gossip, yourself.
Perhaps your colleague is not aware of how their actions are coming across to you or impacting the team. Addressing the issue by having a calm, mature conversation could offer both your coworker and you some insights into your professional dynamic and give your peer (and possibly yourself) some ways to work on improving the relationship.
Perhaps your teammate isn’t actually doing anything wrong, but you have personality clashes. Unfortunately, this is often an unavoidable part of work life — and life in general. While our personality differences can help foster synergy within a group, they can also cause discord. But they don’t have to.
Using a behavioral assessment can shed light on the various personality traits at play within your department and give you important insights on how to improve collaboration. Perhaps your blunt coworker isn’t trying to be curt or unfriendly; he just has a very direct, straightforward communication style and wants to keep meetings from veering off topic. Understanding these differences within your group can help you learn to navigate interactions with your peers in a more productive, less frustrating way.
If you’ve tried numerous times to get to know your difficult colleague and form a positive working relationship but to no avail, minimizing the time you are around them might be helpful. Limit your conversations to those that are necessary to complete work assignments. You can (and should) still be pleasant and respectful, but foregoing the small talk and non-work chit-chat could make your interactions more tolerable.
After you have exhausted all of your own efforts, asking for assistance from management or HR may be necessary. Be sure to document incidents with the difficult colleague including dates and specific details surrounding the occurrences.
Working with a difficult person is never easy, but learning to navigate the challenging professional dynamic is worth the effort — for you, for others on your team, and maybe even for the difficult colleague too. Here’s wishing you a successful, collaborative team that’s like a perfect Halloween haul with nothing but your favorite treats. And lots of candy corn!
Let Omnia help you make work life a little sweeter. Contact our trusted, knowledgeable advisors today to find out how behavioral assessments can take your team from good to great!
When it comes to hybrid work environments, I’ve seen (and worked in) most all variations. When I first started at Omnia as an analyst, our team was able to earn telecommuting privileges, working from home for up to three days a week. Years later, I became a fully remote employee, working totally from home, while most of my colleagues worked in the office. After the impact of Covid, Omnia decided to adopt a fully remote business model, so now everyone at the company works from home.
The hybrid work experience that has been the “old normal” to me for years has become new terrain that many businesses are learning to traverse. The option to work remotely presents many benefits, including less time spent commuting and greater work-life balance for employees as well as decreased overhead costs and improved retention rates for employers. However, when coworkers aren’t in the same proximity consistently, it can present some challenges in cultivating feelings of connectedness to the organization and to each other. But it is those very challenges that make it even more important to prioritize building a unified, thriving culture.
Hybrid workplaces may present some unique challenges to building a company culture, but they are not insurmountable. Alexia Cambon, a research director at Gartner says, “Instead of viewing hybrid work as a disruption to the cultural experience, leaders should see it as an opportunity to build culture differently.” With that in mind, here are 5 ideas for growing your company culture in a hybrid environment.
Communication is a critical component for building any business culture. When all employees are made aware of the direction and values of the organization and kept updated on its happenings, their buy-in and commitment increases. Conversely, when people hear about important company information secondhand or long after the fact, it makes them feel left out and disengaged.
Regular, transparent communication becomes even more crucial within a hybrid workplace. You may not be able to get all employees together in a physical conference room to discuss the latest KPIs, but you can schedule monthly or quarterly virtual meetings to give everyone updates about the organization.
Employees may work not only in different locations but also in different time zones or have different work schedules, so asynchronous methods of communication like email and messaging apps can also help ensure that everyone stays current on the latest plans and initiatives.
One of the drawbacks of employees not working in the same office is the lack of unplanned meetings in the hallway and impromptu conversations around the coffee maker that often spark great ideas. While working in different places may not be as conducive to spontaneity, collaboration is still possible — and necessary — for colleagues who aren’t always in the office together.
The variety of tools and apps available to help people collaborate is abundant, so put technology to work for your employees and your business! Video meetings, even with the camera off, can be a helpful tool to brainstorm ideas and plan projects. Task/project-management tools, document sharing platforms, discussion boards, and other apps make it easier for colleagues to work together, even if they are physically apart.
And don’t forget the power of a good, old-fashioned phone call!
The above-mentioned hallway and watercooler conversations help grow camaraderie among colleagues, but that does not have to stop in a hybrid workplace. Set weekly or monthly virtual meetings where employees can voluntarily get together and catch up with each other — no discussions about work allowed! A small investment of company time can reap big dividends by making employees feel more connected to each other and, therefore, the organization at large.
Offer employees a few chances throughout the year to get together and see each other face to face. Consider designating a charity or community initiative to support, and set aside a day when employees can volunteer alongside one another. Or have everyone meet at a zipline course for a day of teambuilding. Whether through in-person all-company meetings or a communal day of recreation, providing opportunities for everyone to be together can facilitate bonding and rejuvenate feelings of togetherness.
There is no shortage of headlines about business leaders who are skeptical about how remote work impacts their companies, but adjusting to a hybrid work model can be a challenge for some employees too. While most people who are offered flexible work arrangements will take them, they may benefit from guidance on effective methods for working productively and staying engaged in a hybrid environment.
Not merely signing paperwork and setting up equipment, effective onboarding offers companies the chance to review their work processes, values, and mission while also providing the training that establishes the foundation for new hire success. And yes, it can be done successfully even remotely!
Remote mentoring can be a valuable way to give new and tenured employees both a connection to a fellow colleague and guidance for staying engaged and productive while working in a fully or partially remote job. Incorporating virtual coworking sessions can also provide opportunities for the mentee to ask questions as they come up and mimic the feel of working together in person.
Behavioral assessments offer another avenue for supporting your employees in a hybrid workplace. Understanding a person’s natural traits and characteristics gives leadership insights on how that individual may excel working in a hybrid role as well as where they might have difficulties. Omnia’s Professional Development assessment gives our clients the option of selecting a remote work environment, and the report discusses the employee’s strengths and challenges in navigating a remote position while also offering management and motivational strategies.
Our Professional Development report is just one of the ways Omnia helps our clients hire right the first time and retain productive, motivated employees. Whatever your business environment, Omnia wants to be your trusted partner to help your business and employees thrive!
Continuing Omnia’s month of mindfulness, this week’s blog focuses on mindful, thoughtful communication with introverts. Don’t try to adjust your screen; you read that correctly. “But introverts don’t like talking to people, right?”, you may think. Yet communicating with introverts isn’t an oxymoron. And since an estimated one third to one half of the population are introverts, to include your colleagues and employees, it’s important to understand effective ways of interacting and working with them. This first step is understanding them.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung coined the terms introversion and extroversion in the 1920s. Jung stated that extroverts feel invigorated through external means like contact with the outside world, while introverts are energized through internal avenues like reflection.
Contrary to some common beliefs, being an introvert isn’t the same thing as being shy, anti-social, anxious, or depressed. Rather, introverts have a lower tolerance for/higher sensitivity to stimulation, including social stimuli. Interacting with people at length can feel draining and depleting to introverts while having the opposite effect on extroverts. To refresh themselves, introverts often retreat into quieter pursuits, sometimes by themselves. This mode of energy recovery can be mistakenly confused with a dislike of being around people. Although making small talk with new people can feel fatiguing to introverts, they may enjoy deep, meaningful conversations with a small circle of confidants.
Introverts are also internal processors; they think through problems and ideas and verbalize them only after careful consideration. In contrast, extroverts are external processors who prefer talking through ideas and issues with other people to reach solutions.
Being an introvert myself, I have often heard, “You’re so quiet.” That statement has always felt both inaccurate and frustrating. I’ve never felt quiet; like most introverts, my brain is constantly taking things in and turning them over and over. If you could get inside an introvert’s mind, it’d probably seem more like a crowded nightclub of thoughts than a peaceful running stream. But introverts are selective about when and how those thoughts get expressed, which is why they often come across as quiet or reserved.
Everyone has some degree of both introversion and extroversion, but most people tend to lean one way or the other. You might be an introvert if:
Now that we’ve defined what an introvert is (and isn’t), let’s delve into some effective ways to communicate with them, especially on the job.
It may seem like overkill to schedule a phone call, especially to an extrovert, but phone calls or pop-in meetings can disrupt an introvert’s train of thought, which is jarring to them (remember, introverts are highly sensitive to stimuli). Introverts often prefer corresponding via emails and more indirect means, rather than through impromptu phone calls or face-to-face meetings, because it gives them a chance to think about exactly what they want to convey and how they want to say it. Which is also why it’s important to…
This gives introverts an opportunity to think through discussion points and formulate their responses, which means there is a better chance of them participating in meetings and verbalizing their ideas.
Similarly, sending out an email a day or two after a meeting can give an introvert the chance to offer their insights on the topics discussed after they have had an opportunity to think about them for a while.
Again, introverts formulate their ideas by mulling them over internally. They may need a moment to process and consider the statement that has just been made or the question that has been asked of them. If they are pausing, don’t assume they have bailed on the conversation; they are just thinking things through.
By letting introverts finish their thoughts and voice them when they are ready, this shows that you are interested in what they are saying, which is validating to an introvert (and everyone, really). Introverts don’t talk just for the sake of talking. When they say something, it’s because the idea is important to them, so for them to know that you find it important too is motivating.
It’s not always easy for introverts to speak up, especially in group meetings with more extroverted people who are quicker to voice their ideas. One-on-one meetings are a great way to give introverts the space to communicate their thoughts.
Years ago, I was training a group of new employees about different communication styles. One extroverted individual asked the question, “Do they (introverts) wish they were more like us (extroverts)?” When I later recounted that question to a group of introverts, the answer was an immediate and emphatic, “No!” The visceral response wasn’t because there is anything wrong or undesirable with being an extrovert. It was because there is also nothing wrong or undesirable with being an introvert.
My trainee’s question was a sincere one, a question many other extroverts may share. It can be a challenge to be a quiet person in a loud world; wouldn’t it be easier for introverts if we could adjust our vocal volume to be heard better? Easier, perhaps, but not as beneficial – for anyone. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking posits that when introverts try to force themselves to adopt traits counter to their natural characteristics, it is everyone’s loss. Just like our businesses and communities need the ideas, charisma, and enthusiasm extroverts offer, they also need the insights and perspectives that introverts bring to the table — insights often found through solitude and quiet reflection. When people work along the grain of their intrinsic traits, rather than against them, everyone benefits.
Being understood is inspiring to everyone, regardless of how they communicate or what energizes them. The Omnia Group’s mission is to help businesses engage in the mindful art of recognizing their employees’ unique talents and motivators. Through the Omnia behavioral assessment, leaders gain a deeper understanding of their personnel, and armed with those insights, they can develop their people to reach their highest potential. Let’s embark on that path of discovery together; contact Omnia to get started.
People get my name wrong a lot. I’ve often remarked to friends that it’s like being part of a social experiment every day of my life. Admittedly, Keather is a unique name. I’ve never met another Keather, and I’ve never met anyone who has. I know there are other Keathers in the world because I’m human and I’ve googled it to find out. And while I understand that Keather is a unique name, it’s still amazing to me how many times my name is spelled and pronounced incorrectly. So when I set out to write a blog about listening I thought it would be fun to go back and look at the photos I have in an album of spelling mis-haps. To me these examples exemplify what a constant challenge it is for our brains to take in and fully process what we are hearing before we take action.
Here are some examples of misinterpretations I’ve experienced over the years:
There are many things that get in the way of us fully listening to people. There are external barriers we face daily that are due to our physical environment. Most of the spelling mishaps I’ve experienced are either in coffee shops, airports or hotels. Often the person is frantically trying to take down my name while fighting the loud hums and whistles of the espresso machines, or the screeching of blenders and other baristas. Hotel operators or airline desk attendants are distracted by long queues, irritated travelers, or computer delays.
External barriers to listening are physical barriers that interfere with hearing more than listening, but they can certainly cause enough distraction to get in the way of someone being able to listen fully with concentration. In an office setting, these include things like the quality of sound on your phone, your computer speakers, the speaker’s settings and the all too famous issue of someone being on mute when they’re talking on a Zoom call. These are all things that a listener and a speaker can typically control. If not, the conversation should always be rescheduled.
Internal barriers to listening are more complex and difficult to work through. This is when the messenger is heard, but there are internal barriers that prevent the listener from fully understanding and comprehending the message. These internal barriers to listening can keep the message receiver from understanding the intent and feeling behind what’s being communicated and can result in taking incorrect action or giving an inappropriate response.
I’m certain we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve known that someone can hear us, but they aren’t fully listening. That experience leaves us frustrated and can lead to serious consequences of disengagement, work errors, and productivity loss to name a few. Being ready to fully listen means you’re committed to picking up all the sound in the message, and the meaning behind it. There are many things that can get in the way.
Here are 3 to consider and work on overcoming.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, our brains process about 70,000 facts a day. In addition to the information overload we’re experiencing, there are always competing distractions coming our way whenever we’re in a conversation. Rarely is our mobile phone out of our sight. Texts, IMs, and other interruptions are occurring constantly while we’re in conversations with others. To be a good listener we must manage these distractions to the best of our ability. Turn off notifications and sound alerts. Put your phone face down and keep it down throughout the conversation. Easier said than done, right? Just remember, multi-tasking is not doing multiple things at once – it’s screwing up multiple things at once, and the last thing we want to do is have a key employee feel discounted and unheard. So be all in.
Each of us have a unique style and preference of communication. Some people prefer to paint the entire picture for you with every detail, and others prefer to only hit the highlights. Depending on your preference it can be difficult to be all in and fully listen to the person who’s got the opposite approach. Some would prefer to write or receive an email ahead of a conversation or even in place of a conversation. The Omnia behavioral assessment helps leaders and individuals understand their unique communication qualities and preferred approach. When you’re the listener, it’s important to honor the messenger’s style while keeping your own in check. Especially in difficult conversations when you know the individual is having a challenging time discussing a sensitive topic. Allow them to do it in their way and adapt your style.
Have you ever just wanted to vent to someone about a challenging situation and they jump in immediately telling you how to fix it? You weren’t looking for advice, but all of a sudden you’re getting told what to do. This is a common barrier and occurrence, unfortunately. Most of us want to be helpful and can’t help but jump into problem-solving mode. We can overcome this barrier by clarifying expectations at the beginning of a conversation and adapting our listening Ask what the individual wants from you during the conversation. As one of my favorite leaders used to clarify in meetings - are we information sharing or information processing? Are they looking to just provide a brief status update with no judgement or input from you? Are they coming to you for advice and discernment to help them get unstuck with something and to consider alternative approaches? Or do they merely want a supportive confidant or cheerleader to share a challenge or victory. Knowing what the individual expects from you as the listener right up front can set the conversation up for success.
Keeping these barriers in mind, here are some things you can do during conversations to fully listen and not just hear.
Focus on being effective in the conversation, not efficient. Steven Covey, author of my all-time favorite book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said “you simply can’t think efficiency with people. You think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things.” Once you’ve clarified up front what the person wants from the conversation be sure you have enough time to get through the content. We’re all pressed for time and usually jammed with back to back meetings. Make sure before you dig into a conversation that there’s enough time to get to the expected result.
This is hard! But keep yourself in check and let the individual complete their sentences. Be sure that full thoughts have been expressed and that the person is finished before you jump in with any response or questions. A good practice is to count to 5 before you step in. This may seem like a lifetime, but you’ll be surprised at how often the person has more to say and they will if you give them that time and space.
Writing down what you’re hearing is a great way to stay focused and capture details you will want to clarify later in the conversation. It also gives those of us with a propensity to interrupt something to do. If you’re taking notes on your computer or phone be sure to let the other person know you’re doing so. They may incorrectly assume you’re responding to emails or texting a friend.
After you’re certain the speaker has finished their thoughts and is ready for a response begin with asking questions. Asking questions assures there is clarity before action. It also shows your intent to fully understand what the other person is saying and experiencing, and shows you are interested; committed. Clarify what you heard and ask for supporting details, or feelings behind the message. Repeat back an important fact they shared or a specific detail to confirm you have a complete understanding of what was said and what they meant. Using phrases like – Do you mean? Are you saying? Would it be important for you?... go a long way in not only helping expand the conversation to get more clarity but also being sure the messenger feels heard.
Circle back to the beginning of the conversation and what the expected outcome was. Did the individual get what they wanted out of the conversation? Did you leave them feeling heard? Did you mirror the emotion expressed? Agree on next steps, specific actions, and the timing for follow-up. And remember - listening isn’t just a one-time event. Effective communication between a manager and their employees is fundamental to the operation of any business and it’s a continual process. Make a commitment to follow these steps in team meetings and 1x1’s and you’ll go a long way in demonstrating you are not only hearing your colleagues, but you’re listening intently.
We are here to help! One of the most powerful management tools is simple self and team awareness. Knowing your natural communication style along with the styles of your team members is a great way to start. These insights help you effectively recognize the differences within your team and manage to those dynamics. When you commit to authentic communication, it’s easier to build employee trust and lay the foundation for sustained employee engagement and productivity.