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!
One doesn’t often think of conflict and unity in the same breath. Workplace conflict is something most of us dread, especially when our days are stressful enough. But conflict, workplace and otherwise, is inevitable when interacting with other human beings. The good news is that conflict doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. In fact, it can be the catalyst for taking team dynamics to the next level. Of course, it should be addressed correctly to see positive results.
Team synergy and positive dynamics are the goals for every office and work team, but debates, differences of opinion, misunderstandings, and communication breakdowns create tension at work and erode cohesiveness. Over time, this can have a negative impact on productivity as well as the engagement of team members. Leaders who address conflict directly, rather than sweep it under the rug, are taking an important and significant step toward creating an environment where employees thrive and produce.
Let’s start by talking about the four sources of conflict at work:
Interpersonal conflict results from basic differences in opinions, values, or even personal work styles. Examples are disagreements over project direction, personality clashes, and misunderstandings resulting from different communication styles. One person is factual and direct while another is more effusive and diplomatic. One person prefers email while another prefers video chat with the camera on. Or what about that coworker who sends an email and calls you three seconds later to see if you got AND read it?
With interpersonal conflict, it’s best to encourage open communication and active listening. Focus on the issue, not the person. And finally, find a mutually acceptable solution. Like, wait thirty minutes before calling about that email.
Intrapersonal conflict happens when an individual has conflict within themselves stemming from competing priorities or goals. This can happen when people are struggling with time management and are feeling overwhelmed or when they are experiencing self-doubt. For example, managing two important priorities with unclear milestones or evaluating the best use of emojis in office communications.
For intrapersonal conflict, it’s best to encourage self-reflection and self-care as well as meet with the individual often to provide feedback and support (open communication). Help them set achievement goals. An Omnia behavioral assessment and self-awareness report is an objective way for an employee to evaluate their traits and tendencies in order to put their actions and thoughts into better perspective for professional and personal growth.
Organizational conflict happens between different departments or teams of people who have competing or just different goals or priorities. For example, there could be disagreements over budget and resource allocation or project priorities.
Here we need to encourage collaboration, focus on common goals and the big picture, practice active listening (this is a staple for resolving conflict), encourage open communication (yep, that again), and make sure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.
Cultural conflict stems from differences in values, beliefs, and behaviors. For example, some cultures speak more directly and assertively while others prefer the use of indirect language. Some cultures have different views on appropriate dress. Some cultures have different ways of making decisions (group consensus versus hierarchical for example). Also, things like the observance of different holidays can create cultural conflict.
The best way to address cultural conflict is to foster an inclusive workplace culture, practice cultural sensitivity, provide cultural awareness/cultural diversity training, and — the one you’ve seen in all four types of conflict (it’s that important and powerful) — encourage open communication.
Since listening, really listening, is critical for resolving conflict, here are a few tips:
You’ll be able to address conflict best if you know which style to use for any given situation. You don’t want to add fuel to the fire by using the wrong method.
Collaborating is working together to find a mutually acceptable solution. It is most effective when the issue is complex and both parties have significant concerns that are important to them. Collaborating requires a high degree of cooperation. It can be time-consuming and both parties need to trust one another, but it often leads to strong long-term solutions that benefit both sides. For example, you have two departments disagreeing about a new CRM system to implement.
This style may not work well with extreme time pressure or when one party is more powerful than the other.
Tips to facilitate: Encourage active listening, create a safe and inclusive environment, and foster creativity and innovation.
Competing is forcing a solution through power and authority. This is effective in a crisis or emergency when quick action is needed or when the stakes are high and the consequences of not taking fast, decisive action are significant. Competing requires taking a firm, authoritative stance to defend one’s own or the company’s interests and objectives without compromise or collaboration. Here’s an example of an appropriate use of competing: Your network has been hacked and sensitive information has been compromised. But when competing is used in an inappropriate way, it can damage relationships and increase tension. This is because this style is often seen as having a clear winner and loser.
Tips to facilitate: Clearly communicate the reasons for the decision, be firm but not aggressive, and use this style sparingly.
Compromising is finding a middle ground through negotiation. It is most effective when there are two parties who have equal power and both have important interests and goals. An example of this is when one person wants to focus on perfecting a project’s design while the other wants to prioritize finishing the project on time.
Tips to facilitate: Encourage open dialogue (yes, communication), brainstorm possible solutions together, and negotiate with an open mind.
Something extra: The Omnia Assessment highlights an individual’s personal preferences, e.g., taking risks vs. avoiding risks, being social vs. reserved, and looking at the big picture vs. the details. This provides great insight into an individual’s negotiation style. On the Omnia Assessment, a high degree of assertiveness and resilience are key drivers for individuals who negotiate regularly as part of their job.
Accommodating is giving in to the other party’s demands. This is effective when the issue is minor or when maintaining the relationship with the other party is more important than the outcome. For example, Sally, a salesperson, requests a brochure by the end of the day for a tradeshow tomorrow. The person responsible for creating those, Harry, can’t get it done without staying late. He’s not keen to do it, but understanding how important the tradeshow is, he gives in to Sally’s demands, stays late, and finishes the brochure (but also makes her promise to respect his time in the future and stick to the required 3-day lead time).
Tips to facilitate: Identify the underlying interests and find areas of agreement. Use this style selectively.
Avoiding is ignoring or postponing the resolution. This is most effective when the issue is minor and nothing will be impacted. For example, team members disagree about whether to brew dark or medium roast coffee first thing in the morning.
Tips to facilitate: Stay neutral, monitor the situation, and — you guessed it — keep communication open.
So, there you have it, the four types of conflict and five ways to effectively resolve any type. But wait, there’s more! If you know the personality type of each member of your team, you can anticipate how they are likely to react. For example, who will hold their frustrations in and who will aggressively fight for their way? This gives you the insight you need to be sure all sides are heard.
Understanding personality styles is every leader’s secret weapon for improving overall communication and collaboration, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings, and increasing team cohesion and trust. United we stand!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone on your team got along all of the time? Unfortunately, that’s not reality. When you bring people with diverse perspectives together (which is an overall positive thing), conflict is inevitable.
Differences of opinion and personality clashes can quickly escalate, disrupting productivity and eroding morale. That means you need to restore harmony fast to minimize the damage. To help you do that, we’ll share nine tips to manage conflict on your team.
When conflict arises, you need to address it immediately. Don’t let the problem fester because it will deepen and become harder to resolve if you do. So, call out problem behavior when you see it (in a private conversation, of course) and encourage your employees to remain calm even if they feel triggered.
If you manage each challenge informally in the moment, you may be able to avoid going through a longer, more complex resolution process later. But, if a simple redirection cue or coaching conversation doesn’t do the trick, you’ll need to take further action.
When you need to work through conflict in a formal manner, start by meeting with each person involved one-on-one. Let them share their side of the story and ask each party a similar set of questions. Remember, your job here is to remain neutral, gather the facts of the situation, and identify the root cause of the problem.
Once you’ve spoken with each team member, bring them together for a group discussion. Since tensions are high, you need to step in and moderate the conversation. At the start of the meeting, set a clear goal of resolving the conflict respectfully and professionally so that everyone can move forward.
Then, help your employees find common ground. Remind them that they’ve worked together successfully in the past and that they need each other to fulfill the company’s mission.
Give each team member the floor to speak, and encourage patience and open-mindedness from listeners. Once everyone has had the opportunity to share their perspective, kick off a brainstorming session, and solicit potential resolutions to the conflict. Write down everything your employees say, reserving judgment or commentary for later.
After compiling several potential solutions, help your team members achieve consensus on the best option. You can whittle down the list before any back-and-forth dialogue occurs by explaining which choices wouldn’t work and why. For example, your company may not have the budget to implement a particular solution.
Then, jot down the pros and cons of the remaining alternatives to illustrate their strengths and weaknesses. You could even develop a ranking system to highlight the best choice. If there are more than two people involved in the conflict, you could have each party vote for one of the two final options — naming the solution with the most votes the winner.
Ultimately, you have to make the final call on what’s best for your team — and the entire firm. But, your employees are more likely to buy into the solution if they choose it or have a say in the decision-making process.
Once the team comes to a decision, you need to document the plan. Capture key details in writing, such as:
After the document is complete, ask for each employee’s commitment and have them sign it.
As the leader, you must hold your team members (and yourself!) accountable to the agreed-upon responsibilities outlined in the plan. Reference the document you created frequently and check in with your employees at the established intervals. If they struggle to complete a task or experience lingering negative emotions post-meeting, offer your support during one-on-one coaching sessions.
Despite your best effort, things could get heated during your team meeting to address the conflict. These hostile exchanges will only worsen the problem and may cause an unclosable divide between your team members. So, if you feel the tension rising, adjourn the meeting temporarily to let your employees cool off and regain their composure. Just remember: regroup at the agreed-upon time. Don’t let the issue remain tabled because it won't resolve itself.
You can handle most of the conflict on your team without asking for outside help. However, if you run into a dangerous issue like harassment, bullying, discrimination, or workplace violence, you should immediately contact your human resources (HR) department. Chances are they will need to involve the legal department, too. Your HR team can also provide guidance if a less urgent employee disagreement persists after you’ve worked the conflict resolution steps.
While you can’t completely prevent conflict on your team, you can take steps to reduce how often (and how severely) it occurs. Encourage your employees to be mindful of their body language, keep their speech at a normal speaking volume, and watch their tone of voice. That way, they’ll be less likely to trigger a negative response from their coworkers. You could also offer regular training to boost emotional intelligence, improve communication skills, and increase acceptance of diverse perspectives and backgrounds.
Leading a team is no easy feat, and your role becomes even more difficult when you throw employee conflict into the mix. Fortunately, we’re here to help.
Managing conflict becomes much easier when you truly know the people involved. You can unlock that necessary insight by having each employee take our quick and painless behavioral assessment — before tensions rise. This assessment dives deep into their personality, communication style, and professional preferences.
Armed with this information, you can facilitate more productive (and calmer!) conversations. That way, your team members can put their hard feelings behind them and get back to business.
While conflict is an expected part of the human experience, you want to mitigate it as soon as possible. Left unchecked, it can destroy a team and set your company back. Hopefully, these tips help you address employee disagreements fast so your organization can continue to thrive.
P.S. Don’t forget —Try a complimentary behavioral assessment today, and see how the results can help you lead your team!
People are complicated, and no two of your employees are exactly alike. When you have that many different perspectives in your workplace, conflict is bound to happen. While conflict can sometimes lead to healthy competition and innovation, left unchecked or undirected, it can have damaging effects on the organization. As a leader, the responsibility to resolve these issues often falls on you. We’ll provide some practical guidance for how to do so effectively.
Conflict resolution is the art of diffusing tension between parties to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. Put simply, it’s helping your employees get along. Leaders need to know how to handle conflict in the workplace. One study found that 85% of employees deal with conflict in their working lives, and it costs U.S. companies an estimated $359 billion annually (csp.edu).
Even though your plate is full, it’s important to address problems quickly and fairly. If you don’t, a situation could escalate and result in lost productivity, poor team morale, a lack of faith in your leadership abilities, and more.
In a word, very. CPP found that 85% of both individual contributors and leaders agreed they experienced some amount of inevitable conflict at work. In addition, 29% of all employees said that they experienced almost constant conflict. Tellingly, 12% said they also saw conflict frequently among leaders (cppglobal.com).
Is conflict always negative? No.
By any definition, negative examples of conflict in the workplace include:
But notice that healthy, positive conflict can include:
While you’re ultimately responsible for the harmony and productivity within your team, you don’t have to spring to action as soon as your employees disagree. Instead, encourage workers to find common ground on their own. That way, you can focus on more urgent matters, and your team members can hone their conflict resolution skills.
It may be helpful to know that “it's estimated that as many as 90 percent of all conflicts result from misunderstandings (coparenter.com).” That goes for work and personal relationships. By communicating new policies about conflict and modeling good behavior, prohibiting all forms of harassments and disrespect, and bad treatment based on differences, you can be ahead of the curve.
However, if your staff can’t get past their differences and work together civilly, then you’ll need to play the role of mediator. You should also get involved immediately if you become aware of harassment, theft, violence, substance abuse, or illegal activity. In these instances, you must act quickly to prevent harm to employees and the company.
Pro Tip: Have, adhere to, and enforce a company-wide conflict resolution policy. That way, it’s clear what needs to happen in a given situation.
When you need to intervene in an employee conflict, follow these best practices:
Once team members have reached a consensus, follow up periodically to see if the solution is working and if the employees are getting along.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you never had to deal with another employee conflict? Unfortunately, that’s not a realistic goal. However, you can reduce the number of incidents that come your way with some prevention tips:
When you have a strong sense of self-awareness and know your team members well, preventing and resolving conflict becomes much easier. You’ll know exactly how to approach specific circumstances and people. Acquiring this deep knowledge can take years of observation and interactions.
But there is a faster way - taking and administering a behavioral assessment. Omnia’s well-regarded assessment has a track record of success. It’s fun and easy to take, and when you get the results, you’ll instantly know more about yourself and your employees. With this insight, you’ll be well on your way to a more pleasant work environment.
Unchecked conflict can wreak havoc on team morale and company achievement, so you need to act fast when the situation calls for it. By exercising good judgment and flexing your mediator muscles, you can restore harmony and productivity in no time. If you’d like to learn more about how behavioral assessments can help you keep the peace, contact us today!
Have an article-specific question or want to continue the conversation? Now you can! Contact the author directly through the short form below and Tonya DeVane will respond to your query. If you have a more general question please use our chat function, call 800.525.7117, or visit our contact us page and we'll have a subject matter expert answer your questions.
Camp Omnia is our little way of paying homage to summer rituals while we continue adulting. In this week’s blog, and as part of our Camp Omnia series, we’re going to earn our Positive Team Dynamics badge.
Even if they are working from home, completing most of their activities independently, your employees don’t generally work in total isolation. They make contributions for the greater good of the company and participate in a variety of cross-functional teams. The effectiveness of those teams ultimately determines the success of the organization. The Team Leader is responsible for managing the team’s dynamics to create and sustain a high-performing team that thrives in a positive, productive climate.
Before we get into the strategy of team dynamics, let’s pinpoint what the term means. Team dynamics are the emotions and energies that flow between team members. Put simply, they’re an indication of how well the team gets along and performs together.
People are the heartbeat of an organization, and how they perform in teams determines whether the rhythm is strong or erratic. If negative team dynamics plague your group, your employees could spend more time arguing and finger-pointing than getting things done. Morale will be low, turnover will be high, and productivity (and profits) will take a nosedive.
On the other hand, if your group exhibits positive team dynamics, your employees will be mission-focused and collaborative. They’ll understand one another, accept each other (at least enough to get the job done), and work well together. Morale will be much higher, turnover will be much lower, and productivity will be poised to reach new heights.
Team diversity is a powerful asset, but you must know how to guide members to function as a cohesive unit, each one playing a pivotal role and contributing their unique talents. So, how do you develop and foster positive team dynamics at your company? It starts with building a solid group from the get-go.
If you hire the right people for each position who align to the kind of company culture you want to cultivate, it will be much easier to get employees to gel. Each team member will be set up to succeed, which reduces stress and conflict. Plus, everyone will be on board with the firm’s mission, vision, and values, which should mean smoother interactions and better collaboration.
Once your dream team is in place, you need to fully utilize each member’s strengths, understand what motivates them, and learn how they like to be recognized. As a leader, you must be adaptable because no two employees are the same. Some will need regular supervision, public recognition, and monetary rewards to stay on track. Others will prefer autonomy, private praise, and other perks to remain satisfied. If each member is content, the group is more likely to have a positive team dynamic.
In addition to meeting your team’s needs, it’s your responsibility to guide them to achievement. Involve each member in the goal-setting process - both for their own professional development and department and company-wide objectives. Doing so will increase engagement and a sense of ownership of the work, strengthening the team’s focus on hitting their targets.
And key tip here: The best goals follow the guideline of being SMART goals. They’re specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
Whenever two or more people are gathered, differences of opinion are likely to ensue at some point. Despite your best efforts to help team members understand one another, put their differences aside, and work in harmony, conflicts will arise. Conflict is a natural part of work (and life), and if managed properly, can result in growth. Without different thoughts and approaches, innovation can’t thrive. However, if left to fester, conflict can destroy your team and derail progress. To resolve these issues within your group, follow these best practices:
Stay calm and help your employees stay on an even keel, too. Conflict can cause intense emotions that get in the way of productive conversations.
Remember, your role is to facilitate the mediation process. Your team members need to actually implement the resolution and follow through with it over time. Minimize your involvement in getting directly involved where possible. Your team won’t thrive if everyone comes to you to handle the complaints or solve the problem. If needed, develop your team with skills on giving feedback in a productive way that leads to improved communication and conflict resolution.
Let’s review a little. Fostering positive team dynamics starts with the individual team members. Start by hiring the right people and knowing how to motivate, manage, and recognize them. Gauging a potential employee’s strengths from an interview or understanding how to lead each worker from observation can be very challenging. Omnia can help.
Have an article specific question or want to continue the conversation? Now you can! Contact the author directly through the short form below and Keather Snyder will respond to your query. If you have a more general question please use our chat function, call 800.525.7117, or visit our contact us page and we'll have a subject matter expert answer your questions.