Welcome to the quarterly Working
Newsletter. Our goal is to highlight how we
stronger work relationships, communicate
effectively, and manage conflict
constructively in the workplace.
I hope you'll find our suggestions useful and contact
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|Case Study: Manager's Non-Action
Situation: Manager's poor relationship with one
difficult employee goes unaddressed and
mushrooms into team-wide discontent and
disillusionment. There are various ways this can
happen. We'll give one scenario. Our case begins
rather simply with an employee who has performed
satisfactorily in one position then moves to another. In
the new position, the employee's performance
is irregular, relationships with co-workers are
poor, and the employee-to-manager relationship is, at
times, disrespectful. Months pass
with the manager being
annoyed with the
employee over various issues - resistance to
change, not following directions, and poor
attendance, but not followed by any direct action to
address the performance problems. Instead, the
manager avoids the real issues
fearing she might be unfair or too picky. The issues
continue while the manager
quietly remains frustrated and second-guesses
herself instead of taking action. Meanwhile, long-term
resentful and give minimum effort. New
question their decision to have joined the team and
looking for new jobs. Now, the manager has a
problem much more serious than having to deal with
a difficult employee. The team is now focused on the
manager's failure as a leader, expectations that
appear capricious and unfair, and sinking morale --
each threatening to derail the whole team.
How could a manager get in this predicament?
Very likely, the manager entered the job without
being fully prepared to handle the challenges that
were inevitably going to occur. In this case, the
manager fell into the trap of avoiding
situations that were emotionally distressing with the
hope they would "go away" or "get better." Instead,
problems went underground temporarily only to
reappear as more serious problems.
Getting out of this situation is rough, but
manager needs to do a combination of things to turn
the situation around.
The obvious advice is don't
get in this situation in the first place -- arm
and others in your organization with conflict
management skills before the team takes an
- Become conflict competent as a leader
and gain the confidence to engage in conflict
constructively as opposed to falling into patterns of
- Provide a vision for team culture including
interaction and performance standards and give the
support needed for employees to
- Reinforce constructive behaviors such as
showing an interest in hearing others' opinions, open
communication, creation of new ideas, and reaching
out to each other through rewards and
- Model knowledge and behaviors of conflict
competency for the team to follow.
|Four Reasons Conflict Confounds Some Managers
Some managers continually struggle with
difficult employees, low morale, tension between
teams, and other costly byproducts of conflict.
Quite often they are holding onto
thinking or ways of acting that are making their
situations harder to handle than need be.
reasons some managers remain at the mercy of
- They perceive conflict as one-dimensional and,
therefore, only see the downside which prevents
engaging in conflict fully to receive its
- Most don't know their personal reactions to conflict
those reactions determine the path conflict will
- Others erroneously believe that emotions need to
out of communications in the workplace.
- Too many hold the notion that their habits and
developed over time can't be changed.
Managers who use conflict wisely know a different
reality and lead with more self-control and greater
effectiveness as a result. The reality is conflict
very rich side to it
enables leaders to take their teams to new heights in
creativity and decision-making. Knowledge of our
personal reactions to conflict is not only important, but
step to a deeper understanding of the dynamics of
conflict. Emotions are often the core cause of
much conflict and are also the key that
untangles conflict. Without emotions in workplace
communication, direct and open communication
would suffer. Finally, yes all "old dogs" can indeed
learn new tricks! We can't change our personalities,
but we can most definitely change our conflict
behaviors, and we should.
|What Are Your Hot Buttons?
See if this sounds familiar -- someone pushes
you walk away feeling demoralized, disrespected,
unmotivated, powerless, anxious, angry, frustrated or
all of the above! You recognize how you feel, but
you aware of what makes you sizzle the hottest or the
Having insight into your hot buttons, and how
to defuse situations, can make you feel more in
control of yourself and your work, be more
self-confident, and spend less energy having negative
emotions. The first step is understanding your
hot buttons and behaviors that typically result when
your buttons are pushed --
most often, behaviors that cause further conflict. We
recommend using the Conflict
Dynamics Profile (CDP),
a 360-degree assessment or a self-assessment tool,
as a way to gain this insight. Working Dynamics can
provide this assessment for you and we train other
consultants to administer the CDP within
In the meantime, read about the CDP and
take the free online Hot Button Quiz.
About the Publisher
Susan Gunn is president of
Working Dynamics, a Richmond, VA, consulting
Working Dynamics builds collaboration and
in the workplace through development programs
conflict management. Learn more about us at
"Life is not so short but that there is always
time for courtesy."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"I never saw an instance of one or two
disputants convincing the other by argument."
-- Thomas Jefferson
"See problems as holes in the ground. You
can dig deeper, or you can break new ground."