Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Deal With Conflict

I had to write a discussion in my class about dealing with conflict an I thought that it could also be beneficial to my readers so I wanted to share some of my thoughts here.  Please feel free to comment below.  I love to interact with your comments.

I have had extensive experience with managerial actions causing conflicts in the workplace, especially with my experience in the military and currently working on a training base.  One of these items listed was poor communications.  I think the military as a whole has an issue with this.  I have been working on orders being given a next order number for working a flowing 179 day order while here in Texas.  My active duty leadership started asking me 2 weeks out what my future plans were, and I went long term talking about eventually working as a contractor, etc.  2 days before my orders were about to start I was informed that the funding did not come down and I would need to figure out something else while they waited to see when they would have more days for me to work on.  Now I realize this explanation uses a lot of military specific lingo, but suffice it to say that my guard leadership knew 3-4 weeks out that I would not be able to have a full-time job for the next 6 months as planned and my active duty leadership knew 2 weeks out the same information.  No one informed me until 2 days before my previous orders expired, to leave me in a frantic job search while not knowing what I was going to do for future paychecks in the near future as a traditional guard job is only 1 weekend a month and does not supply a full month’s income.  Luckily the end results were for me to land an immediate opportunity as a contractor that lead to a better future and my current job, but this was extremely unacceptable and highly unprofessional in my eyes from both sides of my leadership.  This particular conflict showed an extreme lack of communication, insufficient resources and leadership problems.  

In my past experiences with conflicts there is the excellent tip of knowing what you don’t like about yourself early on.  If I could have recognized my own qualities that I did not like in myself such as impatience, over-analyzing, over-thinking, I may have been able to avoid some of the problems I encountered early on in my career in head-butting with coworkers.  Managing myself to keep calm is easy for me to do now, but it would have been easier to calm my younger more opinionated self that felt the need to be heard instead of really staying calm and listening to another person, this would also be helpful in verifying that I accurately heard another person.  I know that now I constantly reaffirm with my customer that we are understanding things in the same way, as to sometimes a request they send to me has a different meaning that would be initially assumed.  I have gotten very good at knowing my individual customers and know that although what they say doesn’t always seem clear; I know what was meant by their words.  This continuous verification saves time and misunderstandings and creates a better working relationship from both sides.  It took me a few years to be able to deal with a situation that would always be a conflict.  Once I was able to agree to disagree but still find a common ground to work on, life went a lot more smoothly for me both in and out of work.  

This is also inter-related in terms of who I am according to my DiSC profile.  Although my current results show that I have the ability to work with a team and make things happen, a lot of time in the past this was only after much conflict and me with the feeling of “if you want something done right you have to do it yourself.”  I know that I still have this line of thinking at times and for good reason, but I have become better at voicing my personal conflicts in a diplomatic way in order to resolve it at the lowest level and earliest possible time.  Early on in my career I was NOT the assertive person that I am now.  I was very shy and timid and kept my conflicts and problems to myself causing them to fester and sometimes turn into a much bigger problem than if I would have just voiced my concerns and found a solution as a team early on.  

Being assertive is very important, but it should not be confused with being aggressive.  Aggressiveness is  highly likely to hinder communication with more timid personalities.  Being assertive is not allowing yourself to be walked on and to ensure that you are a part of the team.  I think that given any situation where a person will not participate or is too afraid to contribute, that they are harming themselves rather than laying the blame on the assertive person.  With that being said, it is all about how you approach an issue and the need to show some finesse.  An effective communicator will recognize someone who cannot be as assertive and try to find a way to get that person to open up and participate and make sure that the communication flow is not one sided.  Once you stop caring about the communication flow or if you try to make your opinion the ONLY opinion, than you have crossed the line from assertive to aggressive.

I am the worst at topic jumping.  I can talk about so many things at once and people can get lost.  Also so many thoughts go on in my head that sometimes I will accidentally talk over someone or else the thought it gone, which is very rude but never intended to be.  The best way that I overcame that in work was to think about what I had to say for a second time and run it through my head, this gave me time to think before talking and to better gauge the appropriate time to contribute to a conversation.  I find that I sometimes have to restate things in my head to make them more understandable, and sometimes even "dumb" down my lingo. 

I have found that delegating can be a very delicate subject.  For me the best way that I have found to delegate tasks is to not only asking a task but to give an explanation about the importance of the task and why I chose the person.  For example telling someone that a chart must be made up because we need the visual for a presentation and this is very important for the selling point of a project and could make or break the sale.  I chose this person because they are dependable and even though this may seem like a mundane task I can trust them to do a good job and pay attention to detail and get it done in time to use.  In this way there was no lying or talking someone up.  This person's work ethic really is valuable and the little things can make or break a project.  Once you can make someone see why something is important and how they can contribute, they personalize with the task and find a sense of pride in the task and may not enjoy it, but once you can make something their own they will do a better job because they feel like a valuable asset.  Everyone wants to be valued in one way or another.  Unfortunately we all have to do tasks we don't want to do, but the approach is how you end up with the best result and the best motivating factor, to me.

Additional techniques are to regularly conduct training on delegation, so that there are no hard feelings when a task is delegated and nobody feels as though they are being singled out, so that all people involved can understand the delegation process and the reasons behind it.  Communication can ALWAYS be improved upon and constantly reaffirmed that everyone understands the meaning behind any discussions or requests.  This will never stop no matter how old or how experienced or who I am working with.  Communication is the number one area to keep at the forefront and constantly groom and ensure that the communication skills I use are appropriate and effective for each situation.  

Here is the original article Interpersonal Conflict

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