Category Archives: Culture

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5 Ways to deal with conflict in the workplace

This is a guest post from Jamie Costello. Jamie is a legal assistant based in Manchester, UK. The topics he writes about varies from business law to dispute resolution. He uses his knowledge from education and working alongside internal commercial litigations solicitors within his role to help collate his articles.

Tension in the workplace is not avoidable. Even in the best cultures, the best teams and even in the happiest office, you will find some form of conflict is unavoidable.

And an office conflict can lead to a lot of bad things for your business;

  • Loss of productivity
  • Loss of motivation
  • Absence
  • Reduced teamwork
  • Poorer work quality

So, as a leader in a workplace it is important to deal with conflict in a set way, which can include some of the following tactics.

5 Ways to deal with workplace conflict

1) Timing

Stepping in and dealing with conflict successfully relies on several factors, not least of which is timing. Leave an issue too long and it can fester; becoming almost impossible to resolve. As a leader, your responsibility is to step in at just the right time to avoid any ongoing issues.

Don’t move into the situation, taking sides and backing one claim over the other without hard evidence by any means. But, it is important that you step in and let both sides know you are dealing with the issue. The outcome won’t be clear at this point, but it does showcase that you are dealing with the issue promptly.

2) Establish Boundaries

Conflict can quickly become unmanageable if both parties refuse to a level of civility. Whatever the issue, it is your responsibility as a leader to establish what each party’s boundaries are during the conflict and ensure they are respected.

In most workplaces, complete avoidance is unavoidable/not practical. But you should be able to establish a basic framework to ensure work can still be done even during the conflict.

3) Confront Issues, Don’t Ignore

One of the biggest failures of a leader during workplace conflict is to ignore the fact that it is happening. Burying your head in the sand may make your Monday morning easier, but it will lose you both employees as well.

If you ignore a conflict between your employees their work can deteriorate, tensions can make their working relationship irreparable, and you may ultimately lose them both. And the blame may be laid at your feet to boot. Primarily, for failing to deal with or acknowledge that there was a problem to begin with.

A good leader needs to understand conflict is natural and work to ensure it has no long-lasting effect, not dismiss it entirely.

4) Mediate

One of the easiest ways to ensure you deal with a conflict is to mediate between the two parties. Having an open, frank, discussion of the issue and what went wrong can be incredibly important–and resolve the issue much better than most other methods.

Of course, if an issue has developed so far that people are too angry to talk civilly during mediation it can be a real issue. At this point, you may need to actively consider a way to solve the solution by moving/transferring employees where appropriate.

Or, if a party is actively causing the issue and there is hard evidence, then termination may be appropriate in some cases. The fact of the matter is that you have to attempt the mediate and then solve the issue if it presents itself.

5) Listen

The worst thing you can do as a leader during a conflict is to fail at listening. It teaches those under you that you don’t care, even when in most cases you probably care too much. So it’s important to ensure that at the very least you are proving that you care about the situation and how everyone is handling it in that sense.

Listening is one of the key steps to ensuring that you have the respect and understanding of your staff. So, make sure that you have an ear available for any situation.

Overall Thoughts

Conflict is a normal part of everyday life. We have conflicts as part of every life and it is hard to avoid, even in the workplace. The fact of the matter is that as a leader, you need to effectively manage and understand conflicts in your team.

Listen, manage and resolve the issues. That way, you can keep your team in place, hopefully, without any long-standing issues. And you then can continue to resolve similar issues in the same way.


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A guide to professional office communications

Every person understands the power of efficient communication and its impact on daily life and processes. The quality of communication impacts how well we resolve issues, establish relationships, network, and fit in the surrounding societies.

At work, communication not only impacts the well-being of the employees but directly affects the quality of work. If people are stressed, annoyed, or even scared to speak their minds out, that will inevitably lead to poor performance, frequent errors, and a high level of employee turnover.

So what should every employee know about professional communication? Here’s a quick overview that covers the key areas of office communication in a little more detail.

Personal communication

In the office, people interact with dozens (if not hundreds) of colleagues on a regular basis. In order for these interactions to be valuable and with no interference in the actual work process, it is important that all employees know the basic communication principles.

Watch the body language

Even though we are not always aware of our body language, we need to pay attention to it as it impacts the way people perceive us. A person with crossed arms and tense posture seems much more distant and negative than a relaxed person who looks you in the eyes and smiles.

Some of the basic areas to keep in mind when talking to colleagues are:

  • Maintain the eye contact but don’t turn it into a “dead stare”
  • Smile!
  • Try not crossing arms
  • Look at the person, not at your mobile phone or tablet during the talk

Another important thing that needs to be addressed is over-familiarity. Some enthusiastic employees constantly hug their colleagues, tap them on either shoulders or back, shake hands, and overall, get too close to someone’s comfort zone. Such behavior is often uncomfortable, intimidating or annoying so the best option is to restrain from it, except for when talking to close friends or people who do not mind it.

Listen, then talk

Listening is an obligatory skill for efficient communication. Busy office life often implies rush and people try to express themselves as fast as possible in order to be heard and understood.

However, by listening to the other person without interrupting or hurrying them is a sign of great respect and professionalism. It shows that you value the opinion of your colleague and are willing to hear it.

Use your body language to show that you really listen to a person: react to their words, mimic some of their gestures (it helps win them round) and watch the facial expression (it should not be deadpan).

The biggest things to watch for during a personal conversation with a colleague:

  • interruption
  • pointless arguing
  • dishonesty
  • deadpan face
  • crossed arms and tense posture

Phone calling

Another frequent form of communication that we often see in the offices is phone calls. When you need to reach someone really fast or urgently solve a certain task, the best way to do so is to call a person. Though seemingly easy, there are still certain rules to follow when making phone calls.

First, always introduce yourself. There might be hundreds of people working in your company and most people don’t even know the people who work on the same floor but in a different department. Therefore, at the beginning of the conversation, introduce yourself and clarify which department you work in.

Second, clearly state the reason why you call and never hesitate to ask for clarification in case you did not understand the person very well. It’s better to clarify the issue once then resolving possible issues in the future. Another good idea would be to take notes during the call to ensure no important information is missed.

Finally, thank the person for their time when ending the call – this will show that you treat your colleagues with respect and value their time.

Remember: your colleagues are people who work on the same goal as you do which is contributing to the company’s development and growth. So one should invest in nurturing good communication skills so it will bring benefits in the future.

Written communication

Most of the in-office communication happens via texts, emails, or chats. So it’s important to know the basic rules of professional communication via the messengers in order to never miss the important information and get heard in return.

Emails

Emails are great because they allow you to share information with different people, exchange documents, schedule meetings and pretty much organize and manage most of the internal processes.

At the same time, emails are often neglected, ignored, deleted, or lost – simply because the sender did not care much about crafting a professional email. Here are the essentials of a good email:

  • Informative and clear subject: a receiver should immediately understand what the email is about from its subject.
  • A well-balanced copy: not too short but not too long either. Write all the needed information and any useful comments.
  • No misuse of emojis, GIFs, memes, etc. Keep the email professional.
  • Appropriate tone: start with a salutation and end the email with a professional signature (i.e. “Best regards”). Do not use slang or jargon in the email.

The problem of many emails is that the sender does not know how to create a professional and informative email. As a result, the email looks more like a message from a social media that was sent to a friend but not to a colleague.

Work chats

Different companies use different messengers and project chats, with Slack, Trello, and Skype being the most popular ones. The cornerstone of professional communication in such messengers is respect for your colleagues and an ability to listen without interrupting.

Remember: there should be absolutely no harassment, jargon, or inappropriate wording in all forms of written communication in the office. As well, always remember to address the person you are talking to, thank them for their time and provide as much information as needed.

Final word

The topic of professional communication is really vast and specific to every company. What we can say is that the efficiency and quality of office communication between the employees heavily depend on the internal company culture.

If a company has well-established culture, based on mutual respect and trust, there will be no or very little issues related to communication. Thus, while optimizing the quality of communication in your office and educating people about it, take some time to work on the internal culture as well.


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Quantifying the Unquantifiable: The Low Down on Soft Skills

This is a guest post from Sophie J. Parker. Sophie blogs over at Surehand, where industrial safety professionals can find their perfect job. It is her aim to help create a safer world, one inspector at a time.

There’s a piece of advice anyone who’s ever looked for work or a promotion has heard at some point.

Develop your soft skills.

Soft skills are skills that enable you to succeed in a range of environments. They include personality traits and attributes, people skills, social skills and more.

Soft skills have slowly risen from accessory ornaments at the end of a great CV to prominence. Changes in the way markets and companies operate in the digital age made non-technical skills crucial.

As fields are taken over by new ways of operating, many technical qualifications are now obsolete. Adaptability, creativity, and willingness to learn went from perks to requisites for survival in ever-evolving markets.

Now, soft skills are at the forefront of requirements for many new positions and divisions. The professional profile companies seek to fill is increasingly centered on these skills.

In a few decades, “develop your soft skills” went from generic advice to thoughtful counsel. In this article, we’ll go over the reasons these skills are in such demand.

We’ll also list the most popular soft skills for employers in 2020. Finally, we’ll discuss some of the metrics available to measure these skills in the workplace.

Soft Skills In Hard Markets

Soft vs Hard Skills: Old School Wisdom

Traditionally, soft skills were considered more as perks than prerequisites. These skills were considered inherently unmeasurable. Hard skills could be trained and measured.

To the first generations of management thinkers, hard skills seemed like a better horse to bet on. Time wound up proving them very wrong.

Hard skills may have been easier to measure, but they also proved more rigid. Specializing in hard skills made workers harder to adapt to new positions.

This would be a crucial shortcoming.

The Age of Disruption

As technological advancements have continued relentlessly, many markets were deeply disrupted. Whole industries rose out of seemingly nowhere.

Many roles and departments that are vital today didn’t exist a decade or two ago. Companies struggle to find professionals to perform at a high level in novel fields.

Both market disruptors and well-established companies see their hierarchies affected. Startups and large players have different priorities, but both require soft skills.

Different Priorities

Startups need to hire people that have the hard skills they need at the moment. At the same time, they need employees with the non-technical skills required to handle growth down the road.

Hard skills put food on the table, but it’s soft skills that keep that table getting bigger. Soft skills in your staff mean that a better workplace culture can flourish. This, in turn, leads to companies that grow sustainably, with higher rates of productivity.

Then, there are the big players. Well-established market titans that put too much stock in hard skills become sluggish.

Social and communication skills allow key staff to develop inter-departmental synergy. Understanding the human factor makes it easier for large companies to react to disruption.

Soft Skill Metrics

The key drawback to soft skills is the lack of data to measure their effectiveness in any given situation. Or so the conventional wisdom goes. That statement may have been a fact decades ago, but social sciences have come a long way since then.

Qualitative methodologies have been refined by social psychologists, sociologists, and other experts. Decades of research have developed an ample array of tools to measure non-technical skills. Their accuracy and predictive power are now settled matters in academia.

The ivory towers of academia are far removed from the gritty world of business, though. Distilled techniques in controlled settings are one thing; effective workplace metrics are another. Can these methods be used in a real-world workplace, fruitfully?

The answer is a resounding yes. Here are just a few ways to do it.

Behavioral interviewing

Behavioral interviews focus on the way candidates act in situations. Rather than current or past performance, they use hypotheticals to identify specific skills.

Soft skills-based rubrics

Rubrics are grid-based tools that feature key criteria for employee performance. They allow assessment and scoring on a number of attributes and scales. They should be customized for every role in the company.

Feedback surveys

Questionnaires and surveys can help identify issues stemming from non-technical skill scarcity. Falling levels of employee satisfaction, communication problems and leadership issues are well-captured by questionnaires.

Surveys are also crucial to measure how effective skill training is. Without feedback from colleagues, supervisors, subordinates, and clients it’s impossible to track progress.

Most Valued Soft Skills

Times are changing, especially in the corporate land. As science begins to catch up to the realities of non-technical skills, companies are wising up.

Recruiters now seek and weed out candidates based on their non-technical skills, or lack thereof. The following are the five most in-demand soft skills companies are looking for right now.

5. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to accurately identify emotions in yourself and others. It is the non-technical skill’s jack-of-all-trades. It works as a bedrock upon which all other skills can be built.

Its presence is insufficient to determine that a candidate is most desirable. Its absence is a red flag, though. Companies need people capable of maturity and empathy.

4. Adaptability

Adaptability is the capacity to change one’s behavior and assumptions in a fast and fluid way. In the age of disruption, adaptability is just what the doctor prescribed. Companies need employees who can adjust to new realities without skipping a beat.

Adaptability doesn’t fall squarely on the shoulders of employees, though. There is a lot that an organization can do (or fail to do) to foster or hinder adaptability.

3. Collaboration

Companies have staked a lot on creating competitiveness between coworkers. It’s collaboration, however, that has proven to be the superior skill.

Companies are built on collaboration. The capacity to cooperate seamlessly in different settings and groups is invaluable to success.

2. Persuasion

Long-considered a skill for the sales team, persuasion has a far wider reach. It’s a crucial element in effective leadership.

Great leaders must be capable of persuading their teams to follow them. Dissent is natural and healthy, but a persuasive leader fosters cohesion.

1. Creativity

Creativity is the most sought-after soft skill in new hires this year. There’s a reason for that. In an uncertain, disrupted marketplace, companies know they’ll need to get innovative to beat the competition.. Creative employees approach problems from new angles, finding clever solutions to vexing puzzles.

This trend is likely to grow more pronounced in the coming years. Technology is taking over most job functions requiring high-level hard skills. Creative employees will allow companies to implement these technologies in new and amazing ways.

Conclusion

Soft skills have reversed the tables on a decades-old narrative. Long-relegated to a minor footnote, these skills are now one of the hottest commodities.

The progress of science allows companies to measure those skills, and analyze them. For companies that have, the verdict is clear—the value of non-technical skills is a hard fact.

Companies that create a culture with soft skills at the center face considerable gains. Those that don’t may well go the way of the dodo.


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Taking Team Dynamics into Account During the Recruitment Process

Hiring often looks simple from the outside. An inside look shows a process complex enough to have thousands of studies dedicated to single aspects of recruitment. Companies spend millions on assessing, training, and hiring the right people to drive their companies, and for good reason. The right people can make or break a business.

People-fit is a crucial topic, and one that many companies don’t spend enough time on. Today, the lens of hiring is slowly shifting to look at aspects such as personality, behavior, and beliefs to create teams that truly work together.

Team dynamics are an incredibly important consideration, because they affect not just how one person works, but how an entire team will get along and work together.

Personality Type

Personality type is the first and one of the most important things to measure. In most cases, you should use personality assessments during initial employee screening. This can include something like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or another type of test. Competency and behavioral assessments are important as well, because they indicate what a person can do, why they would or would not do that, and how they do it.

Understanding personality type and behavior is key for determining where someone fits into a team. However, it’s equally crucial to have this information regarding existing team members.

Mapping Team Roles

Mapping team roles allows you to picture what you have in your team and then work to fill gaps. Various tools, typically models and frameworks, exist to help you do this. Look at assessments that can map out roles in successful teams, and the types of people who fit those roles. Your assessment provider should be able to assess multiple roles per individual, as there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for any candidate. That way, you can also keep your teams small with 3-5 people, and at the same time have every role filled (since each individual would be suited for multiple roles).

Cultural Diversity

Cultural diversity is the concept of having a range of influences and background in a team. This allows individuals to influence, challenge, and push each other to excel in ways they wouldn’t on their own. Cultural diversity can be achieved by hiring diverse people, by building cross-functional teams, and by tearing down silos so that teams can work together and be exposed to new ideas, ways of thinking, and approaches.

Cognitive Diversity

Cognitive diversity, like cultural diversity, is about creating teams stemming from different backgrounds, with different thought processes, and different levels of education. This involves understanding how people work, how they use existing knowledge versus creating their own, and whether they tend to use their own expertise or leverage that of others. Strong teams require a mix of cognitive approaches.

Team Compatibility

While it’s important to introduce diversity, you also have to pay attention to compatibility. You don’t want everyone on the team to be the same, but you also don’t want people who will naturally clash. Understanding how different types of people work together (and don’t), will allow you to make better decisions. Diversity for the sake of diversity benefits no one when it means individuals cannot work together.

Strong team are composed of diverse individuals, typically with a range of backgrounds, cultures, and cognitive methods. Most also require a set number of skills such as a specialist, coordinator, and implementer to actually be productive. Understanding each team, who is on that team, and what they need to be most productive will help you to find and fit candidates into those roles to enhance the team.


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