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Can't We All Just Get Along?

Dan Bobinski
May 10, 2004 -- By Dan Bobinski 

Ever think about how much time you spend resolving conflict and calming contentious co-workers?  You might be surprised to learn that top leaders spend almost 20% of their time doing this very thing.  This according to a recent survey reported in the Briefings Special Bulletin.
 
Twenty percent of your time? That’s expensive! That’s a huge chunk of productivity and profitability thrown away in order to solve “people problems.”   But think about what happens to your bottom line if those people problems are minimized!
 
One of the biggest joys in my line of work is seeing the “a-ha” on people’s faces when they learn about different temperament styles.  Not only do people get excited to learn about the different styles, they also see the benefit of changing their approach in dealing with people who have styles different from their own. 
 
Overall, it’s a more effective way of looking at things.  For example, a prevailing belief exists that some people are just difficult, but the reality is that they’re just different.  Although styles that are different from ours can be perceived as “difficult,” the truth is that they’re only difficult because we haven’t learned to deal effectively with people who have those different styles.
 
Once you learn about the various styles that people have, the mantra to remember is “Value the Differences.” 
 
Perhaps the biggest step towards better communications and cooperation is being willing to stretch in the direction of other people.  This does not mean permanently!  It just means that if you’re a people person who loves to include personal talk in your conversations and you’re having to deal with a facts-and-data, analytical type, bend that direction when dealing with that person.  By all means, you won’t be able to do that all day, but for the important moments, adapt your style and tone down the personal chit chat.  One of the biggest problems I see when consulting with companies is people who expect others to meet them on their own turf.  When two people are at odds, chances are that one of them is being unwilling to bend from their basic style.
 
That info might be good for you, and it might be good to convey to someone else, but what about when you’re acting as the mediator between two warring factions? 
 
Good advice from Briefings Special Bulletin is bring the two parties together.  They say if you speak to coworkers separately, “you’ll wind up serving as a conduit rather than a mediator. You’ll find it hard to convey another employee’s position without it sounding like you’re taking that person’s side.”
 
When you do bring people together, truly mediate. Don’t just let them talk at each other.  If “person A” says something and “person  B” responds with “yes, but…”, then they’re really not listening to each other and it’s time for you to step in.  Force people to acknowledge one another’s statements.  It could sound like, “John, what did Mary just say?”  After John paraphrases Mary, then you can ask, “Mary, does it sound like John understands what you said?”  If Mary says yes, then you might give John an opportunity to respond: “So John, what do you have to say in response to Mary’s comment?”  Also emphasize that understanding does not equal agreement.  
 
The main goal is getting people to understand each other.  If you stay calm and confident with a “zero criticism” attitude, you’re creating a safe atmosphere in which your workers can examine and find solution to their problems. Briefings Special Bulletin also suggests forbidding either party the use of ultimatums. 
 
This all having been said, much of the time spent resolving conflicts on the job can be reduced if your people get trained in identifying, understanding, and working with the basic communication and behavioral preferences (styles).  If employees can learn to get along better, time saved in mediation will be spent in productivity, which will improve your bottom line. 



 
If your people would benefit from learning about the different communication and behavioral styles, check out Communication Skills, Leadership Development's most popular workshop. These skills are also taught in our popular Mangement Development Program.


 

© 2004 Dan Bobinski / Leadership Development, Inc. You may freely forward this information on condition that you send the text as an integral whole along with complete information about its author, date, and source.
 
Dan Bobinski is President of Leadership Development, Inc. He can be reached at (208) 375-7606 or by Email at dan@leadershipanswers.com
     
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