Every organization needs some policies. But as useful as policies are, for some organizations policies can be used as a crutch to lean on rather than actively working at the more difficult task of cultivating good judgment and employee relations skills amongst their managers. When organizations rely too heavily on policies, an over-reliance on ‘the manual’ leaves managers and employees lacking the skills and comfort-level to engage in difficult conversations. Instead of addressing the occasional slip ups made by individual employees directly and professionally, organizations often resort to passive-aggressive tactics like e-mailing the dress code policy to every employee because one person showed up in shorts. Is this way to remind everyone including the offender of the policies without stirring the pot or is it really is a tactic to save the manager from a difficult situation, or from having to address the issue? No one likes to have tough conversations and at times using the policy manual may be warranted, but we need to be aware of not falling into the trap of over-reliance on our policies just to make a less pleasant conversation avoidable.
I have a quick thought on perspective. Have you ever noticed how very young kids’ drawings usually don’t feature a person’s neck? It just has a the persons head on their arms. Have you wondered why?
I beleive that if you’re two or three years old and your perspective is low to the ground, you don’t see people’s necks when you look up. You see a head sitting on shoulders
This is a great analogy for conflict.
Resolving Conflict successfully demands that we look at the world through the eyes of the other party and communicate and understanding from that perspective. Sometimes this perspective is physical, emotional, cultural, or intellectual. The process of understanding a foreign frame of reference can be hard and taxing, but when we do it, we find its value. Perspective is about understanding the other, and that at times can be a sacred expereince. Everything looks wildly different from that perspective and we are able to find great solutions to our problems.
In a modern culture where being heard is valued, listening is an under rated skill to have. Good listeners are good communicators. They are the people who know are successful at building strong relationships and resolving conflict. Developing listening skills is not complicated, but takes mindful practice and disapline. If you are interested in becoming a good listener, download our Effective listening tips.
Have you ever had an experience at work or in your family life where your behavior was influenced by the unwritten rules? For example, perhaps there is an unwritten rule that you do not talk about the declining sales in the department meetings. Or perhaps you have an unwritten rule in your family where your do not talk about anything relating to your father's diabetes and his diet. My guess is that you have experienced unwritten rules before in many group settings. All organizations and families have unwritten rules that regulate your behavior. Many times these rules go consciously unnoticed, but they can account for many of the decisions and actions within an organization.
Unwritten rules or "latent rules" as I like to call them, make up a powerful, invisible force that moves through the lives of all the members of an organization. They are the unwritten rules that govern the freedom, values, speech and behavior of the organizations members. They can create a positive and strong dynamic culture. Such latent rules as "we are free to talk about our feelings", "we welcome new experiences", or "you are expected to be honest" can go a long way in making our families and organizations strong. If your latent rules are positive, they can promote a dynamic environment that promotes growth, creativity and productivity. Good latent rules allow organization members to thrive and be happy.
But what happens when our latent rules are poor? Poor rules can hinder growth, opportunity, and cause conflict and pain within an organization. They can damage relationships, and create a high cost in time and money. As a mediator I have seen conflict escalate, and relationships damaged because of poor latent rules. Damaging rules can be subtle and harm individuals and groups without being recognized as the culprit for their pain. Many of my clients are surprised to discover that some of these rules exist and the influence that they have over their organization.
Poor latent rules cause great barriers in the growth of organizations. What happens for example if an office does not talk about the declining sales? Or a family never talks about money openly or Dad's diet? These unwritten rules create a rigid system that can hinder the group's success. Generally these latent rules are never brought up and discussed openly; therefore they are never challenged and become detrimental in the growth and success of the group. Ultimately poor latent rules leave the group's members to interoperate and guess on how to respond and work under them. This potentially causes a source of conflict, confusion, anxiety, and inappropriate actions within an organization because of the unclear and murky rules.
So the question is how do we address latent rules? The reality is that no matter what we do, these rules will always exist. Therefore the best thing that an organization can do is to acknowledge them. Be aware that as a member of a group there are rules that you are not aware of. Awareness alone will help overcome the barriers that these rules can create. We cannot address or challenge our unwritten rules if we do not acknowledge their existence.
Another strategy is to take time to examine and discover these rules. Try to determine if these rules are good or poor. Do they foster an open organization that promotes growth, and healthy productiveness, or do they foster a closed ridged organization that is fearful, and anxious?
Additionally, ask yourself what is your role in fostering unwritten rules. In many corporate settings, these rules seem to be made and influenced heavily by management. So ask yourself, if there are any unwritten rules that you unintentionally project toward your employees? Are there any unwritten rules about communication that exist? Do your actions create standards, and latent rules that are being enforced in the group? Being conscious about how your behavior can affect how others work with or for you can help to create a strong environment.
Finally, take the time to consciously create latent rules that work for the organization. Our attitudes, openness, speech, and behaviors can help create new latent rules that can foster strength. Examine yourself and the image that you are portraying. What kind of shadow are you casting down upon others? Does your behavior and speech reflect your open door policy? Does it reflect a safe place for your employees and foster creativity, and action? Many times company values are created to foster and measure some of the unwritten rules. They create a space to examine them, and to make them more visible.
Being conscience about latent rules will help you identify them as they manifest. It will give you an opportunity to address them in an honest way. Sometimes talking about latent rules can be painful, and create a picture about ourselves that we may not like, but it will move you toward a path of change. Many times when I am called into a conflict situation, we spend a lot of time discovering the latent rules, and fostering an open dialogue regarding them. This always brings them into the light and allows everyone to address them and the barriers and conflict that they create. Awareness and being conscious of your sphere of influence will help create latent rules that will create strength and growth within your organization.
Many employers and organizations have done a great job creating a workplace environment that is positive and supportive for their employees. Such things as competitive pay and other benefits help attract and retain employees. This is why Google just recently gave all of their employees a 10% increase in their pay to all of their employees to help retain and attract the best talent. Although keeping great employees and talent is becoming more completive than ever, most employers fail to recognize the simple things that can help keep and retain talent. According to SHRM, the most deciding factor of employee satisfaction is the strength of an employee’s relationship with their direct supervisor. If an employee feels that their supervisor deals with conflicts well, and is a good manager there is a likelihood of high employee satisfaction and retention.
Therefore it is important for your strategic development that your managers have strengths in dealing with people and conflict. How much time and training do you give your managers and supervisors in training in skills such as conflict resolution, effective communication, and such skills as emotional intelligence? Are your managers great with people or are they more tasks oriented? Although such trainings may be perceived as soft skills that are hard to quantify, they can help reduce the quantitative costs of turn-over that comes from unskilled managers.
Equity theory is something that all leaders, managers and HR Generalist would be aware of. If it is not in your conscious it should be. It can help you make decisions as to how you staff, retain, and energize your staff and organization. Equity theory is a motivational theory that describes how people are motivated. Equity theory proposes that individuals who perceive themselves as either under-rewarded or over rewarded will experience distress, which will lead efforts to restore equity in the relationship. In other words, if an employee feels that he/she is not compensated for the output that he/she is producing, then they will try to restore a balance of equality between their compensation and output. If an employee feels like they are underpaid then their behavior and attitude may become hostile towards their employees or co-worker and their performace will lower. Just liek anything we do in life if we feel that our situation is unfair, we will respond by lowering our committment and performace to match what we feel that we are getting out of the relationship or situation.
Equity theory is about the importance of fairness in to your employees. Fairness in the workplace goes beyond pay, and can include many factors that can influence the output of your employees. These "fairness factors" that can influence work performance include: pay, benefits, work load, respect, opportunity, honest communication, responsibility, and praise. If employees feel that they are being treated fair they will perform better. Because fairness is computed by so many factors, managers and leaders can be creative to find equality in their workforce. For example a working mother may take a lower wage to have more flexible hours. A young employee may take a lower position in order to have opportunity to grow and develop into a management role.
So how does one work with maintaining a equitable working environment? Being creative and flexible will help create equality in your workforce, and off set other areas where employee may not view as fair or equal. This will allow you to create solutions that will establish equity among employees. For example creating a flex time schedule may offset the fact that your employees may have to work weekends from time to time. Creating a strong and pro-active dispute system can help create opportunities to discover, and address pressing issues that employees may see as unfair. this will allow employees to come to you with problems, and give you time and flexibility to address them and find pro-active solutions.
Fairness and justice goes a long way in managing people and creating opportunities. It can help employees feel that they are being treated fairly and thus influence them to give a fair output back into the organization. Therefore it is important to always take a litmus test as to how fair of workplace you provide to your staff. You may find that it can help reduce turn over and help you retain and recruit the talent that you need to be successful.
Conflict can be a huge expense for building contractors. It can cost a contractor thousands of dollars in lost time, delayed payment, lost wages, and court costs. Conflict can also bring a lot of unwanted stress, bad publicity and loss to reputation which can potentially contribute to loss of business and clients. A well trained mediator or conflict resolution professional can help a contractor eliminate these potential hazards and pitfalls that conflict brings. This article will look at 3 very impactful ways in which a mediator or conflict resolution professional can help contractors save money and grow business.
Mediators can save time and legal costs
Anyone that has been in a contractor dispute knows that it can be a long drawn out process that can incur expensive legal costs. However, mediation can dramatically cut hefty legal costs, and speed up the resolution process. Mediation is quick and efficient. A good mediator is able to get the parties together quickly and work to resolve the dispute in a matter of hours instead of months. They are hired to work with both parties to come up with a solution. Thus court scheduling, and working with attorney's calendars is not an issue with mediation. They can set down with all parties quickly and at their convenience to hammer out a solution that works for everyone.
Additionally mediation is a cheaper than hiring an attorney and the potential added court costs. Typically a mediator fee is split by all the parties involved. Thus you are not stuck with a large bill on your own. Since mediation can be done in hours, you are not charged for weeks of fees that can incur with attorneys. Thus because of mediation's speed and billing structure, it can save your thousands of dollars in out of pocket expenses.
More importantly, mediators can be brought in early in before the conflict escalates. This can save a lot of time, money and energy and head off a lot of potential problems that can come from not letting conflict remain unresolved.
Mediation can save your relationships
Let's face it; disputes can hurt your relationships with clients, colleagues, employers, employees and partners. The traditional legal avenues do little to preserve these relationships. However, a well trained mediator is equip to help you preserve these relationships. Mediators are trained to look at the conflict's deeper issues, the parties' personalities, and needs. They look for solutions that will preserve and ultimately strengthen relationships. A mediator can also look at ways to prevent future disputes that may arise between the parties, and help them plan a way to work through them in the future. This can save you thousands in future bids, and contracts.
Mediation can help save your reputation
Mediation is confidential, thus everything that is discussed cannot be used to hurt you or your company. Furthermore because mediation is relationship focused, the ability of coming out of the dispute in a good relationship with the party will help improve your reputation. Mediation will show your clients that you are pro-active about resolving disputes. It will show that you take it seriously, and will help diffuse an adversarial mind set with the other parties. Thus with every successful mediation, your reputation will grow, and referrals will come. Everyone likes to work with a professional that can resolve problems quick, and effective. Mediation gives you this ability to work though disputes quickly while protecting your interests and business.
Using a mediator for all of your contracting disputes will help strengthen your relationships with clients. It will build you a strong reputation, and save you thousands of dollars in unwanted legal fees, court costs and time. Furthermore it will show your clients that you are serious about resolving disputes, while making you look more professional. It will also speed up payment for disputed work so that you can make a bad situation a satisfied customer. Therefore it would be wise in all of your contracts to place a mediation clause for all of your disputes, and develop a relationship with a mediator in your area. Mediation is a quick and cost effective solution that can save you money and make your business grow.