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Posts Tagged ‘conflict in the workplace’

Set Expectations and Be Happier at Work

People are not us; they do things their way, not ours. This is so obvious. Yet violated expectations are consistently a source of lots of frustration and upset, both personally and professionally. “How could you not check your work before submitting information to a client?” “What do you mean you didn’t call that person back?” “You said what?!”

The most frequent request we get at Candid Culture is for feedback training. The call usually goes something like this, “The Set expectationscommunication isn’t great at our company. Managers don’t give a lot of feedback. People don’t talk directly to each other when there are problems, they talk about each other. Can you help?”

Sure, we can help. But once we’re having this conversation people are already frustrated. Trust has been violated and relationships and reputations have been damaged. Instead of waiting for problems to occur, expect the unexpected. Set clear expectations before people don’t proofread reports, miss deadlines, and do other things you wouldn’t dream of doing.

How to avoid violated (often unstated) expectations? Ask more questions.

Here are five questions you should ask every person you work with to set expectations. And if you do, your workplace will have fewer frustrations and violated expectations:

  1. What’s most important that you’re working on right now? What are your goals this quarter?
  2. What are we both working on that we can work on together? Or what should one of us stop working on?
  3. How do you like to communicate? Phone, in-person, by appointment or drop by’s.
  4. How do you like to receive information – email, voicemail, text message or instant messenger?
  5. If I need information from you and I haven’t heard back from you, what should I do, and is it ok to do that?
  6. What are your pet peeves at work? How will I annoy you and not even know it?
  7. How do you like to be interrupted? (You’re going to be interrupted. You might as well have a preference.)

I know. That was seven questions, not five. I could keep going. But this is a good start.

Here’s the philosophy and practice: People aren’t you. Anticipate challenges, breakdowns, and violated expectations, and talk about them before they happen. Make requests. Ask questions.

It’s always easier to ask for what you want than to give feedback.

set expectations


Set Expectations and Be Happier at Work

People are not us; they do things their way, not ours. This is so obvious. Yet violated expectations are consistently a source of lots of frustration and upset, both personally and professionally. “How could you not check your work before submitting information to a client?” “What do you mean you didn’t call that person back?” “You said what?!”

The most frequent request we get at Candid Culture is for feedback training. The call usually goes something like this, “The People don't do things the way we do. communication isn’t great at our company. Managers don’t give a lot of feedback. People don’t talk directly to each other when there are problems, they talk about each other. Can you help?”

Sure, we can help. But once we’re having this conversation people are already frustrated. Trust has been violated and relationships and reputations have been damaged. Instead of waiting for problems to occur, expect the unexpected. Set clear expectations before people don’t proofread reports, miss deadlines, and do other things you wouldn’t dream of doing.

How to avoid violated (often unstated) expectations? Ask more questions.

Here are five questions you should ask every person you work with. And if you do, your workplace will have fewer frustrations and violated expectations:

  1. What’s most important that you’re working on right now? What are your goals this quarter?
  2. What are we both working on that we can work on together? Or what should one of us stop working on?
  3. How do you like to communicate? Phone, in-person, by appointment or drop by’s.
  4. How do you like to receive information – email, voicemail, text message or instant messenger?
  5. If I need information from you and I haven’t heard back from you, what should I do, and is it ok to do that?
  6. What are your pet peeves at work? How will I annoy you and not even know it?
  7. How do you like to be interrupted? (You’re going to be interrupted. You might as well have a preference.)

I know. That was seven questions, not five. I could keep going. But this is a good start.

Here’s the philosophy and practice: People aren’t you. Anticipate challenges, breakdowns, and violated expectations, and talk about them before they happen. Make requests. Ask questions.

It’s always easier to ask for what you want than to give feedback.

communication tip card


Resolving Conflict in the Workplace – It’s Not Too Late

Chances are, at some point in your career, you’ve worked with someone you wished would go away. Maybe the person repeatedly threw you under the bus, took credit for your work, or didn’t keep his commitments. And at some point, you wrote the person off, and have been merely tolerating him ever since.

Damaged relationships can be repaired, if you’re willing to do some work.

The first step in repairing a damaged relationship is to decide that you really want to do so. Managing conflict in the workplace isn’t easy. It will take effort and will likely be uncomfortable. So before you take action, decide if you really want to work on the relationship.

How to know if you should even try resolving conflict in the workplace: Ask yourself how much you need the relationship. This probably sounds political, and it is. If you work on projects together, need to give or receive information, or have to work together regularly, then it’s likely worth working on the relationship. If you don’t need to work together regularly, then perhaps don’t work on the relationship.

If you decide to attempt to strengthen a relationship, plan what you’re going to say. Never trust the first thing that comes out of your mouth during a difficult conversation.

conflict resolution in the workplace

Step one for resolving conflict in the workplace: Like any feedback conversation, start with the end in mind. Consider what you want to have happen as a result of the conversation.

Step two for resolving conflict in the workplace: Plan what you’re going to say by taking notes and practicing out loud. What you say in your head is usually not what comes out of your mouth.

Step three for resolving conflict in the workplace: Ask the person for time on his calendar. People don’t like surprises. You’ll have a better outcome if the person has blocked time to talk with you. Have the conversation in-person whenever possible. If you can’t speak in-person, talk on the phone. Do not attempt to fix your relationship via email. 1. Email is wimpy. 2. It will not work.

Tell the person, “Our relationship is strained. I don’t think I’m saying anything we’re not both aware of. I’d really like a good working relationship. Would you be willing to have coffee or lunch with me, and we can talk about what has happened and perhaps start in a new way?”

Step four for resolving conflict in the workplace: Ask for a meeting to work on the relationship up to three times. If, after the third time, the person hasn’t made time, stop asking. You can’t work with someone who won’t work with you. If the person doesn’t make time to meet, be polite, professional, and inclusive, but stop trying to nurture the relationship. Inclusive means: cc’ing him on necessary emails, inviting him to appropriate meetings, and providing necessary data.

Step five for resolving conflict in the workplace: If the person makes time to meet, speak candidly, be yourself, and be vulnerable. I don’t mean set yourself up to be killed. I do mean be authentic.

How to Manage Difficult Conversations:

  1. Tell the person what you want.
  2. Ask for feedback about how you’ve damaged the relationship.
  3. Listen to what you hear, and resist the urge to defend yourself.
  4. Ask for permission to tell him how he’s damaged the relationship.
  5. Give small amounts of feedback, with a few specific examples.
  6. Make agreements of what each of you will do differently in the future.
  7. Thank the person for the conversation and schedule another meeting.

Step six for resolving conflict in the workplace: Build in follow-up. Most people have one conversation and expect things to be fixed, forever. Relationships don’t work that way. Agree to meet monthly, for the first few months, until you’ve rebuilt trust and learned how to communicate and work together. During the monthly meetings, give each other permission to give candid feedback about how you’re working together. I call these Relationship Inventory Meetings™.

During monthly Relationship Inventory Meetingsask:

  • What’s working about how we work together?
  • What’s not working?
  • What working agreements did we keep?
  • What working agreements did we break?
  • Which working agreements are helpful?
  • What working agreements need to change?

You might be thinking, “I don’t like this person. I don’t want to work with him. And I definitely don’t want to have these uncomfortable conversations.”

  1. If the nature of your relationship is impacting your ability to do your job, your professional reputation, or your happiness, all of those consequences are far worse and more long-lasting than any conversation will be.
  1. The conversations won’t be as bad as you think. No one will tell you anything you can’t handle, because for the most part, they’re afraid of your reaction and they know they’ll be next.

Conflict in the workplace and damaged relationships keep people up at night, reduce job satisfaction, and often motivate people to leave jobs. If you’re experiencing any of these things, all of them are worse than any conversation will be. The anticipation of the conversation is far worse than the conversation itself.

  1. Decide if you want to strengthen the relationship.
  2. Plan the conversation.
  3. Ask for time to meet.
  4. Have the conversation. Speak honestly, but responsibly.
  5. Plan to have another conversation before ending this conversation.
  6. Congratulate yourself for being courageous and picking happiness over anxiety and frustration. Suffering is optional.

conflict resolution in the workplace


Giving Feedback? Just the Facts.

Most of the feedback we give and receive puts people on the defensive. We don’t do this intentionally. It just happens. We say how we feel, usually when we’re upset, and the other person responds.

Most of the feedback we give and receive is judgy, like the examples below.

Judgy – Not Real Feedback

Just the Facts – Actual Feedback

“You ignore me in meetings.” “When I raise my hand to participate in meetings, you don’t call on me.”
“You’re rude to me.” “When you pass me in the hallway, you don’t say hello.”
“You won’t work with me. You go around me.” “We were supposed to screen potential vendors together. You scheduled and held the appointments without me.”
“You’re not responsive.” “You usually reply to emails a week after they were sent.”
“It’s hard to get time on your calendar.” “It takes three weeks to schedule time to meet with you.”

Becoming defensive when receiving feedback is a hard-wired response, like slamming on your brakes when the car in front of your does the same. The more people feel judged, the more defensive they become. If you want to be sure people become defensive when you give feedback, be vague. If you want people to be able to hear you and take action on your feedback, strip out the opinion (judgment) and give people just the facts.

Referring to the chart above, the sentences on the left are opinions. And opinions can be debated.  The sentences on the right are facts. Facts are harder to debate. When giving feedback give just the facts, not your opinion. This will take practice.

The first thing out of our mouths will invariably be judgment/opinion.  People who have participated in feedback training with me or who have read How to Say Anything to Anyone know I call the tendency to be vague Cap’n Crunch.  Cap’n Crunch:  “You’re doing a good job.” That’s sweet but useless.

When someone upsets you and you want to tell the person, prepare for the conversation by asking yourself these questions:

  • What did the person do that frustrated me?
  • What behaviors did s/he exhibit?
  • What actions did s/he take?
  • What was the impact on me?

Then practice giving feedback to someone outside of your workplace or group of friends (to reduce gossip and drama) and ask the person with whom you’re practicing what s/he heard.  If your feedback is specific and clear, any lay person will interpret the feedback as you intended it.

Giving feedback, that others can hear, isn’t easy to do. It requires you to put your emotions aside, strip out judgments and opinions, and tell the other person the facts of what happened. The more you focus on the facts and less on how you feel about what happened, the better your conversations and relationships will go.


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