An Incident of Workplace Bullying : The Leader’s Response

Workplace Bullying

As a leader in your organisation you have a big part to play in determining how your organisation responds to incidents of workplace bullying. 

In fact, your personal attitude, and the actions that you take both immediately after an incident and in the longer term, set the tone for how your organisation is seen by its workforce to handle bullying behaviour.

Sending Signals

And crucially, your attitude and actions set the tone for what signals your organisation sends out to its employees who use bullying behaviour and its employees who are adversely affected by it.

Do too little, and you will encourage people who use bullying behaviour that they will get away with it.

And send out the message to those adversely affected by bullying behaviour that you don’t care what happens to them while they are at work, even if this means that their welfare is compromised by bullying colleagues.

Incidences and Moments

Every time there is an incident of workplace bullying in your organisation the onus is on you as a leader to take action which is appropriate, timely and effective.  If you mis-handle the moment you risk losing the goodwill, endeavour and commitment of at least some, and possibly many, of your employees.

You risk losing good people who consider that the organisation which employs them has broken faith with them, and who therefore leave your employment rather than continue to be targeted by a bullying colleague without suitable intervention from above.  And you risk losing a proportion of your employees who observe incidents of workplace bullying going on around them, subsequently worry that they might be targeted next, and elect to work elsewhere rather than continue to work in a toxic environment.

What to Do

Whenever there is an incident of workplace bullying you need to act.

And whatever you do needs to be done in a timely manner, and in a way which places full responsibility where it belongs: with the use of bullying behaviour and, therefore, the person who employs these methods.

For instance, you could offer coaching to both those who use bullying behaviour, and to those adversely affected by it.  In the former case, an effective coaching programme can enable your bullying employee to develop the self-awareness they need to replace their counter-productive and aggressive methods with effective people-handling skills.

In the latter case, an effective coaching programme can enable your employees who are subject to workplace bullying to de-toxify from their experiences, regain their self-confidence, and move towards effective performance once more.

Sending Clear Signals

Requiring employees who use bullying behaviour to participate in a coaching programme sends out a clear message to your workforce that your organisation will:

  • Not tolerate bullying methods.
  • Hold those who use them accountable for their actions.
  • Require them to develop an effective people-handling skill set.
  • Support them as they make these change.

And providing coaching to assist employees as they recover from an experience of workplace bullying  sends out the message that your organisation will:

  • Accept responsibility for allowing bullying to occur on their patch.
  • Actively support those employees who are harmed by it.
  • Invest in them so that they can quickly assimilate their experiences, regain their self-confidence and find themselves again.

Responding effectively to incidents of workplace bullying makes sense if you want to keep your staff, and ensure their welfare while they are at work.  But handling incidents of workplace bullying effectively can also be a sound move financially.  And this is true even given the costs of providing coaching for an employee who uses bullying behaviour and providing coaching for employees subject to bullying behaviour.

Financial Benefits

Consider the financial benefits for your organisation of addressing issues created by workplace bullying.  These benefits include reducing or avoiding costs associated with:

  • Paying off employees who use bullying behaviour so that you can induce them to leave your organisation.
  • Losing talented employees subject to or witness to workplace bullying as they choose to work elsewhere.
  • Recruiting and developing replacement staff to take over permanently from those  who leave.
  • Hiring temporary staff or contract staff to replace those who leave on a short-term basis while you recruit permanent replacements.
  • Managing poorer than usual performance from employees whose self-esteem and energy levels are reduced due to their experiences of workplace bullying.
  • Conducting investigations into complaints of workplace bullying involving HR, ER and line managers.
  • Managing grievance procedures and internal disciplinary processes following complaints about workplace bullying.
  • Discussing how to handle team issues created by the use of bullying behaviour.
  • Lost business as your organisation’s effort and focus moves away from customer service and delivery issues, and turns inwards to its own toxicity.

This is one clear area in which as a leader you have a big role to play.  The choice is yours: take actions which create positive outcomes for your organisation in the aftermath of an incident of workplace bullying. Or mis-handle the moment and make a bad situation worse.  The choice is yours.

How did you handle the last incident of workplace bullying that occurred in your organisation?  What positive impact did this approach have on your employees?  What negative consequences did it have on your employees?  Looking back on that incident now, what could you have done differently and better to send a clear message that bullying behaviour will not be tolerated? And that your organisation takes seriously its responsibility to safeguard the wellbeing of its employees while they are at work?

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Aryanne Oade
 is Director of Oade Associates

She is a Chartered Psychologist, executive coach, workshop facilitator, author & public speaker
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Books | 00 44 (0) 7747 868 368

Image Sources: faithrgreen.blogspot.com

On Leading and Accountability

Workplace Bullying

It’s fairly straightforward to work effectively alongside responsible colleagues.

Responsible colleagues generally want to work hard, want to make progress on the tasks that sit with them, and want to build productive relationships with you and their other workplace contacts.

They may, from time to time, get things wrong or make mistakes or fail to attend thoroughly enough to something important. But these are likely to be genuine errors and not actions borne out of irresponsible or purposefully unreliable behaviour.

Irresponsible Colleagues

It’s the latter two that are a completely different kettle of fish. And these types are much more confusing and troublesome to deal with.

Irresponsible colleagues:

  • Don’t always want to work hard
  • Often aren’t committed to quality outcomes
  • May well actively look for opportunities to coast or take credit for work they haven’t done

They are Sly

These colleagues often come to work simply to get by, doing just enough to get through the day without drawing undue attention to their slipshod ways.

They are Slippery

Some of these co-workers are also very skilled: at appearing to be busy when they are not, at manipulating the perceptions of those above them and at covering their backs. Others simply approach their work in a careless way and seem to get away with it.

Hopefully, you won’t have to cope with this kind of irresponsible conduct that often but, when you do, it can be wearisome to say the least.

They are Shifty

Irresponsible colleagues are, in my view, irresponsible because they get something they value out of taking this approach. It will vary from person to person, but one of the key things they gain is the opportunity to avoid being accountable, to avoid having to engage and work hard, to avoid having to make decisions and take the consequences of them.

Avoid, Distract, and Point Fingers

When put on the spot by co-workers frustrated at their approach irresponsible colleague can be expert at shifting the focus of the conversation away from their own shortcomings and onto other issues. They can:

  • Dodge the issues put to them.
  • Create fog around the key points they are asked to address.
  • Obfuscate and change the point of the conversation onto other issues instead.
  • Place responsibility for their lack of endeavour with other people, including you for daring to hold them accountable.
  • Disown their irresponsible behaviour and shift the blame elsewhere.

These behaviours can be exasperating to deal with and can result in you feeling annoyed, confused and powerless. And you could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that an irresponsible colleague is beyond your influence.

And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way…

Influencing Irresponsible Team Members

You can use behaviour which holds an irresponsible colleague to account

To do so, you need to find the resolve to carry out your plan and you need a suitable example of their wayward behaviour around which to build your feedback. When you decide to tackle your irresponsible colleague – when you decide to call them on their counterproductive approach

Try the following:

  • Set up a one-to-one conversation with your colleague away from other people.
  • Take control of the conversation from the start and don’t waver from your commitment to remain in the driving seat throughout it.
  • Use a calm and steady tone, one that is neither emotional nor unassertive, and maintain a firm and measured delivery style throughout the conversation.
  • Play back to your colleague exactly what they said or did or did not do, describing their actions and words as a series of facts which cannot easily be disputed.
  • Make it clear to your colleague that, as a direct consequence of their irresponsibility, there will be unpleasant consequences for them to deal with, consequences which will be awkward and embarrassing for them to handle.
  • Describe what these consequences will be, making a direct link between their conduct and these particular outcomes. Make sure that you enforce these consequences so that, this time, the difficulty which ensues from their irresponsible behaviour sits with them rather than anyone else. (For instance, you may say that as a direct result of your colleague failing to get you the data they promised to get you by the agreed deadline you will both now be going to meet your joint Director so that your colleague can explain to them in front of you what prevented them from meeting the deadline.)

Accountability and Consequences

This last point above about consequences in crucial

Irresponsible colleagues are often enabled in their irresponsibility by conscientious and industrious colleagues covering for them, doing their work for them, and clearing up the messes they have left behind.

This is all done from the best of intentions but is ultimately a misguided strategy, one which perpetuates their colleagues’ irresponsibility.

As long as an irresponsible colleague has someone willing to cover for them, they will remain irresponsible, content in the knowledge that someone else is doing their share of the work and taking care of things on their behalf. But as soon as the consequences of their irresponsibility come home to roost, and it is the unreliable colleague who feels the rap, then they may well be minded to think again.

And that is where your true influence lies: by pointing out and enforcing fair but unwelcome consequences on your irresponsible colleague, such that they re-think their unreliable conduct and apply themselves more diligently in the future.

:: EDITOR’S BONUS :: Free Resource from L2L

You may like to download for free the following two manifestos which the author wrote last year. They deal with how to handle bullying and adversarial behavior in the workplace, two of the more extreme forms of irresponsible behaviour which you might encounter at work.

If you know of anyone else who might be interested in them please forward the links to them:

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Aryanne Oade
 is Director of Oade Associates

She is a Chartered Psychologist, executive coach, workshop facilitator, author & public speaker
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Books | 00 44 (0) 7747 868 368  

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Trust in the Workplace: The Leader’s Judgement Call

Whom to Trust

As a leader in your organisation, you work in a role where you cannot achieve anything of value unilaterally.  You need to work well with a range of other colleagues to achieve outcomes of benefit to your employer.

One of the issues you need to manage as you set about doing this is whom to trust and over what.

Understanding Trust

Trust is a central issue at work and a very personal one.  Different leaders decide to trust by quite different factors.  But usually the decision to trust – in other words the choice to extend trust to a colleague or workplace contact – is based on evidence of behaviour that you have observed or experienced often enough that you have faith in it.

Deciding whom to trust and over what is one of the ultimate judgement calls at work, and being wise over whom to trust and over what is a learned skill.

Trust at Work

So what is trust as it applies to the workplace?

I have adapted the following definitions of what trust is and what trust is not from Mayer et al (1995).  Trusting a colleague or workplace contact does not mean that you:

  • Think they are infallible and therefore are unlikely to make a genuine error.
  • Have complete confidence in what they say and do, or everything pertaining to how they go about their work.
  • Agree with everything they say, every view they put out there, or every opinion or statement they offer.
  • Can reliably predict how they will approach every circumstance at work in which they are involved.

Instead, to extend trust to a colleague means that, in the main, you have formed the view that your colleague or workplace contact is likely to:

  •  Approach their duties in ways that you can work with.
  • Handle themselves with enough integrity for you to be comfortable working alongside them.
  • Apply themselves consistently towards achieving the goals associated with their role.

Trust as a Leader

So, how does this research apply to your work as a leader? 

Recall an instance of when you were finding it difficult to work effectively with a particular colleague or contact.  This person could have been a peer of yours, a more senior leader or a member of your team.  Think back over your dealings with them and consider whether the difficulties between you occurred because:

Perhaps…

 You two had different values, different aims for the joint work you were engaged in, and/or different priorities for the items to be completed as part of that work.

If any of these factors ring true then, in and of themselves, they do not point towards an untrustworthy side to your colleague, irking though working with them might have proved to be, and time-consuming it might have been to work through all the different issues with them.

You two were simply sufficiently different that you found it required more time and effort than usual to negotiate a practical way of working together so that you could get things done in ways which made sense to both of you.

But if that’s not it, and your difficulties with this colleague or contact occurred for another set of reasons.

Or perhaps it was because…

You were dealing with someone whose character was called into question sufficient that you came to view working with them as troubling or discomforting.

In this case, evaluating their behaviour against criteria for trustworthiness might help you pinpoint exactly what character traits they exhibited which were problematic for you, and therefore what issues you need to address with them.

To What Extent

You might like to review your dealings with this colleague (or contact) using the following questions which I have developed from the findings of Drucker (1997) and Sinetar (1988):

1) To what extent did your colleague or contact fail to act towards you with enough integrity?

In other words, to what extent did they fail to act in concert with their stated beliefs and/or fail to do what they said they would do by when they said they would do it?

2) To what extent did they fail to act reliably towards you?

In other words, to what extent did they fail to keep their commitments to you or fail to act in a responsible manner towards you?

3) To what extent did they fail to demonstrate active goodwill towards you?

In other words, to what extent did they fail to act faithfully towards you or fail to honour their relationship with you?

4) To what extent did they fail to be dependable in their dealings with you?

In other words, to what extent did they fail to use behaviour which was, in the main, straightforward and steady?

Select one colleague or contact whom you find it challenging to work alongside. What insights are you developing about the issues that lie between you? Which of these issues are about differences in what you two value or what you want to achieve or how you want to go about achieving joint goals?  Which issues are about your colleague’s character and trustworthiness?  What steps will you take to address these sets of issues? 

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Aryanne Oade
 is Director of Oade Associates

She is a Chartered Psychologist, executive coach, workshop facilitator, author & public speaker
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Books | 00 44 (0) 7747 868 368

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Forming Influential Alliances with Colleagues

Influential Alliances

As a leader in your organisation, you work in a role where it is difficult to get things done alone. You cannot act unilaterally. 

You need to work productively with others if you really want to get things done!

More Than Just Getting Along

In order to accomplish things worthwhile, you need to find ways of working productively with a range of colleagues. Keep in mind that many of these co-workers might have quite different ways of approaching their work to you and some of whom might, at times, have quite different aims to you as well.

Nonetheless, if you are to build the level of influence you need to succeed, you need to find ways of getting things done in tandem with a selection of your peers, senior managers, and team members.

Building a Strong Alliance Foundation

In fact, to get some specific things done you might need to build and maintain influential alliances with selected colleagues.

  • Some of which may only last as long as it takes to achieve the aim for which the alliance was formed
  • Others of which might prove more enduring and benefit you down the road

Many of your most influential colleagues perform a role which is different from yours; yet interconnected to it.

~ You have to work with them on joint processes.

And to take joint decisions, because it simply won’t work any other way.

~ You may have sound ideas.

But turning your ideas into reality means that you have to influence a range of your colleagues to see the value of your contribution, and to see the merits of working with you to turn your embryonic idea into a practical output.

~You must work.

And be seen to work with each and every one of your peers and senior managers if you are to turn your valuable your raw ideas into action.

However, working closely with influential colleagues can carry risks with it and the potential that, if you don’t handle things well from the start, there will be some difficulties along the way.

Sealing Cracks in Your Foundation

Not Playing Nice

Some of your colleagues might not get what you are saying. They might not see your new idea as an opportunity, but more as a quirky or ill-considered gambit.

They may need some convincing.

Others of them might like your idea, but want to take the credit for it. Others again might say they’ll back you if you can get other people to support you first.

Some may – in unusual cases – want to injure your reputation or damage your profile in the organisation. They might decide to use your new idea against you, seeing it as an opportunity to discredit you politically.

On the other hand, if you handle them well, these very same colleagues could also be interesting, co-operative, and effective co-workers, the very people you need to bring your plans to fruition – and vital to you achieving the aims which matter most to you at work.

Finding Ways to Build on your Foundation

The challenge for you therefore lies in finding effective ways to build influence with colleagues with whom you may have:

  •  Little, if anything, in common.
  • Little to speak about apart from workplace issues.
  • Divergent approaches to resolving workplace issues and handling colleague relationships.
  • Widely differing sets of values and workplace principles.
  • Different ways of handling disagreement and conflict.

So, in order to get things done effectively with colleagues like these you will need to:

  •  Be mindful of the nature of the political landscape around you.
  • Understand what influences each of your colleagues – especially where these factors differ from what influences you.
  • Identify what they value at work and what they want to achieve (especially where their aims and the work processes they favour differ from yours.)
  • Find individual ways to convince each of them that it would be in their best interests to listen to what you have to say and to work constructively with you to achieve your goals.

Finalizing Your Design Plans Before You Begin

So, the next time you have a new idea or want to initiate something new, spend time formulating a strategy for influencing each of the key players prior to putting your ideas out there.

Commit to doing some upfront thinking about who you want to influence and in what specific way.  Decide in advance whose support you most need to secure if you are to bring your ideas to fruition, and put together an influencing strategy to enable you to create the kind of influential alliance you need to bring about the outcomes you want.

Which of your ideas do you want to turn into practical reality? With which of your colleagues specifically do you need to build influence for this to happen? What role do you want each of these people to play as you turn your idea into practical reality? What issues or angles relating to your idea will most interest  each of these people? And over which issues or angles will they need convincing?  What other factors do you need to take into account as you formulate your strategy for building influence with each of these key colleagues over the coming weeks and months? 

——————–
Aryanne Oade
 is Director of Oade Associates

She is a Chartered Psychologist, executive coach, workshop facilitator, author & public speaker
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Books | 00 44 (0) 7747 868 368 

Image Sources: api.ning.com, aoa12390.webs.com

Gaining Influence as a Leader

Influence at Work

So, you decide that you want to build additional influence at work.

What’s one to do?

Maybe you want to gain greater influence with a particular group of people, such as your peer group or your team members, or even a group of more senior leaders.  Or maybe you want to exert greater influence over a particular set of issues which matter to you, and over which you feel you have insufficient sway.

Building Influence

Having decided that it is in your best interest to deliberately build influence the starting point for you is to learn about the:

  • Values which drive your own influencing style, and the factors which are likely to gain your positive interest.
  • Factors which influence the key people with whom you want to build influence, especially where these differ from those which matter to you.
  • Ways where you need to use a judicious mixture of fact and opinion to formulate arguments which will prove influential with your colleagues.

Making Sence

Even if your argument makes complete sense in your head you won’t get a hearing if it doesn’t make complete sense to those with whom you want to build influence.  And they may be influenced by completely different things to you. In fact, the very factors which gain your endorsement might actually switch them off.

Consider this:

You want to start a new project and decide to ask for the endorsement of a peer whose favourable opinion would greatly enhance your ability to get the job done.  Your peer is more risk averse, methodical, systematic and detail oriented than you are.

They plan.

They want to find and manage risks in advance of starting off something new and only when they feel that they have a sufficient level of comfort will they agree to go ahead.

Engaging Your Style

Your own style is much more action oriented and initiative than this.  You simply like to start, generate momentum and then trust your resourcefulness to take care of the details along the way.  You rely on your passion and self-confidence, not a plan.

But you recognise that your approach will switch off your peer before you’ve had a proper chance to be heard.

So to gain their favourable interest you need to reign in your enthusiasm, dial back on outlining the exciting opportunities as you see them, and tone down your personal conviction that your plan will work. Instead you need to outline a clear rationale for the project, set out detailed practical steps which you will take to make it happen, explain how you anticipate managing the obvious risks and outline your back up plans for the less likely ones.

And Only Then…

Then you stand a good chance of your peer wanting to listen, and you stand a good chance of them avoiding making the kind of value judgements they might otherwise make should you fail to place your argument to appeal to their values, and position it only to appeal to yours.

A second issue for you to consider as you plan to build influence with your peer is the role of fact and opinion in your argument.  Clearly, what you say and how you say it is a key reason in both gaining and retaining influence with your peer.

Deciding:

  • When to introduce a fact
  • When to give an opinion
  • And over which issues

They are key issues: learned skills.

So are deciding when to be quiet, when to listen, when to ask questions and when to clarify your peer’s verbal previous contributions, perhaps making a distinction between what they consider to be a fact and what is their perception.

Listening to Influence

You can gain significant influence – and credibility – by judiciously combining a factual analysis of the issues under discussion with your opinion about the way forward given those facts.  This combination works so well because it results in you presenting yourself as a professional advisor on the issues under discussion, someone worth listening to and someone who has substance behind their point of view.

In other words, doing things this way means that your argument is worth listening to, as opposed to your persona or organisational authority demands attention.

Building influence takes time, planning and skill. It rarely happens overnight. Those who ‘are influential’ in your workplace have learned how to be over time.

And it is all the more likely that you will gain the greater influence you want to have when you take the time to think through how best to position your proposals so that they have greatest appeal for those whose endorsement you’d like to gain.

Over which issues would you like to build influence?  What specific aspects of these issues do you want to influence? To achieve these specific outcomes, which other colleagues will you need to influence and in what ways?  Which additional colleagues could help you pursue these goals? What role do you want each of them to play? 

——————–
Aryanne Oade is Director of Oade Associates
She is a Chartered Psychologist, executive coach, workshop facilitator, author & public speaker
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Books | 00 44 (0) 7747 868 368

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Handling Conflict at Work: The Leader’s Role

Conflict at Work

Are you having people problems at work? So how does this make you feel?

How many of you look forward to participating actively in a conflict at work, confident that the underlying issues will be resolved and progress made?

How many of you keenly anticipate situations of conflict and disagreement among the people you lead, confident that positive outcomes will ensue from the dialogue and that working relationships will subsequently improve?

Seeking Productive Outcomes

Some of you will have had experiences like these. If so, it will be able to point occasions when the results of a well-handled disagreement or conflict were productive for your organisation.

Iron does sharpen iron, and a resolved disagreement or conflict can bring about improved processes, innovations for customers, better dialogue between colleagues, enhanced products and services, and more productive and efficient ways of working.

But most of you will also be able to point to situations in which conflict and disagreement splintered your work groups, situations in which no effective resolution to the underlying issues was found, and relationships became less effective and more awkward.

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Unfinished Business…

Conflict at Work

Maybe certain issues in your team or workplace have never been resolved, and consequently there is unfinished business sitting between people you lead, or between you and some of your colleagues, circumstances which hinder productivity and reduce service levels.

It is situations like these that I am addressing here.

With experiences such as these behind you, many of you may not look forward to future conflicts or disagreements.

In fact, you may even avoid trying to resolve some of the more challenging conflicts you face, a stratgey which won’t work well for you in the long run.

Even one unresolved key conflict between colleagues can fragment relationships in your workplace and erode your organisation’s ability to work effectively and productively for your employer.

So What’s The Problem?

Why might some conflicts be more difficult to resolve than others?

In my view, it is usually because at least one of the parties sets their will against resolution of the issues.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that might be relevant here:

Select one unresolved conflict that you have sufficient knowledge about that you can consider it afresh in the light of the following factors.  Take a mental step back from the conflict and decide which of the following elements is in play in regard to the unresolved issues:

  • Is the conflict about disagreements over goals? In other words, do the different parties (you included) want to achieve different and apparently incompatible goals?
  • Is the conflict about what constitutes a fact, or what weight should be given to different facts in a problem-solving or decision-making process?

A Case Study

Let’s consider these two factors before considering two more.  In either of these cases, the issues are actually resolvable, even if they don’t seem so at the moment.  It will take some hard work, but a conflict which is about either or both of these sets of issues can be resolved.

Colleagues who might not find it easy to deal with one another will have to sit down and talk it through.

They’ll need to be prepared to put their views on the table in a non-judgemental fashion, listen to other perspectives, seek to understand those perspective, ask questions to clairfy what they don’t understand and find a way forward which puts their customers’ best interests – and therefore their employers’ - before any other set of considerations.

Some compromising will be needed, some effort and some thinking. But it is do-able.

The Other Factors

So, what other factors might be affecting the example of an unresolved conflict which you are considering?

Here are two more:

  • Is the conflict to do with the key players having different personal values?
  • Is the conflict to do with the key players having different ideas about which processes, procedures, strategies and tactics are most likely to enable their team to reach its goals?

If the answer is yes, then again, in either of these two cases, the issues can be resolved.  It will mean that the people at the heart of the unresolved conflict will need to talk through their differences, and have the courage to re-examine their own personal values and preferences.

See This…

Let’s look at this process through a short example:

Take the situation where a team leader wants to use their development budget to train the two less effective members of the team to bring them up to scratch.

She clashes with her boss who wants the same budget spent differently.

He wants the money to be used to develop the team’s top three performers as a reward and as an incentive to encourage them in future months.

These two colleagues have different sets of values and this creates a different view about how to spend this budget.

But it is still a resolvable conflict as long as the two people agree a way forward:

They may decide that the team leader has jurisdiction over her team and can decide how to spend her budget.

Or they may decide that her boss is the ultimate authority in the department and its his call.

Or they may decide that this year the less skilled members of the team will be trained, but next year the budget will be used to reward top performers with additional relevant development.

It is a question of deciding to resolve the difference because it is in your employers best interests to do so.

And as a leader you set the tone how conflict will be handled and resolved in your organisation. To do so effectively you need to  you look within first and ask yourself: what unresolved conflicts could I play a part in resolving?  What benefits would resolving these situations create for my team and my employer? Where will I start? And who else among my team will I encourage to address key unresolved conflicts today?

——————–
Aryanne Oade
 is Director of Oade Associates

She is a Chartered Psychologist, executive coach, workshop facilitator, author & public speaker
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Books | 00 44 (0) 7747 868 368 

Image Sources: intelligentwomenreadromance.files.wordpress.com, successcoaching.net.au

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How to Lead an Adversarial Peer

Adversarial Peer

Have you ever experience an office situation where regular interpersonal discord, or even daily combative behaviour was the order of the day?

If so, how did you deal with it?

  • Did you do something to resolve the nagging situation?
  • Did you work at ending the agitation?
  • Or did you leave it alone and hope that it would go away?

When working with an adversarial peer, there are certain steps to take to end the conflict and lead the situation to a better resolve. To understand the steps, take a look at the problem, analyze response alternatives, engage in a solution, and then reap the rewards.

Take a look at how to do it…

Environmental Anatomy

Trouble in Paradise

You have a troublesome peer and their behaviour is causing you a headache.  This colleague of yours is talented. They have some leadership skills when they put their mind to it.  They possess some drive and, when they are engaged, some determination too.

They could use their natural strengths and their resolve to become an able and valued leader, someone who consistently contributes to the evolving agenda of the organisation you both work for, someone who shoulders responsibility and gets things done. And sometimes they do behave like that.

But, the problem is that, in the main, they don’t.

HFM! High [Frequency] Maintenance

Your peer is high maintenance.  They waste time in meetings taking the discussion along paths that are simply not productive. They say one thing, but then do another.  They seem to operate out of an agenda all of their own.  Sometimes they voluntarily offer to input to projects.

But, when it comes down to it, they don’t do any work. And if they do, their input is about their own political agenda not the best interests of your joint employer.

And when they are called on their failure to deliver they become nonchalant and flip, appearing unconcerned that they have let you and others down.

Foul Mouth

Worse still, from time to time, this colleague bad mouths you and other colleagues around the office.  They may even initiate against you from time to time, seemingly attacking your point of view in meetings simply because it’s your point of view.   On these occasions, you don’t really think that they have taken a considered view of things and decided on impartial evidence to put forward a view which happens to be different from yours.

Instead, you think that on instinct they want to disagree with you.

Foul Play

You have previously confronted your colleague on their unhelpful behaviour and each time you did so you hit a brick wall.  Instead of taking your objection seriously, your colleague employed a well oiled toolkit of obfuscating, dodging and fogging tactics to avoid responsibility for their conduct.

In fact, sometimes they even managed to turn the tables on you, turning a conversation you had initiated with them about the disadvantages of their approach into them confronting you on your misguided misunderstanding of them.

So, what can you do?

Actually, quite a lot.

Seek First to Understand

Firstly, you need to understand that your colleague is displaying a degree of adversarial behaviour at work which places them in opposition to you and their other co-workers. This colleague purposefully handles their dealings with you in a manner which results in low levels of trust and support existing between you.

In other words, they deliberately manage their workplace relationships – with you and other people – as a series of transactional exchanges.

Secondly, this colleague does not take seriously their responsibility to build and keep up effective relationships at work with you or their other co-workers. Their errant conduct is not a matter of an oversight, confusion over role goals, or a lack of political judgement on their part.

Neither is it about them disliking you or their other colleagues or their role. Nor is it about you having failed to find an effective way to manage them. It is a deliberate strategy on their part, albeit a largely unconsciously derived one, to select and use behaviour which precludes trust being formed or supportive exchanges developing between them and their co-workers.

Applying the Remedy

So, what behaviour can you employ to help you make working with your adversarial peer less of an uphill struggle?

Basically, you need to simply think differently whenever you work with them.

You need to learn how to:

  • Take control at the start of any joint work you are doing with them.
  • Think proactively about the tasks to be accomplished on the joint project.
  • Anticipate the key factors that will decide a favourable outcome to the work and keep control over them.
  • Handle the boundaries of your interactions with your adversarial colleague carefully at all times deciding what information you give your colleague access to, which tasks you ask them to handle, which meetings you include them in, what scope you give them to act independently of you on the project, which decisions you involve them in, which problem-solving processes you ask them to input to and what responsibilities you assign to them.

Reaping the Rewards

Remember that the extra work involved in handling things with way, and it will take effort and application on your part to do things this way, will pay dividends in the long run as you obviate opportunities for your troublesome peer to sully your reputation or undermine the quality of the joint work you do on the project.

Your adversarial peer has chosen to use an oppositional approach and they can just as easily choose to use a more productive one.  And you, as you keep their input to your joint project within prescribed parameters, might just be the person to give them pause for thought.

What adversarial behaviour do you observe in your workplace?  What impact does this behaviour have on the quality of work that you produce? What impact does it have on the leadership team you are a part of?  In what circumstances might you be tempted to employ it? I would love to hear your thoughts and hear of you experiences!

——————–
Aryanne Oade is Director of Oade Associates
She is a Chartered Psychologist, executive coach, workshop facilitator, author & public speaker
EmailLinkedInWebBooks | 00 44 (0) 7747 868 368

Image Sources: dev.natcom.org

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