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Avoiding Co-Worker Clashes

June 21, 2013

Last year I completed mediation training through Orange County Human Relations. I took the 40 hour program to refresh my skills and strengthen my abilities as a mediator in the workplace. So often we think of mediation as something that happens in the courthouse … be it small claims, community conflicts or family law issues. However, more and more, I find that mediation in the workplace, or what I like to call “Relationship Repair”, is becoming a common need. Damaged relationships create stress and tension for one or both parties. Frustrations build and feeling fester. When left unattended to, productivity declines, employees quit, lawsuits are filed and quite simply put … all hell breaks loose. So what can you do prevent management meltdowns, business blow ups and coworker clashes?


1. “Seek first to understand and then to be understood understand” - Steven Covey’s 5th habit of highly effective people* is an excellent place to begin. So often we get wrapped up in planning our response that we don’t fully hear what the other person is saying. Focus on listening intently to understand the speaker.

2. Ask questions to gain clarity. Pay attention to both the verbal and non-verbal cues to fully understand not just the message, but the emotion behind it. This will help you to capture the full picture. Walk a mile in my shoes: When listening to another person’s perspective, take a moment to try to see the situation from their vantage point. Consider their feelings and the impact the situation has on them. By understanding their situation, you may find it easier to explore alternatives you might not have considered. In addition, showing empathy has a positive impact on the emotional needs of the speaker to be heard and understood. This creates a more positive interpersonal exchange.

3. Focus on the aim and avoid blame: When confronted with a conflict situation, try to focus on the problem versus the person. Avoid highly charged words and accusatory language. Identify the common goal and work together to create options, come to consensus or create a compromise.

4. Don’t stockpile your frustrations: Many people hate conflict and will do anything to avoid a confrontation. When unresolved issues are allowed to build up, a breaking point is reached and the dam breaks. Negativity and ill will comes gushing out. This type of scenario is like gasoline on a fire. The setting is inflammatory and reaching resolution is longer and more painful. Address issues as they occur.


Body Talk

May 19, 2013

The safety committee has come together to discuss last month’s accident report. Susan sits at the table, arms crossed and biting her lower lip, Robert is twirling his pen between his fingers and leaning back in his chair, Jessica is leaning forward, elbows on the table, Steven stares down at his lap with smart phone in hand and Michelle holds her face leaning on her hand. Joe reads through the incident report and asks for feedback or questions. He gets no verbal response, but if our bodies could talk the message would be loud and clear … Concern, boredom, interest, pre-occupation and perhaps just plain old exhaustion? Body language is a form of human non-verbal communication, which consists of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Humans send and interpret such signals almost entirely subconsciously. Reading body language is something we do innately or perhaps it is something we learn through our experiences. But have you ever thought about the messages you are sending. Our body language can have a tremendous impact on our relationships in the workplace … it can intimidate, irritate, or even repel others. It can also invite, inspire or motivate. What kind of messages are you putting out there? Is you stance and posture approachable … or are you sending a more negative message like “don’t bother me, I’m busy”. As a leadership coach I work with many people who have good intentions, but their communications with staff and peers come across as rough and abrupt. The 1st step to improving these types or perceptions is by increasing our own awareness of the body language we are emitting. Here are a couple of suggestions to improve your self-awareness: Take a day to notice other people’s body language. Write down your observations on a small pad of paper as you see them. Think about your body language and your physical positioning throughout the day in various situations. Make conscious observations and keep a log of what you notice. Video tape yourself & others. With all the smartphones, webcams and iPads at our disposal, it’s easy to make a short tape to replay and observe. Ask a trusted peer to share feedback on their observations of your body language From you observations identify your hot spot areas where you could improve. Begin to take notice and take action! Modifying our body language is a process that takes time. Like anything the way you come across with others will improve with practice and focus. Working with a coach or a peer-partner can be helpful for staying on track. If you need help smoothing out your Body Talk call Goldin Leadership Group at 949-387-3436 or email: 

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