Reducing Conflict 70 Conflict Between Layers

December 4, 2022

Sometimes conflict can arise between the layers of an organization. This article will pick apart the root cause of this problem and offer some solutions. The perspective on issues and decisions is different depending on the layer where you are.

Let’s take a specific example and describe the likely perspective of four different layers. The Quality Manager has decided to hold off on the introduction of a new product. There have been some quality issues in the first batches of the product. The origin appears to be poor quality of incoming material. There is a risk of loss of market share if defective product gets out.

View from the top layer

The president and VP of Marketing aren’t thrilled with the decision to hold off.  They have been touting the new product for several months. They expect that this product will greatly enhance the competitive position of the company. Any delay in introduction will hinder the anticipated competitive advantage.  The company can prevent defective product from reaching customers by temporarily adding an inspection function to remove defects.

This approach protects the reputation of the organization while allowing the new product to get a toe hold in the market. The president orders the Quality Manager to release the product to manufacturing.

View from the middle layer

The Quality Manager is furious over the decision to release product for sale.  There may be other issues not yet seen, and putting out defective product is too great a risk to the overall program.  The Manufacturing Manager is unhappy as well.  She quotes the famous Quality Guru, W. Edwards Deming that, “You cannot inspect quality into a product.”

View from the Engineers

The engineers are concerned, because they realize the pressure on them to resolve the issue is going to increase. They would rather put more pressure on the suppliers to figure out the problem and correct it. Engineers and technicians have been spending too much time on the road working with the suppliers. The travel time causes neglect on critical work at home on other issues.

View from Production Supervisor

The production supervisor does not have the resources to inspect each unit of product before shipment.  The problem requires special equipment and a lot of time to detect. He is going to need more people and equipment to try and stop defective product from escaping.  On the other hand, he realizes the pressure on his crews for perfect product is going to increase.

How to proceed between layers

There is no one solution that is going to please all of the layers. The best approach is to have a meeting where all groups can give their perspective.  Then the group needs to go back to their core values to determine the best course of action. Once they reach a  compromise, then all groups have to support it.

Conclusion

It is easy to see how each group has a different perspective on the original problem. Sending vitriolic emails between the layers is not going to resolve the problem. By going back to the values, the organization can identify the most helpful action.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Reducing Conflict 69 Repeated Conflict

November 27, 2022

Conflict in an organization can take many forms. It can be a one-off type, or it can be repeated conflict. Also, repeated conflict can be between two or more specific individuals or between groups.

All of these types of situations are challenging, but conflict between groups is the most difficult to solve. This article describes the most helpful tools I have found to deal with these categories of conflict.

Repeated conflict between individuals

In this case, the conflict is limited to a problem between two people. It may be caused by a misunderstanding, or it could be a power struggle. More than one bout of conflict between individuals calls for some form of coaching. A third party can act as a mediator to help resolve specific issues.  Look for and resolve the underlying cause.

Often some form of individual training is helpful to prevent future flare-ups. If the root cause is jealousy, you need to establish what has to change to prevent future conflict.  Get the individuals together and brainstorm what needs to change. Stress the benefits of a more cordial relationship.

Repeated conflict between groups

If the conflict is between groups or cliques of people, the issue is more serious. There are several people involved in each of the warring groups, so the collateral damage is bigger. You may find that the leaders of both groups are encouraging conflict with inflammatory language. 

For sure, a lack of trust will exist between the groups.  Often, they have forgotten that they are subgroups that are really on the same team. One helpful approach is to remind the groups that they share a common goal at a higher level. They are really on the same team with different roles.  Stress that expending energy fighting with a different subgroup compromises the performance of the whole.

Teambuilding is often the answer

Getting groups that fight all the time to play nicely and appreciate each other is a challenge. One technique that worked for me in a couple situations was to swap some members of the groups that are fighting.  When it becomes difficult to tell which group is which, the walls of suspicion come down. You need to approach this technique delicately, because a heavy hand will often lead to a revolt. Try a philosophy of cross-training to increase bench strength in the larger unit.

I recall two groups of engineers in my area were having all kinds of problems working together.  They were operating as fiefdoms that were encouraged by their respective leaders. When I convinced a couple of people to swap roles, the problems subsided quickly. It was a difficult sell at first. I reminded the individuals that a variety of experiences would make them more attractive candidates for future promotions.

You can do some form of classical team building if the groups are willing to participate. There are numerous techniques and many consultants that specialize in experiential team building.  Some examples of activities include maze games, scavenger hunts, solving word problems, trust falls, and hundreds of other exercises. These activities force people to interact together and then debrief what they learned.

You are working on building higher trust within the combined group. Talk to people in the different groups to understand the specific nature of their problems. Often times this detective work provides information to an elegant solution.

Do not do this work with a focus on the individual cliques. That approach will likely exacerbate the problem by making the cliques stronger. Work with the combined groups.

There may be a situation where one person causes havoc in both teams.  Consider a different role for this individual. Many times changing a single individual can resolve years of acrimony.

Make sure to work on the underlying cause

It is tempting when dealing with conflict to go in and find out the current problem. Then you work to eliminate the problem and think everything will be fine.  If you haven’t resolved the underlying cause of the conflict, it will inevitably come back in a different issue. Always seek to improve the level of mutual trust. That is the most direct route to resolving repeated conflict.

Conclusion

Solving repeated conflict can be a challenge. If you go at it with resolve and get some help when needed, you can make substantial progress. Don’t forget to praise activities that show progress in working together.  Positive reinforcement will amplify the constructive relationships.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Reducing Conflict 68 Best Intent

November 20, 2022

Years ago, I discovered that if you train people to assume best intent, it helps reduce conflict. In this article, I will describe why the technique is so effective and give an example.

What is best intent?

When something appears to be amiss, we instinctively think someone is out to hoodwink us.  We jump to the conclusion that the person has ill intent. That means the person is consciously trying to get on our nerves. If you can set aside your skepticism, it allows you to imagine a more positive cause as possible. Let’s take a real example to see how this happens.

Case example

I got an email from George this afternoon. He said he could no longer attend a birthday party he had previously committed to. I figured he was just making life miserable for me. I had chided him the day before for coming in late. Now he is not going to show up at the party tonight, and I will have to come up with an excuse.  I felt like writing him back that this is the last time I will be inviting him to an event.

Suppose that before my anger boiled over, I took a different attitude.  George may have had a perfectly valid reason for having to back out of my party. Maybe his father fell last night and George has to take him home from the hospital tonight. I could hold my anger in check for a while and assume George had the best intent. I would not have snapped back at him and precipitated a tussle.

There are usually two sides to every story

Our perspective is based on a lot of things. We rarely have all of the facts, especially when many people are working remotely. It is easy to assign blame for a situation that may have an innocent cause. How would you convince people to be slower to jump to conclusions?

Establish some rules about assuming best intent

Get folks together and talk about this issue.  Reason with them that the atmosphere at work can be a lot better if we refrain from blaming people. Take the time to be sure of all the factors. Model this kinder behavior yourself and see if it helps improve the environment.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Reducing Conflict 67 Taking Steps

November 13, 2022

Not enough organizations are taking steps to make a significant reduction in conflict. We are all too familiar with the inevitable conflict when people are working together. In this article, I will explore some of the main causes and describe some preventive techniques. These ideas will not eliminate all conflict, but they can make it much less debilitating for your organization.

Lessons from my leadership class

In my training program for leaders, I ask why we have so much conflict between people. In one session we did a brainstorm and came up with over 50 questions about why conflict occurs. Here is a list of some of the questions:

Is it because other people are morons?

Is it because other people can’t see your point?

Is it because other people don’t care what you think?

Is it because other people lie?

Is it because management is clueless?

Is it because other people are greedy?

Is it because other people are lazy?

Is it because other people gossip?

Is it because other people are suck-ups?

Is it because other people are immature?

We could go on forever, but the point here is pretty obvious.  The focus in people’s minds is on what other people “have to fix.”  The real reason there is conflict is that other people aren’t you!

Taking steps toward less conflict

The first realization is that we are all imperfect.  We can see very clearly the things that others need to do to shape up.  Our view of our own imperfections is far less accurate. The first step is to internalize one of my favorite quotes. Observing people at work, it is obvious that human beings have a remarkable ability to drive each other crazy.

Work toward alignment

We may think we are all rowing in the same direction, but when you look closely you find parochial agendas. Many people are actually pulling in opposite directions. The first step is to verify that each person on the team understands the values, mission, vision, behaviors, and goals of the team.

You accomplish the above not just by publishing the strategy.  You must involve the entire team in creating the vision and constantly test for understanding. Beyond understanding is true commitment.  There is an old saying about the difference between involvement and commitment. It is as simple as bacon and eggs. In the case of the eggs, the chicken was involved. In the case of the bacon, the pig was committed.

In addition to commitment, you need specific skills for taking steps

The reason I am writing this series of articles is to get groups busy taking steps on their own to reduce conflict. This is article number 67 in the series.  You may wish to review some of the former articles because each one is a little nugget or technique that can help reduce conflict between people.

Another resource is a series of short videos I did on the topic. The title of that program is “Surviving the Corporate Jungle.”  You may wish to spot-check some of the ideas in this program.

Conclusion

Do not overlook conflict reduction in your program of organizational improvement.  The cost of conflict is great, so there is a high ROI for taking steps to reduce the problem.  

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Reducing Conflict 66 Trickle Down Misery

November 6, 2022

Organizational misery usually starts out at the top and trickles down through the layers. I have seen the problem in hundreds of organizations over decades of study.  If there are issues of trust, they almost always have their roots at the highest levels of leadership.

Top leaders rarely have the intent to make life miserable for other people. It just seems to happen in many cases.  This article is an attempt to peel back the root causes of the problem and suggest some viable antidotes. Let’s look at several typical causes and suggest ideas that can help.

Trickle Down Misery

Many leaders do not consider that they are part of the problem. The best way for leaders to understand how their actions impact others is to study “Trickle Down Mindset” by Michal Stawicki. The book offers leaders an innovative approach to shift into a more productive path. It helps to understand how things tend to trickle down in organizations. The mindset is especially important when setting goals.

Unrealistic Goals

Goal setting needs to be a combined activity between leaders and the workers who will pursue the goals.  Too often leaders just establish unrealistic or inappropriate goals without proper buy-in from the workers. The result is low commitment and a feeling of futility and low trust. These feelings can lead to quiet quitting or even exodus from the company.

When the workers have real input in the formation of goals, they are far more engaged to actually reach them. The sense of ownership is pivotal for workers to perform at their best.

Trust and Inspire

A recent book by Stephen M.R. Covey shows leaders how they must shift their approach to be successful today.  The book is titled “Trust and Inspire.”  It highlights the need to stop using “Command and Control” logic when dealing with people.  Instead, Covey advocates a “Trust and Inspire” mode of working with people. Covey points out that many leaders have not or cannot make the shift.  The book is convincing and extremely well-written.

Lead with trust

One of my own books is a good vehicle to reduce the trickle-down misery in organizations. The title is “Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind.” In the book, I point out that leaders who establish a culture of high trust have a significant advantage. They can relax and enjoy the wonderful ride of great leadership. The trickle-down effect is not required. In many cases, the problem is one of low Emotional Intelligence.

Low Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. It also has to do with behaving in a helpful way once the emotions are understood. Daniel Goleman observed that people with low Emotional intelligence have blind spots and cannot see how they are coming across. Leaders with low emotional intelligence often say or do things that take them in the wrong direction.

“Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Bradberry and Greaves is very helpful at opening the eyes of leaders who need help. The book provides an overview of the topic and then gives numerous exercises for self-study. Often Emotional Intelligence is blocked by hubris.

Hubris

Leaders who are full of themselves or resistant to change tend to turn off people under them. They see themselves as the center of the universe and put down anyone who would challenge their ideas.

There are two books that I like to get conceited leaders to read. The first is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.  In his model of excellence, he coined the phrase “Level Five Leaders” to describe humble leaders.

The second book is “Simple Truths of Leadership” by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. It lists 52 ways to be a better Servant Leader and build trust. The book highlights ways to make common sense common practice. Ken Blanchard focuses on how leaders can understand and practice the art of servant leadership. Randy Conley wrote about building higher trust.

Conclusion

There are many more books and resources to stem the trend toward trickle-down misery.  It is really worth the time to read and heed the advice in these books.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Reducing Conflict 65 Paradise Mindset

October 31, 2022

I used to do a lot of teaching online. A student who lived in Detroit was lamenting another dreary winter day. He had reached the breaking point.  His comment to a student in Hawaii was, “Well, I have to take responsibility for my own misery. After all, I chose not to live in paradise.”  I wrote to the student that “paradise” is a state of mind not a state of the Union.  

Human beings have the power to live in reasonable happiness most of the time. They need to choose to exercise that power.  That is true regardless of where they are located or what the conditions are. It all has to do with our attitude. Please understand, I am not being frivolous here. I am talking about true peace and contentment being possible, even when circumstances are far from pleasant. 

Finding paradise in a POW Camp

There are stories of POWs who have achieved a state of joy, even as they were being starved.  One such individual was Viktor Frankel during WWII in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.  Viktor was a psychologist in Vienna living a comfortable life when he was nabbed by the Nazis. Like most prisoners of war, He was treated with disdain, starved, and beaten.  

The mindset to survive

Frankel was curious about why some people survived, while most others quickly died.  He described the survival instinct as the realization that there was something significant to live for. The survivors had a mindset of “something significant yet to do in their life.” Once they were reminded of their purpose for living, they had the ability to survive.

The paradise mindset in action

Viktor used the power of visualization to rise above the incredible conditions of the moment and feel joy. After the war, he wrote a book on his observations entitled Man’s Search for Meaning.  

Some people feel they are in prison today

What prison do you live in?  Does it sometimes feel like you are suffering needlessly at work? Are the managers in your organization kind of reminiscent of prison guards, or at least schoolyard bullies? Do you feel there is little hope to be happy or content with the conditions that exist around you? 

If that describes you, then realize you are making a choice. You are choosing to not live in paradise when the opportunity is there for you to do so. At least you can improve your frame of mind significantly.

You may say “This guy is crazy; he has no clue about my miserable existence here in this dungeon.”  That accusation is correct. I don’t know your condition, but I do know the person most in control of your happiness is you.  Choose to be happy or ignore this advice and remain miserable.  I am not saying this is easy, because if it was, everyone would do it.

Focus on a positive mindset

If you choose to change conditions for the better, get some material on mental imaging and change your life. The more depressed you are, the more you have to gain. Most of the time you cannot change the conditions you face. You can control your attitude or reactions so that your state of mind is much more enjoyable.

This philosophy is not that profound, and we have all heard some form of it numerous times before. Some people call it “mind over matter.” Norman Vincent Peale called it “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Earl Nightingale made the observation that “We become what we think about.”   

One helpful book is the classic, Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (1960).  Maltz became fascinated with the process of setting goals for his plastic surgery patients. He learned the power of self-affirmation was enabled by the connection between the mind and the body.

He taught how developing a positive inner vision was a means of developing a positive outer vision. This led to the idea that a person’s outer success almost never rises above the one visualized internally. More recent philosophers such as Brene Brown, Stephen M.R. Covey, and Lou Holtz enhance the theory. They have based much of their work on the ideas originally developed by Maltz.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, when we are miserable, it is hard to remember that we are in control.  We just need to assume that control. When you get depressed, try visualization techniques. They can make a big difference in your life. Paradise is not as far away as it may seem.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Reducing Conflict 64 The Socratic Method

October 24, 2022

The Socratic Method uses questions designed as a discovery process for the person who is being questioned. This technique is often used in educational venues to help students learn critical thinking skills. I believe the application of the Socratic Method at work can be a powerful tool if used carefully. It can also backfire if used poorly or with a heavy hand.

Application of the Socratic Method

Here is an example of a work situation where the Socratic Method might come in handy. Suppose you want to advocate a specific course of action to a superior, but you expect significant pushback. Picture a situation where you are trying to convince your reluctant boss to approve some travel for you. You want to attend a training class out of state.

The straightforward approach is to: discuss the benefits of the training. Explain why this will be helpful to the organization, and ask for permission to travel.

Based on your knowledge of the boss, you suspect that he is going to turn you down flat. The promised benefits do not impress him. In this case, advocating a course of action and arguing your case will likely produce a negative response. Furthermore, once the boss has said no, subsequent attempts to change his mind will only be an annoyance. You are likely to hear “What part of NO didn’t you understand?”

Shaping questions

Using the Socratic Method means asking the boss questions about his satisfaction with how things currently are. You stand a better chance of getting a reaction you can then build into a stream of thought. Continuing to ask leading questions allows the boss to discover some of his own thought patterns. He may realize that a specific skill set is missing in his organization.

Here is what your final question in the series might sound like.  “I wonder how I might be able to get the skills to do what you’re suggesting?” After a few seconds of thought, the boss might open the door.  “Well, you could get some training and bring those skills back to our group.” You say, “That’s a great idea! I will look into some training options to accomplish that.”  You are now in a position to praise the intelligent boss for suggesting something you wanted to do. You get what you want, and the boss is your hero rather than a tight-fisted curmudgeon.

Now the boss has mentally committed to having you get some training because he came up with the idea. You come back the next day with a specific proposal to get the training. You are far more likely to have the boss agree to the expenditure.

Use the Socratic Method with care

I mentioned at the beginning of this article there is a huge caveat to applying the Socratic Method. It is because the technique is fundamentally manipulative. You have an idea of what you are trying to get the boss to verbalize. You keep asking questions that direct the conversation toward that end. If you are not extremely deft at posing the questions, the boss may become highly annoyed and suspicious. You have an ulterior motive for asking your open-ended questions. If this is the case, you may be doing more harm than good. 

Apply the Socratic Method with skill

Socratic questions must be used with great skill. Let’s examine six categories of Socratic questions and suggest a method of application that may help you be successful.

Below is a list showing six different types of Socratic Questions. I think this handy guide is useful because it provides different avenues of logic, so the questions don’t all sound the same.

Types of Socratic Questions

  1. Clarify: To prompt others to explore their questions and prove basic concepts and ideas of arguments Examples: What examples can you provide?  What do you mean by…?
  2. Probe assumptions: To query others’ beliefs concerning their arguments. Examples: How did you arrive at those assumptions? What if we looked at it this way?
  3. Determine Reasons and evidence: To delve deeper into supporting claims others use for their arguments. Examples: How do you know this? What is the cause? Can the evidence be refuted? How?
  4. Gain Perspective: To have others query their viewpoints or perspectives; they attempt to look at the argument from another perspective. Examples: What is another way of looking at this? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your perspective?
  5. Identify Consequences: To identify consequences and determine if they are desirable; use as others develop arguments and logical consequences become foreseeable. Examples: If we follow your argument, what are the consequences? Are the consequences desirable?
  6. Question the question: To probe the intent of asking the original question. Examples: Why did you ask the question? To what point are you driving?

A best practice for applying these questions is to mix up the type of question as the conversation unfolds. By applying the specific type of question naturally as the discussion proceeds, it seems more expected and less manipulative. 

Consider your intent

If your true intent is to probe subliminal thoughts, you can gently guide the conversation without detection. In other words, do not try to corner a person into saying something that he or she does not really want to advocate. That is true manipulation, which will invariably backfire. Use the Socratic Method to guide the discussion. Let the person see the true benefits from his or her own perspective. The person then becomes an advocate instead of a roadblock.

Conclusion

Using the Socratic Method can be helpful. It requires skill and practice to apply it successfully in the real world.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Reducing Conflict 63 Don’t Bully

October 17, 2022

Do squirrels bully each other? As I was having breakfast today, I was watching some squirrels chase each other around the backyard. I started thinking of various animal species. In every group of animals, a certain amount of bullying behavior goes on. It is a “survival of the fittest” world in the animal kingdom. Maybe that is why we humans exhibit some form of bullying behavior in order to get our way.

Bullying is everywhere

The practice of bullying has become a key concept in our society. We see forms of it in every area from the schoolyard to Congress. It shows up from the boardroom to the barroom. This behavior in school kids is unacceptable, but we often see it practiced unchallenged as adults.

We know the incredibly destructive nature of bullying because we all have been bullied at some point. It does not feel good. The practice leads to suicide in rare cases, especially in children. They cannot cope with the powerless feeling of being bullied and would simply rather die.

We all bully

It is also true that each one of us has been guilty of bullying another person at some point. If you wish to deny that, you need to think harder. Some of us have played the role of the bully more than others. Many managers have it down to a fine art. Unfortunately, people in power positions have a greater temptation to use bullying. It is a way to obtain compliance.  The problem is that, in organizations, mere compliance is not adequate for long-term survival.

How managers bully

Organizational bullying is not confined to verbal abuse or strong body language.  We see it when headstrong managers become fixated on their own agenda. It renders them effectively deaf to the ideas or concerns of others. They become like a steamroller and push their agenda with little regard for what others think. 

Humans have an advantage

While we are mammals, we have a more developed brain and greater power to reason than lesser species. We should realize that bullying behavior usually leads to the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.  It may seem like a convenient expedient, but it does not work well in the long run.

Contrast with animals

If you are an elk, you only think of the current situation. You are reacting to a threat to your power or position or where you will get your next meal. The focus is not about relationships and possible future alliances.  There is no considering how your behaviors might inspire other elk to perform at their best. The aptitude to plan and care is what separates man from the animal world.

Bullying in organizations

Applying this logic in an organization is pretty simple. Managers who bully their way to get people to do their bidding are actually building up resentment and hostility.  While this may produce short-term compliance, it works against objectives long term. Take a kinder approach. You can achieve more results over the long haul and obtain full cooperation from people rather than simple compliance.

Ten tips to reduce the tendency to bully other people:

  1. Ask if you would want to be treated this way – Simply apply the Golden Rule.
  2. Observe the reaction and body language in other people – If they cower or retreat when you bark out commands, you are coming on too strong.
  3. Be sensitive to feedback – It takes courage to listen when someone tells you that you are being a bully. Ask for that feedback, and listen when it is given.
  4. Speak more softly and slowly – Yelling at people makes them feel bullied even if that is not your intention. When you get excited, lower rather than raise your voice.
  5. Ask for opinions often – Other people have good ideas too.
  6. Think before speaking – Ask yourself if this is the way to gain real commitment or just temporary compliance. Is it good for the culture?
  7. Reduce the number of absolutes you use – Saying “You never do anything right” cannot possibly be true. Soften absolutes to allow for some reason.
  8. Listen more and talk less – When you are shouting at people you cannot possibly hear their rationale or their point of view. Hear people out; do not interrupt them.
  9. Don’t attack or abuse the weak – Knowing an individual is too insecure to fight back is no reason to run over him or her. It only reveals your own weakness.
  10. Write your epitaph – How would you like to be remembered after you are gone?

Animals have a hard time following the Golden Rule, and there is a bully in every group. Humans have the power to actually modify our behavior. We can think more strategically and do things that are right for the long term. Caring for people creates a culture of trust that is sustainable.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Reducing Conflict 62 Quotas Encourage Quiet Quitting

October 9, 2022

Quiet Quitting is a relatively new term for an old phenomenon.  When the Gallup Organization measures employee engagement, they have three states for people. Employees can be highly engaged, actively disengaged, or engaged.

Measurements of these three groups are fairly consistent.  Highly engaged employees run about 30%. Actively disengaged usually runs about 20%. This leaves engaged workers at about 50%. The figures vary a bit from year to year, but the general pattern remains consistent.

Half of the employees are quiet quitters

About half of working people are not upset enough to leave the organization. However, they also are not inspired to do their best. This is the group where you find the quiet quitters. They show up and draw their paycheck but do not perform near their potential.

There are several factors that can cause people to become quiet quitters.  People endure abuse from their superiors but quietly find ways to get even. Many administrative procedures are a burden, so people just check the box without getting involved in the content. Meetings can become an unwanted distraction. Rules on personal comportment can insult workers.

A real example of a quota system

I heard about a situation recently where a good employee is being abused by her manager. The employee is in danger of becoming a quiet quitter.

Since the pandemic, the workforce of this employee’s company has been working remotely. The management team decided to attempt to track the number of productive tasks each employee completes daily. They use an automated report generation technology in order to establish an objective quota for performance reviews. However, the tasks of each employee are not all the same

In this situation, the manager told the employee that the acceptable number of tasks was 10 per day. The employee, who values quality work, had previously been performing 8 tasks per day without errors. She voiced her discomfort with this seemingly unrealistic quota, believing it may lead to future errors by rushing. The manager assured her it was an attainable goal.

The employee thought to herself that she does a lot of work within her job description which would not be quantifiable in this report. However, being highly motivated at her baseline, she increased her efforts in an attempt to meet requirements. She worked very hard and finally started to attain 11 consistent tasks per day. She was still performing her other duties that the productivity reporting was not tracking.

Negative feedback from the manager

At their next monthly supervisory meeting, her manager stated that they have changed the quota to 15 per day.  The productivity report did not pull accurate numbers. They indicated the employee completed only eight tasks per day. A monthly review of the employee’s performance showed a deficiency in productivity.

Actually, the employee had evidence that she completed 11 tasks a day in addition to other duties. She sent the manager back to look again.

The manager then pulled a different report that indicated she had completed 17 tasks a day.  There was no explanation for the discrepancy in the numbers. Also, there was no apology for the negative review.

Failures on the part of the manager

  1. This manager did not inquire why the employee felt the expected quota was not realistic. There was no investigation into all the daily activities of that employee. The manager needed to know if the quota was realistic while performing other duties and upholding quality standards.
  2. A change in the acceptable number of tasks was not communicated to the employee in a timely fashion.
  3. There was no justification given for the increase.
  4. A common standard was missing as to what constituted having “completed” a task.
  5. There was no pilot of the system, which led to inaccurate results. The report did not include all of the work this employee completed within her job description.
  6. Using a broken system caused the manager to reprimand the employee for something that was inaccurate.
  7. The manager did not apologize to the employee for the gaff. There was also no indication of future corrective action.

Resulting quiet quitting

How would you feel if you were that employee?  I suspect you would feel very low motivation going forward. If this is the way her manager treats people, you can see why there is low engagement in the work.

Going forward, this manager may gain compliance because the employee needs a paycheck. It will cause the employee to focus on only one part of her job description in the future. She will let what does not show up on productivity reports fall by the wayside. Forget about going the extra mile to help the company. 

Things to consider when rolling out a quota system

The first piece of advice is to be absolutely sure that you need to do it.  An automated system for keeping track of the activities of a remote employee is perilous. There are so many potential pitfalls that you must avoid. My advice is DON’T DO IT.

  1. If you MUST have a quota, start with collecting information. Learn the scope of what each employee does. Determine what data you should collect and if the system can capture it.
  2. Learn what additional work the staff may be doing that would not be quantifiable on the tracking report.
  3. Pilot your electronic tracking system with a few trusted seasoned employees. Ensure the tracking system is capturing all the data accurately. Ask for candid feedback. Compare data. Make adjustments as needed. Decide if it’s a useful tool or not.
  4. Roll out the quota to staff well in advance, with clear information about why you are tracking the information. What specifically are you tracking and how, along with a clear expectation of the numbers? Let staff ask questions.
  5. Re-evaluate. Take the feedback regarding the quota or tracking system. If a mistake is made, acknowledge it. Re-evaluate and address any concerns. 
  6. Understand the limitations of data collection. Other less quantifiable factors also play into the holistic view of an employee’s performance; quality, attitude, teamwork, promptness, etc.
  7. If the expected quota is not met, inquire with the employee directly to identify possible causes. Help eliminate any barriers to assist with success.

Conclusion

Any kind of quota system has a high risk of demotivating employees.  They will feel a lack of trust and will respond by quietly checking out of their best performance.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Reducing Conflict 61 Your Conflict Reduction Reputation

October 2, 2022

Do you know your conflict reduction reputation?  That is a key element to your success as a leader. Some leaders are really good at resolving issues of conflict while others focus on preventing them. Having a reputation for being good at both things would be great.

The key to preventing conflict

People in any organization are going to have conflicts from time to time.  This series has been all about how to resolve conflict in the workplace and in your private life. The key is to anticipate that things will sometimes get people upset. If you have a nose for this common problem, you can often take corrective action before active conflict erupts.

The impact of culture

If you have established a culture of respect and trust, conflict is going to have a hard time taking hold.  People will express when something does not feel right before they get upset about it. This open communication gives time for the leaders to go back to their sense of purpose and values.

Follow the body language

Often times impending conflict can be seen in a change in body language.  One person may look across the room to a buddy and roll his eyes.  It might be a case of raised eyebrows or dilated pupils.  Keep a sharp eye out for unusual body language signals.  Flaring nostrils or a clenched jaw might signal a person who is ready to explode.

Intervene before the conflict breaks out in the open

There is usually time to calm people down by pointing out that we are all on the same team.  You may be able to get the disagreeing individuals to express their feelings in an open discussion.

Sometimes the parties are just not hearing each other.  They are talking past the other person, and the points become lost in the vacuum. Keep an ear out for a raised voice or higher pitch than usual. In this instance, it is helpful to have each person slow down enough to give the key points. Then have the other person repeat back what they heard.

Both parties must understand both points of view with an open mind. It is also OK to agree to disagree.  Just because you have a different opinion on a topic doesn’t mean you cannot work with the other person.

Bring the values into the equation

Often some of the values that people have agreed upon are violated in the heat of conflict. If this is the case, bring the individuals back to a sense of accountability for following the values.

Conclusion

Have a reputation for being a peacemaker in your organization. You can do this by following the tips in this article.  Always be alert for the signals of escalating rancor and intervene early for the best result.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.