The Support Person; "The Eggdicator"

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 with Zandy

 The Support Person: The "Eggdicator"

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I love the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It’s a lot more than just a chocolate thing. You know the chocolate egg scene where Veruca Salt meets her end? Where the “eggdicator” discriminates the good and bag eggs and dumps the bad ones into the chute. I secretly (well not so secretly because now everyone will know) wish I had one of those for support people.

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The Support Person role in any workplace tension scenario is crucial. It should not be underestimated both as a support but also as an integral part of conflict resolution.  It’s this later bit I want us to focus on.  Just as a note, a support person in an investigation can have a slightly different role as the process and purpose of investigation is different to conflict resolution.

I know technically they are only part of the process to “emotionally support”, but in effect they are often much more than that. Why? Because they have the ear and trust of the person who they are supporting.

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They can hear messages the participant is too emotional to hear. They are often the one who recalls details the participant can’t. As a conflict resolution practitioner I have had many experiences where it’s the support person’s influence that allows a participant see things a little differently, take perspective, and ultimately, to problem solve. And they do it often with ease because they are on the participant’s "team" or in their "inner circle".

Our practise encourages and engages with the support person. Not as an advocate or participant but as a source of resolution. Particularly in our intake sessions including a support person often allows us to understand the heart of the issues. Please embrace the support person. A good support person is the like the golden egg laying goose and they are potentially a key to resolving workplace conflict.  

So, from our experience, if you need a support person for a mediation, facilitated conversation, restorative justice conference, conflict coaching, or the like, choose someone who fits the following criteria:

  • Someone who has the participant’s full trust and confidence. Someone who has no ulterior or alternate motivation or agenda, other than simply wanting things to get better for the participant.
  • Someone who can tell the participant, honestly, that they look fat in those jeans. You know, the person who can help the participant reflect and from a place of love, and tell them what they may possibly have done to contribute to the tension. This will allow for self-reflection which is crucial in conflict resolution.  
  • Someone who is able to identify if there are process tweaks that can help. For example, I had a support person last week raise that the participant “thinks better if you let her smoke regularly” so we took regular breaks. Another said, “I think she just needs to get it off her chest before the boss can speak”. So I worked with the participant to allow her to be clear on what and how she would start and advised the other participant that this would occur.
  • Someone who will be appropriately vocal in the intake session and then appropriately non-vocal in the joint session.  That is someone who knows when to speak and when to let others speak.
  • Someone who is less emotional about the issues than the participant.  
  • Someone who is optimistic and able to see the big picture. Helping the participant to see the full context and not just their narrow self-perceptions. They understand that even during difficult times things can get better and they will support the participant to see the positive.

Hey, based on this criteria, the last time you supported someone how well did you do? How have you allowed a support person to operate in this space?  

Back to Willie Wonka... because all good things relate to chocolate. I can tell within minutes if a support person is a “good egg” or a “bad egg”, and I am grateful each time a good one presents (which is more often than not). I am thrilled for the participants involved and for me too because resolution will flow more freely. Just like that chocolate river…..

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Conflict resolution is just a fancy word for problem solving

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If I ever give up my day job I want to launch a PR campaign to save the poor reputation of conflict. I want to simply positively reframe conflict resolution as problem-solving. “Look there goes Simon he’s a fabulous problem solver”. I can see the billboards and bumper stickers now. We could lead a rally up the steps of parliament singing “Good problem-solving IS conflict management”, “stop indoctrinating children that conflict is bad”, “What do we want? More conflict friendly organisations. When do we want it? Now!!!”. 

Everyone loves problem-solving. So let’s just ride that wave and package it differently, do some marketing bling, and rebrand conflict management to make it more attractive.  Look we could even get t-shirts or pet accessories made up. 

What is problem-solving?

Cognitive psychologists describe problem-solving as a four-stage process:

1.       Identifying the problem

2.       generating alternative strategies

3.       selecting and implementing a solution

4.       evaluating consequences. 

To me that sums up conflict resolution.

Look at this picture. Is it a group of colleagues in a structured conflict resolution process like mediation? Or is it a group of colleagues brainstorming and problem-solving together.... Same thing right?

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Once I worked with a senior engineer who was the Project Manager for a large development site.  He told me he hated conflict resolution, had no skill in it and just wanted someone else to make it go away. When I challenged him and said he was a fantastic conflict resolver because his whole job was problem solving, that is understanding issues, working through potential options, gaining stakeholder buy in, his whole demeanor changed. He said you are right, I am a great problem solver. Once we looked at the conflict he had to manage as a problem he was set!

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Heavy lifting for the Brain

Problem solving for the brain is like exercising for muscles. The more problems it resolves the stronger and healthier it becomes. Just like when we start avoiding those circuit classes (boy they are hard!), when we avoid problems, the brain reduces in problem solving fitness and we find it harder.

Amazingly, unlike going to those circuit classes, as humans we are actually hard wired to problem solve. Researchers have concluded that overtime our brains have anatomically evolved and the changes in the lateral frontoparietal network have improved human reasoning skills. That is, modern day humans are even more equipped to problem solve than our ancestors (some would also argue we have given ourselves bigger problems too!).

Don’t be solutions focused

Because people are born problem solvers, the biggest challenge is to overcome the tendency to immediately come up with a solution. Let me say that again. The most common mistake in problem solving is trying to find a solution right away. That's a mistake because it tries to put the solution at the beginning of the process, this means we have not really scoped the issue and creative responses are less likely to be generated. What we need is a solution at the end of the process.

Conflict resolution is just a fancy way of saying problem solving. So, lets just ride that wave and leverage it to make everyone feel better about conflict solving.  

End of pep talk……. If you want to discuss you or your team’s problem solving fitness (AKA conflict management) please be in touch.

The ZALT Group together with Bodycare Workplace Solutions are excited to present a Full Day Course on 25 May 2017

Emotional Intelligence & Conflict Management  for Return to Work (RTW) Professionals & Managers

Details here

You may also be interested in the following related blogs

The cost of conflict http://thezaltgroup.com.au/blog/2016/4/6/the-cost-of-conflict

Making conflict your friend http://thezaltgroup.com.au/blog/2015/11/4/better-conflict-making-workplace-conflict-your-friened

 

Understanding Donald Duck

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With Zandy.

This is about Donald... but not "That Donald"!

My conflict resolution career started when watching cartoons as a child. Donald Duck taught me to try to understand by searching to see what is driving behaviour. If you miss those drivers you miss the opportunity to resolve issues.

I loved Donald Duck growing up. Everyone else was singing M-I-C-K-E-Y…blah blah blah. And I’d indignantly say “Donald Duck is much better”. I would passionately defend his temper tantrums saying “but Chip and Dale stole his food he didn’t mean to yell at you Daisy. Please don’t be angry with him”. Or “Goofey was annoying him. He exploded in rage because of what Goofey did”. Look what happened when someone teased him about having small hands https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x39-AgyU3Xg.

Alright. I may have been over thinking things and yes, now as an adult, I can see that Donald needed to take responsibility for his actions regardless of provocation. But I still love Donald Duck. And I still think he is just a little misunderstood.

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I carry this “he’s being misunderstood” outlook into my conflict resolution world and utilise it to both diagnose what’s really going on underneath a “temper tantrum” and to engage parties to see beyond the behaviour. This perspective of being able to see through someone’s behaviour to truly understand what is driving their behaviour is one of our key conflict resolution principles.  It is what allows us to address root cause issues and help to improve the situation, and more often than not, change behaviours and relationships.

Chris Argyis’s ladder of Inference (most popularly introduced by Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline) is a metaphor that illustrates how the human brain progresses through a series of steps to arrive at actions or behaviours based on experiences and assumptions. There is so much written on this model but this is a short video http://ed.ted.com/lessons/rethinking-thinking-trevor-maber

Just this week I was conflict coaching an Executive who works for a Victorian Government Department. He was keen to discipline a manager for her unprofessional behaviour where she loudly voiced her negative opinion of him in the reception area where members of the public were present. I engaged him to identify what had caused this behaviour. He identified a number of things including his lack of prioritisation of her in recent months. He acknowledged his contribution to the dynamic at hand. She may still be disciplined but the insight into why this has happened will change his approach and I am anticipating a significantly improved relationship.

If we only see someone’s behaviour and only address behaviour we miss the opportunity. We miss the opportunity to resolve what is causing “Donald Duck” to act that way.  

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So, please, make the choice to understand the Donald Duck in your workplace. And if you want to discuss him or her further please be in touch.  This blog is dedicated to my Dad as he and I share our love for Donald Duck and conflict resolution. Thanks for this and so so much more Dad.  

LAST CHANCE TO REGISTER FOR OUR UPCOMING HR WORKSHOPS:

        Facilitating Difficult Conversations In The Workplace – 26 & 27 July 2017.

        Workplace Investigations Training – 7 August 2017.

         click here for more details

 If you enjoyed this blog you may also be interested in:

Conflict Magic

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 I hear you but I’m not listening

 http://eepurl.com/bjLDIT

 Conflict Resolution is just a fancy word for problem solving –

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Copy of An Investigation In The Balance

An investigation in the balance… It’s the case that all HR managers dread… You investigate, but it is all he said / she said... If the allegations are substantiated termination is likely! But if they cannot be substantiated then what happens??? How do you weigh the evidence? What if you believe one person more than the other but you are not sure why... What if no one actually saw it happen… Balancing this can feel complicated. But the good news, believe it or not, this is not as scary as it sounds and there is a way through. As a workplace investigator, I have had many of these situations over the years. Let me share a recent one which was tough. On the showroom floor, Simon claimed that David had pushed him over and as a consequence, he had broken his arm.  

An investigation in the balance… It’s the case that all HR managers dread… You investigate, but it is all he said / she said... If the allegations are substantiated termination is likely! But if they cannot be substantiated then what happens??? How do you weigh the evidence? What if you believe one person more than the other but you are not sure why... What if no one actually saw it happen… Balancing this can feel complicated. But the good news, believe it or not, this is not as scary as it sounds and there is a way through.

As a workplace investigator, I have had many of these situations over the years. Let me share a recent one which was tough. On the showroom floor, Simon claimed that David had pushed him over and as a consequence, he had broken his arm.

 

David denied the allegations. He said there had been no confrontation and the first he knew of it was when the Site Manager came out to ask him what he had done to Simon! David was surprised and shocked at these allegations. He alleged back that it was a lie and that Simon should be sacked for making it up!!! The Manager knew these two did not get on and had no idea where to go next. That is when I got the call. There was no direct witness evidence to the incident, no ‘smoking gun’ anywhere and it was clear that Simon had sustained a broken arm at the time. However, as a consequence of the investigation the decision was made to summarily terminate Simon for making a false allegation against David. How? Well through a nuanced and well-grounded understanding of the legal and evidential requirements for a workplace investigation… As we know the test that needs to be applied is “beyond all reasonable doubt!”… oh wait, we are not watching Law & Order… The test actually is “on the balance of probabilities”, that is, “more likely to have occurred than not”. So, with this test in mind, as the investigator we evaluated the evidence including important circumstantial evidence. Which included the behaviour of both Simon and David in the immediate aftermath of the alleged incident.

David denied the allegations. He said there had been no confrontation and the first he knew of it was when the Site Manager came out to ask him what he had done to Simon! David was surprised and shocked at these allegations. He alleged back that it was a lie and that Simon should be sacked for making it up!!! The Manager knew these two did not get on and had no idea where to go next. That is when I got the call.

There was no direct witness evidence to the incident, no ‘smoking gun’ anywhere and it was clear that Simon had sustained a broken arm at the time. However, as a consequence of the investigation the decision was made to summarily terminate Simon for making a false allegation against David.

How? Well through a nuanced and well-grounded understanding of the legal and evidential requirements for a workplace investigation…

As we know the test that needs to be applied is “beyond all reasonable doubt!”… oh wait, we are not watching Law & Order… The test actually is “on the balance of probabilities”, that is, “more likely to have occurred than not”. So, with this test in mind, as the investigator we evaluated the evidence including important circumstantial evidence. Which included the behaviour of both Simon and David in the immediate aftermath of the alleged incident.

When doing this type of workplace investigation, we need to consider whether there is a greater than 50% chance that the allegation happened or did not happen (as the case maybe). You don’t need to be certain, you don’t need to be 100% sure, you need to be more than 50% sure. Back to Simon’s broken arm. In this case the two contradictory allegations (the push or the making up of the whole incident) required one to be less likely and therefore making the other more likely. After considering the evidence, we were of the firm view that the evidence supported that it was more likely Simon made up the entire incident. There were two reliable witnesses who gave evidence about the demeanour of both Simon and David in the immediate aftermath of the alleged incident that was entirely inconsistent with any type of confrontation between the two of them. So, after due consideration, the decision was made to terminate Simon, and yes, we are aware of Briginshaw. It is important to note that Simon had a broken arm, we assume that he fell over. However, we do not need to prove how his arm was broken. Just whether David did, or did not do it. This can be tough if done inside a business. There are so many layers of people and preconceived ideas about people. Hence often the need for an external investigator. However, HR are often well positioned to conduct investigations as long as they are confident and have the training required. Speaking of training, please see the courses below. UPCOMING WORKSHOPS FOR HR PRACTITIONERS:  We are delighted to announce two new workshops in a Melbourne CBD location:   Facilitating Difficult Conversations In The Workplace – 26 & 27 July 2017 Workplace Investigations Training – 7 August 2017.    click here for more details If you liked this blog you might also be interested in: http://thezaltgroup.com.au/blog/2016/9/22/why-investigate

When doing this type of workplace investigation, we need to consider whether there is a greater than 50% chance that the allegation happened or did not happen (as the case maybe). You don’t need to be certain, you don’t need to be 100% sure, you need to be more than 50% sure. Back to Simon’s broken arm. In this case the two contradictory allegations (the push or the making up of the whole incident) required one to be less likely and therefore making the other more likely. After considering the evidence, we were of the firm view that the evidence supported that it was more likely Simon made up the entire incident.

There were two reliable witnesses who gave evidence about the demeanour of both Simon and David in the immediate aftermath of the alleged incident that was entirely inconsistent with any type of confrontation between the two of them. So, after due consideration, the decision was made to terminate Simon, and yes, we are aware of Briginshaw.

It is important to note that Simon had a broken arm, we assume that he fell over. However, we do not need to prove how his arm was broken. Just whether David did, or did not do it.

This can be tough if done inside a business. There are so many layers of people and preconceived ideas about people. Hence often the need for an external investigator. However, HR are often well positioned to conduct investigations as long as they are confident and have the training required. Speaking of training, please see the courses below.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS FOR HR PRACTITIONERS: 

We are delighted to announce two new workshops in a Melbourne CBD location:  

Facilitating Difficult Conversations In The Workplace – 26 & 27 July 2017

Workplace Investigations Training – 7 August 2017.  

 click here for more details

If you liked this blog you might also be interested in:

http://thezaltgroup.com.au/blog/2016/9/22/why-investigate

Conflict Guru Award

Move over Nobel, Move over Logies……here comes the ZALT Conflict Leadership Award

Announcing the inaugural ZALT Conflict Leadership Awards

As 2016 concludes it’s time to recognise and celebrate those who have improved their workplaces over the year. These awards are to recognise the efforts and approaches taken when dealing with workplace conflict and/or proactively managing workplace relationships and dynamics.

We will announce the ZALT Conflict Leadership Awards 2016 winners in early Feb 2017. 

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Calling for nominations

The categories  

We will be awarding prizes in the following:

Category 1: Individual

Do you know someone who managed a tricky workplace situation effectively? Why was it tricky and what did that individual specifically do to help with the dynamic?

Do you know someone who recognised that they needed to do things differently to resolve some type of workplace tension? And they succeed in making things better?

Category 2: Manager

Do you know a manager who has chosen to positively tackle the workplace dynamics in their team or beyond? And this resulted in ongoing benefits to employees and the organisation? What did they do? Who did it impact? How was it effective?

Category 3: Human Resources or Organisation

Has your organisation made a concerted effort to change the way conflict is managed or perceived? Or perhaps your HR department is a leader in the space of conflict management? Maybe you are part of the HR team and can share some of your organisational mindset and initiatives. 

Your voice

Feel free to send in your nominations via email, voice message or even video from your iPhone.  You can nominate yourself, colleague, organisation or a friend. All nominations will be considered and all winning nominations will be contacted prior to publicising the winners. Details of nominations and winners will only be shared with the recipient’s consent.

Applications close 1 February 2016

 

Zealotising

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OK, 'zealotising' is not a real word (yet!) but I can’t resist words starting with Z! And you already know what it is. When someone is being extreme, like a zealot, with their language and using extreme and finite phrases. The impact of which is that those on the receiving end generally are forced to flee in defence or zealotise right back at them. See Trump v HC Result - the conflict intensifies. Zealotising is bad for conflict and makes my job difficult.

A few weeks ago I was mediating between two cousins who had grown a multimillion dollar business together. During the discussion one said to the other “you just can’t handle change”. Boom. See the zealotising in that comment? The “all or nothing” phraseology. The other reared up to defend through attack “NO. I just don’t trust YOUR management”.  Again an absolute and uncompromising statement.  It was like they were holding a voodoo doll of the other and using their language to spear metal rods through the body.

 

Zealotsing is bad for resolving conflict

The problem is that the absolute statement is generally not exactly what the person meant. In my example the business partners had been through tremendous change together - so that statement "you just can't handle change" was simply not accurate. It is this type of comment that the recipient remembers well after the conversation is finished.

The other reason extreme statements intensify conflict is that they often challenge an individual’s identity or the foundations of a relationship. “I don’t trust your management” gets interpreted as challenging my identity as a “good manager” or being an “honest person”. That damages the relationship. Firstly they probably have a sense of self perception that they are a good manager and that they are honest. Secondly, they each wonder how long have the other has thought this and yet never said anything. It’s almost a betrayal. Often this is accompanied by thoughts like “I wonder who else thinks this way about me”.

What to do?

First you have to notice it. This be hard as it happens quickly and may be just one line. After that, there are a range of things you can do that are relationship and situation dependent.

You can explore it “are you saying I can never handle change or is it just this situation?” If you catch yourself zealotising you could say “wait a minute that’s not quite what I meant, I really just think we need to talk about how this project is being managed”. In the situation above where I was mediating I challenged them both. I stopped them and we paused so I explicitly explained what ‘zealotising’ is. Then they reflected on how their zealotising (although I didn’t use that term obviously!) statements were impacting the thought process of each other and how that made conflict worse. I’m happy to report the conversation felt more real and relaxed after that even though I had to take on the role of teacher for a few minutes.    

Need some help preparing for a difficult conversation that you don’t want to make worse by zealotising? Have some employees who need to have a conversation but require professional facilitation. Please feel free to get in touch with us.
 

 

If you enjoyed this blog you may also be interested in:
Your Brains Response to Conflict
Conflict Magic
I hear you but I’m not listening

 

The ZALT Group are looking for a Part TIme Practice Manager - know someone who maybe interested?
download the Position Description

Why Investigate

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Download the pdf version here

We will do (almost) anything to talk you out of an investigation

“Hi Tony, We have an issue and we need you to do an investigation. We’ve received a bullying complaint and we know this manager is a bit difficult. So we need to see if the allegations are true.”
 
“Hold on a minute… Let’s discuss what you are trying to achieve here and then we can determine if an investigation is the best option for your people and your organisation…”
 
It sounds crazy but every week we spend considerable time talking our clients out of doing investigations and into something far more productive! Not the best business model for us, but this conversation is ALWAYS in our clients’ best interests.
 
What to ask yourself?
Do you need to attribute blame and possibly sanction someone’s behaviour? Do you need to know all about how the puzzle came apart or how the pieces fit together?  Is the behaviour so serious that if true you will need to punish?
 
If the answer is “YES”, then almost certainly you need to investigate.
 
However more often than not the answer is something like… “Well I really just want them working together more effectively”. Then almost certainly you need a conflict resolution response and not an investigation.
 
What is the purpose of a workplace investigation?
Working backwards, a workplace investigation is designed to apportion blame and determine whether a sanction should be applied. That is, whose fault it is and should we punish them? Punishment usually takes the form of some sort of disciplinary action like a warning or termination of employment.
 
The basis for the blame and punishment is the investigation where allegations have been (or not been) “substantiated” on the “balance of probabilities”.

When should you look at doing an investigation?
If you need to “know the facts”, have “accountability” for what occurred and to provide a sanction because of what occurred. This includes situations such as:

  • Serious misconduct that may result in the termination of employment
  • Breach of WHS/OHS laws
  • Discrimination or sexual harassment
  • Inappropriate workplace conduct that may result in a lesser (then termination) disciplinary action
  • If your policy requires you to investigate after receiving a formal complaint/grievance

What doesn’t an investigation give you?
An investigation does NOT resolve conflict. If anything it entrenches it. Once people are interviewed and provide statements their view on a person or an event is more likely to become entrenched and harder to shift. Often witnesses will feel that they have to “pick a side” and the discord in a team can become significantly greater. Any type of mediation or facilitated discussion is much harder AFTER an investigation rather than before it.         

Well??? Should you investigate or not?
Are you looking to resolve conflict or are you looking to apportion blame? Of course the risk profile of the organisation, the legal implications, the individual employees’ work history and the internal resources of the organisation often play a significant factor in determining the path forward.
  
Are you struggling with conflict resolution? Are you considering a workplace investigation? Please give us a call to discuss the many different options and opportunities.

We are EXCITED to announce the following upcoming training for
Line Managers & HR Professionals

Mediating Difficult Workplace Conversations - Monday 7 November 2016
Workplace Investigations Training - Monday 14 November 2016

These workshops will be held at:
Metricon
501 Blackburn Rd
Mt Waverly, VIC

Click here for more info...

Scrpit or Engage???

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with ZANDY

Free yourself from the script!!!

Have you ever had an out-of-work experience that illuminated something you see at work so clearly you wanted to shout it to the world? Well here goes.

 A few weeks ago we were on the plane returning from a family holiday from Fiji (Bula!!). I was sitting next to my 11 year old son. I convinced him to watch the movie He Named Me Malala. The documentary of the Afghani girl who was shot by the Taliban for being passionately vocal about female education... she went on to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a 17yo.

Planning the Script

I was so thrilled he was watching this. In my mind, I, mother of the year, started to plot the deep and meaningful conversation we would have when the movie finished. We'd talk about injustice, women's rights, totalitarian regimes, activism and making the world a better place. Seriously, I didn’t even take in the last ¼ of the movie as I was scripting my educative pitch. I was forming a PowerPoint in my head with facts and figures from the UN and Room to Read.

Anyway, the movie finished and I was ready to launch into my script. I had so much to say. But. Before I could, my son looked at me with concern and thought and said “Mum, why wouldn’t you want to educate a girl? I just don’t understand??? It’s stupid!”. At that moment I had a choice. A big choice...

Free yourself and Engage!

Do I launch into my script? The one I had been so carefully plotting in my head. Or do I engage in the conversation he was ready and wanting to have? Should I make sure I adamantly got my points across or should I choose to start the conversation from his vantage point? You guessed it, I picked up from his question, let him lead the discussion and it was a powerful conversation.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could let ourselves engage in the conversations presented? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could prepare others to engage in more meaningful conversations? To put their script aside, discuss the issue rather than present their case.  It is so much more effective for all involved!!!

Follow the engagement!                 

When we coach people in conflict this is one of the first things we focus on. We call it “disarming the script”.  The science behind it is simple: conversations where you demonstrate sincere interest in the other will be more effective.  What better way to do this than letting them determine from where the conversation will start. This is in part what Stone, Patton and Heen call “creating a learning conversation” in their ground breaking Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most.  You need to know the topic and it’s always good to be prepared. But, you will get substantively better outcomes in your conversations if you have the conversation starting where the other would like to start.  Choose to engage by letting your go of your script.

Is there a conversation you are about to have where your script is ready to go? Do you need some support to free yourself from the script? Do you understand how to engage?

Just in case you did not see it last time.... We think that this is just so, so, so, so very good... Be truly inspired and watch this AWESOME (and that is an understatement) advert for the Paralympics.

Emotional Olympics in your Workplace?

The ZALT Bubble
with TONY

But it's the Olympics...

I always say to myself, ahhh the Olympics what does it matter??? They have no real impact, IOC, WADA etc etc… too many drug cheats, too much politicking… Such a waste of everything…

Then they start and
I LOVE IT!!!

Why? Well despite everything I say and try, I simply love sport! However what really makes the Olympics special, IMHO, is the back stories. The people (and their support people) who have sacrificed to get there, the people who have dreams and fight for those dreams. Sometimes those dreams are realised like...

AUSSIE Woman Rugby Sevens winning GOLD! 

And other times they are NOT realised … like the British Judo champion Ashley McKenzie, after he was knocked out of the Games crying behind some rubbish bins (he tweeted this picture).

The emotion of expectation                   

But what are dreams? What are these back stories? They are the emotions that have developed based on expectation. And it is the emotional roller-coaster of expectation that overwhelms Olympians just as it the emotional roller-coaster of expectation that so often fuels workplace conflict.

How often at work do we hear people say “I was expecting him to ….”, “But it’s her job to…”, “If only they would…” with ever mounting anger as expectations are not met. Despite what many think, we actually have very high expectations of those working around us. These expectations relate not just to job function but to HOW people do their jobs and HOW they communicate with us. When these expectations are not matched we get frustrated and angry. Conflict in workplace relationships rises and productivity drops.

It is how you deal with misaligned expectations that actually matters. What we have learned is that preparing for and managing the emotion is actually the critical first step. This is not something Australian workplaces do well. We tend to be afraid of emotion, do anything we can to avoid it and hence we often don’t get to the heart of the issue.

Do your supervisors, managers and senior leaders have the skills and capacity to deal with the emotion of expectations not being met? There are no GOLD medals for helping conflicting people or teams deal with expectation emotion at work…. But there is a strategic advantage and better organisational outcomes for all!!!
 
BTW if you really want to see superhumans and be truly inspired then watch this AWESOME (and that is an understatement) advert from the Paralympics.

THE ZALT BUBBLE - Disability is Diversity - A mediation case study

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with ZANDY

 

Disability is Diversity

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A mediation case study

 

Recently at a call centre I facilitated a discussion between two employees who had mounting tension over bonus allocation and perceptions of favouritism. Let’s call them Nina and Debbie. Nina was blind. During the individual preparation session I had specifically asked Nina if there was anything I needed to do or incorporate to make this process effective for her.  She asked for her guide dog to be seated so he could easily see the door/exit and that she would like any documents ahead of time. I arranged the room set up and delivered documents accordingly (and even postponed the session by a day as documents were received late). Other than that the intake session was non-descript.

Aware, Acknowledge and Accommodate

As conflict resolution practitioners we deal with diversity and our success is based on our ability to manage it with flexibility and often without participants even knowing we are doing it. It’s really just managing difference. The awareness, acknowledgement and accommodation of differences is entrenched in the flexibility of how we support people through difficult conversations.  Choices we make like conversation structure, location, room set up, our questioning approach, how directive we are – they all vary depending on the diversity we have in the room. If I have someone who speaks really quickly and jumps from point to point, as a mediator, I have awareness that this is a factor, acknowledge it and accommodate it by either slowing them down through questioning or using strategies like summarising frequently to keep things on track.

Diversity in the Room

Part of the diversity I had at the call centre that day was a participant with a disability. As a mediator it is my responsibility to use appropriate disability etiquette and language. What happened in the joint session is worth sharing. Not from a content point of view but from a behavioural vantage point.
Debbie’s support person kept trying to pat and get the attention of Nina’s guide dog. When I advised him that the guide dog was working and shouldn’t be distracted he explained that he just liked dogs. It was also obvious that when Debbie spoke to Nina she spoke more slowly, deliberately and loudly than when she was addressing anyone else in the room and she actually didn’t look at Nina.

I called a break and had a discussion with Debbie and her support person about blindness, disability and some of the behaviours I had observed. Debbie was open to this feedback, I was impressed by that, and it allowed us to have a frank discussion. The mediation continued with a different tone and we could focus on the content that was actually causing the workplace tension.
 

Some relevant info...
Here are a few things (and a little more) that I shared with Debbie and her support person:

  • 2.2 million Australians of working age (15-64 years) have a disability. 53% of people with a disability aged 15-64yrs participate in the workforce, compared with 83% of people without a disability (ABS stats)
  • An overwhelming number of people with a disability will not disclose it to those they work with for fear of not being given employment or being treated fairly at work. Odds are you either have a disability or work closely with someone who does.
  • Disability includes things like sensory or speech impairment, physical restrictions and psychological disability. The latter being the most underrepresented in our workplaces
  • Don’t assume someone with a disability has other disabilities. That is just because Nina is blind her hearing and mental capacities were unimpaired. Ask the person about their disability.
  • Talk directly to the person with a disability. Don’t talk to their support as if they can’t understand you.
  • Vision Australia estimates there are currently 357,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision.
  • 1 in 6 of the population has dyslexia (including yours truly) or a learning difficulty. 

The awareness, acknowledgement and accommodation of differences is entrenched in the flexibility of how we support people through difficult conversations. Disability is diversity. Diversity is just managing difference.

 

Disability is Diversity                             

Disability is diversity. Diversity is just managing difference. Like all diversity management having awareness, acknowledgement and accommodation will allow for participation and that leads to productivity (and just good business and social practice in my opinion!).  I started my career in Diversity management and creating a level playing field is simply the way I think and operate.  Actually, it’s a secret (well not so secret) passion. Our latest effort at The ZALT Group is that you can now access our blogs in audio!
 

If you’d like to speak about a situation in your workplace we would love to hear from you...

Upcoming events:

Workplace Investigation training  24 May, 26 August and 14 November

Winter Conflict Intensive Peer Learning Opportunity June, July & August 2016

THE ZALT BUBBLE – We're flexible, but it hurts

The ZALT Bubble
with TONY

We're Flexible, but it hurts

Clients are trying so hard to be ‘flexible’, some are even able to do ‘the splits’! This is GREAT, right? Well YES and NO. Many of our clients tell us that their staff are crying out to work remotely and not be office bound, so they are doing their best to support that. However they have noticed a downside to this…

 

The downside of remote working

Yes the workplace is ‘bending over backwards’ to allow people to work remotely, but they also report 2 key failings as identified by Daniel Kraft, President and CEO of Sitiron.

 Loss of engagement. As staff are away from the central hub they feel that they are not being included in key conversations and social interactions. Joint experiences that create a shared learning and sense of connection can be missed. This affects collaboration levels and engagement levels.

 Drop in empowerment. As the remoteness grows, staff have notice they lose the context of their work, they miss the opportunity to participate in key meetings, they lose access to systems, and they lose access to internal expertise. This can result in less alignment with the organisation, they are less likely to understand and be mindful of the organisation’s values and KPIs… all leading to a loss of empowerment in how they act.

We need a spotter for the gymnasts

 A loss of engagement and drop in empowerment can be the catalyst for workplace conflict. To proactively help support our gymnastic employees – the ones who are working flexibly and remotely – there are a number of initiatives we’ve identified for clients that support the remote worker and counter this loss of engagement and empowerment.

 1.       We need real interactions

The spotter needs to be hands on. Just because a person is remote does not mean they should be unseen. If they just use email, they are unseen. If they just join conference calls, they are unseen (and mostly unheard). Make your call video! It is important to try and make as many of the remote contacts as ‘human’ as possible. Make the conscious effort to have more brief discussions as you would if they were working in physical proximity. 

2.       Make the virtual meetings count

A great suggestion by Paul Axtel in the HBR is to open the phone lines 10minutes early, this gives opportunity to just talk and catch up. Build this time into the meeting agenda. If you make a special effort to use people’s names, rather than “I heard” or “What I understand to be is …” then this will help bridge the divide, keep up the engagement and maintain the empowerment.

3.       Results count

If this is to work, then effectively managing performance is the key and managing time it not critical. I can’t put it better than this HBR article by Scott Behson (which I implore you to read) “Instead of infrequent, subjective evaluations based largely on “time on task,” managers, employees, and teams develop a set of agreed-upon performance metrics that are consistently tracked. As long as these metrics are met and customers and coworkers are happy with their access to employees, managers generally do not track office hours.

4.       Accessibility to all

There is no point bending and stretching like Nadia Comaneci if you can’t get into the gym! Remote workers need to have access to all systems, data and comms tools to make it work. 

 

5.       Discuss the arrangement

On a regular basis discuss what is and is not working about the arrangement from employees, managers and organizational perspective and transparently work through countermeasures.

 So as you strive to provide a workplace that is as flexible as possible, help to meet your ‘gymnasts’ needs by keeping them engaged and empowered.

 

The ZALT Group are excited to announce new dates for Workplace Investigations Training for HR Practitioners and Line Managers. The dates are:

·         Tuesday, 24 May 2016

·         Friday, 26 August 2016

·         Monday, 14 November 2016

 

For more details click here

THE ZALT BUBBLE - Carb free feedback is finally here!!!

The ZALT Bubble
with TONY

Carb free feedback is finally here!!!

Join me in my office for a sandwich?

Sam, I need to have a word. Look you have been doing a good job in general. I really liked how you dealt with that client complaint yesterday. HOWEVER. There is something that I have been meaning to talk to you about for a while. I have received some feedback that your behaviour towards to some of your fellow Team Members has not been great. Some people have mentioned that they find you a little abrupt and abrasive when they are trying to work with you. So going forward I want you to focus on how you talk to your colleagues. OK? Great. I must say it has been really good to have someone in the team who has your level of technical knowledge. It’s been missing in this team. Thanks for your time Sam.

The classic sandwich approach

The above is an example of the classic sandwich feedback. You start with something good, then deliver a ‘need to know message’ and then finally return to a positive. Positive + Negative + Positive. The theory behind the sandwich is that if you start with something hard the person will automatically become defensive and will not be receptive to your message. So you are better off to start with something positive. Then deliver the hard stuff (the substance in the sandwich). Then you can finish with a positive message to show you value them and that they are not all bad. You want to keep them engaged after all!

The SANDWICH. It’s alive and well, we hear people regularly deliver it and we hear it regurgitated during conflict “He said I was good at that but then really he just wanted to give me a hard time about issue X, he often sends mixed messages”. 

Let’s face it, in our opening example, does Sam recall anything that came before HOWEVER? And now Sam is too angry about the feedback being given to even appreciate that the bottom slice of bread, that their manager thinks that Sam has good technical knowledge.

Carb free feedback please, it’s more effective.

Indeed the Harvard Business Review says that using the sandwich approach lacks “transparency” and is “a unilaterally controlling approach”. A study in the Journal of Behavioural Studies in Business calls the approach “disingenuous” as it calls into question the manager’s truthfulness. Indeed the Journal lists 7 reasons how the Sandwich approach is “bad practice”.  

So how then???

Address the topic. Early and directly. Don’t shy away from what needs to be said. However if you are going to say it, own it! None of this “I‘ve received some feedback” or “some people have said to me”. All that happened here is that Sam is wondering which of their team mates has been dobbing on them, is a squib and not tough enough to talk to them face to face. Sam is not even hearing the issue being raised, only that someone… I wonder who… who is it who’s out to get me.

Remember, as a manager if you are giving feedback you are doing it for a reason. You want this person to change how they are doing something. That is the impact you are after so how you deliver that message needs to be considered. What will work for that person??? Not, what works for you. That is however a topic for another day… Intention vs Impact

Let us repeat it… all together now… loud enough so Dr Atkins can hear … “We want carb free feedback”. When do we want it? NOW!

The ZALT Bubble - Money and Time ….. the Cost of Conflict

THE ZALT BUBBLE
WITH ZANDY

COST OF CONFLICT

Imagine if you could walk into a Board Meeting and say “this month I saved the organisation $100,800”. Once the applause dies down you may get asked, “how did you do that?”  Take the pride stance, relax and respond. “After careful consideration of a major issue that is stifling the business we just…..” wait for it, drum roll please “we just managed conflict more effectively”. And when asked by the detractor in the room “so is this a once off lucky shot or can you do it again?” You can put on a smug smile and say with some good business lingo thrown in for good measure “Yes, repeatable, sustainable and measurable on and ongoing basis”. 

So, do you know what conflict is costing you and draining from your organisation? Poorly or unmanaged workplace conflict is possibly the largest reducible cost— and largely continues without serious consideration.

Are you currently monitoring the indicators of conflict or measuring the cost of conflict?
If you answered no, then how do you know the impact and cost? If it’s not being measured how do you know where there is opportunity?  If it’s not being measured then where does the accountability rest?

There are various ways of calculating the cost. Many of them include factoring in the following:

  • Time lost.  For example, although studies vary, generally managers spend between 20-40% of their time responding to employee conflict. Before you even do the $ maths imagine giving a supervisor back 8-16 hours a week!
  • Lowered job motivation and productivity
  • Loss of investment in skilled employees
  • Conflict-incited theft, sabotage, vandalism, and damage
  • Restructuring around the problem
  • Health costs
  • Degraded decision quality. For example in an experiment reported in the Harvard Business Review, participants who were exposed to conflict were 30% less creative than others in the study. They produced 25% fewer ideas, and the ones they did come up with were less original.

Often these are hidden costs. But let’s play with some numbers. The Dana Measure of Financial Cost of Organizational Conflict estimates the amount of time wasted by each person who is/was affected by the team conflict and then puts it in dollar terms by calculating the financial cost as a fraction of monthly or annual salary. For example, let's say you have a team of 4 in dispute and each of the 4 employees wasted 40 hours during a six month period because conflict disrupted their work. And, let's say the annual salary of each employee is $55,000. Forty hours is one week of work time, which is one-fifty-second of one year's salary. So, the dollar value of the four employees’ wasted time is approx. $6,350.  

Another survey found that, on average, each employee spends 2.1 hours every week – approximately one day a month – dealing with conflict in some way (being involved in a disagreement, managing a conflict between co-workers, etc) 

In another scenario using the same index but slightly different variables, where an employee leaves due to workplace conflict. Take the employee’s annual salary for example: $80,000 then multiply by 1.4 (140%) as the investment you have in the employee: $112,000. Then multiply by 1.5 (150%) as the cost of replacing the employee: $168,000; then multiply by .6 (60%) average role of conflict in voluntary terminations (conflict was not the only factor): $100,800.  This is just for one employee. We know many people leave jobs because of conflict so if you lose 10 that’s $1,008,000 per annum. 

If you just saw Batman vs Superman then this infographic on the cost of conflict is for you!

The costs just keep accumulating. Go on, do the maths for your organisation or team. At what financial marker would your organisation be willing to do something to reduce this cost? We can help reduce this hidden and not so hidden costs. We can also help you establish ways to measure conflict and monitor the impact of initiatives. Please be in touch to discuss this further.

Related blogs
BETTER CONFLICT - MAKING WORKPLACE CONFLICT YOUR FRIENED 
BAD BEHAVIOUR IS BAD FOR YOUR BUSINESS