Conflicts of Interest
Everything you ever wanted to know about conflicts at home, at work, or in the neighborhood.
A smart guy and I are creating a webinar series for employees on the topic of conflict resolution. In one section we decided to break down what it means to have a “personality clash” with a coworker. The two of us are going back and forth on what to include and it all started with a study that indicated nearly half of all workplace conflicts are due to “personality clashes and warring egos.” Well, what the heck does that mean? I’m starting to think it’s been a catch-all phrase that’s been around far too long and was perhaps developed by folks who didn’t want to take responsibility for resolving issues. I suppose the premise is that if you simply say a problem is due to a personality clash, then that absolves anyone from addressing it or being accountable for poor behavior. And, how ridiculous would it sound to tell someone to change their personality? Where would they start? Maybe that’s why, in some cases, a whole lot of nothing gets resolved when there’s an ongoing problem between coworkers.
In an effort to demonstrate how a personality clash or warring ego might exhibit itself, I started a list. So far I have a dozen behaviors that cause problems in the workplace—that could be attributed to the umbrella “personality clash” explanation. I thought I’d share each of them with you one at a time so we could discuss and maybe refine the list; adding more when needed. I’ll tell you now that each of them will be brief and won’t cover deep, psychological reasoning or have solutions based on behavioral science studies because 1) that’s not who I am, and 2) I want you to be able to get the message quickly and start to address an issue if it sounds familiar. Here’s the first from my dirty dozen list.
Ask 10 people the worst attribute in a coworker and most, if not all, will say micromanaging.
If you think you may be the coworker guilty of watching too closing or giving someone the sense that you’re breathing down their neck, try stepping back for a second so you can reassess your approach. Instead of stressing over every little detail, set clear expectations regarding due dates and other expectations including the amount and quality of the work you’re looking for.
Nitpicking every little detail can make others feel small, so be sure to watch the level of criticism as compared to how much you praise. Start by saying something like, “The layout works well and so the next step should be to make the message a little tighter,” or “You did a good job of getting all the data in, now let’s figure out a way to make the bottom line more obvious; what are your thoughts.” Being hypercritical of every little detail puts you at risk for having a reputation as someone who can’t see the bigger picture. As someone who has a tendency to micromanage, the bottom line message is: if you’re not directly responsible for the quality of someone else’s work, concentrate on your own backyard.
Now, if you’re on the receiving end of someone else’s micromanagement tendencies, start by seeing things from their perspective and consider the real motivation behind the behavior. Once you get past flippant responses like, “He does that because he wants me to be miserable,” you’ll begin to have a better understanding of what motivates his hovering approach.
For instance, if your boss makes you feel as if she would be just fine pulling up a chair and sharing a desk with you so she can keep an eye on your every move, she may be concerned with her reputation or care deeply about the final product. Try steering her in the right direction by considering what she does well and then say, “Where you really add value is with presenting the final data.” Get her focused on areas that have the potential to help you. Create check-in points at the beginning of a project. If she’s not crazy about doing that, ask if she’s willing to give it a shot just this once and if she’s still uneasy, ask what would make her feel comfortable with fewer check-ins.
Finally, ask her to share her overall vision or goal and pledge to make decisions based on that goal. Let her know that you believe an important part of your job is to make her look good and she may be more trusting.
Happy New Year! Yes, it’s that time of year when we collectively pledge to get thinner, richer, and more organized. How about this year we forego some of the usual resolutions and instead focus on resolving some of those lingering issues we have with others? If you’re ready to address the ice between you and another person, here are a few ideas from previous blogs to get you started.
Be ready to be turned down: You’re resolving to get things right but that doesn’t mean that the other person is going to want to make nice. Choose language carefully so you can craft a message that fully expresses your desire for the two of you to discuss what’s happened and your willingness to find a solution that works for both of you. Saying, “I think we should put this behind us” may be what you’re feeling but the other person could interpret that to mean, “Your feelings are unimportant in this and I’ve made a decision to ignore them.” Not good. If you get turned down, be sure to let the other person know that you’re leaving the door open for a conversation when she’s ready.
Be ready to admit your part: Approaching the other person with an admission of what you could have handled better is a great way to deflate a stand-off and create the space for him to do the same. He will likely be wary of your intentions so make sure you use “I” statements such as, “I felt hurt about the things that were told to Susan” rather than, “You really messed things up when you told Susan those things.” Be genuine and leave the excuses (you may call them explanations) for later. Offer a full apology that includes a commitment that you won’t repeat your actions.
Be open to considering the other person’s perspective: You likely have a lot of points you’d like to make. Perhaps you’ve even jotted down a few notes or created a list of items you’d like to talk about. Hold that thought. Start any conversation with a sincere invitation for the other person to tell you, from her perspective, what happened and how it impacted her. When she’s talking, consider what she’s sharing (not just listening for an opening so you can jump in) and let her talk as long as she’d like before you ask questions or explore further.
Be clear about what you’d like to see happen: So, now what? If you don’t have a master plan to hold hands and walk off into the sunset, at a minimum you might suggest that the two of you can be cordial or have the capacity to be in the same room without making others uncomfortable. Do a little thinking beforehand about what “putting it behind you” looks like to you and ask if the other person is willing to hear your description. You may want to get back to being friends but it’s okay to be open to something less than that until trust is rebuilt. Remember, you’ve had time to consider the full conversation so let the other person get up to speed and don’t try to rush things.
Needing to land a big client, talking the family into taking a risky adventure holiday, or sharing a perspective in a dispute all have something in common. All three are presentations (or pitches if you will) for getting someone to agree to what you want.
Johnny Chan of the San Diego digital marketing consultancy firm eBoost Consulting, put together a few tips he thinks companies should remember when they’re out to impress and win business. I think those tips also make sense for anyone who needs to get his point of view considered in a disagreement, so I’m going to share them with you with my interpretations for how they relate to resolving conflicts.
Johnny Chan says:
There are three things you need to do in order to produce an excellent pitch:
- Craft a compelling message
- Enhance with compelling visuals
- Deliver with impact
There are three things you need to do in order for someone to consider your perspective:
- Craft a compelling message
- Enhance with inviting tone and body language
- Deliver with sincerity
Johnny Chan says about the message:
Children are great storytellers. They’re not only energetic and enthusiastic about what they’re saying, but they focus everything around the listener.
When you’re making a pitch, tell listener-focused stories that engage and spike the interest of your audience. You do this by crafting your message around your intended listener. Start with your point of view or the “thesis” of your presentation, move to the actions your client can take to achieve their goals and then explain the benefits of these actions.
Be compelling and grab your client’s attention with what you have to say. Sprinkling your presentation with anecdotes or opening with a story that will lead into your pitch is a great way to grasp attention.
I say about the message:
Yep, he’s right when he talks about being listener-focused. Craft a message that will be easy for your listener to hear. Only talking about your side of a disagreement or pointing out everything the other person has done wrong, isn’t compelling. People want to do what’s right—especially for themselves—so if you’re only talking about you, you’ve lost half your audience.
Johnny Chan says about the visuals:
Compelling visuals can make your presentation interesting, engaging and memorable.
The most important visual aspect of your presentation are a killer title and opening slides.
These will set the theme (style, tone, color) to make it a cohesive story. Using beautiful and relative visuals will stimulate the listener’s interest throughout the entire presentation.
Along with photos, data can be effective. Data provides concrete and tangible detail to your presentation, and allows for minimal word usage. Remember that your entire presentation should be no more than 25 words.
I say about the visuals:
The way you talk about your point of view can be more impactful than the content. Having relaxed and open body language from the start (your opening slide, so to speak) can set the tone for a productive conversation. Unfold your arms, loosen that stiff upper lip, and keep control over your rolling eyes
Johnny Chan says about the delivery:
Delivering a message with impact relies completely on the presenter, and what that presenter does. The entire delivery of your presentation should include these five things:
I say about the delivery:
How your perspective is received relies heavily on the level of sincerity in which it is delivered. Recap the situation as you see it without placing blame. If you’re generally good at humor, it’s okay to use it but be sure you’re the target of the humor, not the other person. Analogies are my best friends—I use them daily! If you’re having a difficult time explaining the impact an action had on you, it can be very helpful to use an analogy as a way to create common ground.
Johnny Chan’s extra tips
- Use Guy Kawaski’s 10:20:30 style: 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 size fonts.
- Always supply the client with a document of the proposal along with the presentation. The effects of your stunning presentation will eventually fade and that is when the document comes into play.
- If you get presentation nerves, practice at least 20 times so that you are completely comfortable and familiar with it.
My extra tips:
- Keep it short, simple, and to the point.
- If you’re nervous, practice what you’d like to say with someone you trust so they can give you pointers if you’re veering off course.
- Once you’ve had the discussion, either create a written agreement right then and there or follow up with a note recapping what you believe the plan is moving forward.
Johnny Chan says anyone can do it:
Chan believes that you don’t have to be a natural-born presenter in order to give engaging, compelling and interesting presentations.
Oh, absolutely, anyone can do this.
Brownnoser, suck up, and backslapper are just a few of the monikers folks at work get when they have the boss mesmerized and delivering whatever they want. Coworkers may like to point out a yes-man’s flaws and make a lot of noise about his behavior, but that doesn’t stop a teacher’s pet from receiving special attention and perks. Rather than getting angry about her techniques, it may be beneficial to take a look at what she’s doing from a strategic perspective. Here are a few things to consider:
1) Throwing an occasional compliment your boss’s way or being the first to volunteer on a project she cares about can get you what you want down the road. If you have
your sights set on leading the next big assignment, your enthusiasm for a less than exciting task now is a good way to talk about your commitment later.
2) People help people they like. If you’d like to map out a successful career path, who better to help you get there than your boss? She most likely has the ear of other managers and execs so it makes sense to have her on your side. Demonstrating that you’ve got her back today shows her how she can have yours when you need it most.
3) It’s easier to get work done when you’re able to discuss the pros and cons freely–and you can do that when the boss feels good about you. If you’re only complaining, she may see your critiques as just another string of negativity and treat you like the boy who called wolf. If she knows that you approach things with balance and include praise with your criticisms, you may spend less time convincing her to try it your way.
A word of caution, though. The art of sucking up should be about you and others. If you’re not willing to help others along the way and help your boss achieve her goals, then
your self-serving behavior could backfire. Absolutely do not ostracize others, step on backs, say only negative things about your peers, or push them out of the way. That behavior isn’t sucking up; it’s just plain sucky.
This article is a great reminder that it’s never too late to make amends. What’s even better is that the store management is allowing the man to move on–there won’t be a big investigation, just acceptance. Nice job all the way around!
SEATTLE (AP) — The manager of the Sears store in downtown Seattle says an elderly man has repaid — with interest — cash the man says he stole in the late 1940s.
KING-TV reports that the man hand-delivered an envelope Monday addressed to “Sears manager.” Inside were a note and a $100 bill. The note said the man stole $20 to $30 from a cash register decades ago and wanted to pay back $100.
Manager Gary Lorentson says he thinks the man’s conscience “has been bothering him for the past 60 years.”
Store security cameras recorded the man, but Sears officials said they don’t know who he is and they won’t release the video.
The store plans to put the money toward helping needy families in the holiday season.
I was chatting with someone the other day who told me a rather drawn out story of a past conflict and then said, “But I’m over it.” He went on to say more about the situation and again told me that he had moved on. A few hours later, he had more to say. And, the next day, even more to say about the same problem. I chuckled to myself because I could relate and wondered how he (and I) can tell when we’re really over something. As is my way, I came up with a list. Maybe you have more you would add. If so, let me know because a list of signs that you’re over a conflict, can never be too long!
- You no longer try to convince others to take your side
- You don’t make little digs about it to the other person
- It doesn’t cloud your ability to do the right thing
- There’s no need for you to add it to the pile when something new arises between the two of you
- Long periods of time go by without you thinking about it
- You don’t speak of it
- You can’t quite seem to pull up the same emotions about it as you could before
- You can clearly see your role in it
- Speaking about it bores you
- You see it for what it was – and nothing more
Last year I posted this a little late in the season and I thought now would be a good time to repost it as a quick reminder on how to conduct ourselves this time of year no matter what others are doing. Happy Holidays!
Shopping during the holidays can be a real nightmare. Facing parking lots jammed with cars, performing complicated search and rescue efforts to find an available cart, and approaching aisles with your best obstacle course strategies can cause even the most happy-go-lucky holiday shopper to start a conflict with any stranger who dares cross his path. Delivering an emotionally-charged snarky remark while juggling the sweater you’re buying for Nana doesn’t say much about your ability to spread joy or share in the holiday spirit, now does it.
I can’t tell you how to manage every potential conflict you’ll face during the holidays, but I can pass on a few tips retail workers have shared with me. Of course, I’ve added my own two cents worth on the subject and hope there’s something in here that will help you keep your cool this season.
1) Minimize the material and maximize the experience: What I mean by that is limit the amount of “stuff” you buy and, instead, think about experiences you can share with your family and friends. Throwing a potluck or hosting a game night will deliver a much better experience than being angry with those around you as you wait in line after line after line spending money you don’t have.
2) Shop on-line: Avoid the lines (and the other crabby people!) by hitting up your favorite stores’ websites. Check out promotion sites to find deals on price discounts, free shipping, and the like. Words of caution, though; make sure you’re carving out uninterrupted computer time so you steer clear of fighting with the family when they “just won’t leave you alone.” Also, practice scanning Internet deals quickly to avoid getting to the checkout page only to discover the discount you’re counting on doesn’t apply to the items in your shopping cart.
3) Use parking lots as personal training sessions: Why get worked up when you can work out? Use the back entrance to the lot and take the first spot you see. Walk the extra distance to the front door with a smile on your face and daydream about what you’ll do with all the extra time you’ve given yourself by not circling the same aisles over and over. Unless you need to build your demolition derby skills, let the other shoppers honk their horns and yell obscenities.
4) Shop the little guy: I called a warehouse store to ask if they had any tips on avoiding shopper conflicts and the person who answered the phone said, “Don’t shop here.” Good point. If crowds, long lines, and oversized carts bumping into the back of your heels make you mad, shop at smaller stores that offer fewer items to fewer customers.
5) Plan to be patient: No matter what anyone else does, have control over your own emotions and reactions. Prepare yourself to take a “we’re in this together” attitude whenever possible. If the cashier is rude, empathetically ask if she’s having a rough day. She’ll probably appreciate your interest and lighten up for the next guy. Smile at everyone even if—and especially when—they don’t return the gesture.
My local grocery store manager said that for the most part, holiday shoppers and retail employees are a cheerful bunch. His staff actually notices that most of their patrons display quite a bit of holiday spirit even when they’re stressed and tired. He said that the happiest customers are the ones who have paid attention to the ads (which are timed to coincide with shopper habits) and are completing their lists with time to spare. He hinted that the best time to grocery shop is before 11:00 a.m. when most of the staff is in, the departments are fully stocked, and there are fewer customers to contend with. He also said that a shopper shouldn’t wait until late afternoon the day before an event to rush around the store and then get angry with a cashier who’s helping another customer count out change. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a pretty good piece of advice for any time of the year.
Getting married is such an exciting time. The one you love proposes, you honor your best friends by asking them to participate in the big day, the planets align, and all is right with the world. Until the issues of time and money bring out the worst in you and everyone around you.
When did we get so weird about weddings and all their trappings? Big, blowout bachelorette parties that involve cross country plane tickets, hotels, limos, embroidered sweat pants, umbrella drinks, and financial responsibility for anything the bride orders seem to be the norm. Whatever happened to a night out with the girls and a few naughty gifts? Invitations to multiple showers; some themed, some coed, and some out of the area have even the most experienced etiquette masters confused about the rules. How does one respond to a bridezilla’s supervac sucking up more cash and time than one is willing to invest? How does one deal with the family members, bridesmaids, and others who get in on the act by switching on their own sucking machines? Perhaps a few changes on the modern bride’s etiquette website are in order.
I wonder if it would be helpful if a two-part form was submitted with every bridesmaid request so that everyone would know what they were getting into. On the form could be a few boxes to check like, “I believe I am the center of the universe”, “Only my wedding matters right now,” or “Get ready to spend some cash because I’m in competition with the last friend who got married and everything surrounding my wedding needs to be bigger, better, and more expensive.” Then, there could be a response form on which a potential bridesmaid could check, “Seriously, I love you but I need to make rent”, or “This will be my third wedding this year and I’m exhausted.”
Maybe a more realistic approach is in order. I would suggest the bride and groom make some decisions about financial responsibilities before they ask their friends to participate. Will they purchase their own dress, tux, shoes, special jewelry, etc.? What are your expectations for hair and makeup? What about lodging for the event? Etc., etc., etc. Are you asking a friend who is just starting out in her career to pay thousands of dollars to support you on your big day? Give her a reality check before asking her to write a check. While you’re at it, don’t forget to think about time considerations. Asking a friend with small children to spend multiple weekends away from home on your behalf may come across as selfish.
Feel free to keep others under control. Sometimes it’s not necessarily the bride who goes a little nuts. A friend of mine recently experienced another bridesmaid wanting to throw an over the top shower for a bride whose family had already hosted one. I suppose that’s fine, but after her big announcement she then sent each of the bridesmaids a bill for their share of the cost. When my friend put on her big girl panties and politely told the organizer that she had budgeted only enough time and money for one shower and would not be participating in the second event, the crickets were deafening.
Be sure to keep your flexibility while keeping your eye on the bigger picture. It’s really fun to get inspiration from all the great bride magazines and wedding websites on the Internet. It’s also very tempting to add a little of this and a little of that or change your mind about previous decisions. It’s your day after all! But keep in mind the impact these little decisions have on others. Schedule changes, additional work parties to tie ribbons on new place setting markers, or spending just a few more dollars on these pair of shoes instead of those pair of shoes add up. Keep your friends your friends by considering their needs. It’ll give you good practice for the marriage to come!
Junk, noise, parking, screaming kids, fences, property lines, and anything involving a tree or pets are all neighborly topics that can illicit loads of spirited conversations between you and the Jones’. Our property value and peace of mind can be the biggest investments we’ll ever make and when a (relative) stranger threatens either one, it often makes us want to circle the wagons and defend the homestead.
You’ve probably had your share of disruptive and sloppy neighbors who you’d just as soon send to the moon than have to live next door to. But, without a direct flight to outer space it may feel that you’re left with either ignoring them or living with conflict. Rest assured, you have more than those two options at your disposal.
First, attack the problem, not the person. If his music is shaking the wine glasses from the cabinet, the problem is the music is too loud; not that the neighbor is an imbecile only a mother could love. When you bring up the subject stick to the issue and refrain from making personal comments.
Keep the matter between the two of you. Trying to build an army of other neighbors as a way to show force or to get someone else to speak on your behalf may result in your neighbor feeling attacked. It doesn’t matter if one or a hundred neighbors are sick of his junky yard, speak for you and only you. You can always include others (like Code enforcers) if repeated attempts don’t resolve the problem. Oh, and if your kids get along with his, don’t take the adult issues out on them by no longer allowing play dates.
Say it, don’t display it. A neighbor once told me that someone was repeatedly moving his trash cans into the middle of his driveway two days after the trash was picked up. He was clueless that the act was a way for the anonymous neighbor to display his frustration with an untidy street. I knew who was behind the act so I felt comfortable suggesting that it may be due to his trash bins being left at the curb for days. He responded, “No, I don’t think that’s it.” Oh, my. It would have been so much more effective had the trash-can-moving neighbor simply talked to the untidy neighbor.
Remain cordial. If you’re frustrated with Joe down the street because your conversation didn’t go as planned, continue to wave, smile, and say hello when you see him at the grocery store. This will keep the door open for future conversations.
Know that your annoyance may be the least of his problems. The neighbor’s work truck dripping oil in front of the community mailbox may be an important issue for you but don’t be surprised when it’s not the biggest problem he’s facing. If he tells you he’s dealing with health issues or his marriage is falling apart, etc., figure out a way to resolve the smaller issue without too much trouble on his part. Showing a little compassion now can go a long way toward building equity for future issues.
I could go on and on with ideas on how to deal with neighbors but I’m going to stop myself here and move to a few actions you can take so you’re not the naughty neighbor others are trying to figure out how to contend with. Make sure you:
Keep your home, yard, and sidewalk free of debris and unfinished projects. Sometimes we get so used to looking at something we can’t see it with fresh eyes. Your neighbors have fresh eyes, so keep things neat and clean.
Minimize noise. Keep your pets happy and your music down low. Ask around to make sure no one’s bothered by the early morning lawn mowing or evening ball games with the kids in the cul-de-sac.
Follow the rules. The neighborhood covenants are for everyone, not just for your neighbors. It’s difficult to ask someone to follow rule #3 when you’re disregarding rule #4. And, don’t forget that the local laws regarding fireworks, parking, pets, outdoor fires, and maintenance apply to you as well.
And, for all ya’ll (as my Southern friends would say), forgive the occasional exception to the rule. Give each other fair warning about the annual Christmas party or a garage sale that may cause extra traffic and parking issues for the weekend. They say good fences make good neighbors, but I think flexible ones are better.
Here’s another one of those “I-wish-people-would-stop-doing-that” blogs.
Disappointing relationships often cause good people to do really dreadful things. And, punishing the wrong person for your disappointment is definitely a dreadful thing. I see loads of mediation clients who insist on using their children as sticks and carrots when it comes to dealing with their exes. Problem is, they don’t see that in their attempts to reward and punish the person who hurt them greatly they are greatly hurting their children. Revenge is not so sweet when it sours your relationship with the kids. It’s even worse when you think your actions are okay.
Many of my mediation cohorts and I have come to the conclusion that children deserve two parents no matter how stinky you think the other one is. I’m not a therapist but I’m pretty sure that your kids won’t grow up to thank you for all the times you cancelled a visit as punishment for their other parentwho was 10 minutes late to the meeting spot. Your little ones won’t always be little and when they’re grown they most likely won’t appreciate you for using them as pawns in a poorly-played game of I’m-so-mad-at-you-I-could-spit chess.
Trying to be the mature player in a game like that is really hard, but it’s worth it. Actions do speak louder than words and demonstrating maturity to your children can be more impactful than pulling out the dictionary to read the definition. Demonstrating communication, forgiveness, and hope is powerful.
At the end of the day, what feels fair to you may not be fair for your children. Of course you want to save your little ones from disappointment and the reality that parents don’t always keep their word. So, I understand wanting to “take away” something from your ex so that (s)he gets the message that it’s not okay for them to do that to little schmoopie. Sometimes the conflict that comes your way can be a great teaching tool, though. Showing children how to compromise, how to discover what’s most important to them, and how to keep their integrity even when others don’t keep theirs are pretty good life lessons–certainly better than lessons like displaced anger, sabotage, and revenge.