Finding it tough to communication with a difficult manager? Frustrated with your work routine?
A conflict mode might not be the best solution to your problem. So, how do you avoid conflicts? Here are a few tips on conflict management
A no-conflict scenario in the workplace is unreal, some times even boring! Yet in a situation of conflict, the pressures seem too tough to tackle. How does one handle the frustrations of having to deal with a difficult manager, an
unsatisfactory work routine, an uncertain future growth and career development opportunities?
Here are some simple conflict management steps, that will help you in helping yourself:
It is a seemingly simple problem that any software professional could face-finding it hard to communicate with his manager. This could be about anything, possibly about not utilizing some of his talent in the current job profile, the need to work on an overseas project, to be sent on a specialized training, etc.
Who in this situation will address his problem when talking to his own manager? The key is with you and the avenues for redressal are many. Here are some of them:
Call for time out
One of the first indicators that a conflict is imminent is that you begin to avoid the person who is responsible for your discontentment, with the expectation that he make the first move. Calling for time out or requesting for a chat could be the first step to confronting the contentious issue.
But this involves developing a sense of assertiveness as opposed to avoidance. According to C Mahalingam, HR Director, Philips Software Center, "One, do not get into a situation where you encourage avoidance and your manager says, 'I don't see a conflict.' What is important for a healthy organization's to encourage its mangers to say: 'Yes, I see a conflict, let us sit together and dialogue it and find a win-win solution'."
What is the protocol?
It is largely accepted that first you approach the person who is in conflict with you, be it your manager or a teammate. But some organizations are flexible about this approach and encourage you to speak about a problem with anyone in the organization you feel comfortable with.
Zarir Batliwala, HR Director, Compaq feels there are various avenues for escalation. "If there is a problem with the manager, a person can speak with the manager's boss. The HR department has its doors open to any facilitating or mediating process for resolving the conflict."
According to Mahalingam, "The protocol is to have the facts with you and to be clear about the root of conflict. You could then approach anybody in the organization. We openly say that the only protocol is that you deal with people with due respect. It is important to have your facts right, to confidently stand up to your convictions. Respect for people is the only rule, otherwise there's no protocol."
Understand the organization's conflict resolving processes
It is a good idea to gather information on the work culture of an organization and more specifically what level of interaction and involvement the senior management has with their teams.
Mahalingam points out the skip level interview, a system that is in place at Philips Software Center, where 'every manager is expected to grant an audience at regular intervals to the reportees of their immediate reportees". He adds, "We also have the 360-degree feedback in the organization. Then we have a round table, where our CEO meets people chosen at random from different business groups and he spends a couple of hours listening to them. There is no agenda for this meeting. Through this process, the CEO gets unadulterated feedback, which later gets translated into various action points. Also, there are the HR open houses scheduled every month where all are encouraged to raise any issues without any inhibition. So there are quite a few structural mechanisms for encouraging people to open up and bring conflicts to the surface."
Ask for an option plan
Often, the solutions may not exactly work out the way you want them. To begin the process of resolving the stand off between what you want and what is on offer, try asking for an option plan and find ways to work with one of them.
This could be further strengthened by keeping the process open to review, in case of continuing disappointment with the new plan. The importance of dialogue is crucial for arriving at a win-win situation. Says Mahalingam, "If a win-win solution means that you change your aspiration, that is good. If it means we change our goals, fine. Or if the solution means that you look for another opportunity, that is fine too. But the solution should also take into consideration the feelings of the employee."
De-link personal grudges from professional ones
A personal dislike for an individual could color the professional relationship that one might share with him/her. This can aggravate a conflict situation and one has to develop a sense of objectivity to sever personal issues from the problem on the professional front.
Sometimes this is a difficult task, and you could explore the option of requesting a shift to a different team or project. In an industry where people are encouraged to voice their views and flourish in an open environment, conflicts are bound to surface almost every day.
However, the key is to develop a conflict management style that is analytical and assertive and to build on skills of listening and communicating with as many people in the organization as possible.