Entries from Gail Cooperman | Merit Career Development Blog

Workplace Conflict: The Good, the Bad & the Useful, Part 2

Workplace ConflictPreviously, we wrote about how resolving conflict often has the side benefit of building a cooperative bond — even loyalty — between the factions. As each side gains a deeper understanding of the others’ viewpoints, respect builds and morale improves. Cooperative, low stress interactions, create a fertile environment for productive brainstorming, ultimately boosting the health of your organization.

Being respectful to others, being open to hearing their perspective, and taking the time to understand their objective are very important, but you’ll need more knowledge in your toolkit to dispel conflict when the conflict gets tough. So, let’s dig deeper today.

How can you demonstrate that you are being respectful and open and trying to understand the other’s perspective?

Here are the top 5 proven techniques you can add to your toolkit:

  1. Ask questions about the other person’s recommendations or point of view in a sincere, non-judgmental manner. Drill down to make sure you totally understand all of their objectives, concerns, and potential obstacles that you may both face.
  2. Replay or paraphrase their points back to show your understanding, and ask for confirmation that you “got it.”
  3. Make sure your body language is open and consistent with your words. If they’re not, people instinctively believe your non-verbal message over the spoken word.
  4. Even if you don’t agree, be sure to acknowledge that you hear and understand the other person’s points.
  5. It wouldn’t hurt (and yes, it could really help) to verbalize some of your “opponents” points that you think are good, smart and, or useful. A sincere compliment, or statement of approval and recognition will go a long way towards resolving conflict.

Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode InstrumentIn Part 3 of this series, we’ll examine the five conflict styles that help people understand their own responses as well as diffuse conflict with others. Specifically, we’ll look at the five conflict styles that Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann identified and can be assessed in the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), a globally accepted, widely used diagnostic assessment for resolving conflict.

Understanding the subtleties of conflict and personality styles goes a long way towards elevating an organization’s harmony and effectiveness. At Merit, we frequently facilitate multiple Conflict Management training sessions for our clients where we adjust the level of detail to group (i.e., customer service reps, new managers, and the senior team.) For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call 610-225-0449.

Workplace Conflict: the Good, the Bad & the Useful

For a good portion of my career, I thrived on being a marketer. From my early days as a market researcher, an account manager, and eventually an agency executive, I loved the strategy and process of creating great concepts with compelling messaging that influenced buyers’ behavior. Managing a creative team, a client team, or corporate team, is sometimes burdened with conflict. Handling conflict was not my favorite part of the job, ever!

Conflict ManagementI aspired to broaden my career and went back to school for a Masters in Leadership Development about 12 years ago. Through a confluence of introductions, opportunities and also being an adjunct instructor at Drexel University, I joined one of my cohort’s businesses, Merit Career Development. Initially, I began helping them with a new branding initiative, but in an “Ah Ha” moment we realized that I’d likely be a strong trainer for Merit, too. We were right. I have been running corporate trainings for Merit now for five years and I love it! But here’s the surprise: one of my favorite courses to facilitate, is Conflict Management (followed closely by Critical Thinking & Decision-Making.)

Why do I now enjoy talking about managing conflict? Because it makes sense to me now! And I also realize how much value it provides in driving better ideas and solutions. If we didn’t have conflict, and we all agreed on everything, we would live in a pretty boring, uni-dimensional world. How could we effectively cultivate new ideas or innovation without conflict?! It would be much tougher! The process of resolving conflict is very important, as well. It helps build and strengthen relationships, trust, and influences the development of new solutions to the challenges we face every day.

How Do We Make Conflict Good and Useful?

Ultimately, it comes down to three important things:

  1. Being respectful towards the person or people who have a different opinion.
  2. Opening yourself to hearing another perspective (opinion, solution, recommendation, etc.)
  3. Taking the time to truly understand the other opinion

Learning to listen and take the perspective of the person you are in conflict with, or reframing your perspective, as we discuss in the Critical Thinking course, is extremely helpful. It can be enlightening. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and give their idea a chance to be a winner to best understand the opportunities that may exist.

The results of working through conflict can be similar to a great brainstorming session; not all ideas are good or practical, but they often result in a better idea emerging through conversation and compromise. When this happens, the best part is that there is not one winner and one loser; everyone is a winner and feels ownership in the solution.

Good luck with conflict. Embrace it and become a better person by managing it with respect. You just may like the outcome!

Look for Part 2 of this series next month where we’ll share proven tips for recognizing different conflict styles and how to most effectively respond to them.

To learn more about the author, Gail Cooperman, or the workshops she teaches, click here. If you would like to bring any of our trainings to your location, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call 610-225-0449.

Are You Smarter Than a 6th Grader?

We all know that kids are pretty smart these days; just watching my neighbor’s 3-year-old son find Elmo videos on my cell phone makes that clear. But we’d still like to think that as grown-ups, we are brighter, more intelligent and better decision-makers than 6th graders. But are we? We had the opportunity recently, to conduct a project management experiment with a 6th grade class and, well, we were in for quite a surprise.

For more than 15 years, Merit Career Development has trained thousands of individuals to help them improve their project management (PM) skills. In 2010, we incorporated SimulTrain®, a computer-based, online simulation tool, into all of our PM workshops whether it is a one-, two- or five-day program. SimulTrain always provides an engaging, hands-on, and fun learning experience that significantly boosts skill retention. Essentially, adults; PMs, nurses, accountants or other professionals who want to master these skills, really appreciate this program! But 6th graders??

The 3 M's Second Period Leading TeamThrough a confluence of circumstances, that began with an invitation from the Keystone PMI Education Foundation Coordinator, Mr. Myles Miller, and the Keystone Chapter of the Project Management Institute, we supported a pilot with 6th graders at the Eyer Middle School in Pennsylvania’s North Penn School District. The parents and students were quite interested in learning the life skill of project management. While some of us were doubtful that our workplace-related program would resonate with these young students, we had enough people willing to give this a try that we scheduled the program. (You can see SimulTrain in action with adults.)

For several weeks before the competition, Myles instructed the students about PM fundamentals and common workplace terminology. When the big day arrived, the students formed teams of four and competed for the best scores throughout the event. In addition to Merit bringing the technology and leadership to the school (the same that is provided for adults), Buckeye Pipeline and the PMI Keystone Chapter sponsored this program, providing the funding for food, t-shirts and trophies for the students.

John Juzbasich, Merit’s CEO, facilitated the SimulTrain “competition”, and confirmed that he ran this program the same way he does for the adults. He provided an overview of the simulator screens, the project at hand — in this case planning a soccer event — timed intervals for the program, and review periods. Scoring took place throughout the competition.

We were amazed at how well the students grasped the technology, the project management concepts and the “game” overall. They did really well and seemed energized, enthused and anxious to play this again. When looking at their scores in each category, we saw that the students performed roughly on par with most of the adults who’ve participated. John Juzbasich insisted that he did not adjust the pace or in any way, make it easier for the kids than the adult version we regularly deliver. Don’t just take my word, so please click through to these short videos and see for yourself.

Red TeamThe simulation project management competition also generated interest from many families whose children did not have the opportunity to participate the first time this was held, prompting a follow up event scheduled for Spring, 2017. Because the interest is so high, the school is planning to make SimulTrain a regular part of the Eyer Middle School curriculum. A number of universities are also interested in adding project management with simulation to their curriculum. The University of Scranton recently held a competition among their engineering students. There is a similar day scheduled at Lehigh University next month.

Everyone benefits by learning project management skills for school, work and life planning. If you want to expose your child or yourself to SimulTrain, the best project management learning program available, contact Jim Wynne at 610-225-0449 or jwynne@meritcd.com.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ): The Essential Secret to Great Performance

The concept of emotional intelligence, EQ, has been studied for over 30 years. Research shows that high EQ predicts success beyond an individual’s knowledge, skills and abilities. Emotionally intelligent leaders have significantly greater annual profit growth, increased customer satisfaction, and higher personnel retention. In management, the more senior the leader, the more the EQ matters. In sales and customer service capacities, the higher EQs correlate directly to success.

Red-headed WomanStudies show that lack of EQ may limit a person’s ability to achieve results. Lower EQ scores correlate with lower merit pay increases, lower job satisfaction and more burnout. Managers’ and supervisors’ EQ scores correlate with their performance ratings.

The definition of emotional intelligence has been the subject of ongoing debates; however, researchers all agree that it consists of two principal components. The first component; intrapersonal skills or self-awareness, is the ability to recognize one’s emotions as they occur, helping one gain self-control in potentially emotionally charged situations.

The second component, interpersonal skills or social awareness, is the ability to recognize others’ emotions. The ability to express empathy enables one to have more positive relationships and minimize unproductive conflict. EQ helps put people at ease, build and mend relationships, confront problem employees, and manage change.

It is important to note that emotional intelligence can be learned. Understanding and incorporating specific EQ skills, techniques, and behaviors can help improve both the intrapersonal and interpersonal skill sets. An intra-personal skill, self-monitoring, can help one can limit or minimize emotional hijacking. Let‘s look at this closer…

Emotional IntelligenceWe all have specific words or phrases that are steeped in emotion. During the 1960s and 70s, the term “nuclear power” raised a great deal of emotion—both positive and negative. Similarly today we have emotionally charged words or phrases such as “gun control”, terrorism, and consumer privacy. It is important to recognize one’s own emotionally charged phrases and stop the emotional hijacking that is about to take place.

By recognizing our emotional responses when we hear a cue by self-monitoring, we can prevent emotional hijacking before it takes place. Stopping to recognize the emotional trigger is an important first step. Taking a deep breath, and/or silently counting to 10 can help us regain composure and react in a rational manner.

As for interpersonal skills, empathy helps us develop more positive relationships with others at work. Increasing our display of empathy enables us to connect with another person on an emotional level, thus allowing us to develop a meaningful, trusting relationship.

The question remains, however, how much emotional intelligence do you have—what is your baseline? Do you have an EQ deficiency, or are you well above average? There is only one way to know your EQ baseline and that is to take an assessment. Many exist on the Internet, some free others fee-based, however they may not stand up to statistical reliability and validity standards.

Would you like some guidance to improve your staff’s EQ? Merit offers half-day and full day workshops that help participants understand, identify their baseline, and strengthen their emotional intelligence. With exercises and interactive assessment tools, this workshop is engaging and life changing. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

What Your Peers are Planning

The Results are In!

On behalf of all of us at Merit Career Development, we’d like to thank everyone who participated in our 2nd annual 3-Question Training Planning Survey last month. As promised, we are reporting on the results – which have, interestingly, shifted even from a year ago.

Hot Topics
Hot Topics
Although project management professionals represented more than 60% of our invitation mailing, the topics in greatest demand for 2016 are Leadership, Team-Building, Communications, and Critical Thinking and Decision-Making. These ranged from 38% to 29%, while the overall category of Project Management (PM) dropped to 13% this year (from 45% last year.) In the PM arena, both years, “Identifying and Managing Project Risks” were in the top third ranking at 29%. See the Q1 chart above for details.

Delivery Methods
Delivery Methods
The preferred delivery methods have changed, as well. For the past few years, there was a growing interest in
web-based learning and self-paced, DIY courses. This year, on-site, full day courses have re-gained their
popularity, with 54.4% of respondents choosing this as their preferred delivery method. In 2014 on-site, full day courses were only requested by 34.2% of respondents. For more details, see the Q2 chart.

Choosing the Course and the Provider

Choosing Course and ProviderThe basis for choosing a course and provider were measured differently last year, but in both instances, the primary driver is the course topic and/or area that most needs development, followed by convenience of timing, and location. The program cost was lower in priority. See Q3 chart on the left for details.


If you are seeking to reduce your organization’s gaps in skills, improve cooperation and productivity through better communications and decision-making knowledge, or provide some morale-improving, team-building workshops, let’s talk. With a wide variety of courses, delivery techniques and a highly skilled training team, we will help you achieve your training goals for 2016 and beyond.

Contact Jim Wynne at 610-225-0449 or at jwynne@meritcd.com.