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 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 or call 610-225-0449.

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 or call him at 610-225-0449.

Can Everyone Be a Leader?

Collective LeadershipIn recent years, a growing number of organizations have changed the way they are structured. The old top-down way of doing business, in which management wields all the power, is increasingly giving way to a collective leadership style, in which all employees are involved in setting and reaching company goals.

Some of the most successful companies - like Google, Apple, and Zappos, for example - are comprised of employees who are passionate about their company’s business strategy and working toward its goals. They are also engaged in actively promoting their company’s policies.

Collective leadership is one way to increase employee growth and productivity. Blurring the lines between boss and worker, it empowers the latter - and leads to creativity, team building and openness, allowing employees more ownership of their work, while maintaining a level of discipline that ensures the job gets done.

Leaders who practice this type of collaboration believe that their power doesn’t come from their title or position, but rather that the group is stronger when everyone shares information and each individual is encouraged to offer ideas and suggestions.

The challenge for the leader is to create an environment where diverse individuals can work together effectively toward those shared goals. To do so, keep these points in mind:

  • The manager must trust the employees and their judgment, and make sure the employees know it.
  • Employees need to be capable of achieving the stated goals.
  • Employees must believe in what they are doing and know they are members of the team.
  • The manager needs to recognize that employees from different generations may have different work styles and know how to blend those differences for team productivity.

A manager who practices collective leadership is easy to spot. First and foremost, she doesn’t dictate to her team, rather, she brainstorms with them, and they arrive at solutions together. This leader knows how to allocate time and resources to foster this collaboration, allowing team members to hold various roles in which their responsibilities evolve.

She doesn’t run around “putting out fires,” instead, she gets to the root of an issue, offering immediate and ongoing feedback. She coaches all year round, not just at performance review time. And she ensures her team members are cross-trained, trusting them and allowing them to be accountable for themselves.

Of course, it’s not simple or easy, but there are some guidelines for creating a collective leadership style in your workplace, according to Marion Chamberlain in the Huffington Post:

  • Rotate leadership responsibilities, giving everyone the chance to understand what it means to “lead.”
  • Educate everyone equally, giving them access to the same information.
  • Don’t promote just to promote. Let individuals learn new tasks and move forward in those they are best at.
  • Offer good salaries, benefits, and additional perks, so employees will want to keep advancing their skill set.
  • Allow employees to make their own decisions and hold themselves accountable, based on clearly stated guidelines.

The collective leadership approach has grown with the increase in international competition and the shrinking of the global marketplace. Employees want to have more responsibility and autonomy in their work, as they actively engage and work as a team to create and set goals, and to achieve them.

This is especially true of the generation born between 1981 and 2000, the Millennials, who, in general, like to interact and collaborate with their colleagues, using a high degree of creativity to accomplish goals. This is a major divergence from the Baby Boomers who thrive on direct orders and chain of command, closed doors and annual reviews.

A truly collaborative environment is creative and innovative and must tap into the best qualities of all the diverse individuals of all ages in its workforce. Putting at least some of these techniques in place can be a smart business decision that pays dividends over the long haul.

For more information about how Merit Career Development can hone your leadership and management skills, please contact Jim Wynne at

Hyperconnected & Collaborative: Gen Z Hits the Workplace

Collaborative and Hyperconnected, Gen Z is Gen Y 2.0 Are you ready to manage this generation?

Managing Different Generations in the Workplace: Part Three

Managing Generation X’s need for direct feedback and millennials’ desire for innovation is challenging enough, but a third generation of workers is trickling into the workforce. Generation Z, comprised of individuals born after 1995 up to the present, is already one of the biggest generational groups in the U.S.

While they may share a number of qualities with their Gen Y predecessors, communicating with this collection of young adults is an entirely different process. Continuing our four-part series on generations in the workplace, it’s time to break down the final crew: Generation Z.

Reliance on Technology

Like millennials, Gen Zers have been using technology since pre-adolescence—but their focus has been on more automated programs that require creativity or social networking over digital engineering. The Association for Talent Development suggests that managers retool their work processes and infrastructure to accommodate for automation. For example, inputting electronic data and running spreadsheets suits Generation Z’s technological preferences, but building spreadsheets doesn’t. Their focus is on easy-to-use programs that coordinate activities or communication.

As a result, members of Generation Z may require more guidance than workers of other generations when it comes to learning new software or tasks. They benefit greatly from instructor-led training exercises that utilize simulations or computer programs. A 2012 Forrester Research report showed that Generation Z is the second-largest demographic owning iPhones at 24 percent, ranking a few points below millennials (29 percent). Managers should take advantage of this group’s inclination for mobile technology and coordinate educational materials that are accessible via handheld devices.

Sense of Hyperconnectivity

According to Bloomberg View, Gen Zers might be overconnected in comparison to millennials. They’re accessing a wider variety of media: television, smartphones, tablets and mobile devices. A recent report from New York-based advertising agency Sparks and Honey revealed that members of Generation Z spend roughly 41 percent of their time outside of work or school interacting with computers or other technologies. Managers can utilize this sense of hyperconnectivity through modalities like chat programs that bring employees together and foster communication among staff.

In another study conducted by Wikia, “GenZ: The Limitless Generation,” researchers surveyed 1,200 Wikia users between the ages of 13 and 18. They found that 60 percent of Gen Zers share their knowledge with others online, an indication that they possess substantial collaborative skills. An additional 64 percent contribute content to websites because they enjoy learning new things, while 66 percent believe technology makes them feel as though anything were possible.

Given the penchant for collaboration, managers should include Gen Zers in more project management assignments. Generation Z’s networked approach to learning and development makes them feel engaged when working with a team. Social interaction is the optimal choice for communicating with this group, and hands-on training is the best option.

Unlike millennials, there’s still time before the majority of Gen Z enters the workforce. Managers should begin thinking about this generation and how to manage them now. Stick around as we segue into the final chapter of our series where we discuss strategies to connect all three generations—X, Y and Z—into one cohesive workforce.

What Millennials Bring to the Table

What Millennials Bring to the Table

Managing Different Generations in the Workplace: Part Two

In the first article of our four-part series on communicating with employees of different generations, we examined the unique characteristics of Generation X. Following the determined and work-driven perspective of the baby boomers, Gen Xers enjoy a happy learning medium of experience and ingenuity. But what about Generation Y, the age group often referred to as Millennials?

Generation Y has proven to be vastly different from its predecessors, carving a distinct niche for working millennials. Let’s discuss how to communicate with these tech-minded individuals.

Growing Up with Technology

Born between the years 1981 and 2000, millennials have a strong grasp on the kind of hardware and software currently utilized in today’s workplace. Unlike the baby boomers and Gen Xers, Gen Y has had its fingers on the pulse of technological advancements from an early age. Because of this, the best way to coordinate training with these learners is through mobile or Web-based platforms. Millennials feel more involved and digest information at a faster rate when it’s shared electronically. Training magazine recommends engaging and improving effective communication skills with Gen Y by conducting quick research by smartphone using polls and quizzes.

However, remember that Gen Y employees are bombarded with digital information every day, and they’re adept at weeding out what's pertinent and what’s "spam." Whether you’re designing training materials or constructing presentations, make sure the information is concise and to the point.

Millennials need more than competitive salaries and rewarding work experience to be satisfied - this generation needs to be more engaged in the training process. Leverage this by having millennials take the lead in new training programs. Gen Y is a valuable resource for guiding more senior colleagues in using tablets and Internet systems, the Philadelphia Business Journal explains. Allowing millennials to help train their peers creates an environment that breeds trust and communication among co-workers.

Bridging the Communication Gap

Gen Yers have been maligned by some researchers as possessing a "very inflated sense of self" and being "a pampered and nurtured generation," according to Psychology Today. This misconception may stem from millennials’ understandable desire for consistent and meaningful feedback on their work. Acclimated to the immediate feedback loops of social media, video games and other interactive platforms, millennials thrive in responsive environments. As a result, email becomes very useful for managers. Not only does it allow for a responsive environment, but Gen Yers are characterized as more likely to respond to electronic correspondence than phone calls or physical meetings.

Gen Yers are a group of unique individuals that like to interact with peers and lean on creativity to get tasks done. Fueled by collaboration, Generation Y thrives from active training lessons that bring them together in a room to chat and role-play. Managers must use this to their advantage by designing exercises that feed into the social and improvisational strengths of millennials, as opposed to the self-reliant, structured approach of Generation X. Stick with us to learn about millennials’ not-so-distant cousin: Generation Z.