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Aug 01 2015
How to Pick a Fight at Work
DeAnna Leahy, CCE, Sunroc Corp.

A Recap of an Educational Breakout Class - Credit Congress 2015

NACM's Credit Congress is the premier event for credit managers across the nation to come together to learn, network, and share vital information. At Credit Congress there is always a buffet of educational opportunities offered. I often have a hard time choosing between the numerous breakout classes to attend, but the name of this class caught my attention: How to Pick a Fight at Work, Always Win and Never Get Fired. The class focused on the causes of conflict and the communication skills needed to handle conflict.

It is important to understand that in a conflict, everyone's perspective can be different. It is like going on a camping trip in the woods. One person may think that it is relaxing to go sleep in a tent and sit by a campfire away from everything. Camping is a source of recreation and relaxation for that person. It is a way for that person to unwind and rejuvenate. Another person may view camping as being a lot of work and stressful. They don't like to sleep in a tent and hate the smell of a campfire. The definition of a relaxing vacation to them is a comfortable hotel at a nice resort. The point of this comparison is that everyone has a different perspective. What is a reality for one person may not be the same as reality for another person. It is important when we have a conflict that we understand that each of the parties can have a very different perspective of the situation.

Have you ever had a major conflict at work? Where does conflict originate in the workplace? One of the causes of conflict can be from experience. We all have different experiences; we have been raised in different places, and each has different feelings on different subjects. We each have unique likes, dislikes, talents, weaknesses, and strengths. Each of us come into the situation with differing opinions and expectations, so we have different views on the importance of projects and strategies. 

So is conflict bad? Absolutely not! Conflict can be beneficial in the workplace. It can cause issues to emerge. However, the important thing is to learn the skill of healthy conflict, which can center on your skills as a communicator. There are many benefits of learning to communicate more effectively. The benefits of learning these communication skills include better relationships, higher productivity, less stress, and a feeling of being happier and more fulfilled at work. 

It is essential to identify where it is that you get "caught." Is there a recurring problem that you are always trying to fix? You should ask yourself these two questions; "Am I getting good results?" and "What positive results do I want to achieve?" People can create a toxic environment in an organization simply by the words they use. Make sure that you are not creating a toxic atmosphere because words do have power, and communication can be a skill. Our words can encourage or discourage, inspire or instigate, heal or harm. Make sure that you are creating a positive environment with the words that you use.

We don't want to run away from conflict or handle the situation in a poor manner. There is extra pressure when we are not prepared, and conflict happens spontaneously. It is times like these when you don't know what to say, and emotions are running the show. Handling conflict is a learned skill, and we need to learn how to handle the situation in a way that builds trust, teamwork, and accountability.

After a crucial conversation, there is often a gap between our expected performance and our actual performance. In a situation where there is conflict, we need to work on these important goals; ensure understanding, get and give information, persuade, get action, and change behavior. Keep in mind that all people want to be seen, heard, understood, and to feel valued. 

There are four major styles of communication. A thinker analyzes and orders things in a logical fashion. A feeler relates to and understands experiences through emotional reactions and responses to feelings. A sensor mainly bases their reaction on personal sensory perceptions or the 'just do it' style. An intuitor communicates by conceiving, projecting, and inducing. What type of communicator are you?

In a confrontation, on one end of the scale you have the option to 'speak the truth and pay the consequences.' On the opposite end of the scale, you have the option to 'just stay quiet.' The idea is to find a middle in all of this.

Conflict skill #1.   Diagnose the issue. Ask yourself if the issue is a "thing" problem or a "people" problem, because you would handle each one differently.

Conflict skill #2.   Ask yourself what is your motive? What do you think is their motive? You should always begin high-risk discussions with the right motives.

Conflict skill #3.   STATE

   S  Share the facts you have. Facts aren't controversial. Your goal is not to be right, but to help each side "win."
   T  Tell your story. Facts alone don't mean anything. When we add in the story that we understand from the facts, we are sharing the problem.
   A  Ask for their view. Once you have shared your point of view, ask for theirs and LISTEN!
   T  Talk tentatively. The more convinced and forceful you act, the more resistant others will become.     
   E  Encourage testing. Invite opposing views and mean it when you ask for an opinion.