The Hidden Culprit of Conflict?
Workplace conflict costs companies billions of dollars by turnover, absenteeism, loss of productivity, and even legal costs. The hidden cause of workplace conflict may not be what you may think. This simple error can compound itself and your team into costly and embarrassing trouble.
In fact, workplace conflict, including abrasive behavior and bullying, costs corporations millions of dollars per year in lost earnings due to sick leave and in losing key personnel.
More and more employees are unwilling to tolerate bad behavior from their colleagues and superiors. So, the buck does stop with YOU, the employer. It is in your best interest to understand one of the key causes of conflict and learn what you can do about it.
What’s the number one cause of workplace conflict? No, it’s not arguing about procedures or missing deadlines. It’s making assumptions instead of listening!
Assumptions Come From Our “Autopilot” Brain
Your brain is excellent at recognizing and remembering patterns. It is so good at it, that when you do something for a long time and develop a routine, your brain ceases to actively think about it. You use this “autopilot” feature of your brain to drive home, take a shower, and yes, do many of your work tasks.
Unfortunately, this can also lead you to think that you know all the information when you actually do not. The geography of your drive home may never change, but interactions with work colleagues are always in a state of change, even though they may look the same.
Assumptions Mean Catastrophic Consequences
Back in 1990, the most sophisticated and expensive telescope ever built, the Hubble Space Telescope, was plagued with a blurry image. Billions of taxpayer dollars went into the mission to build and launch the telescope. The problem? The team responsible for focusing the mirror was working with the English Standard system of measurement, and the team responsible for grinding the mirror was working with the metric system. Autopilot assumptions!
“Oops” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Do you think at some point anyone bothered to ask the question if both teams were using the same standard of measurement? At the end of the day, someone made a huge assumption. Congress and taxpayers were yelling at NASA. Heck, NASA was yelling at itself. And the conflict that ensued threatened funding for the entire space program. You can guarantee that no one in charge has ever forgotten the importance of listening.
Asking Questions is the Antidote
Asking questions leads to more information, less assumptions and fewer conflicts. It is truly that simple.
Workplace Conflict- conclusion
What Types of Questions Should You Ask?
Ask HOW, WHY, WHERE & WHEN questions to start. Question your assumptions, question the facts, question your feelings, question your hunches, and ask questions about potential problems. All of these areas will help you reduce conflict and improve your successes. It’s a double win.
For examples on how to use questions to improve listening, read my last blog “Are You Not Asking Enough Questions? Why We Fail to Listen.”
Kathleen Bartle (www.kathleenbartle.com) CPhil, CPCC, PCC
Kathleen is dedicated to the empowerment of women and men facing workplace and interpersonal communication conflicts including dysfunctional teams, abrasive managers and bullying. As such, she empowers her clients to create and put into action specific paths that end conflicts and transform relationships.
Kathleen's shrewd and compassionate approach is based upon her research, expertise and hard won experience. Her experience includes 1) Handling thousands of cases involving interpersonal and team conflicts at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); University of Southern California (USC); and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and, 2) A decade of private practice working with executives, entrepreneurs, business professionals and academics.
Her expertise and solutions derive from her training and knowledge as a CPhil, Sociologist (UCLA) , a Certified Executive Manager (USC), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (Coaching Training Institute), Professional Certified Coach (International Coaching Federation) with research interests in workplace harassment and bullying, assertiveness, team-building and leadership and communication best practices. As such, she understands both the personal and interpersonal complexities inherent in workplace conflict.
Kathleen’s strategic understanding of workplace conflict is also recognized within the professional community, as evidenced by her presentation at the 7th International Conference on Workplace Bullying in Wales, June 2010.
Connect with Kathleen on her website: http://www.confidenceconnections.com
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