Saturday, November 19, 2011

Overworked? 4 Signs You Need To Recharge

Take A Cue From Endurance Athletes: Here Are Four Ways To Tell You're About To Hit A Performance Wall.

Sometimes it's obvious we need a break, but in most cases we figure it out too late. When you work double-digit hours and Sundays are no longer a day of rest, feeling overworked can become the new normal. Even so you'll eventually hit a wall, and when that happens it can take days and even weeks to recover the enthusiasm, creativity, and motivation you've lost.

Fortunately a few of the same techniques endurance athletes use to detect the need for additional recovery can be used to indicate when you need to recharge your work batteries. Where elite athletes are concerned, chronic overtraining can actually defeat the fitness purpose and result in decreased stamina, power, and speed; sometimes the harder they work the slower they get.

The same thing happens to us when we're overworked. We put in more hours to compensate… and get even less done. So how can you tell the difference between feeling overworked and really overworking yourself?

I asked Jeremiah Bishop for some simple techniques anyone can use to avoid hitting a wall. Jeremiah is a professional mountain bike rider for Cannondale Factory Racing. He's a twelve-time member of the U.S. national team and is to mountain bike racing what an NBA All-Star is to basketball (except he's currently not out on strike).

Here are ways to ensure you stay at your professional best:

Check your resting heart rate. Every day, before you get out of bed, take your pulse. (There are plenty of free apps that make it easy. Some even log results.) Most of the time your heart rate will stay within a few beats per minute. But when you're overworked and stressed your body sends more oxygen to your body and brain by increasing your heart rate. (The same thing happens when athletes overtrain and their bodies struggle to recover.) If your heart rate is up in the morning, do whatever it takes to get a little extra rest or sleep that night.

Check your emotions. Having a bad day? Feeling irritable and short-tempered? If you can't put your finger on a specific reason why, chronic stress and fatigue may have triggered a physiological response and sent more cortisol and less dopamine to your brain. Willing yourself to be in a better mood won't overcome the impact of chemistry, and in extreme cases the only cure is a break.

Check your weight. Lose or gain more than a percent of body weight from one day to the next and something's wrong. Maybe yesterday was incredibly stressful and you failed to notice you didn't eat and drink enough… or maybe you failed to notice just how much you actually ate. Lack of nourishment and hydration can put the hurt on higher-level mental functions (which may be why when we're overworked and feeling stressed we instinctively want to perform routine, less complex tasks.) And eating too much food—well, we all know the impact of that.

Check your, um, output. Urine color can indicate a lack of hydration (although sometimes it indicates you created really expensive urine after eating a ton of vitamins your body could not absorb.) The lighter the color the more hydrated you are. Hydration is a good thing. Proper hydration aids the absorption of nutrients and helps increase energy levels. If your urine is darker than usual the cure is simple: Drink a lot of water.

The key is to monitor each of these over a period of time so you develop a feel for what is normal for you. Pay special attention on weekends and vacations, and if you notice a dramatic change, especially a positive one, that's a sure sign you need to change your workday routine.

Don't say this sounds like something only elite athletes need to worry about. We all want to be the best we can possibly be, no matter what our profession, and whenever we slam into the workload wall we are far from our best.

And don't say you don't have the time to take a short break or get a little more sleep. You owe it to yourself to find a way.

Eventually your mind and your body will hit a wall and make you, so why not do take care of yourself, and improve your performance, on your terms?

Thanks to Jeff Haden / Inc / Mansueto Ventures LLC.


3 Steps To Engage Employees For Increased Productivity

Recognize This! – Employees need clarity, direction, consistent communication and recognition to engage and deliver desired results.

Recent AON Hewitt research on the status of employee engagement globally tells us:

  • Worldwide, employee engagement is at 56%, which indicates a workforce indifferent to organizational success or failure.
  • The largest engagement drop is in how employees perceive performance management.
  • Globally, employees don't think managers have connected individual performance to organizational goals.

Is anyone surprised by these findings? It's the same results reported again and again by various sources.  Research from RogenSi (reported in MSNBC) found:

"Workers, it appears, are still relatively uninspired by their workplaces: while they are knuckling down and getting on with the job, the payback for them, judging by their responses, has been a lack of clarity and communication in where their organisations are heading and a profound sense of feeling undervalued by their leaders, leading to a lack of respect for those above them. These are sour ingredients for a fruitful workplace."

Once again, employees are pointing their leadership to what they need in order to engage and increase productivity on things management actually cares about:

  1. Recognition for their efforts
  2. Better communication about company direction
  3. Clarity on how individual employees can contribute

The AON Hewitt research cited above provides excellent advice on how to deliver precisely that (quoting):

Following are universally applicable best practices for improving and maintaining engagement:

What should your managers do to inspire you?

Thanks to Derek Irvine / RecognizeThisBlog / Recognize This!!++With+Derek+Irvine%29


Why You Should Stop Motivating Employees

Recognize This! – Factors that serve to demotivate employees are stronger than those that motivate them.

For decades, "good" managers have concerned themselves with how to motivate employees – how to encourage their employees to give their best. New research from Jim Collins, co-author of Good to Great and Great by Choice, offers a new perspective (from the Financial Post):

"Collins heads up a leadership centre in Boulder, Colo., where he conducts research into what successful companies do and their leadership practices. Collins says that 'the best leaders don't worry about motivating people, they are careful to not demotivate them.' He contends there are three key demotivators: Hype or the failure to acknowledge the real difficulties the organization faces; futurism, or always looking at distant goals or visions, and not being present; and false democracy, or inviting employees' input when the leader has already made a decision. A combination of all three can kill employee motivation."

This doesn't surprise me based on similar research showing that bad behavior at work has a much stronger influence on company morale and productivity than good behavior does to counteract it.

Common Demotivators

All of this theory is well and good, but are there common demotivators you can eliminate in your workplace?

  1. Lack of clarity and communication– When people don't know what you need from them, they lose motivation to work hard on the tasks at hand. They question whether their work is valid and useful to achieving end goals.How to turn it around: Recognize employees in-the-moment to clearly communicate to employees what it is you need and expect that is of value to the organization.
  2. Lack of meaning and purpose– Without this clear communication, employees lose all sense of meaning and purpose in their work, two factors often identified as critical to employee engagement and happiness at work.How to turn it around: Help employees understand the deeper value their contributions by tying recognition to core company values and strategic objectives. This lets them know how their efforts are contributing to achieving larger goals.
  3. Lack of progress– Recently identified through rigorous researchas the primary factor of employee engagement, progress is essential to motivation. Otherwise employees feel as if they are spinning in circles but never truly accomplishing an end result of valueHow to turn it around: Don't wait until the conclusion of a project to recognize employee efforts and contributions – especially in projects that can last months to years. Keep employees focused and, yes, motivated by recognizing and rewarding progress along the way.

What other common demotivators do you see in your workplace? How could you or your mangers turn them around?

Thanks to Derek Irvine / RecognizeThisBlog / Recognize This!!++With+Derek+Irvine%29


Understanding The Sales Force

What Is The #1 Sales Competency And How Many Salespeople Have It?

My series about the Top 10 Sales Competencies that nobody talks or writes about is among the 10 most widely read of my 850 or so articles.  That series did not include the traditional sales competencies so I want to talk about one of those competencies today.

In my opinion, this sales competency has become the most important of all the competencies.  It's More important than the closing competency.  It's more important than the ability to develop relationships.  It's more important than the ability to manage accounts.  It could even be more important than the ability to find new opportunities!  When salespeople master this competency, they close more business, receive more referrals and introductions and retain customers and clients indefinitely. 

Objective Management Group's data shows that on average, salespeople possess only 21% of the attributes of this competency.  The elite 6% and some of the top 26% have this competency in abundance.  The bottom 74% of all salespeople have even less than 21%.

Companies whose salespeople emphasize presenting, conducting demos, proposing, quoting and chasing business for months thereafter have very few salespeople that possess attributes of the attributes of this competency.

Even the experts don't agree on the importance of this competency.

A small group of experts, especially those that lack this competency themselves, believe that using this competency for selling is manipulative and counters being customer-centric.  They are as entitled to their opinion as I am to mine.  But remember, you simply can't argue with science, data and results.

So which competency am I referring to?

It is the ability to sell consultatively.  The interesting thing about this competency is that if you ask 10 people what it means, you'll get 10 different answers.  I've helped companies who told me up front that they have been focusing on consultative selling, yet after evaluating their sales force and beginning the training and development process, there was no evidence of the ability to sell consultatively!  

At its worst, people believe it refers to presenting a solution, based on the identification of needs.  That's actually closer to the definition of solution selling but not correct for either approach.

When your salespeople sell consultatively, they are actually:

  • slowing down the sales process, asking dozens - maybe even hundreds - of very good, tough, timely questions,
  • having deep and wide discussions about the prospects' reasons to:
    • change how things are done,
    • begin an initiative,
    • change suppliers,
    • spend money,
    • take advantage of an opportunity,
    • solve a problem,
    • save money,
    • etc.
  • discussing the implications or consequences of taking various actions or steps
  • talking about who is affected by these issues and how they are affected
  • identifying the real compelling reason(s) to buy and buy from you,
  • differentiating themselves through this conversation,
  • building a relationship based on sharing, trust, and caring.

As I mentioned, some will tell you that this kind of selling is dead but in reality, fewer than 15% of all salespeople have even learned to do this yet, the rest still selling in a very archaic way.  They are selling in a transactional way, selling based on relationships, or selling by presenting and proposing.  The rules have changed, the buyers have changed, the reasons and timing for spending limited amounts of money have changed, but most salespeople have not yet changed.  If your salespeople haven't learned and mastered the skills required to sell consultatively, they will lose out more often than they will win.

Dave Kurlan is a top-rated speaker, best-selling author, sales thought leader and highly regarded sales development expert.

Thanks to Dave Kurlan / Omg Hub / Dave Kurlan - Understanding the Sales Force


Eight Ways For Sales Reps To Differentiate From The Competition

How can sales people differentiate themselves from their competitors? We asked some sales managers to share their advice. They said:

1. Sell a total solution.  Most sales reps focus too much on the product per se. To differentiate yourself, sales reps must move beyond the product, identifying the value-adds that help the customer achieve their business outcomes.

2. Understand your competitor.  The competition isn't just the other company – it's also the company's sales reps.  So, know who the competitive sales reps are, their histories with the account, and their relationships with the customer.

3. Don't underestimate the importance of relationships.  Although effective B2B selling is not just relationship selling, selling is still a personal business. People buy from who they know and like – so get to know your customers and build relationships with them.

4. Have solid product knowledge. But, also be an effective communicator, do what you say you are going to do, have unbridled enthusiasm, and convey an undying belief in your company.

5. Create an accurate picture of the competitive landscape. Learn who your supporters and adversaries are. Determine how much impact they have on the buying decision and have an accurate picture of the competition – not just from your point of view but, more importantly, from the customer's view.

6. Distinguish yourself by how you sell, not just by want you sell. Use the sales process to help your customers develop a more comprehensive understanding of the scope of the problem

7. Look at the big picture. Understand the external issues facing the company – e.g., economic shifts, regulatory changes, and industry trends.

8. Leverage your experience.  While the depth of your customers' knowledge about their own company is significant, as a sales person you can bring breadth to the sales environment by helping the customer see how other companies have tackled similar issues.

Thanks to Janet Spirer / SalesTrainingConnection / Sales Horizons, LLC.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

10 Words And Terms That Ruin A Resume

Your resume needs an update -- that is, if your resume is like that of most people, it's not as good as it could be. The problem is language: Most resumes are a thicket of deadwood words and phrases -- empty cliches, annoying jargon and recycled buzzwords. Recruiters, HR folks and hiring managers see these terms over and over again, and it makes them sad.    
Wouldn't you rather make them happy? It's time to start raking out your resume, starting with these (and similar) terms.
1. "Salary negotiable"

Yes, they know. If you're wasting a precious line of your resume on this term, it looks as though you're padding -- that you've run out of things to talk about. If your salary is not negotiable, that would be somewhat unusual. (Still, don't put that on your resume either.)

2. "References available by request"

See the preceding comment about unnecessary terms.

3. "Responsible for ______"

Reading this term, the recruiter can almost picture the C-average, uninspired employee mechanically fulfilling his job requirements -- no more, no less. Having been responsible for something isn't something you did -- it's something that happened to you. Turn phrases like "responsible for" into "managed," "led" or other decisive, strong verbs.

4. "Experience working in ______"

Again, experience is something that happens to you -- not something you achieve. Describe your background in terms of achievements.

5. "Problem-solving skills"

You know who else has problem-solving skills? Monkeys. Dogs. On your resume, stick to skills that require a human.

6. "Detail-oriented"

So, you pay attention to details. Well, so does everyone else. Don't you have something unique to tell the hiring manager? Plus, putting this on your resume will make that accidental typo in your cover letter or resume all the more comical.

7. "Hardworking"

Have you ever heard the term "show -- don't tell"? This is where that might apply. Anyone can call himself a hard worker. It's a lot more convincing if you describe situations in concrete detail in which your hard work benefited an employer.

8. "Team player"

See the preceding comment about showing instead of telling. There are very few jobs that don't involve working with someone else. If you have relevant success stories about collaboration, put them on your resume. Talk about the kinds of teams you worked on, and how you succeeded.

9. "Proactive"

This is a completely deflated buzzword. Again, show rather than tell.

10. "Objective"

This term isn't always verboten, but you should use it carefully. If your objective is to get the job you've applied for, there's no need to spell that out on your resume with its own heading. A resume objective is usually better replaced by a career summary describing your background, achievements and what you have to offer an employer. An exception might be if you haven't applied for a specific job and don't have a lot of experience that speaks to the position you'd like to achieve.

Create A Strategic Plan For Your Job Search

Business Plan FlowchartSearching for a full time job can often be a full time job. It's hard work to find work. The last thing you want to do is follow the old "spray and pray" method of job searching where you spend countless hours scrolling through random online job postings or worse, circling jobs in the newspaper. In today's competitive market you need to be focused, and you need to know what you want, what you have to offer and then where to search for it. To help make the process a bit easier, develop and follow a job search strategic plan.

Focus and Define

Socrates said, "know thyself." And while he wasn't necessarily referring to the job search, the advice is key to the process. Before you actually begin the job search, you need to discover who you are or who you want to be professionally. Make a list of your goals, values and beliefs, of your skills, accomplishments, and of experiences. Review the list and look for repetition and similarities, and then focus in on those key elements or must haves for your professional self.

Once you have a firm understanding of your professional identity, you next need to parallel your defined skills, values, and beliefs to a career path and to a targeted list of employers. Do your research and create a list of 20 or more target companies/organizations for which you can utilize your newly defined identity.

Job Search Mission Statement

You've already discovered who you are or who you want to be professionally and have created a target list of companies, now it's time to write out a job search mission statement. Be very specific about what you're looking for – your core values and beliefs, the type of company, the type of skills used, the environment/culture of the workplace, the level of responsibility, the geographic region, potential for growth, and salary and benefits. Use this statement to help maintain your focus. When you're feeling uncertain, come back to this statement; it will help you regain momentum.

The Action Plan

The best written mission statement will go unfulfilled if you don't act upon it. A great way to ensure action is to build a set of job search goals and strategies. Be specific; be aggressive; be proactive; and be holistic on this part of the plan. When you're writing the goals, use detailed strategies which include measurements, timelines and deadlines. This section allows you to hold yourself accountable, so be specific – you will congratulate yourself later for it.

An example of a goals and strategy section may look like this:


  • Build a network of professional mentors and job search advisors in my chosen career path.


  • Use LinkedIn groups feature to connect with leaders in the (fill in the name of the industry). I will respond to one article or post a week for (fill in the dates).
  • Follow and connect with 10 new (fill in the name of the field) experts via Twitter each week  from (fill in the dates).

Once you have the action plan in place, you'll want to create a way to keep track of your job search activities and progress. Whether electronic or paper, you'll need to track the companies to which you've applied, all communications with companies, scheduled interviews, networking referrals, and all follow up activities required. While tedious, staying on top of the job search details and logistics will pay off greatly once you've landed the job.

The beauty of the job search strategic plan is it is transferable to so many areas of professional life. From job seeking, to job promotions, to job transitioning, having a strategic plan will help guide you smoothly to the career success you seek.

Lisa Lambert Snodgrass helps professionals and businesses achieve the next dimension of success. Founder of 4D Perspectives, Lisa is a professional identity coach, career shift specialist, keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and writer.

Thanks to Lisa Lambert Snodgrass / Careerealism


Less Is More When Handling Objections

Initially the logic of not handling an objection immediately may sound counterintuitive – but when it comes to dealing with objections not only what you say but also when you say it is key to success. In fact, it's a core sales skill. However, sales people too often want to address the objection as soon as it arises, get it off the table, and move on. An admirable thought … or is it? After all, what really is driving the customer's objection? What are the keys from the customer's perspective for addressing the objection? And how important is the objection to the customer – a showstopper, a throwaway comment or something in-between?

Everyone agrees these are good questions, yet we too often see sales people fall into the trap, "If you have a better story, then tell it and all will be well."  After all, most sales people rightly believe their solution is superior, their customer support better, and/or their pricing and business terms more customer-friendly, so just sharing that information will minimize the objection.

But, we all know there's a problem lurking there.  Just sharing information is no different than throwing the proverbial spaghetti against the wall – sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn't. Or, as often heard on the street, "spraying and praying" – which doesn't work 99.5% of the time! Rather, sales people must slow down and actually "handle" the objection … drilling down on what the objection truly is and its importance.

There are numerous objection handling models floating around. One probably isn't any better than another. So going back to our "less is more" construct: ACT.

  • Acknowledge the objection
  • Clarify the objection
  • Test the solution you offer

Taking a closer look …

While it may sound simple, Acknowledging the objection is important. I can't count the number of times we've seen sales people ignore an objection and just keep talking, assuming, as we said earlier, that by sharing wonderful things the objection will disappear. Highly unlikely. And worse yet are sales people who ignore an objection assuming that if it isn't brought to the fore, it will go away. Unlikely as well. Not acknowledging an objection only signals to a customer that you're not listening.

Probably the most important suggestion here is to Clarify. By clarifying, sales people can avoid the trap of hearing an objection and immediately trying to "answer" it. It is a much better idea to acknowledge it but then ask questions to find out "how important is it", or "why the customer feels it is a problem", etc. By doing this, sales people can usually find that the best answer for solving the objection is not what they would have offered up-front.  You are also changing the tone of the dialogue – you are participating in a problem-solving discussion vs. being in a defensive mode.

Finally, once a solution is offered, don't assume the objection is addressed and move on. Rather, test to make sure the customer understands the solution and agrees that it addresses the objection – then move on.

Handling objections is an age-old topic of selling – but if anything the art and science of skillfully handing objections has grown in importance over the years.

Thanks to Janet Spirer / SalesTrainingConnection / Sales Horizons, LLC.


Principles Of Creative Management

F.W. Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management, written in 1911, is still the basis of many of our management practices today. Taylor's ghost is everywhere.

It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.

One hundred years later, we need to get away from these ideas and adopt methods that enable creative work in an interconnected economy. I would suggest something like the following:

It is only through innovative and contextual methods, the self-selection of the most appropriate tools and work conditions and willing cooperation that more productive work can be assured. The duty of being transparent in our work and sharing our knowledge rests with all workers.









* Content from is protected under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
Thanks to Harold Jarche / Jarche / Harold Jarche

Empathic Listening: Open Heart

Empathic listening is a deep  level of listening.  According to author Otto Scharmer, when we are engaged in real dialogue and paying careful attention, we can become aware of a profound shift in the place from which our listening originates.  We move from seeing the object world of things, figures and facts to listening to the story of a living and evolving self.   When we say "I know how your feel," it requires an open heart to really feel how another feels.  An open heart gives us the capacity to connect directly with another person from within.  When that happens, we enter new territory in the relationship; we forget about our own agenda and begin to see how the world appears through someone else's eyes.
Thanks to Dr. Lyman K. (Manny) Steil & Dr. Richard K. (Rick) Bommelje / International Listening Leadership Institute

6 Tips To Help You Stop Committing Email Sins

How many of these "email sins" are you guilty of?

  • Writing subject lines that have nothing to do with the issue at hand
  • Attaching huge files and sending them without advance warning
  • Composing wordy essays in place of clear, concise notes
  • Going rogue on punctuation and capitalization
  • Trying to be funny, sarcastic, or whimsical when it's inappropriate

Chances are, we've all helped clutter our colleagues' email boxes with confusing, over-complicated messages. In addition to avoiding email overload, it's important to follow the Golden Rule of business email: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Here are some guidelines for email etiquette that will reinforce your professional reputation and demonstrate compassion for your co-workers and clients.

  1. Adopt a business-like tone. Your emails reflect on both on you and your business. This isn't the place for jokes, chain letters, gossip, or rumors, as tantalizing as they may be. Write messages as if they're going to appear on your company letterhead, remembering that there's no such thing as a "private" email. Your words may get forwarded at any time, and (because they're company property) they can be retrieved, reviewed, and used in a court of law, if need be.
  2. Keep it short. Email is a wonderful tool for instant communication in clear, simple language. There's no need for flowery introductions or poetic conclusions. Think before you type: What essential message do you want to convey? Recipients should be able to quickly understand why you're sending email and what you're asking them to do. Bullet points are your friends.
  3. Make the subject line do the heavy lifting. If a specific action is requested and you can summarize it in a few words (in most cases, you probably can), put it in the subject line and be done with it. If not, keep the subject line as brief and clear as possible. For internal emails, it's OK for the staff to agree on a handful of acronyms (ASAP, AR for "Action Required," etc.), but this shorthand should never appear in client correspondence.
  4. Avoid emails that look like ransom notes. It's conventional wisdom among the email-savvy that you should AVOID USING ALL CAPS AT ALL TIMES (and avoid all lowercase, too). The same goes for shortcuts, such as "4u," or the dreaded emoticon. When composing business emails, use proper sentence structure and punctuation as much as possible. Exclamation points? No more than one per message! Don't attempt sarcasm or subtle humor; there's too much potential for misinterpretation. If you're angry about something, take a deep breath and do something else before attempting to address it in an email. Better yet, talk to the person on the phone or face-to-face.
  5. "Reply to all" sparingly. It's easy to over-communicate and include additional, unnecessary recipients. Think about how you react when you're cc:ed on an email you have no stake in (and couldn't care less about). Internally, this may be appropriate when compiling results or seeking collective input. In general, reply only to the person who's seeking a response.
  6. Choose attachments carefully. Proper email etiquette generally calls for no more than two attachments per email, and always with a relevant title and your name, so people can recall who sent it later on, when they have time to look at the files. Lengthy documents or PowerPoint presentations should only be attached upon request — and never sent without warning.

When used properly, email is a boon for business communication. However, if what you have to say is confidential, sensitive, or personal, email probably isn't the place for it. As noted above, some situations clearly call for using the phone or meeting in person.

Thanks to Lee Polevoi / Blog Intuit / Intuit Small Business Blog / Intuit, Inc.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why Written Customer Satisfaction Policies Can Make Customers Happier

Want Happier Customers? Lay Down The Law, Then Bend It

How far should you go to please customers? Of course you want to do everything reasonably possible. But are you duty-bound to please customers like these?

  • A woman bought a mountain bike, ran it into a tree, and bent up the front wheel like a pretzel. Six months later, she suddenly asked for a full refund because the brakes had "not stopped quickly enough." What do you do with a customer like that?

  • A man spilled pasta sauce on a shirt and the stains wouldn't come out in the laundry. The shirt's failure to come out clean, he estimated, was "a defect" and he demanded his money back at the store.

  • A man bought a $799 flat screen TV from a store that put that same model on sale a month later for $599. He demanded a $200 refund.

You might either agree or completely disagree with these kinds of demands, depending on your overall approach to the idea that the "customer is always right." But based on my observations of customer service issues over the years: Certain unreasonable customers will never become reasonable, even if you bend over backwards to please them.

In other words, you're not going to transform some buyers into great customers, no matter what you do. So you need to determine where to draw the line with respect to the customer's rights vs. your business needs. It is reasonable and fair to have it work on both sides. So in our three examples above, I might offer a discount on a new bike (or bike repair to replace the front wheel) and a new shirt, but not offer to replace it for free. For the TV, yep, I'd go ahead and provide the same sale price to that customer as I was now offering to others. A 30-60 day "price guarantee" policy is reasonable today in retail.

While it is always a good idea to have a set of customer satisfaction policies in place, you do also need to allow a degree of flexibility. A nice example of some good, written policies can be found on the website of the appliance retailer P.C. Richard:

  • P.C. Richard spells out delivery and installation procedures on the company website. There are different procedures for trash compactors, air conditioners, TVs, and other appliances, and each is spelled out in detail. The information lets customers know what to expect and gives the retailer support if unreasonable customer complaints arise.

  • P.C. Richard also provides detailed return policies on its website. Certain products can be returned within 20 days, for example, while other products cannot.

So consider setting policies down in writing, for your customers as well as your employees, but offer a little flexibility when it's called for as well.

Thanks to Diana Pohly / Step By Step Marketing / The Pohly Company


The Fine Line Of Bullying: What HR Needs To Know

Extreme cases of bullying are headline material, and while overt and systematic bullying may make the 6pm news, the real problem is that the majority of bullying happens on a much more subtle level, according to a leading workplace psychologist.

Eve Ash, psychologist and managing director of Seven Dimensions, a consultancy that creates video and online resources for training and leadership, said that in subtle bullying, the hurt, stress and suffering can be just as acute as in overt bullying.

Writing in Smart Company, Ash said subtle bullying is much harder for HR to act upon, and the major issue is really what can be done to prevent bullying, rather than what to do when it occurs.

There remains an inherent potential in all organisations for bullying to occur. Ash commented: "Your people are your most valuable asset, and it is a company's responsibility to exercise a duty of care over its employees, and that includes ensuring that bullying does not take place."

The steps include highlighting and eliminating bullying that is already taking place, drawing up plans and procedures to follow in the future, educating your staff on how to identify and report on bullying, and communicating the company's bullying policy.

Each of these acts, Ash said, is essential to the smooth running of your organisation. In terms of identifying subtle bullying, Ash highlighted the following key points:

  1. Boundaries shift slowly

Bullying involves a repeated act by an individual or group of people that causes feelings of intimidation or emotional distress to another individual. This can often start out as a bit of a joke, and many good-humoured people will accept a joke at their expense if it's delivered well and in good taste. If it continues beyond the point where the person on the receiving end is good humoured about it you start to move into the area of bullying.

This is also true of intimidator-type behaviour. Whether we are talking about a boss or just the larger personalities in the office, it is very rare that someone actually sets out to be an intimidator. Over time an imbalance of personal power (often due to a loss of confidence on the receiver's side) can be pushed to the point of abuse.

The slow shifting of boundaries means that the victim can often be unaware of just how much pressure they are feeling – it's not until it's too late that action is taken. Bullies by nature will constantly push against the boundaries to exert their influence. This will rarely go away by itself – strong management will ensure that there is push back and recourse against the acts of a bully.

  1. Venting is not bullying

Saying aggressive things in a moment of emotional overflow isn't bullying. It obviously isn't a desirable way to act but it certainly isn't bullying. If you believe that you have gone too far with a particular comment, or perhaps you've embarrassed someone that you work with, the most important thing to do is offer a sincere and prompt apology.

This is an acknowledgment that a boundary has been inadvertently crossed. Mistakes occur, especially in a high-pressure environment, but everyone needs to actively take responsibility of an inter-personal blunder when it happens.

The point to remember about bullying is that it is persistent. It may not be intentionally hurtful, but if boundaries are crossed repeatedly without apology it's extremely serious.

  1. Sometimes people over-react

We all hate to hear about people suffering in the workplace but there is an awkward area of workplace discontent where someone is feeling hurt unreasonably. Some definitions of bullying centre entirely around the feelings of the victim, that if someone is feeling intimated, hurt or harassed then they are definitely being bullied. This isn't always the case! Someone might misread a message – actions can be read as threats and tone of voice read as aggressive when it is neither intended that way nor seen as that from others.

This can be a very difficult situation to manage, but it must be considered a possibility when investigating claims of bullying.

  1. You need a plan in place for bullying

It's very easy to say that your organisation won't accept bullying. It's easy to say that you're not allowed to send threatening emails, swear at co-workers, act in a sexist or racist manner or systematically intimidate someone – but the grey areas are incredibly difficult to navigate. These questions will help you and your HR department prepare for any cases of bullying:

  • How do you deal with a he says/she says scenario?
  • What do you define as bullying within your workplace?
  • If you find someone has been bullied, what do you do? What happens to the bully?
Thanks to HCA Mag / HC Online / Human Capital / Key Media Pty Ltd

How The Rift Between Sales And Marketing Undermines Reps

It's no secret that sales and marketing executives don't always see eye to eye.

In a recent Corporate Executive Board survey, sales executives' top terms for their marketing colleagues included "paper pushers," "academic," and perhaps worst of all, "irrelevant." On the other hand, marketing executives called out their sales counterparts as "simple minded," "cowboys," and flat out "incompetent." Strikingly, across several hundred sales and marketing responses, a full 87% were negative.

Management has long called for sales and marketing to bury the hatchet, but the requests often lack urgency and are generally met with indifference. That must change. In today's historically difficult selling environment, the rift between sales and marketing seriously undermines even the best-performing reps. In previous posts (here, here, and here), we've described a gifted kind of sales rep we call Challengers. Challengers excel by creating constructive tension with customers through unique and surprising competitive insights. However, all but the very best Challengers will struggle to source and package those insights unless they have organizational support — especially from marketing.

Yet much of the sales support marketing provides falls short because it's focused on teaching customers about the supplier's business, not the customer's. Worse, the function responsible more than any other for differentiating your solution in the marketplace often churns out collateral and sales tools that look and sound exactly like everyone else's. Where's the teaching in that?

Don't take our word for it. In a recent study, public relations expert Adam Sherk analyzed the most frequent terms in company communications, and the results were eye opening. Here are the top ten: Leader, leading, best, top, unique, solution, largest, innovative, and innovator.

Sound familiar? Most companies' marketing materials make generic claims like "an industry leader with decades of experience helping global customers achieve business objectives through unique solutions and uncompromised value." Blah, blah, blah. When customers hear such commoditized messages often enough, they stop hearing them altogether. So, you say to your customers, "Our solution is unique," and your customers don't believe you. Why should they? Your message sure isn't. Their reply? "That's fantastic. Can I get a discount?" After all, why should your customer pay more for your solution when it sounds exactly like everyone else's?

So what's the alternative? In our book, we share case studies of companies whose marketing organizations have gotten it right.

Here are four rules Challenger marketing organizations live by:

1. Identify your unique capabilities, not all your capabilities

In their excitement to tell the world about their broader "solution," most marketing organizations fail to identify the handful of capabilities that truly set them apart. Sure, your products are "faster," "newer," "smaller," "bigger," or "greener," but why does it matter? If customers see no difference between you and the competition, anything you teach them will simply wind up in an RFP headed for a price-driven bake-off. Bottom line, if you can't identify the unique capabilities customers should be willing to pay you for, they're sure not going to do it for you.

Answer the question, "Why should our customers buy from us over anyone else?" It's a simple question, but often proves surprisingly hard to answer. It's shocking how many companies are unable to identify what truly sets their solution apart.

2. Focus on the unique capabilities your customers currently undervalue

Most marketing organizations naturally focus on capabilities customers disproportionately value. The thinking goes: customers want it, we're best at it, so that's the core of our value proposition. The best marketing organizations, however, are far more interested in promoting capabilities customers under value. Why? Because their primary goal is to teach customers new perspectives, not reinforce existing ones. The best teaching opportunities often spring from the question, "What is it that customers fail to appreciate about their business that leads them to undervalue our capability?" The answer provides a strong foundation for insights that challenge customers' thinking.

3. Design messages that lead to those capabilities, not with them

Virtually all marketing collateral suffers from the same flaw. If the first five pages — and the first ten slides — of your collateral or sales pitch deck are about you (and they almost invariably are), you've got it wrong. Build messages that lead to your unique capabilities. In a teaching conversation, the supplier enters the conversation at the end, not the beginning.

4. Calculate the ROI of changing behavior, not of buying a solution

Finally, equip reps with an ROI calculator that shows customers the value of behavior change. Surprisingly, the best ROI calculators are supplier agnostic. They're built to convince customers to do something, not to buy something — to take action on whatever new perspective you've just taught them. Of course, when customers ask, "Wow, who can help us do this?" the rep must be able to legitimately say, "Let me show you how we're uniquely able to help make this happen."

Successfully challenging customers' thinking is a team sport. Does your company set up Challengers to succeed? Pull out the latest piece of collateral produced by your marketing organization. Does it equip your salespeople to teach customers about their company or about yours?

Thanks to Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson / Blogs HBR / Harvard Business School Publishing


Why Indians Need Help In Developing Communication Skills?

On one of his frequent trips to Mumbai, Rajeev Chopra has a whole series of meetings lined up at the business centre of a suburban hotel, but he's saved a special slot - the lunch hour - for a Socratic Debate with CD. Over a plate of salad and a club sandwich (which he efficiently demolishes with a knife and fork), the vice chairman and managing director of the Gurgaon-headquartered Philips Electronics India, talks about the importance of friends, the egalitarian culture of MNCs and the challenges of doing business in rural India. Excerpts:

What's the toughest part of a CEO's job?

Getting people to move out of their comfort zone. You know there are major changes in the horizon, but getting your people to see it is tough. People management is 65% of a CEO's job; the rest is business management.

Is people management an acquired skill?

Some people are born with it. I wasn't. All in all, I'd say Indians are just about average when it comes to soft skills. We need help in developing communication skills, for example. We don't know when to open up, when to shut up. In a multi-national company like ours, a dictatorial style doesn't work, as it does in some family managed companies. We are very egalitarian. People are not afraid to talk. Since I am from sales, I like to mix with people. I hate sitting in my office all the time. I prefer to walk around a lot.

What do people want?

They want to learn, which means they want a challenging job. They want to rise in the organisation. But you will always have a mix of people in the company. Some are aggressive, some analytical. Some are ambitious, some are steady. You have to manage the mix. One way is to move people around.

Moving someone into a different area or sector provides challenge and I do it all the time. I don't believe you need to have a background in something to be successful at it. My first job was in FMCG sales, with Reckitt Coleman, and then I moved to IT, with Hewlett Packard. The basic principles of marketing were the same, though I had to pick up on the product specifics of ink jet printers.

How do you keep things simple?

You use common sense. For example, if the customer wants something quick and the process is taking too long, you use common sense to get things done. Simplicity is about crashing your development cycle. It's about making installation of a complex product easy. Sometimes experts have to do it for you and we provide them.

How important are friends in your life?

Extremely important. I've lost touch with schoolmates, but I do keep in touch with my IIT-Kanpur friends. I'd say they're my oldest, and best friends. Life in Kanpur was very campus-centric since we didn't have a big city outside. Email helped us all get in touch initially and now it's Facebook. A lot of them are in the US and quite a few are in government. The IAS was a big draw in 1985, when we graduated. And no, I don't use them to further the interests of Philips India.

What's the toughest thing about selling in rural India?

Rural India has harshest operating conditions but customers here have the least ability to pay. I realised this early in my career with Reckitt Coleman, when I would go to small towns to sell Cherry Blossom shoe polish. In Bikaner, I remember, the brand cost more than five times more than what was locally available. If you want to succeed in rural India, you have to first understand what people can afford and then figure out what you can provide within that.

Do appearances matter?

To some people it does, but I personally try not to form a judgment based on appearances. During interviews, for example, it's easy to get influenced by appearances since you have to form a judgment in one hour or less. To avoid that, we have at least four people interviewing the candidate, including would-be peers. I also do a lot of reference checks.

What do you look for in a potential employee?

Does he have the ability to handle a variety of situations, can he cut to the chase, can he get along with a mix of people, and does he have the energy to get things done.

What's your favourite time of the day?

I don't really have one. But if you change that to favourite time of the week, I would say it's when I play golf in the morning on weekends, at Noida.

Will machines take over the world?

It makes for a good story, but I don't think so. But then again, I've never been a science fiction fan.

What do you read?

I read The Economist on my iPad, usually when I'm stuck in traffic. I used to read a lot of business books till ten years ago, but then I just stopped. When I'm on a long flight I read fiction and standard business literature. The last one was Scenario Planning by Paul Schoemaker.
Thanks to Dibeyendu Ganguly,ET Bureau / Economic Times India Times / The Economic Times

Managing Former Peers

Sometimes a promotion can suddenly change your relationship with co-workers from "peer" to "boss." It's not an uncommon scenario, particularly in companies with strong succession plans. However when this happens it often creates an awkward and uncomfortable set of dynamics, and there's no blueprint for how to manage them.

Here's an example*: Peter was the divisional CFO for the consumer unit of a global products company. Although he was a relative newcomer to the firm (hired three years earlier), he was considered a potential successor to the divisional president. Two other members of the management team also had aspirations for the top job: Sarah who headed operations and had been with the company her whole career; and Stan, the SVP of sales, a veteran sales guy who was widely considered the driver behind the firm's current success. As members of the senior leadership team, these three managers worked well together on business issues although they were not personal friends. When the Board surprised everyone by promoting Peter to the top job, Stan immediately decided to take early retirement while Sarah agreed to stay on for the next year.

Peter's appointment as president triggered two common challenges with peer promotions: rapid re-contracting followed by rapid restructuring. Re-contracting relationship ground rules is necessary, because in the aftermath of a promotion social and hierarchical relationship dynamics will inevitably shift. Peers can joke around, gossip, gripe, and poke fun at each other. But when one of those peers is promoted, these behaviors need to be tempered. The former peer is now responsible for setting direction, handing out assignments, holding people to deadlines, assessing performance, and determining pay. Yes, she can still be friendly with these subordinates, but only to a point. Some amount of distance needs to be created so that the new boss can give feedback and make decisions that the former peers might not agree with. To do this, the new boss needs to re-contract the rules of her relationships with each member of the team; and if anyone cannot accept the new contract, then they will need to go elsewhere.

In Peter's case, the process of re-contracting was made difficult by Sarah, who was both a peer and a competitor. She had different views on how to lead the division and was disappointed that she didn't get the job, for which she thought she was more qualified. So their relationship needed to change even more than others, both intellectually and emotionally. This required Peter to spend considerable time with Sarah talking through their concerns. As it turned out, Sarah worked very hard initially to support and help Peter in his new role — but after a few months concluded that she could not report to someone whom she felt was less qualified, and took a package to leave. Two other members of the leadership team — who had wanted Stan to be their boss — also left within the first few months.

Evidently, an obvious outcome of re-contracting is the need — or the opportunity — to bring in some different people and/or redistribute responsibilities. One replacement that is always needed is for the person who is promoted, or Peter in our case. Other open positions come from people who leave as a result of the re-contracting, such as Stan and Sarah. The challenge here is to not necessarily replace each position individually, but rather to look holistically at the work to be done, figure out the best way to match it with the skills of the remaining team members, and then see what gaps are left. Restructuring in this way brings people into the team who were not part of the old relationship patterns. More importantly, it provides promotions for the veterans on the team, if not to new titles then at least to new responsibilities or challenges. This too will create new relationship patterns that make it easier to let go of the past.

In our case, Peter promoted one of his people to be the CFO, but reassigned some of his previous responsibilities to others. He also divided Stan's sales job so that one person led "direct" and one led "indirect" sales. When Sarah left, Operations also was reconfigured. The end result was that Peter and the team were able to function effectively without being dragged down by bad feelings, jealousy, and awkward relationships.

It's not easy to make the transition from peer to boss. But going through the process of re-contracting and then restructuring can improve the odds of success.

What's your experience with the dynamics of peer promotions?

*Names have been changed.

Ron Ashkenas is a managing partner of Schaffer Consulting and a co-author of The GE Work-Out and The Boundaryless Organization. His latest book is Simply Effective.

Thanks to Ron Ashkenas / Blogs HBR / Harvard Business School Publishing


Resolving Team Conflict

Building Stronger Teams by Facing Your Differences

Conflict can be pretty much inevitable when you work with others. People have different viewpoints and under the right set of circumstances, those differences escalate to conflict. How you handle that conflict determines whether it works to the team's advantage or contributes to its demise.

You can choose to ignore it, complain about it, blame someone for it, or try to deal with it through hints and suggestions; or you can be direct, clarify what is going on, and attempt to reach a resolution through common techniques like negotiation or compromise. It's clear that conflict has to be dealt with, but the question is how: It has to be dealt with constructively and with a plan, otherwise it's too easy to get pulled into the argument and create an even larger mess.

Conflict isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. Healthy and constructive conflict is a component of high functioning teams. Conflict arises from differences between people; the same differences that often make diverse teams more effective than those made up of people with similar experience. When people with varying viewpoints, experiences, skills, and opinions are tasked with a project or challenge, the combined effort can far surpass what any group of similar individual could achieve. Team members must be open to these differences and not let them rise into full-blown disputes.

Understanding and appreciating the various viewpoints involved in conflict are key factors in its resolution. These are key skills for all team members to develop. The important thing is to maintain a healthy balance of constructive difference of opinion, and avoid negative conflict that's destructive and disruptive.

Getting to, and maintaining, that balance requires well-developed team skills, particularly the ability to resolve conflict when it does happens, and the ability to keep it healthy and avoid conflict in the day-to-day course of team working. Let's look at conflict resolution first, then at preventing it.

Resolving Conflict

When a team oversteps the mark of healthy difference of opinion, resolving conflict requires respect and patience. The human experience of conflict involves our emotions, perceptions, and actions; we experience it on all three levels, and we need to address all three levels to resolve it. We must replace the negative experiences with positive ones.

The three-stage process below is a form of mediation process, which helps team members to do this:

Step 1: Prepare for resolution

  • Acknowledge the conflict – The conflict has to be acknowledged before it can be managed and resolved. The tendency is for people to ignore the first signs of conflict, perhaps as it seems trivial, or is difficult to differentiate from the normal, healthy debate that teams can thrive on. If you are concerned about the conflict in your team, discuss it with other members. Once the team recognizes the issue, it can start the process of resolution.
  • Discuss the impact – As a team, discuss the impact the conflict is having on team dynamics and performance.
  • Agree to a cooperative process – Everyone involved must agree to cooperate in to resolve the conflict. This means putting the team first, and may involve setting aside your opinion or ideas for the time being. If someone wants to win more than he or she wants to resolve the conflict, you may find yourself at a stalemate.
  • Agree to communicate – The most important thing throughout the resolution process is for everyone to keep communications open. The people involved need to talk about the issue and discuss their strong feelings. Active listening is essential here because to move on you need to really understand where the other person is coming from.

Step 2: Understand the Situation

Once the team is ready to resolve the conflict, the next stage is to understand the situation, and each team member's point of view. Take time to make sure that each person's position is heard and understood. Remember that strong emotions are at work here so you have to get through the emotion and reveal the true nature of the conflict.

  • Clarify positions – Whatever the conflict or disagreement, it's important to clarify people's positions. Whether there are obvious factions within the team who support a particular option, approach or idea, or each team member holds their own unique view, each position needs to be clearly identified and articulated by those involved.
  • This step alone can go a long way to resolve the conflict, as it helps the team see the facts more objectively and with less emotion.
Sally and Tom believe the best way to market the new product is through a TV campaign. Mary and Beth are adamant that internet advertising is the way to go; whilst Josh supports a store-lead campaign.
  • List facts, assumptions and beliefs underlying each position – What does each group or person believe? What do they value? What information are they using as a basis for these beliefs? What decision-making criteria and processes have they employed?
Sally and Tom believe that TV advertising is best because it has worked very well in the past. They are motivated by the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Mary and Beth are very tuned-in to the latest in technology and believe that to stay ahead in the market, the company has to continue to try new things. They seek challenges and find change exhilarating and motivating. Josh believes a store-lead campaign is the most cost-effective. He's cautious, and feels this is the best way to test the market at launch, before committing the marketing spend.

  • Analyze in smaller groups – Break the team into smaller groups, separating people who are in alliance. In these smaller groups, analyze and dissect each position, and the associated facts, assumptions and beliefs.
  • Which facts and assumptions are true? Which are the more important to the outcome? Is there additional, objective information that needs to be brought into the discussion to clarify points of uncertainly or contention? Is additional analysis or evaluation required?
Consider using formal evaluation and decision-making processes where appropriate. Techniques such as PMI, Forcefield Analysis, Paired Comparison Analysis and Cost/Benefit Analysis are among those that could help.

If such techniques have not been used already, they may help make a much more objective decision or evaluation. Gain agreement within the team about which techniques to use, and how to go about the further analysis and evaluation.

  • By considering the facts, assumptions, beliefs and decision making that lead to other people's positions, the group will gain a better understanding of those positions. Not only can this reveal new areas of agreement, it can also reveal new ideas and solutions that make the best of each position and perspective.
  • Take care to remain open, rather than criticize or judge the perceptions and assumptions of other people. Listen to all solutions and ideas presented by the various sides of the conflict. Everyone needs to feel heard and acknowledged if a workable solution is to be reached.
  • Convene back as a team – After the group dialogue, each side is likely to be much closer to reaching agreement. The process of uncovering facts and assumptions allows people to step away from their emotional attachments and see the issue more objectively. When you separate alliances, the fire of conflict can burn out quickly, and it is much easier to see the issue and facts laid bare.

Step 3: Reach agreement

Now that all parties understand the others' positions, the team must decide what decision or course of action to take. With the facts and assumptions considered, it's easier to see the best of action and reach agreement.

In our example, the team agrees that TV advertising is the best approach. It has had undeniably great results in the past and there is no data to show that will change. The message of the advertising will promote the website and direct consumers there. This meets Mary and Beth's concern about using the website for promotions: they assumed that TV advertising would disregard it.
If further analysis and evaluation is required, agree what needs to be done, by when and by whom, and so plan to reach agreement within a particular timescale. If appropriate, define which decision making and evaluation tools are to be employed.

If such additional work is required, the agreement at this stage is to the approach itself: Make sure the team is committed to work with the outcome of the proposed analysis and evaluation.

If the team is still not able to reach agreement, you may need to use a techniques like Win-Win Negotiation, Nominal Group Technique or Multi-Voting to find a solution that everyone is happy to move the team ahead.
When conflict is resolved take time to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions everyone made toward reaching a solution. This can build team cohesion and confidence in their problem solving skills, and can help avert further conflict.

This three-step process can help solve team conflict efficiently and effectively. The basis of the approach is gaining understanding of the different perspectives and using that understanding to expand your own thoughts and beliefs about the issue.

Preventing Conflict

As well as being able to handle conflict when it arises, teams need to develop ways of preventing conflict from becoming damaging. Team members can learn skills and behavior to help this. Here are some of the key ones to work on:

  • Dealing with conflict immediately – avoid the temptation to ignore it.
  • Being open – if people have issues, they need to be expressed immediately and not allowed to fester.
  • Practicing clear communication – articulate thoughts and ideas clearly.
  • Practicing active listening – paraphrasing, clarifying, questioning.
  • Practicing identifying assumptions – asking yourself "why" on a regular basis.
  • Not letting conflict get personal – stick to facts and issues, not personalities.
  • Focusing on actionable solutions – don't belabor what can't be changed.
  • Encouraging different points of view – insist on honest dialogue and expressing feelings.
  • Not looking for blame – encourage ownership of the problem and solution.
  • Demonstrating respect – if the situation escalates, take a break and wait for emotions to subside.
  • Keeping team issues within the team – talking outside allows conflict to build and fester, without being dealt with directly.

To explore the process of conflict resolution in more depth, take our Bite-Sized Training session on Dealing with Conflict.

Key Points

Conflict can be constructive as long as it is managed and dealt with directly and quickly. By respecting differences between people, being able to resolve conflict when it does happen, and also working to prevent it, you will be able to maintain a healthy and creative team atmosphere. The key is to remain open to other people's ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. When team members learn to see issues from the other side, it opens up new ways of thinking, which can lead to new and innovative solutions, and healthy team performance.

Thanks to MindTools / Mind Tools Ltd


Bell And Hart's Eight Causes Of Conflict

Understanding the Causes of Workplace Tension

You've just arrived at your office, which you share with a colleague, and it looks as if it's going to be another frustrating day.

Your side of the office is neat as a pin and incredibly well organized. You always arrive at work on time and you take care not to talk loudly when you're on the phone, so that you don't disturb your office mate.

Your colleague, however, is the exact opposite. Empty cups and stacks of dusty files litter his side of the office. He often rushes into the office late, and he sometimes puts the radio on while he's working, which breaks your concentration. You love your work, but dread coming into the office every day, simply because you don't like sharing your space with your colleague. He drives you crazy, and you often argue.

If you thought about it, you'd quickly recognize that there's conflict between you because the two of you have completely different working styles. Once you'd realized this, you'd have a starting point for thinking about how you could work together more effectively.

All of us experience conflict like this at work. Conflict can be useful, since it can push conflicting parties to grow and communicate, and it can improve conflicting ideas. However, this can only happen if we understand why the conflict is there in the first place. Once we've identified the root of the problem, we can take the right steps to resolve it.

In this article, we'll look at eight common causes of conflict in the workplace, and we'll explore how you can use them to manage conflict more effectively.

About the Eight Causes

According to psychologists Art Bell and Brett Hart, there are eight common causes of conflict in the workplace. Bell and Hart identified these common causes in separate articles on workplace conflict in 2000 and 2002.

The eight causes are:

  1. Conflicting resources.
  2. Conflicting styles.
  3. Conflicting perceptions.
  4. Conflicting goals.
  5. Conflicting pressures.
  6. Conflicting roles.
  7. Different personal values.
  8. Unpredictable policies.

You can use this classification to identify possible causes of conflict. Once you've identified these, you can take steps to prevent conflict happening in the first place, or you can tailor your conflict resolution strategy to fit the situation.

How to Use the Tool

Let's take a closer look at each of the eight causes of workplace conflict, and discuss what you can do to avoid and resolve each type.

1. Conflicting Resources

We all need access to certain resources – whether these are office supplies, help from colleagues, or even a meeting room – to do our jobs well. When more than one person or group needs access to a particular resource, conflict can occur.

If you or your people are in conflict over resources, use techniques like Win-Win Negotiation or the Influence Model to reach a shared agreement.

You can also help team members overcome this cause of conflict by making sure that they have everything they need to do their jobs well. Teach them how to prioritize their time and resources, as well as how to negotiate with one another to prevent this type of conflict.

If people start battling for a resource, sit both parties down to discuss openly why their needs are at odds. An open discussion about the problem can help each party see the other's perspective and become more empathic about their needs.

2. Conflicting Styles

Everyone works differently, according to his or her individual needs and personality. For instance, some people love the thrill of getting things done at the last minute, while others need the structure of strict deadlines to perform. However, when working styles clash, conflict can often occur.

To prevent and manage this type of conflict in your team, consider people's working styles and natural group roles when you build your team.

You can also encourage people to take a personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs Personality Test or Firo-B. This can help them become more accepting of other people's styles of working, and be more flexible as a result.

3. Conflicting Perceptions

All of us see the world through our own lens, and differences in perceptions of events can cause conflict, particularly where one person knows something that the other person doesn't know, but doesn't realize this.

If your team members regularly engage in "turf wars" or gossip, you might have a problem with conflicting perceptions. Additionally, negative performance reviews or customer complaints can also result from this type of conflict.

Make an effort to eliminate this conflict by communicating openly with your team, even when you have to share bad news. The more information you share with your people, the less likely it is that they will come up with their own interpretations of events.

Different perceptions are also a common cause of office politics. For instance, if you assign a project to one person that normally would be someone else's responsibility, you may unwittingly ignite a power struggle between the two. Learn how to navigate office politics, and coach your team to do the same.

4. Conflicting Goals

Sometimes we have conflicting goals in our work. For instance, one of our managers might tell us that speed is most important goal with customers. Another manager might say that in-depth, high-quality service is the top priority. It's sometimes quite difficult to reconcile the two!

Whenever you set goals for your team members, make sure that those goals don't conflict with other goals set for that person, or set for other people.

And if your own goals are unclear or conflicting, speak with your boss and negotiate goals that work for everyone.

5. Conflicting Pressures

We often have to depend on our colleagues to get our work done. However, what happens when you need a report from your colleague by noon, and he's already preparing a different report for someone else by that same deadline?

Conflicting pressures are similar to conflicting goals; the only difference is that conflicting pressures usually involve urgent tasks, while conflicting goals typically involve projects with longer timelines.

If you suspect that people are experiencing conflict because of clashing short-term objectives, reschedule tasks and deadlines to relieve the pressure.

6. Conflicting Roles

Sometimes we have to perform a task that's outside our normal role or responsibilities. If this causes us to step into someone else's "territory," then conflict and power struggles can occur. The same can happen in reverse - sometimes we may feel that a particular task should be completed by someone else.

Conflicting roles are similar to conflicting perceptions. After all, one team member may view a task as his or her responsibility or territory. But when someone else comes in to take over that task, conflict occurs.

If you suspect that team members are experiencing conflict over their roles, explain why you've assigned tasks or projects to each person. Your explanation could go a long way toward remedying the pressure.

You can also use a Team Charter to crystallize people's roles and responsibilities, and to focus people on objectives.

7. Different Personal Values

Imagine that your boss has just asked you to perform a task that conflicts with your ethical standards. Do you do as your boss asks, or do you refuse? If you refuse, will you lose your boss's trust, or even your job?

When our work conflicts with our personal values like this, conflict can quickly arise.

To avoid this in your team, practice ethical leadership: try not to ask your team to do anything that clashes with their values, or with yours.

There may be times when you're asked to do things that clash with your personal ethics. Our article on preserving your integrity will help you to make the right choices.

8. Unpredictable Policies

When rules and policies change at work and you don't communicate that change clearly to your team, confusion and conflict can occur.

In addition, if you fail to apply workplace policies consistently with members of your team, the disparity in treatment can also become a source of dissension.

When rules and policies change, make sure that you communicate exactly what will be done differently and, more importantly, why the policy is changing. When people understand why the rules are there, they're far more likely to accept the change.

Once the rules are in place, strive to enforce them fairly and consistently.

Although Bell and Hart's Eight Causes of Conflict provide a useful framework for identifying common causes of conflict in the workplace, they don't explore how to deal with conflict. So make sure that you know how to resolve conflict effectively, too.

Key Points

Psychologists Art Bell and Brett Hart identified eight causes of conflict in the early 2000s.

The eight causes are:

  1. Conflicting resources.
  2. Conflicting styles.
  3. Conflicting perceptions.
  4. Conflicting goals.
  5. Conflicting pressures.
  6. Conflicting roles.
  7. Different personal values.
  8. Unpredictable policies.

You can use these to recognize the root cause of conflict between people. In turn, this can help you devise effective conflict resolution strategies, and create a workplace that's not disrupted by tension and disharmony.

Thanks to MindTools / Mind Tools Ltd