Communications Skills Trainer
Understanding the frustration that comes with working with difficult people, Eleanor Shakiba has educated over 50,000 people in the skills of constructive conversation. She has four basic steps to minimise work place conflict.
Imagine you discover that a process fault is impacting your business in the following ways.
Managers are spending 25-40% of their time mopping up problems caused by the fault
- One in ten projects is being delayed
- 25% of your employees are so stressed they are taking days off work
- Workers’ compensation claims have doubled over the last twelve months
You’d take prompt action to sort things out, wouldn’t you? Surprisingly, though, many businesses fail to act when the ‘process fault’ involves breakdowns in communication processes and leads to conflict. Yes. Workplace conflict causes all of the above consequences for business. Fortunately, though, there are four steps you can take to prevent workplace conflict impacting on YOUR bottom-line.
1. Never assume common sense is common
Owners and managers in SMEs often assume their staff have ‘common sense’ and know what acceptable workplace behaviour is. Sadly, this isn’t the case. For example, a team member who grew up in a dysfunctional family may not have learned basic communication skills. This means they might not know how to manage their own emotions, listen respectfully or disagree without becoming aggressive. In this situation, managers and business owners need to close the knowledge gap. Simple ways to do this include:
- Developing a policy which outlines how staff members are expected to behave towards colleagues, clients and suppliers. This should be developed in consultation with a Human Resources professional or legal advisor.
- Briefing new hires on your policy and how it relates to their roles. This should be done within the first week of employment.
- Running regular briefings or training on appropriate workplace behaviour for all staff
2. Train supervisors and managers to nip conflict in the bud
All too often, team conflicts escalate because supervisors and managers avoid handling tough ‘people issues’. This puts your business at risk. You can mitigate this risk by:
- Teaching frontline supervisors to recognise the early signs of conflict
- Providing them with clear guidelines on how to give feedback on disruptive behaviours or ineffective communication patterns
- Providing managers and team leaders with training in basic mediation skills
3. Teach collaborative problem solving skills to all staff
It’s sad but true. Very few children are taught how sort out disagreements collaboratively. This means many adults enter the workplace with poor problem-solving skills. Fortunately, there is something SMEs can do about this, as problem-solving is a teachable skill. It’s often useful to train your entire team together, so that everyone is on the same page about how to address problems constructively. Options for doing this include:
- Running an on-site communication skills workshop (this is the most cost-effective solution when training eight people or more)
- Enrolling all team members in an external course (usually the cheapest option for smaller teams)
- Having managers and supervisors coach their teams in basic problem-solving techniques
4. Run team building activities before they’re ‘needed’
It’s a big mistake to make team-building a reactive move. Once your team is dysfunctional, a one day off-site won’t help. So it pays to get in early. Actively encourage managers and supervisors to get their teams involved in regular team-building activities. These can include:
- Viewing relevant YouTube clips during team meetings
- Celebrating project milestones with a team lunch or morning tea
- Holding annual team planning days
- Scheduling half-day review sessions every three to four months, to hold people accountable for turning their plans into action
By following these four simple steps, you will build a more stable and collaborative workplace. This will result in raised productivity levels, reduced wastage and improved customer perception. So don’t let a communication process fault drain your business. Skill up your people and power up your results.
About the author
Eleanor Shakiba is a communication skills trainer and the author of Difficult People Made Easy. She has trained over 50,000 professionals in the skills of constructive conversation.