Tag Archives: management

Birth Of A Salesman: Why Building Good Client Relationships Will Boost Your Law Firm’s Bottom Line

Try telling a lawyer that—at the core of their work—they’re simply a salesman. Like the shoe shop down the corner or the bookstore around the bed, law firms are in the services industry whether its professionals like it or not.

So when it comes to working with clients, attorneys should take the lead from some of the world’s best salesmen.

Take, for example, John H. Patterson, originator of modern sales training and Founder-CEO of the National Cash Register Company. He fathered the four-step sales process involving (1) initial approach; (2) the proposition; (3) the product demonstration; and (4) closing the deal. Today, lawyers could take a page from his training manual.

Then there is David Ogilvy, advertising executive and sales guru. He once said:

“The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore. Foster any attempt to talk about other things; the longer you stay the better you get to know the prospect, and the more you will be trusted.”

This is why he is responsible for some of the most successful and iconic ad campaigns for major businesses, like Dove, Schweppes, and Ross-Royce. Attorneys should realize bedside manner and trust are as important as building a case when it comes to attracting and retaining clients.

America’s quintessential car salesman, Joe Girard, has one or two things to prove about hard work and persistence in the post-war era. Detroit native and dedicated dealership salesman, Girard once sold 18 cars in a single workday and sold over 13,000 Chevrolets in a 15-year period since 1963.

Finally, look at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The latest data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index reveals Amazon.com remains the reigning and undisputed champion of both Internet retailing and across the entire department in overall customer satisfaction, reports Kevin Baldacci in “7 Customer Service Lessons from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos” for the Salesforce Blog.

“Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient,” according to Bezos.

To bolster this philosophy at Amazon, Bezos used to bring an empty chair into meetings and tell his top executives that the chair represented the customer, “the most important person in the room.”

Even in law, it’s the client who matters most, which is an easy thing to forget in our digital world replete with e-discovery e-filings.

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.”

Bezos’ success in sales has a lot to do with a very generic business principle that recognizes bad dealings in a virtual marketplace has real-world consequences. In the same vein, at a law office, every e-mail, phone call, or correspondence with a client can have disastrous costs if not handled appropriately.

Like Amazon’s customers, law firm clients can be needy, unrealistic, emotional, verbally abusive, and just as confrontational as the standard call center complainer.

So, before you send out a rash response or react negatively, remember that empty chair in the room. In the end, the client matters most. As upsetting as it may be to hear “I want it tomorrow!” “your bill is too high!” or “what do you mean, I can’t do that?” your client creates and destroys your business.

Take care of them and they’ll take care of you, as evinced by the stories in Inc.’s list of the 10 Greatest Salespeople of All Time (here).

So, listen to The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s audio course, “Dealing with Difficult Clients: Proven Strategies to Limit Problems, Avert Disagreements, and Ethically Handle Problem Clients” on Thursday, December 18, 2014, from 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern time, and learn how to handle these situations.

When Bezos caught wind that Amazon customers were stealing digital copies of the books 1984 and Animal Farm, he rashly removed the copies remotely. The backlash from this “Big Brother” act by users was enormous.

Although legally and ethically in the right, Bezos confessed to being in the wrong. He published the statement: “We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.”

Because sometimes apologizing, when sincere, is better for building relationships and business empires than stubbornly defending your practice, legal or otherwise.

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Supervisor Success: Keys to Transitioning from All-Star Player to Hall of Fame Coach

Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini won a lot of games at Nebraska. His record? An honorable 67-27. But, even a win this Friday against Iowa wasn’t enough to save his job.

It’s not easy being supervisor. There’s a big difference between knowing how to play the game and knowing how to coach it.

Bo Pelini knew how to play football. He was free safety for the Buckeyes at Ohio State under College Football Hall of Fame head coaches Earle Bruce and John Cooper from 1987 to 1990. Not only did Pelini start in his last two years, he also served as a team co-captain in his senior year, along with some of football’s finest, Vinnie Clark, Jeff Graham and Greg Frey.

Although hardwork, hustle, and know-how do not necessarily translate to expert coaching, Pelini did have an equally successful career as a National Football League (NFL) scout and coach.

In 1994, Pelini earned his first position in the NFL as a scouting assistant for the San Francisco 49ers head coach George Seifert. Once there, he was quickly promoted to assistant secondary coach, and by the spring of 1994 he was promoted to defensive backs coach (source). In 1995, he helped coach in his first Super Bowl where the 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers 49–26 in Super Bowl XXIX.

But just as sun and snow are polar opposites, the success of Pelini’s program in warm San Diego looked nothing like his experience in wintry Nebraska.

So, now Nebraska is on the market for a new defensive coordinator. Luckily, they are at no loss for choices.

Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldmanpredicts a few candidates: One, Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost, a former Nebraska QB. According to Feldman:

“Frost would fire up a fan base, as he is one of their own (he was even born in Lincoln), while also representing a return to not only the Tom Osborne era of a dominant rushing attack, but it’d be one souped-up thanks to all his time working with Chip Kelly, who is right now the hottest coaching brand in all of football—not just for his offense but for his entire innovative approach to all facets of the game.”

In fact, a few of Feldman’s choices, like Minnesota’s Jerry Kill and Wyoming’s Craig Bohl, come from a climate and style similar to that of Nebraska.

Because when it comes to tricky supervisory transitions, culture and climate play a large role.

Law firm management is just as touchy as coaching football. There are high stakes, you have to manage the players’ egos, and clients can be fair-weather fans.

Bo Pelini serves as a great example for law firm managers of what challenges lay in the wake of a promotion. A newly hired or promoted supervisor must:

  • Make the transition from team player to take-charge leader
  • Improve performance in people who aren’t used to you being the boss
  • Avoid common mistakes and problems that sabotage new supervisors (like being too strict or too lax)
  • Handle even the most difficult employee conversations and situations, even firings

One thing is for sure. Whoever takes Pelini’s place will have a plan preparing for this transition. Whether it’s a meet-and-greet session, strict diet and training regimen, or tough-love approach starting from the first huddle.

Law firm managers should do the same. Decide what kind of attitude is most effective. Be prepared for tough conversations, including talking notes for how to approach them. Set goals for employees and decide how to communicate them.

Finally, it’s important to know how to motivate your team—and it won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.

Seen from the outside, Pelini’s record is respectable. But, when the going got tough, Pelini’s program didn’t get going. His record is only 9-16 against Top-25 opponents, and—worse still—only 2-8 in his last 10 games against ranked teams.

It’s when pressure was building and the stakes were at their highest that Nebraska folded. And, yes, the boss gets the blame.

It’s tough to be supervisor. So, make a game plan.

Need help? Here’s a start. The Center For Competitive Management’s audio course “New Supervisor Success: Keys to Transitioning from All-Star Player to Hall of Fame Coach.”

During this power-packed event, you will explore the most important aspects of your multi-faceted supervisor role, and learn key techniques and practices to help you better delegate, motivate, plan, and coach employees for success.

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Shedding Light On “Dark Data”: Answers For Academics & Attorneys

It was a happy day (for coffee drinkers) when a 1981 New England Journal of Medicine article, which published a Harvard study linking drinking coffee with pancreatic cancer, was finally double-checked and deemed bunk.

Bunk science is the term generally used when studies—even those meticulously conducted by prestigious academics—go array. When they show positive, but anomalous results.

Sometimes, as with the Harvard study, correlations are considered causation, which—we all know–confuses fiction for fact.

The existence of bunk science, however, is perhaps a positive thing. Medical studies don’t always have publishable or even particularly interesting results. But, the fact remains, they’re being conducted.

The same applies to the social sciences, where large datasets of findings often have no immediate, practical use. The key word here being “immediate.” It’s possible that one day, a new idea or new research direction could make use of such big data. So, why not hang on to it?

Well, unfortunately, big data is both costly to collect and costly to store. In 2007, the world watched Google create an unprecedented step in storage with its Palimpsest project, which offered to store and–better yet–share gigantesque data sets.

For the first time, academics had a way to preserve and perhaps reuse old data. And Google was participating in the name of science.

Sadly, the very next year, Google abandoned the project, citing financial cut-backs.

“As you know, Google is a company that promotes experimentation with innovative new products and services. At the same time, we have to carefully balance that with ensuring that our resources are used in the most effective possible way to bring maximum value to our users,” wrote Robert Tansley of Google on behalf of the Google Research Datasets team to its internal testers, reports Open Access News.

“It has been a difficult decision, but we have decided not to continue work on Google Research Datasets, but to instead focus our efforts on other activities such as Google Scholar, our Research Programs, and publishing papers about research here at Google.”

Scientific research without corporate agenda is rare. And if the financial crisis of 2008 had another victim, it was the trend of setting dark data free.

Dark data is the term applied to all those unused datasets: the ones that are collecting digital dust on somebody’s virtual shelf.

According to Thoams Goetz for Wired Magazine, however, “Technology is actually the simple part.”

“The tougher problem,” Goetz writes, “lies in the culture of science. More and more, research is funded by commercial entities, which deem any results proprietary. And even among fair-minded academics, the pressures of time, tender, and tenure can make openness an afterthought. If their research is successful, many academics guard their data like Gollum, wringing all the publication opportunities they can out of it over years. If the research doesn’t pan out, there’s a strong incentive to move on, ASAP, and a disincentive to linger in eddies that may not advance one’s job prospects.”

Law firm professionals are especially sensitive to this culture—where all information is precious and proprietary.

Luckily, in science, there’s renewed hope.

“There are some islands of innovation. Since 2002, the Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicinehas offered a peer-reviewed home to results that go negative or against the grain. Earlier this year, the journal Nature started Nature Precedings, a Web-based forum for prepublication research and unpublished manuscripts in biomedicine, chemistry, and the earth sciences,” reports Goetz for Wired.

“At Drexel University, chemist Jean-Claude Bradley practices ‘open notebook’ science—chronicling his lab’s work and sharing data via blog and wiki.”

Researchers and scientists are trying to keep data from disappearing into the dark. But, for law firm professionals, the need for dark data is dubious.

When should dark data be deleted? When should it be kept? What makes this material a potential liability, and when does that liability outweigh the potential benefits of keeping this material?

These are all questions that law firm managers should be asking, alongside legal IT departments.

Unmanaged, uncategorized content is lurking in your enterprise. This legacy data sits unmanaged and unknown in email repositories and file shares, and presents an added challenge for eDiscovery or investigations. A lack of control when it comes to ‘dark data’ can result in data spoliation, and increased collection, processing, and eDiscovery review costs.

By shrinking the dark data abyss, counsel can dramatically reduce costs and risks during litigation and government investigation. So why isn’t every GC doing it? Because dark data management is confusing, and knowing what to delete and what to keep is no easy task.

You’re not alone. The Center for Competitive Management offers a course on Wednesday, September 24, 2014, from 2pm to 3:15pm EST on “Dark Data: GC’s Guide to Identifying, Managing and Defensibly Disposing of Unmanaged Data.

During this interactive session, you will learn:

  • What ‘dark data’ is, and how it raises eDiscovery costs
  • How to create a compelling business case for data handling that is consistent with the business environment
  • What makes an information governance strategy legally defensible
  • And much more!

Sign up here.

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Don’t Be The Best, Just Better: Lessons From Obama To Law Firms About Measures Of Success

The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows unemployment at just 6.1 percent—the lowest since 2007. This means President Obama outperformed Reagan on jobs growth and investing, reports Forbes.

This is great news. But in a way you may not expect.

A study by researchers at the University of Warwick and Cardiff University found that money only makes people happier when they perceive this money as being higher than their friends and colleagues. In a nutshell, people are only happy when they’re doing better than others.

“Our study found that the ranked position of an individual’s income best predicted general life satisfaction, while the actual amount of income and the average income of others appear to have no significant effect,” said lead researcher Chris Boyce about his findings in the paper “Money and Happiness: Rank of Income, Not Income, Affects Life Satisfaction” published in the journal Psychological Science.

“Earning a million pounds a year appears to be not enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn 2 million a year.”

So when it comes to unemployment numbers, Americans are less satisfied to know that an additional 2.5 million new jobs will be created in 2014, or that 142,000 jobs were created last month alone. These are just numbers, not statistics.

Americans are only happy if they discover this year is better than the year before it. And, while this decade will never outperform the last, the 2000s-2010s could have the 1970s-1980s beat.

In the 1980s, President Reagan dealt with a recession much like the one President Obama is grappling with today, which is why the two are so often compared.

“President Reagan has long been considered the best modern economic President. So we compared his performance dealing with the oil-induced recession of the 1980s with that of President Obama and his performance during this ‘Great Recession.’” said Bob Deitrick, CEO of Polaris Financial Partners and author of Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box, to Adam Hartung for Forbes.

And what did the comparison show? President Obama’s job creation prevented unemployment from peaking at as high a level as President Reagan, pushing people into the workforce faster than President Reagan.

“President Obama has achieved a 6.1% unemployment rate in his sixth year, fully one year faster than President Reagan did. At this point in his presidency, President Reagan was still struggling with 7.1% unemployment, and he did not reach into the mid-low 6% range for another full year. So, despite today’s number, the Obama administration has still done considerably better at job creating and reducing unemployment than did the Reagan administration.”

Which is great news for those who are keeping score—and studies show, we are all, consciously or not, keeping score.

Taking the lesson of comparative gains into account, law firm managers might consider reassessing some of their policies of business practices. For example, you may not be able to offer bonuses to employees this year, but perhaps you can offer comparatively better benefits (that cost your firm less to offer).

Clients may not care as much about the price per hour for your legal expertise as much as the fact that it is comparatively lower than your closest competitor.

Last year, two-thirds of law firm revenue involved flat rates and other “alternative fee arrangements” or pre-negotiated discounts to billable hours. What are these discounts, and can your firm offer comparatively better ones?

The Center for Competitive Management offers a webinar that explores the latest tools and approaches that law firms are using to set prices that are fair, collaborative, and align firm pricing with client-defined value.

This means providing a comparative advantage when you can’t provide an absolute one.

Sign up for the webinar titled “Law Firm Pricing: Developing a Pricing Capability, Negotiating Fees, and Locking in Clients,here. It takes place from 2:00pm to 3:15pm EST on Thursday, September 25, 2014.

During this interactive session, you will learn real-life strategies as employed by top pricing managers/directors in the field, including:

  • What clients really want from firms in terms of value and pricing (and how to deliver)
  • The latest pricing practices at top firms and how they might work for you
  • How to assure that pricing and overall firm strategy intersect (and make fiscal sense)
  • Why project management data is essential for developing successful pricing
  • Latest Alternative Fee Arrangements trends in 2014, and how legal AFAs have changed in the last five years
  • Factors to consider before your firm brings in a pricing director/manager (and what to do with them once they arrive)
  • A day in the life of a pricing manager: responsibilities, who they should report to, etc.
  • Getting Started: steps your firm can take today to begin a pricing culture reinvention
  • Top five pricing mistakes and how your firm can avoid them
  • Much more…

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Success, A State Of Mind & 5 Things To Make You Better At Your Job Today!

Being “successful” is a state of mind. It doesn’t matter if you feel overlooked by your boss, underestimated by your colleagues, or even underprepared for the work required. There’s only one person who is stopping you from succeeding today: y-o-u.

Just can’t manage to get ahead?

Always feel like you’re behind?

Feeling too old for the job at hand?

Reframe your mindset today with these five simple steps and see better performance instantly:

1. Know your best asset

Everybody has one asset by which they excel. Perhaps you’re a quick writer. Maybe you’re a “people person.” Whatever that skill is, hone it (and own it!).

Make yourself indespensible for this asset. For example, if you have a great personality for handling and selling new business to the firm, ask to be a part of business development. Go out and find new clients just by being your best personable self.

Are you good with computers? Interact with the IT department and pitch new software or tech ideas to improve the efficiency of your firm’s practice.

Write down your talent on a sticky note and look at it everyday. Reminding yourself brings a can-do attitude, even when the hump of Wednesday is hard to get over.

2. Make daily task lists

Some people think lists are a waste of time. You know exactly what you need to do today, why waste valuable billable hours on a list?

Lists help everyone organize their daily activies by importance. It’s not enough to understand the tasks, you must also seperate those that are urgent and those that are not. Associates often start their day with easy tasks–the ones you can do quickly. It feels great to cross them off your list, right?

Wrong. Start your day with the most urgent tasks. This way you’ll stop procrastinating and start prioritizing.

3. Create (and complete) one goal a day

Now that you know what your daily tasks are, look at your schedule and make a goal for the day. Don’t make broad, long-term goals like, you will finish that brief or file that motion.

Focus on immediate issues that are manageable for the day. For example, you will finally schedule a group meeting about a client matter. Or, you will read and then respond to each of your emails (that you’ve let sit for a few days already).

By creating and comleting one simple goal each day, you will find you go home more satisfied with your performance, which is vital to job satisfaction.

4. Take care of your personal items

Yes, just like it’s important to complete one professional goal each day, it’s important to fulfill a personal one, as well.

Find the time at lunch or before 9am to take care of a personal matter–whether it’s finally organizing childcare for the weekend or looking up the time for a spin class at your gym for after work. 

It’s difficult to concentrate on work when there are personal tasks hanging over your head. By taking the time out of work to carry out a personal task, you will go to the office refreshed and refocused. You will also have something to look forward to later–a night out with friends, dinner with a spouse, or an overdue restful, child-free weekend!

5. Grow as a professional

Yes, you’ve organized your agenda, created a managable work-life balance, and gone home with a sense of pride in your work for the day. But, what skills or talents have your developed to become a better you in the future?

Just like you should be aware of your own natural abilities to succeed, you should be aware of your shortcomings, too. Work on areas where you’re weakest. Say, making use of technology available at your firm, or communicating with subordinate employees. Maybe you haven’t tried to improve on those things pointed out to you in your last professional evalutation.

Learn a new language. Get certified in a new technical skill. Attend a professional conference in your free time on behalf of your firm.

Today, do something new in order to grow into the best you tomorrow.

Are you a law firm manager who needs to get this message about employee empowerment across to your troops?

Do you face unimaginable pressure to streamline costs, improve profitability, and do more work with fewer employees?

In order to be successful in today’s harried corporate culture, you need to master the critical skills and competencies required for building and maintaining a productive and profitable workplace. Productivity is a powerful tool, that when harnessed correctly can help you address daily stressors, improve cooperation, complete tasks on-time, and sharpen your company’s competitive edge. Sign up now for The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s audio course on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 from 3pm EST to 4:15pm EST:

Smart Manager’s Guide to Building a Productive Workplace: 10 Proven Strategies to Boost Personal and Employee Productivity

This interactive, practical and effective event, explores 10 proven tips to boost personal and employee productivity. During this information-packed session, you will learn how to: Build a workplace atmosphere that encourages cooperation, productivity,Better enable employees to do their work, without excessive oversight, andRemove common obstacles that prevent productivity. Learn more about it here.

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Get A Better Boss By Being A Better Employee: Strategies To Combat Office Favoritism

At home, parents play favorites. In the office, bosses do, too. But being the boss doesn’t have to mean being a bully.

Employers can’t help but judge a person on personality (in addition to skillset, ability, or pedigree). And, those associates who have more in common in terms of sports teams, school mascots, hobbies, and family will likely form de facto alliances at the firm. Problems arise when those alliances form between a boss and a subordinate. As a result, other—often equally capable—employees receive less praise, less attention, and less interesting work.

Unsurprisingly, this idea is more than a suspicion. Data from a recent study, conducted by a leadership development consultancy and published by the Harvard Business Review Blog, confirms that there is such a thing as the boss’s favorites.

“And while, in any disagreement we inevitably find both parties bear part of the fault—that is, the disgruntled employees do certainly play some role in their own unhappiness—we consistently found in the analysis that their complaints were justified,” writes Joseph Folkman for the HBR Blog in the article, “Are You Creating Disgruntled Employees?

“Their managers were in fact treating the disgruntled employee differently than they treated their very satisfied employees.”

Surprisingly, however, both managers and employees can get back in one another’s good graces once again. With a few changes in behavior and attitude, managers can boost the performance of their most disgruntled associates.

In turn, disgruntled associates do play a role in their own happiness at work. Become the boss’s new favorite by increasing open and honest communication. Leaders in the office, according to the aforementioned study, need to:

1. Encourage employees more.

The study focused on the six percent of people in the database of 160,576 employees who displayed the lowest levels of job satisfaction and commitment on their 360 evaluations of their bosses. When this six percent was asked to name the skill that they thought was most important for their boss to demonstrate, the top response was “Inspire and motivate others.”

From a manager’s perspective, it’s far more rewarding to focus on the career development of the most receptive and happy employees in the bunch. Working over and over to inspire those who have poor attitudes or performance feels draining. In fact, negative attitudes tend to be contagious.

However, it’s for this reason that leaders need to work harder to encourage any disgruntled associates. Ignoring the problem will just compound it and increases employee dissatisfaction. What’s more, the aforementioned study indicates that when bosses treat their disgruntled employees like everyone else—as if they show equal promise—the employees’ performance and behavior quickly improves.

2. Take an interest in associate development.

“If a person works hard and gets a pay check he has a job. But if a person works hard, gets a pay check, and learns a new skill, she has a career,” sagely writes Folkman.

Bosses play favorites when they focus career development strategies solely on the high-potential associates. Unfortunately, everyone else is left to drown in their wake. Call these employees underachievers, disgruntled, inept. But, the reality is your firm is a team. If you expect the worst from your associates, you’ll get it.

Take interest in the career development of every employee. You’ll create a more well-rounded legal team, as well as dispel any rumors that you play favorites. Becoming a beloved leader will inspire more productivity and happiness among subordinates.

From these conclusions, disgruntled employees—or, at least, those associates who are not among the boss’s favorites—ought to:

3. Listen to other associates.

There may be a reason you are not among the boss’s favorites. You are that underperformer, underachiever, and generally disgruntled employee.

Have you heard people say you have a bad attitude? Do other employees tend to bypass your office whenever they’re looking to discuss last night’s ball game? Listen to what other associates are talking about. If your personal interests hold you back from being the favorite, it’s time to weigh in.

“Managers go to lunch more with people they like, our data show; they talk with them more socially (about children, sports, etc); they know them more personally. This is natural, surely, but so are the feelings of exclusion it creates among the less favored,” Folkman explains about the study results.

“A small effort by managers to spread their attention around more broadly can go a long way here.”

And, a small effort by employees to endear their managers can also go a long way.

4. Give feedback, in addition to taking it gracefully.

It turns out, a major complaint of the bottom six percent of the study was that bosses did not give them honest feedback. Instead, bosses wrote “You’re coming along fine,” or other innocuous comments in regard to performance. When you find yourself faced with a disingenuous review—or even just a generic one—ask questions. Seek further feedback. Not only will your boss perceive this as a increased interest in the job, but she will also likely appreciate your honesty and return it.

But, that being said, be prepared for negative remarks. Listen and accept gracefully. Then, ask how you can improve. Furthermore, give feedback about your boss’s leadership skills. Ask for more one-on-one mentorship. Don’t wait for an anonymous study to show that they play favorites–let them know you’d like to be one by seeking more work responsibility and building trust.

This year, make favoritism by your boss work to your favor.

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Does Your Office Feel Like A War-zone? How To Successfully End Inter-Office Conflict

Nobody likes inter-office conflict—whether it’s disagreement between two employees or disagreement with a manager. Without resolving conflicts quickly, however, they can fester. Before you know it, the office feels like a war-zone and you’re looking for a cease-fire.

There are three major types of inter-office conflict, according to Ben Rabon in an article for weLEAD online magazine: (1) disputes over task responsibility; (2) disputes over how something should be done; and (3) disputes related to personality and work styles.

Because conflicts can lead to lower productivity, firms should work quickly to resolve disputes.

Your firm should have informal preferences and formal policies regarding employee reporting of workplace disputes.

First, it may sound counter-intuitive, but communicate your preferences, as a manager, for internal conflict management. For example, if two of your employees are in disagreement over task responsibility or how a task should be done, tell all of your employees that you prefer they work it out amongst themselves first.

In the event these two employees cannot reach an agreement, invite them to send you a joint e-mail, for example, explaining the situation. By expressing your preference for a joint e-mail, you are tacitly discouraging your employees from writing you numerous e-mails regarding the same topic or complaining about their peer.

In addition, by writing a joint e-mail, you are also encouraging these two employees to collaborate and cooperate—if only on a two-line memo—which is, after all, the root of their initial problem.

If this process breaks down, and these two employees are at such odds in terms of personality or working style that they cannot craft a simple e-mail, then it may be time for formal intervention. This is where formal policies regarding employee disagreement should be circulated.

These policies are generally straightforward in terms of written notice, formal meeting with a manager, and a note placed in personnel files. At this point you may need to make use of some conflict resolution skills. Rabon suggests the following five mediation steps:

  1. Air all viewpoints from both sides
  2. Clarify the problem and the interests involved
  3. Brainstorm solutions with both parties
  4. Help both sides reach agreements
  5. Be aware of your own bias and do not let it affect your ability to remain impartial

In many conflict resolution situations, the parties simply want to be heard. So, it’s important to be a good listener. Once all opinions are voiced, you are able—as a manager—to implement a solution and assign tasks how you see fit.

Don’t forget to explain your logic behind the decisionmaking.

Paradoxically, a recent study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that showing people extreme versions of their own ideas that confirmed (not contradicted) their opinions on a divisive subject actually led them to reconsider their stance. Simply put, by showing somebody that you agree with their opinion, it may actually make them more receptive of opposite points of view.

In this study, led by Eran Halperin, a psychologist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, researchers recruited over 150 Israelis and exposed half of them to video clips that related the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to viewpoints that the Israelis valued. Instead of trying to persuade the Israelis to change their opinion, they showed the study participants video clips consistent with their already established viewpoint.

“For example, the fact that they are the most moral society in the world is one of the most basic beliefs of Israeli society,” Halperin said to the Los Angeles Times. But, when researchers showed participants a video that claimed Israel should continue the conflict so that its citizens could continue to feel moral, people reacted angrily.

“You take people’s most basic beliefs and turn them into something that is absurd.”

The participants did not enjoy watching the clips, but, after numerous rounds of exposure over a period of months, participants’ attitudes on common political narratives, like the idea that Palestinians bear responsibility for continuing the conflict, softened considerably.

In the months leading up to the 2013 Israeli elections, participants reported almost a 30 percent increase in their willingness to reevaluate their position compared with participants in the control group. This shift persisted even a year after the study concluded, reports the L.A. Times.

In conflict, when you tell a person he or she is wrong, or try to convince them of your divergent point of view, you are often met with resistance. People become defensive when their ideas are questioned and can even become more extreme in their views of the same subject once challenged.

Although inter-office conflicts are far from being as divisive as Israeli-Palestinian politics, some of the same conflict resolution ideas may apply. When you disagree with one of your employees, try adopting their point of view first. See if you can’t get them to be more flexible on their own before you dictate your opposite personal agenda.

People just want to feel heard. And, most people are open to compromise. What they lack, however, is direction, management, and even a little compassion in this mediation process.

Interested in knowing more strategies to end inter-office conflict? Take The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course: Conflict, Criticism & Sensitive Subjects: How to Successfully Address Tough Topics at Work.

In this “how-to” webinar, you will learn specific strategies for:

  • Complaining to your boss (or about your boss)
  • Giving constructive feedback to colleagues
  • Bringing up those “sensitive” issues that people are afraid to mention
  • Why you need different “road maps” for bosses, coworkers, & employees
  • Seven questions you must answer to prepare for a difficult conversation
  • How to avoid surprises by “getting inside the head” of the other person

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