Business and organisations, both large and small, have such a variety of personalities working closely with each other day in and day out, it is common to experience difficulties between staff or between staff and management.

As a registered Mediator, I have done a considerable amount of work Mediating within workplace environments.

When I am contacted the issue usually consists of two or more staff unable to work together in the team or a staff member disagreeing with management. When I proceed into the workplace and speak to each of the people individually for their perspective, the differences are often extreme. I would swear they work in completely different environments due to their perception of what is occurring. I also speak to other staff members for their input. You certainly find some of these stories and observations interesting. Many perceptions from both persons vary substantially from what others in the work environment are noticing. The outsiders’ story can be rather different indeed with many work colleagues finding some concern with both person’s behaviour in mishandling their issue which often then affects the rest of the team environment.

When working in a close workplace environment we take on our specified roles. After working in our role for a while we believe we can do our job efficiently and capably. We may not appreciate someone telling us how to do something differently. We certainly do not appreciate a person in the workplace annoying us or not undertaking their job efficiently thereby leaving us to pick up their slack. We may set our standards and expectations at a certain level yet fail to share this expectation and find fault when it disappoints to be met.

What staff should understand and realise that we are there to perform their required duties? At times, we may experience difficulties in our private life, in our partnership or with kids and family. These issues can infringe into the workplace unknowingly and our colleagues may become annoyed with our distant or indifferent behaviour.

It is essential workplace communications are strong, safe and clear. Many workplaces are an extended family to us. We spend considerable time at work, often see and speak with colleagues more than our family, therefore, annoyances you may experience within your home or family life can also occur in the workplace environment.

While we may be excellent at our jobs, exceptional in our management style and outstanding as a leader, we often lack the ability and training of dealing with personal issues within the workplace. This is something management need to learn and master. Being a skilled communicator means having more choices available, and being aware of what those choices are. It also means choosing your words more wisely and listening to what your staff are saying to you. Listening to their words and not reading between the lines can be a challenge for any manager. Managers need to sometimes be a boss and Counsellor. It is important they do not cross over into being a friend as this is thwarted with danger. I am sure many understand the difficulty in a friend type of relationship where one ‘friend’ needs to instruct, direct or discipline the other person. The friendship is challenged and often sours. When we applaud, them it works great however sometimes in a busy work environment, strong levels of leadership are needed.

To help make it a little easier here are some tips to help. Listening is essential for accurate communication and we need to

  • be able to listen to the other person’s needs so that you can help them
  • allow them to feel heard and valued while assisting them to meet their goals
  • listen to become aware of what others are feeling and thinking
  • consider taking notes to show you are engaged in their concerns
  • paraphrase their words back to ensure clarity
  • ask them follow up questions
  • enquire if something is going on outside of work that may be affecting them
  • ask what they need from you or the team to support them

When we display these abilities, we can reduce the issue down to a smaller matter which can often be managed quickly. It can prevent the problem escalating to the stage of intervention. Supporting staff for matters both inside and outside their workplace, promotes unity and trust.

Workplace training to alleviate and understand these type of issues, and connecting with staff appropriately, is an important part of running a successful small business and ensuring happy productive staff.

You can contact Dr Karen if you wish to improve your workplace communication and alleviate any conflict to create a happier and more productive team.

You can read Dr Karen’s article in BusinessBusiness Magazine

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