Friday, 25 November 2011

Douse the fire before calamity

An article on reported that 24 – 60 percent of Human Resource managers’ time are spent dealing with employee dispute. did a survey on 357 human resource managers across all genre of working industries, profit and non-profit alike. Statistics reflected that 98% of HR managers handle conflict at work. Out of which, 81% have seen conflict resulting in employee’s departure and 77% saw it in terms of employee’s absenteeism.

Conflict in the workplace is a distressing reality that can bring about unpleasant and undesirable consequences if left unchecked and allowed to fester. Conflict is unavoidable when you put individuals, from different backgrounds and cultures, together because every individual will undeniably have his own set of mind, ideas and working style. Reasons why conflicts occur can stretch out to the horizon. It could stem from internal factors such as personality, temper or ego that will affect a person’s ability to lead, follow or compromise. It could also be caused by external factors like stress, pressure & health that plays a part in a one’s reaction which will thereby have an overall domino effect.

If you are not embroiled in the conflict, you become the silent watcher. You see the icy stares darting across the room. You feel the tension arising. But you do nothing to alleviate the situation. It is a common notion to avoid trouble by keeping your silence and not intervene. But sometimes the lack of intervention gives the window of opportunity for things to escalate further into a bigger eruption. Conflicts can easily and quickly rage into deadly flames if sparks are not contained earlier in the game. Most of the time, conflict resolutions are necessary to nip a potential conflict in the bud and prevent it from escalating.

One of Sun Tzu’s strategies was to pick battles wisely. Take heed that not every disagreement is worth turning it into a conflict. Usually after the initial cloud of emotions, you would realise how insignificant the issue really is. In other context, you would also realise that heightened emotions often cause us to lose sight of the main topic and unconsciously let our anger stray. By attacking the speaker instead of the problem outwardly displays inability to control emotions which could ultimately lead a small work disagreement into a personal attack. With that said, at the end of the day, you would realise none of the above will work without good communication and listening skills. With communication, using ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ language and avoiding judgmental remarks or sweeping generalization in a speech are more effective ways to communicate and allows for more empathy amongst colleagues. Hearing is easy while active listening isn’t as simple as it seems. It requires focus and intent from the listener and usually accompanied by acknowledgement of speaker’s message as well as the constant restating/reframing of his statement to show comprehension. A talker who feels he has been heard would be less disgruntled even if his idea was not put into use.

It is easy to allow a spark turn into raging flames while it takes five times the effort and amount time to calm raging flames. Should we really spend our time and effort dousing fire or a shorter time and lesser effort to maintain harmony?

Chief Editor: Jeremy Chan 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Making it work like clockwork.

The melting pot has gotten bigger and will only get even bigger as the world goes more global. We are no longer separated by oceans, seas and mountains thereby resulting in the change of nature of our workplace. An organization is no longer a monochromic make-up of employees from the same culture and neighbourhood but a rainbow coloured team of employees from all parts of the world.

It has then never been more important for an organization to have a common language but at the same time it is all the more elusive now.

There are many advantages to having a multicultural organization just as there are many pitfalls if not properly managed. Cultural Awareness is required for multicultural employees within to maximise their potential and productivity.

With a gradually growing diverse genetic make-up of employees comes an increased difference in cultures between the individual employees. Although cross cultural differences do not always cause obvious problems, it is their more subtle manifestations that can and will lead to a lack of clear communication and poor performance. Differences in cultures encompass more than just traditions and beliefs. A person’s cultural background impacts how he acts and behaves. Communication style, attitude towards conflict, approaches to task completion as well as decision making style is all affected by his cultural background.

In a cross cultural environment with conflicting ideals, attitudes and beliefs, there are too many situations where conflict can occur that will significantly lower productivity. Developing people skills for a multicultural workplace requires the emotional, cognitive and practical skills in combination.

Patience & Tolerance:
Even without adding multicultural to the equation an organization is already diverse in its own way with every individual having their own unique working style, beliefs and attitudes. Applying the same patience and tolerance to someone of a different culture easily soothes a difficult situation and turn a potentially rage into harmony.

It is one thing to listen for the sake of listening and listening with interest and committing it to memory. Everyone is busy with mounting amount of workload, practising active listening saves everyone’s time by eliminating the need for repetition. Active listening also ensures that the message sent out is not misinterpreted or misunderstood.

Broaden your minds:
We develop our personality at around the age of seven. Gradually, through experience, we get our beliefs, attitudes ideals etc. It is easy to live in our own bubble and ignore what we can’t comprehend but allowing in perspectives and ideas from someone outside our own culture could unknowingly lead to the missing piece of the puzzle. To grow, we have to break free of our mental chains to allow the influx of greater and more innovative flow of ideas.

Talk like a diplomat:
Like in high school, everyone has their own clique with their own lingo. In an organization, every single employee becomes one to ensure the survival of it. Effective professional communication occurs with mindful and respectful interaction.

Chief Editor: Jeremy Chan

Friday, 11 November 2011

Move, like you mean it.

Have you ever been in a situation where you just could not bring yourself to believe what someone was saying even though what was said was completely believable? Did you just have a feeling that something just doesn’t tally or that something was off? Was it the fidgety hands or the wandering eyes?

The difference between spoken words and the comprehension of it largely comes from nonverbal communication.

These days, people face machines more than they face another human. The modes of communication have increased intensely since a generation ago. This has resulted in a growing reliance of using a medium to transmit messages. In the face of another human, many have forgotten the basics of nonverbal language. How you say what you say. How you sit or stand while saying. It is what gives our words meaning when we speak. They say a picture paints a thousand words. An expression on the face or a slightest movement of where your body is facing tells a story that is not transmittable via a medium.

Different types of body languages are portrayed in everyday situations and they usually occur without the conscious awareness. The various means of nonverbal communication that are used according to the context, sends strong signals that could emphasize or contradict what is being said. By simply observing a person’s nonverbal language alone, you would be able to tell if he was talking to a superior or a colleague. You might also be able to decipher if he has positive or negative feelings towards his communicator.

As most of us are unaware of how our body reacts to certain context. It is often assumed that as long as the right words are carefully chosen and correctly executed, the coast is clear. But it is the nonverbal communication that transmits the clearest message. Non-verbal language will affect how you act and react to others, and how they react to you.

There are two parts to nonverbal language, the body and the voice. Body: Body movements and gestures, that ranges from the legs, hands and head, muscle tension, posture, eye movement, eye contact, skin colouring (pale or flushed), breathing rate and perspiration. Voice: Rate, tone, pitch, volume and timbre of speech all adds to words that used.

By developing keen awareness of the signs and signals of body language, it is easier to project the right message, decipher innuendoes, understand other people, more effectively communicate and react.

Chief Editor: Jeremy Chan

Friday, 4 November 2011

Emotional or Managing it?

In a classroom setting, a child gets reprimanded by his teachers for throwing a fit.

At home, a child either gets a pep talk or disciplinary action from the parents. The child goes to bed and when he wakes up the next day, it is a whole new day. He goes back to school and the incident is put behind until it happens again.

In the office, forgiveness either doesn’t come by easy or doesn’t come at all. The lapse in control of emotions or impulses can cause grave damage to one’s reputation, future and career.

David Goleman, psychologist and award-winning author of Emotional Intelligence, defined Emotional Intelligence (EQ) as a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships

The workplace is a fast paced environment constantly consisting of stress and pressure. Everyone is fighting to keep afloat in the endless pile of work and the mounting pressure and now keeping a lookout of the emotions of others is in the equation? Not only does one have to maintain a high monitor on his emotions, impulses and reactions he has to manage, be in tuned and react accordingly to everyone that he is working with. That is EQ in a nutshell.

It is really not that difficult. Some of it has been inculcated since young. If a child sees another crying child, he passes his own toy in bid to cheer him up. If a child senses his mother’s bad mood, he keeps his silence lest to aggravate it. But of course as a child, when angered, he lashes out without a second thought of the consequence. Adults, on the other hand, are better equipped with the ability to control and rein. It is simply that amidst the harsh money oriented world with so much more distraction, responsibilities and pressure, adults have grown to be less empathising and less inclined to care or be in tuned to emotions of others.

In an organization, there is seldom a one man show. It takes more than just two hands to clap. There is an old saying that goes “Nothing runs better than a well-oiled machine”. If an organization that consists of different parts of a machine is well oiled and meshes together, productivity can only increase.

EQ is a constant conscientious conscious effort on one’s part. It also has to be imparted and shared as knowledge to the rest. It is the making of a great leader.

Editor: JT