WorkPeace: The Cold Hard Message

Everyone seems to have a story about an email/IM/Tweet/Instagram/Snap they received that set them back on their heels. Some very funny messages are sent with unintended consequences. Social media can be a great tools and have been the catalyst for many changes in the work place. They all have some short comings that make it necessary to use caution in sending a message.

Using them does allow us to get our thoughts to someone very quickly. This may be the problem. We tend not to re-read what we are about to send off and generally we do not stop to think how the message may be received.

What is missing is that we do not have a reliable way of conveying our true intentions (emojis may well convey a false or flippant emotion).

We need to be clear in what we say and how we say it.

This may take a bit more time when you write the message, however it will avoid multiple emails and a lot more time to correct a misinterpreted message.

This is a two-way street  – which means that as a recipient of unclear messages we should err on the side of caution and give the benefit of the doubt to the sender.  You can always ask for clarification of the message to ensure that you have a solid understanding of what is being asked or stated.  This will help you to make a fully informed decision as to whether you can comply with or make a sound response to what has been stated. We need to be just as vigilant in our response, knowing how words can seem cold or harsh in a response.

Here are some quick steps to help avoid conflict in messaging:

  1. Know your intention.
  2. Take a moment to consider the impact
  3. If you are unclear about the message, ask questions

If you are the sender, make sure that your message is clear and non-threatening.

If you are the receiver, make sure you understand what is being stated or asked.  When in doubt, ask for clarification.

This all seems simple, however at the pace of the workplace these days, one needs to be aware that mistakes can happen quickly and we all need to do what we can to prevent conflict whenever possible.

Dan Williams
Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams is a Mediate BC Civil Roster mediator. Based in Kamloops, Dan provides conflict management and mediation to unionized and non-union workplaces, the construction industry, for insurance claims, and more. Find out more at wmscanada.com.

 

This post is part of Mediate BC’s WorkPeace series: mediator tips for addressing workplace conflict effectively.

5 Podcasts for Mediators this Winter Break

I am a bit of a podcast junkie. I currently subscribe to more podcasts than I can listen to in an average week. This means I always look forward to time when I can catch up!

Reading this I imagine you scratching your head thinking what is a podcast? and what has this got to do with mediation? Well, a podcast is a series of web-distributed audio (or video) files to portable media players (like an iPhone). Basically, they’re like radio show episodes you can download and play when you want.

They are an excellent way to choose content and access a great deal of material that will encourage reflective practice and offer helpful tools. It is easy to find a number of podcasts that use different formats (narrative, interview/dialogue, monologue) to suit your listening preference. Podcasts also have their own communities that engage in further discussion on social media as well.

It’s never been easier to access thought provoking content! Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Music (or through any fine podcast app).

To change things up from the winter break reading lists we see this time of year, I offer you a listening list.

Top 5 Podcasts for Mediators

Here are my top 5 podcast recommendations for mediators to listen to over the winter break (and subscribe to for future episodes):

5. The Turnaround!

The Turnaround!Interviewers, interviewed. The Turnaround is a new show about our greatest living interviewers, hosted by Jesse Thorn and produced by Maximum Fun and Columbia Journalism Review. Featuring conversations with prominent interviewers about their careers and their craft, the show is a perfect resource for a new generation of storytellers and journalists. You’ll hear Jesse speak with Larry King, Terry Gross, Werner Herzog, Audie Cornish, and so many more!

Want to learn more about interviewing and asking effective questions? This is the podcast for you. Jesse Thorn chats with some amazing interviewers about how they interview. It’s a great way to spend some time reflecting on how we as mediators engage with clients and go about asking all sorts of questions, and the different ways they prepare. A great opportunity to peek behind the curtain.
Episodes are about 60mins+.

Get a taste of The Turnaround:
Brooke Gladstone

 

4. Overthinking Conflict

Overthinking ConflictExploring the business, skills and styles of peacemaking. Our goals are to have interesting conversations, delve into the hard edges of conflict resolution and support developing practitioners like ourselves.

Each week, Overthinking Conflict explores a different aspect of peacemaking. Overall, there is a great deal of variety in the interviewees and breadth to their approaches and contexts to peacemaking. The hosts have different worldviews and approaches to their peacemaking practices which makes the conversations with guests all the more enjoyable and accessible.  Alright, full disclosure time. I co-host this podcast with Amanda Semenoff.
Episodes are about 25mins.

Get a taste of Overthinking Conflict:
Curiosity for Better Holidays with Kathy Taberner and Kirsten Taberner Siggins

 

3. Invisibilia

InvisibiliaInvisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted by Hanna Rosin, Alix Spiegel, and Lulu Miller, Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.

I love how Invisibilia links scientific research and storytelling. It really makes for some engaged listening and a way to learn more about human behaviour. Many of the topics explored are particularly relevant to conflict resolution: fear, emotions, culture, perception and more. A bonus is that the stories translate well to retelling with clients to encourage self-reflection.
Episodes are about 60mins.

Get a taste of Invisibilia:
Frame of Reference

2. The Space Between

The Space Between with Dr. Tammy LenskiThe Space Between is about getting better results from your most difficult and important conversations. Award-winning mediator, executive coach, and conflict resolution teacher Dr. Tammy Lenski shares practical strategies for resolving conflict and tension in high-priority relationships at work and home.

Tammy offers up short and highly useful tools in her podcast that are easy to work into your own practice. Each episode breaks down a tool or concept to make it easy to integrate into your own toolbox. She also couches the episodes in personal and relatable stories. If you are looking for specific skills and tools, this is definitely the podcast for you.
Episodes are about 5-10mins.

Get a taste of The Space Between:
The question that ends hamster wheel debates

 

1. Hidden Brain

Hidden BrainA conversation about life’s unseen patterns. Hosted by social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, Hidden Brain links research from psychology and neurobiology with findings from economics, anthropology, and sociology, among other fields. The goal of Hidden Brain isn’t merely to entertain, but to give you insights to apply at work, at home and throughout your life.

The storytelling is well crafted and sensitive with social science research woven in to support and sometimes challenge our expected reactions to a story. Social science research is made not only accessible, but thoroughly understandable. The occasional stopwatch science segments is a fun, rapid-fire presentation of research on certain topics between host Shankar Vedantam and author Dan Pink. Each episode will inform and entertain.

The topics do range a fair bit, however this is probably the podcast that encourages me to reflect  on my own practice and what is happening for those in conflict the most.
Episodes are about 40-60mins.

Get a taste of Hidden Brain:
Tunnel Vision

Are you already an avid podcast fan? What shows are in your feed?
Share them in the comments below!

I hope you find a podcast of interest in this short list. Part of the fun is exploring and finding new podcasts that speak to you. Happy listening!

C.D. SaintC.D. Saint is a Sr. Coordinator with Mediate BC’s Roster Program where he promotes mediation and helps facilitate new conversations within the conflict resolution community around processes, roles and more. He co-hosts the Overthinking Conflict podcast, mediates and volunteers with the North Shore Restorative Justice Society.

Photo by Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash

Workplace Investigations: Avoid Them Through Better Planning and Processes

Investigations into workplace bullying and harassment can be expensive not only in the outlay and diversion of resources, but also in their overall effect on workplace culture, trust, retention, absenteeism and “presenteeism”, etc. In fact, as Gray and Marshall report, “Investigations are a significant investment, so be honest up front: if resources are not available, the HR group risks over-reaching, and the damage of a botched investigation can be greater than the original complaint.”[1]

Despite all of the information, training and regulations about bullying and harassment available to organizations, are investigations still happening so frequently?

Several HR professionals that we have worked with have told us that when unhappy employees have no other resources or processes to follow, and don’t feel comfortable speaking up, they will file a bullying or harassment complaint because their employer can’t ignore it. While there are very legitimate bullying and harassment issues that require appropriate attention, we also know that many of these complaints can relate more to general workplace conflict, can be managed in a more productive manner, and even prevented.

Conflict in any environment is inevitable, and in the workplace, where we spend a huge amount of time interacting with co-workers, managers, clients, etc., it can be both frequent and especially destructive.  By putting a workplace conflict management program in place, employers can prevent the worst effects of conflict and manage what does arise effectively.

Consider the difference:

An employee in a company that has no explicit system in place, and perhaps a culture where conflict is avoided, will generally either leave or work in a less than effective manner. If they stay and decide to take action, and if their problem with others can even remotely be framed as bullying and harassment, they will often follow the path available to them under the relevant WorkSafeBC regulations. Since the investigative process is rarely pleasant for anyone involved, this is likely to lead to an expensive and unhappy outcome all around. The overall approach is defensive and reactive.

 

An employee in a company with a conflict management program in place, first of all, likely has received training in conflict management skills and works for a manager who is trained in the conflict management skills important in leadership. The workplace culture allows for people to speak up about problems without retribution. If the manager is unable to help resolve the problem, then the manager or the HR team is trained to assess, or has access to someone who can assess the situation and steer it to the most effective resources and/or process. The overall approach is open and proactive.

There are skilled investigators available who can approach this process in the healthiest manner possible, and can help everyone achieve the best possible outcome. However, what is healthier for the workplace overall, and therefore for the business itself, is a well-planned, communicated and established program where investigation is only one of many possible tools, and is only used when appropriate.

Conflict is expensive. We can help.

Contact us at 604-684-1300 x200 (or toll-free 1-877-656-1300 x200) to find out how we can design and operate or support a workplace conflict management program for your organization.

[1] Gray, H. and Marshall, G. Investigation is the New Arbitration. PeopleTalk, Spring 2017.

Conflict is expensive. We can help. Visit us at HRMA Conference & Tradeshow 2017