Tackling Employee Tensions

A reader writes:Conflict Resolution

Dear, Anita,

I am having trouble resolving a conflict between two employees in my office. The tension has been mounting and appears to just be getting worse as each day passes. How can I face this problem head on and arrive at an acceptable solution for both parties?

Dear Trouble Tackler,

Personality conflicts and disagreements are bound to arise in the workplace. As a manager or supervisor, you must be prepared with the tools and knowledge to resolve uncomfortable conflict that is brought to your attention at the office. It would be so much easier to sweep the issues under the rug and hope that they just disappear, but the longer you wait to dispel the tensions, the larger the problem can and will become.

First and foremost, make it very clear that you are a neutral party and that it is best to have a human resources representative present during any and all discussions. This can be helpful down the road in case termination or suspension may be needed to end the conflict. Select a room that is away from other employees and where distractions will be limited.

To get the ball rolling on resolving the workplace conflict, you need to call a meeting with all of the parties involved and gather as many facts and evidence as possible. Hearsay and “he said, she said” will not be of any use in these situations. Encourage the people involved to use “I feel” language versus “You do/did” Conflict Resolvedverbiage and coach them to listen to each other’s feelings. Once feelings are presented on both sides, get down to what the root issues are that are causing this “possible” negativity. To lighten the air in the room, it may be helpful to ask both parties to evaluate and share what they view are positives in their working relationship.

Next, ask both parties what actions they are willing to take to change the situation and what they would like to see changed in the behavior of the other person. Each person must accept responsibility for part of the dispute in order to move forward proactively. You want to develop a win-win solution that has the highest rate of a successful outcome.

For a few more quick tips, check out  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Resolving Conflict in the Workplace quick guide online.

I personally enjoyed this video by The Ninja Leadership Academy. View it here or see the video below:

I hope these steps will be helpful for you during your first conflict resolution adventure. Please, readers, share any extra tips and tricks that you have used with positive results!

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Best of Luck,
Anita

Rules for Requesting R and R

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita,

I am looking into taking a vacation this fall with my husband to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. For the dates we want to travel, I will need to take off 5 days from work. I am always nervous to ask for time off for appointments so a whole week has become very daunting. What can I do to ease my stress and get the time off with my hubby?

Dear Getaway Gal,

Every once in a while, you may run across the need to ask your boss for some time off from work. We all need a few days off to spend with family and friends, or a week off to celebrate an anniversary, or just some time away from work to recharge our batteries.  For some people, this is stress free and a no-brainer; for others, it can be full of anxiety and nervousness.

Couple_On VacationTo start, it is always best to present your request in writing. Many companies will have a template available for you, but if not, you can create your own or use a template such as this one provided by Microsoft Office. Fill this form out with your signature and date, and ask that your supervisor do the same, noting his or her approval or rejection. It will be helpful in case a discrepancy arises and your time off is contested.

Before you ask for time off, make sure you are prepared to answer any questions that may arise during the discussion with your boss. Evaluate and understand the current status of projects and your general workload.  Be mindful of the impact that your absence may have on your work and on those on your team.

Reassure your manager that you are prepared to take on any negative impacts that may arise as a result of your time off. It would be helpful to work out a plan with a co-worker to assist you when you are gone in exchange for helping them in the future. Try your best to come up with a great solution or an acceptable alternative course of action for issues that may occur Suitcaseswhile you are away.

Be aware of the amount of time that your employer has allotted you for vacation/sick days. Typically, it is not an issue for an employee to take time off as long as it is covered by the time given in your employment contract. If your need exceeds this amount, be prepared to explain clearly why you need extra time off, but remember that you do not need to expose all the details about your absence. You are entitled to maintain your privacy.

Finally, follow up! Just because you discussed it, got approval, and have it set in stone on your end, it can’t hurt to remind your supervisor as the date approaches. If you have a calendar that is shared with your boss, send an appointment request to be added to their calendar. Also one week prior, send out an email to your co-workers informing them of your upcoming absence to allow them time to get input or materials from you before you leave.

Readers- What are some issues you have run into when requesting time off? Was the stress of coming back from vacation worth the time off? I would love to hear from you.

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

-Anita

Place of Productivity

A reader writes:

Dear, Anita,

I have been on a mission to revamp my office space from one filled with distractions to one that encourages productivity. I am having difficulty clearing out and organizing my desk and removing clutter off of my desktop. Do you have any suggestions or tips that may help?

Thanks for your question. For many of us, we are bound to our desks 8+ hours out of the day, 5 days a week. The typical American has a little more than 16 waking hours per day, meaning that 50% of our workdays we spend at a desk. It is important that this space be a work environment that harbors and promotes productivity so we can get the most work done in tPlace of Productivityhe time we have. Here are some tips for making your space as functional and productivity-friendly as possible:

There is almost nothing more difficult than trying to streamline your thoughts when your desk is a cluttered mess. Have you ever tried running through waist-high mud? Neither have I, but I assume it would be much more difficult than running through air. Discard any memos, Post-its, or other unnecessary items, and develop a system for organizing incoming papers and papers for current, future, and completed projects.

With the usage of electronics in our lives and work place, we are beginning to have our desk overrun by power cords, phone chargers, USB cords, etc. It is becoming a wired jungle! To keep these wire weeds at bay, start by rearranging your desk so that the appropriate cords are closest to the electronic they are paired with. It doesn’t make much sense to run your phone cord across your desk when you could just move the phone closer and save the cord space.

Set aside some dedicated work time where distractions and interruptions are kept to a minimum. I suggest taking about 2 hours per day to strictly focus on work. Inform your employees that you are not to be disturbed unless it is an emergency or an urgent matter.

Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment with different work station arrangements. Many people have tried and raved about swapping out their office chair for an exercise ball a few days a week. Try working from a different side of your office every few months to change your outlook. Brighten up the color palette in your space to breathe new life into your surroundings. Bring in pictures of your friends and family, or a few shots from a recent trip you just took.

For an example of an office redesign, check out this video on Feng Shui for the Office:

The opportunities to create just the right space for your productivity are endless. Take the time to put your own personal touches on your space, dedicate time to yourself and your projects, and free yourself from wire entrapments and cubicle clutter.

Do you have an interesting work space, or are you trying out any new unconventional office furniture arrangements? Post them in the comments!

Well wishes,

Anita

Take a Brain-cation!

A reader writes…

“ Dear, Anita,

I have been working my tail off at work trying to keep up with cutbacks and putting strategies in place to increase productivity. I feel drained and worn out. What do you think would help me recharge my batteries and get myself back in the game?”

Many managers and business owners find themselves becoming slaves to their jobs; 24 hours a day, 7  days a week, they constantly are thinking, doing, or worrying about work. Smart phones, tablets, and laptops don’t make things
any easier.

Making mental lists of the things that have to be taken care of Monday morning, putting together proposals in their mind while trying to get some sleep, and skipping out on events with family and friends to accomplish a project may be a little overboard. Don’t get me wrong — drive and dedication to your profession are great traits, but sometimes it is best for you, your team, and your company to give your brain a break.

David Allen, the author of Making It All Work, Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life,  promotes “brain-cations.” He says: “I think productivity is always enhanced when you have the chance to evaluate your life and work from multiple horizons.  Vacations help you from getting too far down in the weeds and provide an opportunity to refresh and restore.

So what can these so called “vital” vacations do for you?

–          Vacations allow us to take a break and help keep burnouts away.

–          Productivity is decreased when workers are overworked, under-rested, and stretched to the limit.

–          Stress levels are lowered when we take time to refresh and rejuvenate.

–          Time to ourselves can promote creativity, giving you an opportunity to freshen up your outlook and come back to work with a new set of eyes to tackle problems that may have been plaguing you.

It may be a difficult task and a terrifying scenario for some… but ladies and gentleman, turn off your business Blackberries, set your email office assistant to “On,” and unplug your brain from business. Keep reminding yourself that the office will not implode or self destruct while you take a little hiatus. Trust in the staff that you have selected and trained to take care of this when you are gone.

For some suggestions of a few places to put your troubles on the back-burner, see U.S. News list of Best Relaxing Getaways in the United States. If an extravagant vacation is not in your future, do something fun close to home. Go camping with friends, book a stay-cation in town, or schedule a spa day or a round of golf with friends.

Where would you want to go on vacation or who out there is taking an interesting trip this year? I would love to hear about them!

Best,

Anita

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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