Managing Conflict: How Managers Learn Their Skills

In our Learning4Managers Survey we asked managers how they learned to manage conflict. The majority of them, to the tune of 38%, indicated having learned this skill On the job at a previous job. This answer was followed by 34% who claim to have been Self-taught.  On the job at a current job was the next highest ranking choice at 16% and finally In school ranked last at at 12%.

It is worth noting that no manager considered this skill Not Applicable in the survey, which underlines the importance to know how to deal with conflict in today’s workplace.

What raises concern is that at least three of every ten managers learned claim to be self-taught. This implies they do not count with the support of formal training in the topic, and may be exposing themselves and their organizations to serious consequences.  

Managing Conflict 2013

Leaders and managers come into conflict situations almost daily. The conflict can be with superiors, peers, with those they supervise and with vendors and clients. If these conflict situations are not well managed, they can easily escalate into more serious matters.

An argument between a manager and a Vice President can lead to ongoing resentments and loss of productivity. A feud between departments can lead to lost productivity.  Workplace bullying can lead to low motivation and frustration. A disgruntled employee or customer might escalate the issue into a full blown fight, and put the entire organization in the midst of a legal battle. In the worst case scenarios we have seen in the news acts of unbelievable violence sometimes caused by poor conflict management skills.

If managers are not sufficiently prepared to manage these situations, or are left to their own resources (and three out of ten indicate they are), we are putting our organizations and the people in them at risk.

In today’s business world we cannot afford not to provide sufficient support to our managers, particularly when it comes to conflict training. We encourage leaders and managers alike to investigate internally how their staff learned to deal with conflict, and to establish comprehensive training as well as policies to promote a productive and healthy work environment.

If you are interested in learning more about conflict resolution, attend our Conflict Management Webinar on May 22. Register now and get a full report with the results of our entire survey. Space to the Webinar is limited, Register Today.


Managing Conflict in the Workplace

We continue our series of reports based on the ongoing Learning4Managers Survey: Learning Competencies for Supervisors and Managers.

Year after year we hear about the increase of bullying behaviors and conflict in the workplace. Still few managers receive any formal training on the managing conflict in the workplace.

The survey results show that only 13% of responding managers learned how to deal with conflict as part of their formal education. The same number learned to deal with conflict while employed at their current job. Does this make you wonder if companies assume that experienced managers should come with this skill as part of their portfolio? To participate on our ongoing confidential survey please follow this link: SURVEY

Most managers told us they learned conflict management skills at their previous job (39%), and almost as many told us they were self-taught (34.7%). Once again, we emphasize that there is little evidence of a formal training process at stake here. As a matter of fact, with so few managers receiving formal training in school in this subject matter, it is hard to believe there is any standardized training taking place.

The results imply that managers today are approaching the matter in the same way managers have done for years: doing the best they can without formal support, training, or standard methods. This approach can lead to serious problems at work. With nothing but anecdotal information to go by, managers may be unknowingly fostering or ignoring ongoing conflict which could escalate into bullying or violence.

We strongly suggest that you take a look at your management practices and establish not just policies and procedures to prevent conflict at work, but develop training that supports you and your staff on how to manage conflict in healthy ways. In a few weeks, after we complete our series of reports on our managers survey results, we’ll address some best practices you can implement to manage conflict and train your staff.

Contact us for assistance and training on how to manage conflict in healthy ways at work.

Effective Performance Reviews Start with Training

A manager’s first task is to make sure they have the right team on board.

Their next step is to keep that team motivated and productive. The challenge is finding ways to measure productivity and motivation. One way managers evaluate their team members is by conducting performance reviews.

In our recent survey we asked managers where they learned critical management skills, including how to conduct performance reviews. Respondents chose from the following options: self-taught, learned in school, at work in a previous job, at work in their current workplace, or not applicable.

The initial survey results indicate that nearly half of the surveyed managers learned to conduct performance reviews at their previous job. About a quarter of the remaining surveys report having been self-taught, and another quarter learned how to conduct performance reviews at their current job.

To participate on our ongoing, confidential survey please follow this link: SURVEY

An interesting challenge organizations may face here is that with almost 3/4 of their managers learning to conduct performance reviews elsewhere, organizations don’t always think it necessary to review and assess how they do it.

Leaders often make the mistake of assuming that experienced managers have learned skills elsewhere, and that is in part one of the reasons they are so valuable to the company, saving them the time to re-train them.

While experience is important, different organizations may have different cultures and ideas as to how to conduct reviews. This can lead to confusion and tensions during the review process. Imagine a company with two managers. One is taught at a previous job that performance reviews are an opportunity to reward good work. The other manager learned at a previous job that reviews are an opportunity to point out flaws.

To maintain employee engagement the organization must invest in standardizing and retraining managers to ensure they use an approach that supports motivation, engagement and better performance. An approach must match the corporate culture as well as the needs of the employees.

Learning How to Conduct Interviews

Learning4Managers is conducting an online survey on Learning Competencies for Supervisors and Managers. In the survey, we asked those in management and supervisory roles how they acquired the key competencies and skills needed in their position. Specifically, we wanted to know if the skills were self-taught, learned in school, at work in a previous job, at work in their current workplace, or not applicable.

One of the competencies we asked about was Conducting Interviews. Attracting and hiring the right staff is the first key step towards building strong and successful teams. Making a bad hire can also mean many hours of conflict, stress and difficulties for the team.

Identifying who the rock-stars are among the many candidates that are interviewed, and getting the right people onboard is no easy task. You would expect that organizations make it a priority for managers and supervisors to be well prepared in this area.

However, what we found was that organizations might not be doing a great job at preparing hiring managers for the task. Our survey reveals that 1 in 5 managers and supervisors learned the skill at a previous job.

The rest claim to have been self-taught (see image). These numbers are in line with anecdotal reports from the many managers and supervisors we have worked with over the years.

In countries like the USA this is of particular concern because there are many laws and regulations that directly affect the hiring process. Courses on discrimination like “Discrimination and the Law” should be mandatory training for managers and supervisors before they begin conducting interviews. Refresher courses should be offered on a regular basis to ensure adherence to best practices.

In countries like Saudi Arabia, regulations such as the “Saudization Programme” are mission-critical to corporations if they want to continue to do business in that country. Without a clear understanding and training on how to implement these regulations, companies may be at risk to miss out on the most talented staff or even be at risk of being in noncompliance with the law.

If you need assistance developing a training strategy for new supervisors and managers regarding interview practices, Learning4Managers is here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Surviving Your New Leadership Role- Dealing with the Team’s Fears

Starting a leadership role with a new company or becoming a first-time leader can be as exciting as it can be challenging.

Many new managers enter situations where the old-ways linger, and where there is little or no motivation to change. However, as new managers in charge we may be asked to increase performance or productivity. What can we do when we are responsible for improved results, but the culture of the company isn’t ready for change?

When teams go through change they need to adjust. Just as we adjust to becoming new leaders, the team needs to adjust to your new role. Understanding this fear and responding to alleviate it appropriately can help foster a culture conducive to change.

Team members’ uncertainty about the future keeps them from feeling vested in change. If they don’t know what the future will bring, they will fear it. Let’s face it, it feels safer and comfortable to keep things the same. For most people, it is better to resist change than to venture into the unknown.

Our first step towards facilitating change is to build engagement. As you know, motivating teams is hard enough. To motivate them to change is even harder. You’ll need to start by removing obstacles such as fear of the unknown. Develop a communication strategy that helps your team understand what to expect during the change period. Clarify what is expected of them and what they are accountable for. These steps will be a start to building engagement.

You’ll be wise to include your team in the development process where appropriate, so they understand their needs are being heard, and that their opinions have been taken into consideration. Once you build a system of communication and fair accountability, build checkpoints to evaluate progress and monitor staff engagement. Taking these steps to alleviate the teams fears will create an environment that can foster growth and positive change.

Hard to Motivate Teammates

Hard to Motivate Teammates, Continued

Working with teams, we often find that individual perceive motivation differently. For example, some people may feel that their teammates are hardly motivated because they move slower than them, or because they don’t show the same level of excitement. While it may be true that people who lack motivation may not move fast or act excited, there may be some individuals whose nature is to be calm and methodical.

It is good to know and understand you how your own personality type may affect your perception of others, and to learn to communicate about personality style to avoid conflicts.

Some individuals are afraid that teammates won’t pull through, and check on their peers’ progress constantly. Most people don’t like this “over-the-shoulder” approach from managers, much less from peers. On the one hand, it is important to allow people autonomy to do their job the way they prefer. It is helpful in every project to define the outcomes, and to point out where autonomy is encouraged.

Take into consideration that unmotivated employees may feel that they don’t have autonomy. Explain to them where they are allowed to exercise this autonomy, and how it benefits them. “What’s in it for me?” is often a question that goes unanswered in projects. Help teammates see the higher purpose of what they do, and the value their autonomy in the project brings to them.

Hard to Motivate Teammates

Strategies to Motivate the Low Performer

Anyone who has worked in a team environment has had the experience of dealing with that teammate who wasn’t performing to the level he or she could. Situations like this put pressure on others to take on additional work and emotional pressures as they struggle to confront the poor performer. So what can you do? Let’s take a brief look at a few tips to manage low-performing teammates.

What are the rules? If there are no rules or if the rules are not known, there is no expectation for accountability. In other words, start by setting clear goals and expectations. Use a SMART goal approach to help you define clear goals.

Point out the light at the end of the tunnel. Even when goals and deadlines are set and clear, team members will feel demotivated if they feel the goals cannot be achieved. Help your team understand how the goal can be achieved in realistic terms. This implies that you should help your team identify the necessary tools and methods they’ll need to use to achieve their goal. Without the right resources, they will simply give up.

Find the challenge and the meaning. Individuals perform better when they feel challenged. Nobody wants to do boring and meaningless tasks. Granted, sometimes completing a task requires doing things most people don’t find interesting or worthwhile. You must find ways to put these tasks into the larger context so even the most menial tasks become part of a larger challenge. Remember, going to a gym and walking on a treadmill can seem pointless, until you consider the reward in the end. Set challenges, and point to the reward.

Dealing with Tardiness

Strategies for Leaders Dealing with Tardiness

Do you know someone who is always late for work or shows up late to meetings all the time? Maybe you are that person, OR maybe you have to manage that person. How do you deal with tardiness in the workplace?

As is the case in many scenarios, everything depends on circumstances. You are not alone. In the courses we have taught, participants tell us of similar scenarios all the time. Here are a couple of pointers.

Keep in mind the “style” of each person. Some individuals have a different personality and communication style. In one of our courses we start with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI), so they become aware of their own type and so they can identify potential conflict issues.

Showing up late may be a style matter. The person may have spent too much time chatting with a colleague before coming to the meeting and lost track of time (Extraverted, Feeling type). Another person may come in late thinking the first few minutes of every meeting are just a waste of time doing introductions instead of going into the core of the meeting (Sensing, Thinking type).

Talking these issues through with the individuals and helping them understand how they patterns are affecting performance may help improve behavior.

Another aspect to consider is expectations. Is it critical that everyone be present at the same time? Will that affect outcomes in any way? Making it clear to everyone and setting the expectations will help people understand the need to be punctual. It is also necessary for the team to understand the consequences of tardiness. I don’t mean disciplinary consequences, but rather how the behavior affects outcomes. If possible attach a metric to it. For example, if a key person is 20 minutes late for a key portion of the meeting, those 20 minutes may equal several hundred Dollars/Euros to the company in lost productivity, plus the project itself may be affected. Helping the team see the impact of behavior on productivity can help them understand the importance of meeting expectations.

You may say, “but these are adults. I should not have to say or do any of these things.” You may be right, but as leaders we don’t have the luxury to think this way. Part of managing people is helping them see behaviors in themselves that they may not have been aware of in the past and help them improve.

Learning4Managers consultants are here to help you with your leadership training needs. For assistance, contact us at

SWOT App for Android

New at Google Play: SWOT Analysis App

Check out our newly updated Android App: SWOT Analysis. Now available in Google Play (formerly Android Market).

Developed by Albert S. Humphrey in the 1960′s, SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning method, and the fist step in formulating a plan. It helps you assess the value of your initiative or goal. Created by You can learn to apply the concepts of SWOT Analysis.

The updated app contains new examples and an updated SWOT template in PDF format.