Managing Workplace Conflicts and Drama

Handling conflicts and drama at work can be really tough. Why? Because it involves emotions and feelings… two things most leaders don’t like to talk about much.

See if you can relate to a couple of common mistakes we tend to make when dealing with a emotional situations:

  • Downplaying or attempting to brush off emotionally charged situations. Rationalizing that: “My day is too busy to deal with this emotional stuff.”
  • Trying to ignore “it” or the people involved, hoping “it” will resolve itself or just go away.

How has this worked for you? Have you found that doing this can actually make it worse and waste more time?

What’s the answer? Strengthen your emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a measure of ones “ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.”

Emotionally intelligent people are much more likely to succeed. Successful people, naturally, are the kind of people companies want to hire.

In fact, studies over the past decade pinpoint emotional intelligence as possibly the single most important factor contributing to success in the workplace.  Very emotionally intelligent people are more likely to be stellar performers, regardless of the industry they’re in.
Try this easy three step process when handling emotional conflicts.

Step 1: Acknowledge it.
More than anything, people want to be heard and acknowledged. It may seem overly simple, but try saying:

“I want you to know…., or

I understand you are feeling very stressed right now…,”

These words can go miles when you are trying to lower the emotional stakes of a situation.

Step 2: Provide positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement is very powerful and will effectively reframe almost any negative situation when done respectfully.

Someone with a high EQ might say something like:

“I know you are under a lot of stress, and I know a great deal of it is because you are a great employee and want to do the very best job you can…”

Step 3: Stop and listen.

So many times the answer is so simple… just listen.

Many people just need to talk out the situation with someone they trust. So, be supportive, zip your lip and just sit back and listen.

If you want to test your EQ or Emotional Quotient you can visit this website: Emotional IQ Test

Accelerate Collaboration

Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust
During the research for their book The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner asked Bill Flanagan, former director of manufacturing for Amdahl Corporation, to describe his personal best. After reflecting for a few moments, Bill said he couldn’t do it. He said, “It wasn’t my personal best. It was our personal best. It wasn’t me.  It was us.”  In fact Kouzes and Posner relate that they did not discover a single instance where success was the result of any one person.  It was always a contribution from many, creating a team effort.  Leaders who successfully foster collaboration:

Create a climate of trust
Trust is the central issue in human relations, both personal and professional. Without trust you cannot lead effectively. So how do you create a climate of trust? You must be the first to trust. If you don’t trust others, you can’t expect them to trust you.  Admittedly this will feel a bit risky – and it is, however effective leaders accept risk.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers study identified trust as the “number one differentiator” between the top 20% of companies surveyed, and the bottom 20%.  Another study showed that in groups with high trust, the members:
◦ Were more open about feelings
◦ Experienced greater clarity about the group’s basic problems and goals
◦ Searched further for alternative courses of action
◦ Reported greater levels of mutual influence of outcomes
◦ Describe satisfaction with meetings, higher motivation to implement decisions, and closeness as a team

Facilitate positive interdependence
Interdependence is a circumstance where everyone recognizes that they cannot succeed unless everyone else succeeds too, or unless they effectively coordinate their efforts. Mike Ricci of the San Jose Sharks said, “If everything around you is falling apart, no one person is going to make a difference, but if everyone makes a little bit of difference, you can get to where you want to go.”

Support face-to-face interactions
No matter what business you are in, you are in the people business.  Success is all about relationships. It is so tempting in this digital age to think that having someone in your Facebook or LinkedIn network is a relationship, but face-to-face is where relationships are formed and

 Strengthen others by sharing power and discretion.

People persist in their efforts to achieve when they feel powerful, capable, and have a sense of being in control of their lives. When we share power, we “empower” those who have chosen to follow us, with the authority they need to make decisions and make things happen. The fifth century BC philosopher Lao-Tzu once said, “The Master doesn’t talk, he acts. When his work is done, the people say, ‘Amazing, we did it, all by ourselves!’”  To strengthen others it is essential to:

Ensure self-leadership

We become most powerful when we give our power away. Major General John Stanford says, “We don’t get our power from our stars and our bars. We get our power from the people we lead.”

Provide choice

We need to develop what Stephen Covey calls an “abundance mentality,” where the more we give, the more we get.  The more choices we allow those who work for us to have, the more options we have – and the more choices they have, the better their decisions will be.

Develop competence and confidence
Consider opening up “the books” and sharing more information with others. Teach them how to read and interpret the data. Coach them in problem-solving and then let them solve problems.  A saying we have in training adult leaders of Boy Scouts is, “Train them, trust them, and let them lead.”

Foster accountability

When people are held accountable for their actions and their results, they tend to perform at higher levels.  Providing clear objectives with measurable benchmarks for success will illustrate precisely what they are accountable for.

Not Your Typical Leadership Tips

Learning how to be a good leader is hard, there are countless books, blogs and newspaper articles all chock full of tips, advice and tricks on how to be a good leader. There are many leadership styles and strategies, each with their own benefits and downsides.

Unlike most leadership tips here is some advice on what you should NOT do:

1. Don’t provide to much information: Providing too much information makes you look like a “know-it-all” and will discourage people from sharing their opinions
The Fix: Next time you have a better idea than the one currently being discussed donʼt just share it. Invite others to improve on it and discuss it.

2. Don’t use the words “But” or “However”: Using these words means that you do not agree with someone but donʼt want to directly say it. You may be trying to sugar-coat criticism but it doesnʼt help.
The Fix: The obvious first step is to not use “But” or “However.” However, the root problem is that you canʼt give out criticism well. Give it out directly, donʼt try to make it sound better.

3. Don’t share your “Smart Stories”: If your contributions to water cooler talk consist of all you talking about the smart stuff you have done you seen like you have an inferiority complex.
The Fix: Good leaders have an aura around them, they donʼt need to brag. It just shows.

4. Don’t communicate when angry: You canʼt think clearly when you are angry and as a result you wonʼt communicate well
The Fix: Physically remove yourself from a situation that makes you angry. When you cool down, then you can communicate.

5. Don’t withhold helpful knowledge: If you have helpful information and you donʼt share it points to an inferiority complex, its also a great way to lose friends.
The Fix: Ask yourself what you can share with everyone. Then do it.

6. Don’t fail to give individual recognition: Your team needs to know you value them, donʼt try to keep all the praise for yourself
The Fix: When a project comes to a conclusion, publicly recognize the people who worked on it. This doesnʼt need to be elaborate, a quick announcement will do.

7. Don’t claim credit you donʼt deserve: Stealing credit will cause your team to resent you.
The Fix: Giving someone credit for something that you did is MUCH better than the reverse.

8. Don’t make excuses: If you, as a leader, make an excuse, you lose credibility.
The Fix: Next time you are about to make an excuse, STOP. Then make a declaration about how you will permanently fix the issue at hand.

9. Don’t refuse to apologize: Not apologizing when you mess up will slight your team members
The Fix: When you mess up, and you will eventually, apologize fast, apologize sincerely and make clear how you will fix the situation.

10. Don’t not listen: If you donʼt listen when your team is speaking you look arrogant. It sends the message: I donʼt care.
The Fix: Eye contact. No distractions (email, phone, etc.). Repeat key points back to whoever your speaking to.

11. Don’t punish the messenger: Leaders who punish the messenger lose trust. If your team is afraid to tell you whatʼs wrong they might just stop telling you the bad news; even though you need to hear it.
The Fix: Understand that bad news is part of business. How you deal with it is where you have the opportunity to be a good leader. Bad news is an opportunity to fix something.

What could you be doing better as a leader?












Chances are that if you take a step back and evaluate your leadership style you have fallen into one of these habits. Thankfully they are easy to fix once identified.

What Drives Us?

If youʼre struggling to motivate your employees, Daniel Pink the author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, has some ideas on how to turn your team around.

How NOT to Motivate Your Team: By using the carrot and stick approach, punishing your team for poor performance and rewarding them for a job well done.

  • The carrot and stick method IS GREAT…. for repetitive, boring, mundane tasks… but otherwise itʼs outdated.
  • If your team is always afraid of being punished or always trying to get rewarded then they will start to think there is only ONE right answer. Donʼt limit their creativity!

Carrot and Stick Approach
The Right Way to Motivate Your Team: Being honest is the most effective way to motivate your team to complete mundane tasks. Pink recommends doing the following:

  • Tell your team members that you know the task is boring, if you can be honest with them about this your team won’t get frustrated with boring tasks.
  • Tell your team how you want the task completed, having clear expectations gets the task done faster.

Through his research Pink has identified the three most important factors for increasing drive and motivation:
Autonomy: Autonomy gives your employees control over their own time. It shows you trust them and believe that they can do something great on their own.
Mastery: Give your team the opportunities they deserve to become masters of the skills your company needs.
Purpose: Your teamʼs drive will increase greatly if they know why they are working and what they are working towards. Make your mission clear.

Here is an adapatation of Daniel Pink’s presentation at RSA. He talks about his elements of drive and what REALLY motivates us.


The Leadership AHA!: Giving your team autonomy and motivating them to succeed is a lot more dynamic than typical carrot and stick methods of leadership. To be a successful leader you NEED to know your team members and what makes them tick, that way you can give your team autonomy, mastery and purpose.

How Good of a Leader Are You?

It seems that there is often a disconnect between how leaders see themselves and how team members see their leaders.

Do you think you’re a good leader? Would your employees agree? According to the Chartered Management Institute, the typical answers are: “kind of” and “not at all.”
The study compared a survey of 2,000 managers to the results of a web-based survey taken by 6,000 people. Among the survey respondents, 44 percent of managers considered themselves excellent managers. In reality though only 14% were excellent by their employees standards. While the results aren’t scientific, they do suggest a perception gap when it comes to managers’ people skills.

The elements of good management aren’t rocket science, but they can be hard to follow. Management experts consider these to be the core characteristics of a “good boss”.  A good boss…

  • Knows How to Listen: You can’t know everything, particularly when it comes to the details of your team members jobs. Your employees are experts in their own areas, whether it’s answering phones or managing entire departments. Don’t ignore them!
  • Delegates Effectively: There’s nothing employees dislike more than a micromanager watching everything. It’s a waste of your time too. Give your team the autonomy they need to do their jobs, and they will rise to the challenge. If they can’t, encourage them to seek other employment.
  • Communicates Clearly: Of course, you can’t delegate if you don’t make your expectations clear. And offer advice readily when asked.
  • Gives Feedback: Your employees want to know not only how they are performing, but also what fair, measurable criteria you are using to evaluate them.
  • Encourages Growth: Your star employees aren’t threats, they’re assets, and if you don’t offer career growth opportunities, they will seek them somewhere else.

Are You Addicted to Adrenaline?

Many in leadership positions are addicted to adrenaline and don’t even know it.
Not only does the adrenaline addict pay a price (working harder and harder, rushing, poor relationships, etc.), the organization they work for suffers (everything is last minute, poor strategic planning, always in crisis management, etc.).
Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, has this to say about adrenaline addicts:

“There is something particularly insidious about adrenaline addiction that makes it hard for many leaders to kick the habit.  Unlike other addicts whose behaviors are socially frowned-upon, adrenaline addicts are often praised for their frantic activity, even promoted for it during their careers.  And so they often wear their problem like a badge of honor, failing to see it as an addiction at all in spite of the pain it causes.”

Read Lencioni’s article: The Painful Reality of Adrenaline Addiction
Adrenaline addiction is a recoverable condition.  Here is a self-test to help you determine your level of addiction and some tips on how to overcome your addiction: Click here to download the self-test

When you have reserves — when you operate from the place of having more than enough, you show up differently.

You’re able to be fully present with people – – your team members, your customers, your, suppliers, your friends, your spouse, your children…

On the other hand, if all you have is just enough – or worse, NOT enough – it becomes very easy to operate from a place of lack and fear.  Operating from possibility thinking is out of the question and so is anything having to do with inspiration.  

The greatest barrier to establishing strong reserves is an addiction to adrenaline.

As your addiction to adrenaline diminishes… your ability to develop strong reserves increases.

Do 80 Hour Work Weeks Work?

A shocking 40% of individuals reported that their job was “extremely stressful.” In addition 25% of respondents identified their job as the number one source of stress in their lives.* The drive to succeed is so high in many work environments today that it leads to unnecessary stress and even worse, unnecessary work hours!

* According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

It seems that nowadays working a 12 hour day is made out to be more of a positive than it really is. A 12 hour work day is emotionally and physically draining and it actually decreases productivity.  Don’t overwork yourself or your team… it’s a never-ending downward spiral.

Did you know that:

– Over half of the workforce said they often skip lunch because of the stress a job demands.

– An estimated 1 million workers are absent every day due to stress.

– In the last 20 years, working time has increased by 15% and leisure time has decreased by 33%.

– The average worker sends and receives 190 messages per day. *

*According to Dr. Donald E. Wetmore, President of The Productivity Institute

12-hour work days may seem like a sign of productivity, but in reality they are just an information overload for your team.

Of course, as a leader we sometimes need to ask our teams to work for long hours to finish a special project or manage a crisis. Just don’t make it a habit.
Is a 12 hour day, really a 12 hour day?
Say a team member spends 12 hours at work, then are they actually working that whole time?

What’s really happening is that we (myself included) are actually just fitting more “stuff” into a longer day and the idea of priorities is going out the window. The answer: let’s get back into the habit of planning and setting clear expectations.  This is what we did before iPads and cell phones!

Let’s take the 8 hour challenge!
Let’s see if we can actually stay focused and prioritize what most important and let some of the non-important “stuff” go. Let’s make sure that we have conversations with those on our team and get crystal clear about what we want them to focus on in 2011.

Let’s embrace the concept of “doing more with less” and actually focus on the most productive priorities vs. just packing our lists with “things to do”, filling our days with meetings and working on “stuff”.

Think about this … if your team member cannot get their assigned tasks done in a regular 50 hour work week they might be in the wrong job. As a leader you must take a hard look at this.

On the other hand, if a team member has spare time or too much busy work then you should be adding responsibilities. A good leader should challenge their team members and push good ones outside of their comfort zones.

12 hour work days are not okay and your team will model your work ethic, so be careful. Here are some small changes you can make to help send the right message…

1. Only send emails during regulars work hours
Try sending emails with delayed delivery and schedule them to go out at 8:00 AM instead of 12:30 AM when you’re trying to catch up or you can’t sleep.  This will help both you and your team.

2. Stay home
Avoiding going in on weekends and vacations… use technology and just do what needs to be done from home. If your team members see you in the office on weekends they will feel a need to be there as well.

3. Stick to a schedule … your schedule
Schedule dinner with your family or book a haircut or workout with a personal trainer 30 minutes after your typical work day ends.  Let your team see that you have a life. It’s important to refresh and “sharpen your saw”.

4. Leave the office for lunch
Rather than eating lunch at your desk or going to the cafeteria, try leaving the building. Not only will it be a great opportunity to clear your head and prioritize for the remainder of your day, it will also let your team members see that it is okay to take a break once in a while. 

5. Write down your goals for the next day before bed each night
Before you go to bed each night take a couple of minutes to write down what you want to accomplish the next day. This way when you come in to work the next morning you will know what needs to get done and you can hit the ground running. You will also sleep easier knowing what the next day holds. Try to cultivate this habit in your team members!

Bottom line: Customers don’t like working with your stressed-out, overworked people. So, stop the madness…

kNOwing When to Say “No”

As a leader it’s easy to feel like you need to say “YES” to everything…accommodate every meeting, dinner and conference call. Most of us have a hard time turning down invitations and requests. Sure it’s important to develop relationships but, saying “yes” to everything is not the best approach.

In the long run, saying “yes” to everything can…

Hurt your image
If you are constantly late to meetings or appointments because your schedule is packed too tightly you inadvertently disrespect the person you are meeting with. Being late send the message that I’m more important than you. Rescheduling without proper notice is equally inappropriate.

Prevent you from being your best
Being constantly rushed prevents you from thinking clearly at times and can lead to mistakes.

Stifle your team
A good leader needs to realize that their role is not to oversee every meeting their team has or to be involved in every step of their projects. A leader who tries to be involved every step of the way will often have problems with scheduling and may even come across as controlling.
Remember Pareto’s Law, more commonly known as the 80/20 principle. Pareto was an Italian economist in the late 19th century whose most famous work was a model of income distribution. Pareto showed that 80% of the wealth in the world is generated, and owned by, 20% of the individuals in the world. He used this concept on virtually everything. Can you believe he even showed that 80% of the peas he grew in his garden came from only 20% of the plants!

As a leader it is important to determine which 20% of your efforts account for 80% of your results.  Ask yourself:
Which meetings are actually getting things done?
Which team members are carrying the majority of the workload?
Of the 10 emails you sent…which 2 were the most important ones?

Use these two tips to free up 80% your schedule by:

Delegating and give your team some autonomy: Challenge your team members to grow as individuals. A leader’s role should be to encourage growth not manage it.

Question if you really need to be there: A couple days before a meeting ask your team members, “Why do you need me at the meeting?” or “How do you want me to help throughout the meeting?” This will make them think about what they need your guidance on. As a leader it is up to you to ensure you mentor not a dictator.

Bottom line…If you feel the meeting will run smoothly without you there then there is no reason to go. Simply ask one of your team members to briefly summarize what happened either in person or via email.

On the other, hand if you think your team can’t handle the meeting alone then you might need to evaluate if you have the right people on your team. It is important that you evaluate what you need to do as a leader to ensure future meetings can run smoothly without you.

Cultivating a mindset that is constantly analyzing your actions will help you achieve better results.

Other Tips to “De-Clutter” Your Schedule:

  • Avoid double booking yourself.
  • Consolidate all of your appointments in one calendar.
  • Don’t hesitate to tell somebody you need to check your schedule and call them back before setting up an appointment.
  • If somebody manages your schedule and makes appointments for you make sure you are on the same page and that you have an established, consistent way of sharing top priorities.

Hiring RED Flags

Here are some hiring Red Flags from Mel Kleiman’s book Hire Tough, Manage Easy.  What are some of the Red Flags you have seen?

  • Poor personal appearance
  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm
  • Overemphasis on money
  • Condemnation of past employers
  • Late for interview
  • Asks no questions about the position
  • Vague response to questions
  • Overly aggressive, conceited, superiority or know-it-all complex
  • Inability to express oneself clearly
  • Lack of planning for career
  • Lack of confidence and poise
  • Unwilling to start at the bottom, expects too much too soon
  • Makes excuses
  • Wants job for only a short time
  • No interest in company or industry

Do you agree with these Red flags?  What are some other ones to look out for?


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Expect the Expected

Expect the EXPECTED.  Guest Author Barry Hoffman shares his insight.
Here are ten questions a leader should be totally prepared to answer at all times:

1. What is your budget for this year?
2. How are you tracking to your budget?
3. What are your primary objectives for this year and how are you tracking against them?
4. How many people do you have? [also by location or function]
5. How many _____ …..? [what you do, make, buy or sell, including latest pricing or costs or whatever are the primary measurements of your area].
6. How does that compare to last year?
7. How does that compare to other companies? [this common question is one you can always be prepared for by reading professional journals, published consultant studies or industry association publications]
8. Who are your sharpest people?
9. Are you ready for more responsibility and if so, what are some areas of the company that you would like to manage in addition to your present unit[s]?
10. What did you think of my ______? [the President’s latest speech, mission statement, article in the company newsletter, TV interview, etc.]

What are some ways that you can be prepared to answer these questions on the spot?