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Strategies for Dealing With Differences in Your Team

Strategies for Dealing With Differences in Your Team

Identifying, qualifying and pursuing a new job is more challenging, time consuming and complex than in the past. And having run the gauntlet of interviews, heightened expectations by hiring managers puts even greater pressure on the employee.

However the fact is everybody is under greater pressure. The normal tensions that exist between the workers desire to do the job right and the supervisors need to ensure it is done right, have increased.

As a result, the employee is placed in a position where patience and understanding by the supervisor are at a greater premium. Errors generate less tolerance. To err is human, however sometimes we really do need divine intervention to get forgiveness. Especially if the mistake is costly, such as outcomes for financial planning or legal issues, etc.

Work pressures and tension between supervisor and employee can be exaggerated by adverse business conditions. Intuitively, we understand that the dynamics of the workplace can affect employee relations. All employees at every level are subject to these pressures, however what can you do when they affect you?

I want to address two aspects of the Supervisor/employee relationships. First, what do you do when you believe the boss is wrong? Second, how do you work in an environment in which the supervisors work style and your work style are incompatible?

Willing to listen

The first is the trickiest in the short term because you can’t solve the problem unless the supervisor is willing to listen. Before even starting make sure the issue is worth the risk of creating trouble.

The fact is fighting about a process or philosophy or "principle" is simply not worth it unless a fundamental business issue is at stake, such as a customer issue, product quality, safety or revenue implications. Make sure the logic of the issue, not your emotions are the driving forces.

If you decide to move forward do so cautiously, and always from a positive perspective. That is, don’t tell the boss his idea is dumb, rather suggest that there may be an even better way to approach the problem with constructive suggestions, backed up with supportive evidence.

Providing evidence is very important. A simple difference of opinion will generally not receive a favourable response. However, a substantive suggestion, backed up with hard data and delivered with tact may make headway. After all, the boss wants to look good too. In addition, know when to back off. You don’t want a war that you will probably lose.

Work styles

The second problem, incompatible work styles, is the trickiest in the long run, because it can create tensions for which there is no good solution. The fact is people have different work styles. They approach decision-making in different ways. They view risks differently. They deal with stress differently.

The point is these differences can be the foundation of major frustration on both sides. Unfortunately, as a result of this incompatibility, conflict is likely, unless addressed.

First, recognize you have a problem. If you get frustrated by the amount of time you spend in seemingly unproductive meetings, remember your boss thinks it is important. If time management is an on-going problem, take a look at how you get work done. 

If the teams you are on seem to always get bogged down and unproductive, take an honest look at how you might be contributing to the problem. Think about why your good ideas generate little or no positive response. Try to understand why it is so difficult to get your bosses attention.

Since all of these are driven by your boss, don’t assume that you are right and the boss is wrong. Take a step back and consider your frustrations from the manager’s point of view. It is important to note one important fact. You are likely sending unintended messages to your boss and the rest of the staff that is very unhealthy for you. For your own sake that has to be fixed.

Decision making

Take a look at how the manager approaches problems and makes decisions. How does your he/she manage people, time and other resources? Try to determine how you are cooperating or fighting the pace and tone of the group and the supervisor. Understand clearly what are the key goals as outlined by him or her. This can be critical.

You may be inadvertently working at cross purposes to organisation or team goals and not even know it. If you don’t even know what are the key goals and what issues are of greatest concern, you are just not working as a team player. And that’s the kiss of death.The fact is survival depends on your supporting your manager’s priorities, even if you disagree.

However if it is a work style issue driving discord rather than substantive business issues, you have to carefully consider the implications. You and your boss may have irreconcilable differences in which case you need to make sure your resume is updated and your network is intact. If not, some honest introspection and adaptation to your reality is needed.

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