How to Predict — and Avoid — Conflict in the Workplace

In business, there are plenty of situations when fate is decidedly not on your side.

Think British Petroleum! Fate clearly handed BP a blow with the April 20 explosion at its offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed eleven people and injured several others. Since then, thousands of gallons of oil per day have leaked from the well, causing an oil slick that threatens wildlife refuges and beaches along the Gulf Coast.

Unfortunately, despite efforts to contain the leak, the situation still remains out of hand at this writing.

You could draw an analogy between that oil slick and a company's workforce where conflicts among co-workers get out of hand.

Some personalities and behaviors are oil and water, and will never mix. Like the oil slick from the Gulf disaster, they are difficult to manage.

Happily for businesses — unlike the oil industry, which seemingly has no fail-safe ways to prevent oil well explosions and contain spills — assessments can change all that.

With assessments you can solve conflicts by identifying the roots of problems thereby predicting possible conflicts.

You can use employee assessments in hiring to identify a personality that is incompatible with other team members.

You can also use assessments to evaluate established teams to help find new ways to improve your work culture and team relationships.

Top organizations use assessments
In a recent study the Aberdeen Group, which helps organizations make better business decisions by providing research information, discovered that the best organizations all use assessments. Further they commonly use assessments:

In fact these "Best in Class" organizations are three times more likely to have a clear process of assessing new employees during their first year than do organizations that trail behind in performance measures. They are twice as likely to assess workers who have stayed with their company longer than a year.

Beyond this Aberdeen's numbers show that assessments succeed because workers who have bought into performance expectations and development plans at their companies, have a strong connection to that company. Simply put, they are engaged.

Let's examine each of the three assessment uses listed above to determine what each means.

Using assessments with more employees
While many organizations use assessments only when they have a problem to solve … or only with executives … or only in succession planning … or only in building a project team … or only in hiring new workers, best-in-class companies use assessments with all employees.

Using assessments this broadly gives every worker the message that all roles are important and every worker must meet a standard. In an economy requiring more productivity from each person, this is an important message.

Using assessments more frequently
You're probably well acquainted with the performance evaluation model of assessing how someone is doing at work. These glancing blows occur once a year — maybe, and if an employee is lucky — and more often than not make both manager and employee uncomfortable. Better than nothing, I suppose.

But consider these options:

• Using daily, weekly or monthly coaching sessions (depending on a team member's needs)
• Using assessments to help determine which workers are right for a team
• Using assessments to retrain workers when changes occur in your organization

Best-in-class organizations fill in the blanks using assessments when they need them.

Using assessments consistently
When people say they don't like surprises, they generally mean they don't like unpleasant surprises. Like inconsistencies, for example … like not telling workers how they are evaluated and chosen for leadership roles … like not informing them what's needed for a salary increase or how they can play on an important team.

When workers know how things are done at their workplaces, they can and most likely will participate in exciting company changes, volunteering for positions no one else wants or seeking retraining if necessary. They will buy into how things are done if they have the chance to grow at their jobs and become leaders.

Responsible executives can avoid springing unpleasant surprises by being even-handed, and assessments help by providing objective guidance throughout the employee life cycle.

Unaddressed conflicts can cause lasting friction between team members and will ultimately destroy a team's efficiency. If allowed to go on indefinitely, they could eventually destroy a business.

Unlike BP (and one fears the entire oil industry), which apparently was unprepared for the disaster that occurred, best-in-class organizations are ready to react to challenges and crises in their businesses. With employee assessments, they know exactly what is working right and what requires repair and maintenance. And, they know how to make adjustments.

Tips: How to Stay Connected with Your Employees*

A recent workplace study by the Adecco Group, a global recruitment firm, found that more than half (54 percent) of employed adults report they are likely to look for new jobs once the economy turns around.

Are you afraid your employees may jump ship at recession's end?

If you haven't thought about it, perhaps you should consider this study a warning that you risk losing your top performers if employee engagement and job satisfaction don't remain priorities for you.

Retaining employees after the recession means staying connected to them during the recession. Here's how.

Have regular conversations
Open lines of communication by meeting with employees on a one-on-one basis. Talk about their role in the organization. Communicate the company's plans for the future.

In other words, keep everyone informed and aligned to current corporate objectives.

Provide resources employees need
Make sure employees are prepared and trained for new responsibilities. Consider using mentors, company training sessions or cross-departmental team support.

*Information from HR Marketer, an online marketing and public relations service for companies selling to human resource departments.

Your Solution Toolbox: Help in Finding Conflict Causes and Improving Communication

Measuring What Matters

Quick story…

An executive had assembled an expert team for an important project coming up. Team members fit their jobs well, and they were all aligned with his organization's goals. They were high performers.

Yet something was off.

One of his most skilled team members — I'll call him Dan — appeared disgruntled. He was never satisfied with answers to his questions, with feedback, with anything, really. He grumbled. He was impatient and his dissatisfaction was rubbing off on others.

Recently this executive had begun to see a great deal of friction between Dan and his manager, Kathi, a skilled leader who kept her team on track meeting deadlines and communicating well with clients. Dan clearly irritated Kathi, and this executive feared that the small irritations would fester and grow culminating in a huge blowup that would threaten his entire team.

What should this executive do? What would I advise?

To step back and assess. Literally. If I were advising this executive I would suggest he take a few minutes to examine the source of friction and figure out how to dissolve it before it dissolves his team of high performers.

PPI identifies conflict causes

To begin I'd recommend using Profiles' Performance Indicator (PPI) and its Team Analysis Report to find the underlying cause of conflict between Dan and Kathi, and to improve communication.

PPI's reports would help him form a new team or figure out how to enhance Kathi's leadership skills so that the friction disappears. A PPI assessment doesn't take much time — about 15 minutes — to complete. What's more, Kathi will know the results immediately and so will the executive.

In my experience, organizations appreciate PPI's aid in motivating and coaching employees and resolving performance issues related to productivity, quality of work, initiative, teamwork, problem solving, adapting to change, response to conflict stress and frustration.

They also like the help they receive from the Team Analysis Report in forming new teams, reducing team conflict, improving team communication, enhancing team leadership skills and in improving their ability to anticipate problems.

PXT helps with employee management

In addition to PPI, I would suggest the executive look into Profile’s Total Person Assessment, also known as the ProfileXT™ (PXT).

The ProfileXT™ is called the Total Person Assessment because it evaluates thinking and reasoning skills, occupational interests and behavioral traits. Its JobFit™ technology gives clarity to its measurements. This would help the executive and Kathi select as well as manage employees.

PXT helps predict job suitability, and it accurately matches people with the work they do. Using PXT, the executive could ensure his people fit their roles and with that confidence, he could train, coach, manage and promote the right people from within to open positions.

Let me give you this same confidence by introducing you to Profile's Performance Indicator and Total Person Assessment. Send me an email ( or give me a call (952-322-3330) today indicating your interest.

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