Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Four Steps to Overcome Conflicting Work Styles

Four Steps to Overcome Conflicting Work Styles
by Robert Hosking | Talent Management
The typical office environment is a melting pot of work styles, but the ingredients may not always blend easily. Differing approaches to work can lead to friction, miscommunication and even conflict among colleagues or between a manager and employee.
According to a recent survey by OfficeTeam, the International Association of Administrative Professionals, and Insights Learning and Development, 70 percent of support staff find it challenging to team up with someone who has a different work style - and it appears most managers aren't helping the situation. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they must adapt to their boss' work style to a great extent, while 72 percent said their supervisor either adjusts only somewhat or not at all to their style.
The results are outlined in a research guide titled "Your Work Style in Color: A Colorful Approach to Working Relationships."

Here are some guidelines for overcoming conflicting work styles and enhancing team collaboration.
1. Know Your Own Behaviors.
Oftentimes, managers' habits can frustrate employees, so being aware of how everyday behavior may affect others can help them make changes for the better.
For starters, managers can poll colleagues they respect to see their work style from another's perspective. Questions include: What steps do I take that make it easy for people to work for me? In which areas could I improve? This exercise can provide valuable insight, even if what's said makes them cringe.
2. Make Communication a Priority.
It's important for managers to let their employees know about their work style and preferences, and not just assume they'll figure it out. A good starting place is to explain communication preferences, letting team members know how they'd prefer to receive information from them - be it via email, in person or over the phone - and how often. The reverse is also true because communication is a two-way street.

3. Don't Jump to Conclusions.
Managers who start with the assumption that whatever an employee says or does that's bothersome isn't personal will be less likely to take offense and react negatively. For instance, an employee who looks grouchy every morning simply may not be an early bird or may be dealing with personal issues that could be affecting his or her mood.

4. Rise Above.
Managers cannot expect employees to simply adapt to their preferences and habits - overcoming conflicting work styles means focusing less on inalterable differences and more on common ground and compromise.
If, despite a manager's best efforts, his or her work style still clashes with that of an employee, it's important to take the high road and remain positive and professional whenever a disagreement or miscommunication arises. While not an easy path to take, it's rewarding to keep the peace and find a way to work productively with that individual.
The bottom line is that no one has the "best" approach to work, not even managers. Every person brings different assets to the table, and taking advantage of their complementary strengths is necessary for business success.
[About the Author: Robert Hosking is executive director of OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled office and administrative support professionals.]

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