At some point or another, you’ll be faced with objection in the workplace. In an environment made up of many different personalities, work ethics, and attitudes, it’s bound to happen. Avoiding differences in opinion is near-impossible, stopping you from reaching a resolution if things do end up boiling over.
But rather than shirking away from tensions, ensuring you have a process for dealing with differences in opinions and objections in place is key. Finding a middle ground between the direct and indirect approach helps to defuse potentially explosive situations and keeps everybody happy.
Here, we run through some useful tips to help you handle objections in the workplace.
Before we dive into how you can start handling objections, it’s important to understand why conflict at work happens in the first place. By identifying the underlying issues bubbling below the surface, you can start to address what might be causing the conflict before it has a chance to build into something bigger.
Crossed wires, mixed signals, and a failure to properly communicate is one of the leading causes of employee conflict. When instructions and messaging are unclear, the frustrations that result can negatively affect relationships in a big way, hindering productivity and damaging employee morale if it continues to go unchecked.
Differing work styles
Whether it’s a generational gap or differences in values, your employees’ approach to their role plays its part in workplace conflict. And while it’s not the differences themselves that are causing the conflict, the failure to accept them most likely is.
Clashes in personality
Similarly, a failure to accept differences in personality can lead to issues and disagreements. The various backgrounds and experiences your employees have can have a huge impact on their personalities. Being mindful of these differences goes a long way to avoiding clashes between employees.
Unrealistic needs and expectations
Long hours, impossible workloads and a minimal work/life balance can make employees feel undervalued and ignored. And a disengaged employee can soon become a disgruntled employee if these unrealistic expectations carry on for long enough. Are you piling on the work and expecting them to get through it all? It might be time for a change if so.
An overly competitive workplace
Competition amongst employees can be healthy, fostering team spirit and driving productivity. But if your workplace values competition over everything else without properly managing it, things can become heated and hostile. In extreme cases, it may even lead to employees sabotaging the work of others.
If you’ve encountered disagreements in work previously, but it’s been a struggle to stop tensions rising, then try giving the following strategies a go.
Understand the conflict
One of the most important things about addressing disagreements and differences is not to make assumptions. It’s easy to draw conclusions when rumblings and rumours abound, but it’s hugely important to gain a full understanding of the issue before responding.
First of all, you might need to make sure you aren’t dealing with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issue, such as workplace harassment or discrimination. If it is, you should familiarise yourself with your company’s harassment prevention policies and guidelines, if you aren’t already. And if you don’t have any in place, then prioritise them!
Once you’ve ruled out the possibility of it being an EEOC problem, it’s worth considering if there are any underlying circumstances that may be causing or exacerbating the issue. Is it a clash of working styles? Are there deadlines looming? Perhaps the office environment is a stressful one? You may have to get honest with yourself if you’re to get the root of the issue, but it’s an important part of reducing problems amongst your employees.
Invite constructive criticism
Honest and open lines of dialogue are beneficial in any workplace, helping team members understand that having differing viewpoints is acceptable. Some workplaces can perpetuate the myth that objecting to established opinions is taboo, but such a mindset is often restrictive to the business.
Invite all levels of the organisation to share any constructive criticism they may have about workplace practices. This will help decision-makers open up to new viewpoints and make the process of handling objections simpler and more standardised. If the criticism can lead to positive results, it should be invited at all levels of the organisation.
An environment of debate and constructive feedback can also ensure that objections are far less jarring for the recipient – helping them use the criticism to assist their output. When it is established that objections and constructive criticism can be a positive step for the business, your team will welcome feedback with open arms.
Keep a cool head
When faced with objections, some people tend to let their emotions bubble over and go in all guns blazing, whatever the problem may be. Differing opinions can lead to arguments that then become a game of one-upmanship. And while it can be tempting to try and get the upper hand, whether it’s a charged email or a heated argument, it’s certainly something we’d advise against.
If the unprofessionalism doesn’t come back to get you, then the embarrassment will. There’s a great deal of relief to be felt knowing you resisted the temptation to explode and escalate the situation when it really wasn’t necessary. Calm down, take a breath and look at the bigger picture before you formulate a response.
Pick your battles
In a stressful environment where everybody’s busy, trifling matters and differences in opinion can quickly become overblown. Consider if the objection is fair and justified or if you’re still in the right. If it is justified, allow the objection to shape the resolution.
However, if you’re convinced, you’re in the right, you should definitely stand your ground and ensure the outcome is what’s best for the company.
Avoid the blame game
When resolving a difference of opinion, it can be easy to blame other parties for the dispute. However, this only serves as a diversion, and shirking responsibility is never a good idea. Focusing on the problem itself is a better method for effective and efficient conflict resolution, which brings us on to…
Listen to both sides
If you’re in a managerial role and must involve yourself in resolving others’ conflicts, then listening to both parties in an intent manner is important. While you may have heard rumours throughout the office, you mustn’t be swayed by hearsay and gossip, so hearing out what the parties have to say is necessary.
Whether you see each person individually or together, give them the time to tell their side without interruption. And be sure to encourage them to articulate the message in a calm, considered manner. There’s a chance tempers have already flared, so it’s necessary not to let them reach boiling point once more.
A good manager will approach the situation without biases or preconceived notions, and allow each the time to speak on the issue thoroughly. Be sure to listen to them properly and don’t start to formulate a response while they’re still talking. Only after you’ve heard the facts should you begin to get a sense of how to respond. And whatever you do, don’t take sides as this will only serve to make things worse, and showing preference is never a good look for a manager.
It’s the problem, not the person
Everybody has different perspectives and ways of doing things, and convincing anyone to change their ways is a tough ask. Distance the personality from the problem. Accusations and character assassinations aren’t going to help, even directed towards the most difficult colleagues in the office. Catch yourself before you say something you’ll regret and analyse the root of the problem.
Above all, remember that different opinions often present an opportunity to learn. Use them as case studies in team-building exercises, look for the positives in the situation, and build on their resolutions in the appropriate manner.
Lead by example
It’s important for managers to set the standard for their employees. Creating a culture of engagement and respect starts from the top. By speaking to your employees in an honest and respectful manner, it allows an environment of integrity to flourish, with the courteous communication going both ways as a result.
If there’s a company culture in place, then you’re duty-bound as a manager to hold up the values, policies and guidelines that are in place. Through reinforcing the culture, leading by example becomes unconscious and automatic. And by not expecting anything from your employees that you wouldn’t require of yourself, building trust and respect logically follows.
How might these arise?
During projects dependent on the co-ordination of tasks, team members being held up by another employee’s work may feel frustrated. The drop in progress can lead to more heated situations arising – but how can they be resolved?
In these instances, the importance of responsibility and accountability can’t be stated enough. Every team member is a cog in the larger workings of the project. If one part falters, then the project as a whole comes to a halt.
Make sure everyone is aware of what their role entails and clarify the processes they’ll use so they can understand how their workflow is supposed to progress.
How might these arise?
Clashes with management can arise if an employee feels they aren’t gelling with the manager’s style. If a manager sets ambitious but unrealistic goals, an employee may feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. Elsewhere, an employee may be looking for a path towards greater progression, but their manager’s laid-back, hands-off approach is blocking the way.
How can they be resolved?
As a manager, you should be aware of your own leadership style and understand how your own approach interacts with the variety of work styles amongst your team. A talented manager will be able to adjust and adapt their style to their employee’s preferred way of working.
Managers should also take the time to discuss these issues with their employees. Open and ongoing discussions play a big role in the development of employee/manager relationships.
How might these arise?
However big your team is, differences in how people prefer to work are bound to crop up. Some people are big on working in teams, while others might like to go it alone instead. Certain people may need guiding through a task, whereas direction might not be a requirement for other team members. Some thrive under pressure, while others might not.
With so many different approaches on a single team, it’s easy to see how differences in opinion might occur.
How can they be resolved?
A manager should identify each team members’ working style and tailor tasks to them accordingly. Pairing extroverts with introverts might not always be the best idea. With that said, there is certainly value in working with differing approaches; not only can we learn new strategies from them, but it allows us to respect our differences in ways we wouldn’t expect.
How might these arise?
When disagreements get out of hand, employees may experience harassment or discrimination based on things like age, race, ethnicity, and gender. At this point, human resources are likely to step in to investigate particularly serious instances.
How can they be resolved?
Serious claims shouldn’t be taken lightly. If it’s a repeat occurrence, then HR will have to explore the root of the issue; there may be a more deep-seated reason for this to have happened. At which point, educating employees on diversity and tolerance may be necessary.
Managers should also sit down and listen attentively to what the affected employee has to say. From here, measurable goals that work towards eliminating such behaviour must be established so abuse and discrimination doesn’t continue.
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