Win At Work: An Interview With Diane Katz

Win At Work: An Interview With Diane Katz

Annoying co-worker, crazy boss, and don’t even get started on the administrative assistant – what exactly does he do?!  The workplace can be full of interesting characters, but sometimes all the budding personalities can create workplace conflict that causes stress and lack of productivity at work.

Diane Katz, PhD., author of Win at Work! The Everybody Wins Approach To Conflict Resolution, reviews many of the causes of conflict and explains why attempts to resolve the conflict often fail.  We were able to interview Dr. Katz to gain some valuable workplace tips.

Everyone experiences issues at work  Some people deal with the issues and others ignore issues.  How does a person know when to speak up or when to lay low?

Some of the important factors to consider are:
— What am I personally comfortable with — speaking up or being silent?
— How willing am I to go out of my comfort zone? In other words, am I willing to become more comfortable with speaking up in a professional manner?
— How important is the issue to you? If very important, and it is getting in your way of being productive, speak up. If it is not getting in your way, and you can let go of it, choose not to speak up
— What is your organization culture like? Is speaking up accepted or not? If it is, you can be more comfortable with doing so. If not, you must tread these waters carefully.

Dealing with difficult co-workers is a topic everyone can relate to.  Do you have any tips for how to deal with a difficult co-worker?

Never let anyone run roughshod over you. How you deal with a difficult coworker is another chapter of my book. If you want to deal with a difficult coworker, my first choice is to deal directly with the person. Approach them at a good time, in private, and express what you are concerned about, without assigning blame or making the other person wrong. If you are very concerned about repercussions, ask your manager for the three of you to talk together. A third option is to go to HR and seek advice and coaching. There is lots more you can do, but the very first thing is to decide if you are willing to take action or not. And don’t let yourself be intimidated!

Do you have any tips for using technology to manage and communicate?

The less face to face contact we have with people, the more opportunities there are for mistrust and conflict. Email is an extremely important and useful medium. It should primarily used for:
1) dissemination of information
2) announcements
3) updates on projects, etc., as well as impending deadlines
4) requests for information, etc.
5) group problem-solving

Email should NOT be used for:
1) conflicts of any kind. We can too easily misinterpret what is said in email
2) negative feedback
3) complaining about others or the person you are sending the email to

We need the voice or face to face contact for resolving conflicts. In one email, someone I was working with on a Board accused me of being rude. I was surprised, and wrote back, “I got your email and was surprised at your comment. I will call you so that we can resolve any existing issues.” Respond to a difficult email but resolve some other way!

If the entire workplace is engaged in a conflict, what can a leader to do diffuse the situation?

This is is easy to understand and hard to implement. Leaders have great impact on conflicts. The strong ones acknowledge the conflict and brings together the disputants and mediates without taking sides. Leaders also need to look at pay practices, job design, and how effective resources are being distributed, as those are often causes of workplace conflict. I talk a lot about this in my book, and in my blog,

Your book talks about balancing the masculine and feminine attributes to resolve conflict.  How does an aggressive person move toward being more collaborative and vice versa?

Aggressive people need to be less, “in-your-face” — use more collaborative language, deal with the issue and not personal attributes, and be more compassionate of others, even if you think the other person is wrong. People who have a strong feminine approach (withdrawing), need to learn assertive language, develop strong eye contact, take things less personally In order to de-personalize issues (for both the aggressors as well as the people who withdraw), is not easy, but possible. I have my coaching clients take a pen and put it on the table between them and the person they are in conflict with. Then we look at the pen, and define it as the issue — they give it all the attributes of the conflict. (For example, “The issue is our need to get the project done, and everything that is getting in our way.”) In this way, the personal stuff isn’t part of the conflict — only the business issues are. The fact that each person doesn’t like the other has nothing to do with resolving the issue. They just won’t go out for coffee after work, that’s for sure!