A Conflict Experiment

A Conflict Experiment – October 15, 2015
in the +15 between Gulf Canada Square and Bankers Hall
7:30 -10:30 am

Got Workplace Conflict?  You are not the only one.  To mark Conflict Resolution day on October 15th, The Workplace Fairness Institute will host an event in the +15. Stop by our table in Gulf Canada Square on your way to work and take part in our experiment to explore the causes of and solutions to workplace conflict through our highly interactive display.

“I often work between meetings in common areas of the downtown core.  I hear many employee conversations focused on conflict in the workplace and wonder how much time is spent on these issues and the resulting inefficiencies in organizational performance” comments Don Frehlich, an employee in Calgary.

Conflict Resolution Day was started in 2005 by the Association for Conflict Resolution in the United States to raise public awareness of creative and peaceful means of resolving conflict and now groups around the world hold events to mark Conflict Resolution Day.  Conflict Resolution Day is held on the third Thursday in October every year.

Conflict Resolution Day was started in 2005 by the Association for Conflict Resolution in the United States.

Conflict Resolution Day was started in 2005 by the Association for Conflict Resolution in the United States.

The Workplace Fairness Institute (WFI) is a Canadian company focused on affecting organizational culture through collaboration, communication and proactivity in managing conflict. Workplace Fairness recognizes that equity of concern and respect for each employee when managing conflict influences employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, change management, productive working relationships, efficiency and innovation, health and wellness and the organization’s reputation.

Rather than adopting traditional approaches to solving workplace complaints, such as taking disciplinary action or hoping the issue will simply go away, the WFI offers employers and employees a way forward. Their goal is to prevent existing workplace fairness issues from triggering a costly fall out that affects productivity, employee engagement and company culture.  It’s a sentiment echoed by Blaine Donais, President and Founder of WFI: “Businesses can’t afford to let workplace fairness issues create long-standing problems within their organization: the WFI is here to get employers and employees on the same page when it comes to mutual respect, trust and productivity.”

Michelle Phaneuf and Marjorie Munroe of the Workplace Fairiness Institute. Photo Credit Monique de St. Croix.

Michelle Phaneuf and Marjorie Munroe of the Workplace Fairiness Institute. Photo Credit Monique de St. Croix.

Co-Construction Brings Rewards in the Workplace

Here in Calgary over the past month or two we have been seeing the most amazing skies.  I am fortunate to live in a spot where I can really see them, and almost daily I have been stopping to look up in wonder and take pictures. Skies, like people, can be extremely moody. In the shot below the dark moodiness is contrasted by the sunny yellow of the car hood (in case you are wondering, a 1972 MGB).  The darkness serves as a warning, and the bright hood reminds us to be optimistic.

The darkness serves as a warning, and the bright hood reminds us to be optimistic.

The darkness serves as a warning, and the bright hood reminds us to be optimistic.

If we are collaborating with others in decision making we may have very different perspectives and moods about our circumstances. We must heed the warnings and listen to people’s concerns, and we must stay focussed on our goal and the rewards difficult collaboration can bring. When we are able to learn from all perspectives and work together to reach an innovative goal which meets all needs, we are experiencing co-construction.

Nathalie Feuiltault is a Business Transformation and Human Behavior Specialist. Nathalie is currently pursuing doctoral research about co-construction. We were very fortunate last June to have Nathalie join us a at a Workplace Fairness luncheon to speak about co-construction.

Michelle and I practice co-construction all the time when we finish each other’s sentences – you have probably experienced that. Wikipedia too, could be considered a form of co-construction of learning (as it acknowledges itself). In the workplace, it is beneficial to be more strategic with collaboration so that you can mine the collective intelligence of the group.  At our June luncheon, Nathalie offered us 4 steps for Co-Construction:

  1. Appreciate. Focus on the positive, and strive to make it enjoyable. Practice mindfulness exercises. Be present and positive. Music and movement help.
  2. Dream. Act as If. Describe your outcomes as if they already exist. Visit the future. Imagine a goal met. What does it look like? Feel like? What do you see? Hear?
  3. Construct. Look to the past, and imagine key steps that get you to your goals. Move backwards to explore what you did to get you to the goal. What are the 3 key steps?
  4. Commit & Realize. Look at yourself from the outside to see what you did, and share the outcome. Sharing makes it feel more real.

Nathalie is a very engaging speaker who had us up and about exploring the look, feel and sound of collective intelligence. She helped us explore capabilities of group intelligence:

  • Mindfulness, and the capability to think systemically
  • Innovativeness and the willingness and capability to try different things
  • Connectedness and the capability to communicate both verbally and non-verbally.

We experienced it, saw it and heard it with Nathalie’s expert facilitation.

If you are interested in exploring co-construction and Appreciative Inquiry further, here are a few references for you:

Feedforward, instead of back

You need to use an extra wide trowel. And feather it out.

I heard this feedback from down the hall as I was standing in my bathrobe, silently thinking that the previous day’s efforts preparing the bathroom for painting had gone rather well.

I did use a wide trowel. I did feather it out. 

Giving, and receiving, feedback can be a tricky business.

Giving, and receiving feedback, can be a tricky business.

At our Workplace Fairness lunch recently, Shawn Stratton came to share some harrowing stories about leading teams on the edge, and to talk about Feedforward. Shawn learned about leadership in the trickiest of situations, as a National Outdoor Leadership School instructor in places such the Alaskan Arctic or deep in the Himalayas.

Shawn reminded us that good feedback is actually Feedforward. It

  • is timely
  • is specific
  • shows cause and effect relationships
    • highlights the activity and not the person
  • is owned by the sender
    • presents as a personal observation rather than a directive
  • is growth-oriented
    • focuses on the future
  • preserves dignity
    • suspends judgment
  • inquires
    • explores reasoning, and how it lands with the receiver

Shawn walked us through a Feedforward exercise which really resonated with people. We were asked to pick one behaviour we would like to change; describe the behaviour to a random participant; ask for Feedforward (2 suggestions for the future which might help change the behaviour); listen attentively and take notes; say thank you.

The key to this exercise is not discussing the past at all, and responding to the suggestions only with a “Thank you”.  Hmmm. Thinking about my drywall mudding expertise, I do need some Feedforward. But it might land better coming from a more detached, expert observer.  We cannot separate suggestions from our relationship with the sender. Did I mention it was my husband?

At our Workplace Fairness lunch we tried Feedforward instead of Feedback, and we liked it. If you would like to read more about Feedforward, Shawn provides some references for Leadership Thinker Dr. Marshall Goldsmith and comments on his blog here.

Perceptions may lead to resistance

Your perception interacts with your memory to connect to an emotion, an assumption, a belief, and ultimately an action. When you glance at the image below, what is your first thought? What does it represent to you? You may have seen this image before, in which case you will “know” what it is, and you may have to pause for some time before you see anything new.

What do you see?

What do you see?

Why not show it to someone else now and ask what they see? What would they call it? How does this change your perception? Once an idea has lodged in your mind about what it is, you will never see this image again the same way.

We create stories around our perceptions; those stories become part of our own history and being. They may become part of the way we define ourselves and our view of the world. When the story becomes our truth, we experience resistance when we meet up with a new story that does not connect to our own.

So how does knowing this help us overcome resistance? I believe we have to work to create a new mutual story which grows from the two conflicting stories. It takes time, and trust, and an openness to new ideas.

So now you are wondering, Marjorie, what IS this? Well, I can tell you what it is TO ME — a man in a tuxedo standing too close to elevator doors. What about you? Does it look different now?

This image is  “Droodle”. Thank you Roger Price.

I am a transparency of myself…

When I am stressed, I am a transparency of myself. My language centre is hijacked. I am defensive. Negative. Worried. Silent.

With my full self, I am positive, open, optimistic, vocal.

Stress effects our brain.

In stress, I am a transparency of myself. [Photo and drawing credit, Ceilidh Munroe.]

At our Workplace Fairness lunch recently, Jo-Ann Pawliw, licensed stress and performance coach, got us talking about our early warning system for recognizing stress. She used an analogy of 4 coloured markers to help us understand how rapidly our brain decreases function when we are stressed. Did you know that your emotional hijack, if it is un-addressed, can last for 18 minutes? It’s long enough to do damage. She also pointed out then when stress occurs, your brain releases chemicals into your bloodstream which can last for 3-4 hours.

That could ruin your day.

Or your golf game.

It is important for all of us to recognize our early markers. I think my first is serious negative thinking.  I begin a spiral down into pessimism which deflates my energy and undermines my skills. Jo-Ann shared some strategies based on brain and physiological research:

STOP. Interrupt your response.

OXYGENATE. Concentrate on your breath. Bring air into your lungs through your nose and focus on shorter in (perhaps 3 counts) and longer out (perhaps 5 counts). Concentrate on bringing your breath in through your lungs and around your heart.

SEEK.  Be curious. Seek information about why this is happening to you and what is going on for others around you.

I am committed to working on this. When I feel myself dropping those markers, and the colours of my world shrinking, I will focus on my breath and take myself to my really happy place — into the woods on skis, where I am a full self and not a transparency self.

Thanks Jo-Ann.  If you are interested in coaching to help  you manage performance under stress, visit www.heartofperformance.com.

Employees without choices will stay silent

The one-size-fits all template for harassment investigations no longer aligns with the growing respect of and desire for self-determination.  Employees would rather stay silent than come forward to be part of an investigation process and the fallout, as we have seen recently at the CBC and in the Houses of Parliament, can be acute.

In both of these highly publicized cases, complainants had few choices. Like many employees, they lack a safe environment and have few choices when it comes to reporting harassment. Is this typical? What resources are employers providing to their staff to help them work through their options when they are feeling victimized? How do current conflict management systems support respondents? Do they have the before, during and after support they need to go back to work if the investigation is unfounded?