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Defensive Fort

All across the country in companies large and small annual reviews occur between a manager and the employees reporting under him or her. In the course of conducting this performance review, one of the areas that almost all performance appraisals include is how well the manager and employee communicated.

Whether the person being evaluated got a very good score, or something less, the inevitable result is that the evaluation will leave room for improvement, and will include suggestions to that effect.

But what if you find yourself involved in communication that is not intended to get things done – at least in a way that will advance the goals and objectives that matter.  What about communication that does the opposite? In work environments where conflict goes unresolved communication isn’t about getting things done. There individuals begin talking over each other, going around each other, and working at cross purposes. The consequences of unresolved conflicts is significant.

Communication becomes the vehicles by which the combatants in a conflict build their defenses. They defend their positions in a conflict before any consideration about how it affects the work. Any criticism or complaint, no matter how small, becomes an imperative that must first be defended against and then challenged.

In this environment it is critical that encouraging and positive statements be maximized and that body language fully complement the language being used. When there is a disconnect between the words and the speaker’s body language, any effort to de-construct the defenses of employees in a conflict will quickly lose credibility.

Social scientists have developed a significant body of empirical data that non-verbal communication often sends messages more clearly that words. When I am asked by client about assisting in resolving work place conflict, this is one of the areas I focus on almost immediately. I emphasize the importance of choosing carefully how words are used, by whom and where, and review non-verbal elements that can undermine their efforts.

There are many ways that body language can undermine someone’s efforts to resolve a dispute. One of the suggestions I frequently make to managers and supervisors is to always hold those discussion where everyone is sitting in a straight backed chair. Nothing robs a manager’s credibility quicker than the parties in conflict sitting in the manager’s office in “visitor chairs”, and the manager is in a chair where he ca swivel and look away or lean back. Nothing creates a more powerful message of “I am not as involved in this as you” or even worse “I am really being patient here so let’s hurry it up”.

We at CDC Integrated Services are ready to answer questions or to meet for more detailed discussions. Visit us here to find your answers.