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Tag Archives: workplace conflict

How to deal with inappropriate workplace behaviour (and stay out of legal hot water)

StephenHammondI’ve often addressed how leaders should deal with specific dysfunctional workplace behaviours (including my suggestions in this article in CPA Magazine).  Today though, my professional colleague and friend Stephen Hammond comes at this very important subject from a much more global perspective.  The focus of Stephen’s professional practice is helping leaders improve workplace behaviour, and he’s also the author of a new book The New Norm: a manager’s guide to improving workplace behaviour…and keeping out of legal hot water.  I am thrilled that he agreed to write a guest post for the Turning Managers Into Leaders blog.

Why does anyone put up with inappropriate workplace behaviours, some of which can be described as harassment, bullying and discrimination?  After all, we’ve had decades of policies and education to address these very issues…yet problems persist in so many workplaces.

It seems we need to ask some very important questions: Why can one person poison an entire workplace? Why can a bully be promoted into a managerial role where she can wreak havoc on even more employees? Why does a bullying boss get a promotion, thereby indicating that the organization rewards bad behaviour? And why can people blow the whistle on bad behaviour and yet they end up with discipline, or worse, they get fired? Continue reading

Conflict can be a positive force to spur innovation

LawyersWeeklyLast month, The Lawyers Weekly ran a story about how conflict can actually be a positive force to spur innovation. Writer Geoff Kirbyson interviewed me and three other experts for this article and you can read the insights we offered in the online edition – Using good conflict to spur innovation: a team of ‘yes men’ won’t yield desired results.

In a nutshell, the type of conflict where ideas are challenged and proposals are questioned is not only a good thing but is in fact mandatory for a forward-thinking firm. The challenge of course is that there is a fine line between conflict that is disruptive and that which produces debate leading to superior outcomes. Some ideas for creating an environment where good conflict is encouraged and fostered: Continue reading

Dealing with dysfunctional workplace behavior

CPA_Mag_Apr2014In the newest issue of CPA Magazine*, writer Deanne Gage pens an interesting article on anti-patterns – undesirable and dysfunctional workplace behavior that manifests over and over again – and she sought out Merge’s expertise for advice on how to overcome several common situations.  For strategies to deal with cookie lickers, mushroom managers, credit grabbers, and hammerheads (or if you just even want to know what these terms mean!), read the article: Continue reading

How to handle employee conflict

CGA0102-2014CoverI often blog and talk about how conflict and disagreement amongst your people is not a bad thing (Why conflict and disagreement are essential for high-performing teams and Minimizing conflict is not always a good thing) but there is a line when “good” employee conflict crosses over into “bad”.  When constant conflict between two or more of your employees is based on personal dislike and only seems to get worse, then it’s time to step in … but not quite in the way you might expect. In my latest article in CGA Magazine, I offer four key things to consider in your quest to get your employees to play nice! Continue reading

Dealing with employee complaints – live audio event on November 21

Conflict and negativity in the workplace, if left unchecked, can lead to low team morale and decreased productivity. Even worse, it can shift into harassment, discrimination, or even violence. Which means, that as a leader, you can’t just hope that such issues will simply work themselves out or magically disappear. You have to take deliberate focused action to address the issue!

But do you know how to confidently and assertively address employee complaints and concerns in a manner that will get to the root of the problem and result in positive outcomes? If not, then this audio conference titled “No Whining Allowed – How to deal with employee complaints and concerns” is exactly what you need. In one fast-paced power hour, you will learn specific strategies for assessing and evaluating employee concerns, and tested tactics for dealing with complaints quickly, fairly and in a way that takes care of the situation long-term.

Click here to register now

Don’t wait! If you act by November 14, you can take advantage of early bird savings. Here’s just some of what you’ll learn:

  • Two very important reasons you shouldn’t ignore the problem (or even hope that it will go away)
  • Seven specific things you can do to effectively question, paraphrase and listen to get to the bottom of a concern or complaint
  • How to give your employees tools to become part of the solution (rather than part of the problem), and in the process manage circumstances before things become too hot to handle
  • The “big four” situations when it’s time to bring in the “big guns” in the form of professional help
  • Specific actions that you can take to avoid getting in legal or regulatory hot water later

Join me on November 21, 2012 at 11 AM MST. Early bird pricing in effect ONLY until tomorrow Wednesday November 14!

Click here to register, or for more information

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to dealing effectively with employee concerns and complaints?

Every workplace has at least the occasional disagreement or conflict , and sooner or later, every supervisor or manager is called upon to deal with negativity amongst team members.   If left unchecked, conflict and negativity will lead to low team morale and decreased productivity, and can even shift into harassment, discrimination, or at worst, violence.  Which means that you HAVE to take action NOW in order to prevent a worse situation later.

This is exactly the subject under discussion in my next live audio conference on November 21, 2012.  In “No Whining Allowed – How to deal with employee complaints and concerns”, I’ll be covering specific and practical information on how to confidently and assertively address employee complaints and conflicts in a manner that will get to the root of the issue and result in a positive outcomes.  I’ll be opening the lines for questions, so I want to know – as a manager or supervisor, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to dealing effectively with employee concerns and complaints? What one thing could I help you with so that you can address these issues before they turn into bigger crises? Go to to ask your question and I’ll answer as many as I can on November 21.

And while you’re at, be sure to download the free article – “Conquering the Negativity Toxin” – in which I lay out specific strategies to deal with negativity in the workplace. Just click on the link on the bottom left of the screen.

Conflict is necessary for high-performing teams

When it comes to high-performing work teams, conflict and disagreement are not necessarily bad things.  In fact, your goal as a leader is to create an optimum balance between consensus and conflict.  In the October 2012 issue of Lab Manager Magazine, I write on just this subject, and offer some insights into why it’s “oh so important” to create a working environment in which healthy conflict is welcomed and encouraged.

Read the article Conflict and Disagreement Are Not Always Bad: In fact, they are essential to high-performing work teams.

Then come on back to the blog and tell us what you think.  How can you make sure that conflict is healthy and constructive?

Continue reading

Why conflict and disagreement are essential for high-performing teams

As a leader, your goal is to create an optimum balance between consensus and conflict.  You want people to get along and achieve stated objectives, but you also want them to speak up when they need to, even if their message is unwanted or controversial.  Most communication strategies focus on creating agreement and harmony, but in this latest issue of CGA Magazine, I shift attention to the opposite end of the spectrum.  I take a closer look at the negative workplace phenomena known as The Abilene Paradox and Groupthink, and offer some practical ideas to facilitate productive disagreement in the workplace.  Read the entire article here.

What specific things are you doing in your department or organization to discourage instances of the Abilene Paradox and groupthink?

Minimizing conflict is not always a good thing

In 1974, Dr. Jerry Harvey and three other family members embarked on a 53-mile road trip to Abilene, Texas in a 1958 Buick without any air-conditioning.  Not only was the temperature a scorching 40 degree Celsius, but the entire drive was through a dust storm!  It was only when they returned home at the end of the day that they discovered that nobody actually wanted to go to Abilene, Texas.  It turned out that each person only agreed to go because they thought the other people really wanted to go.  Dr. Harvey said later: “Here we were, four reasonable sensible people who, on our own volitions, had just taken a 106 mile trip across the godforsaken desert in furnace-like temperatures through a cloud-like dust storm to eat unpalatable food at a hole-in-the-wall cafeteria in Abilene, Texas, when none of us really wanted to go!  In fact, to be more accurate, we had done just the opposite of what we really wanted to do.”  Today, the “Abilene Paradox” is used to describe any communication breakdown situation in which members of group don’t want to “rock the boat”.  In their desire to minimize conflict, each mistakenly believes that his or her own preferences are counter to the group and therefore does not raise any objections.

The Abilene Paradox serves to underline the importance of creating a work climate where healthy conflict is welcomed and encouraged.  One suggestion – as the manager or supervisor, play the role of devil’s advocate – take a position you don’t necessarily agree with just for the sake of argument.

So what are you doing to foster such an environment on your team?  Please … share your specific ideas.


Reprogram your vending machine

Vending_MachinesThink about a vending machine that dispenses candy and snacks.  You insert your money, input the displayed product code, and the machine dispenses your treat.  If you selected a chocolate bar, then you’d expect that chocolate bar, and if you selected a bag of potato chips, then you’d expect that bag of potato chips.  And normally, because the vending machine has been programmed to deliver a product according to the code you input, that’s exactly what happens.  But what if a vending machine manufacturer accessed the inner workings of that vending machine overnight and reprogrammed it so that the code and product selections were all mixed up?  Now keying in a specific code for a chocolate bar results in a roll of breath mints, and inputting the code for a bag of potato chips results in a package of cookies!  What would happen in such a scenario? Continue reading