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Career Hints – 5 ways to overcome a disagreement with your supervisor

Career Hints – 5 ways to overcome a disagreement with your supervisor

Most of us have experienced a disagreement with our supervisor at some point in our careers. While these events may seem traumatic at the time, the reality is that if you handle the situation correctly it may actually be beneficial, because our actions show that we can negotiate our way through difficult situations and arrive at mutually acceptable outcomes.

1. Define the problem

Have you ever had one of those moments where you argue about everything except the issue in question? You’re certainly not alone.

When you’re in a position of disagreement, the first and most important thing to do is to take a moment to reflect and identify the core issue(s). Be objective; sit down with a piece of paper and write out everything you think is an issue, then rank the most to least important. The real issue is usually looking right back at you from the top of the list.

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    External validation is valuable. Find a trusted colleague or friend, explain the situation, and show them the top three items on your list. Ask what they would focus on, and listen hard to their answers to decide if you’d change your ranking.

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    Sometimes the list technique also helps us to understand that we’re just over-reacting and there is no core problem that needs to be addressed. If so, perhaps having a discussion with your trusted colleague or friend is a good idea. They may have some insights to share.

    Remember, 90% of conflict is just inadequate or ineffective communication. By defining the problem, you may find that you’re just not communicating well; a relatively easy and short term problem to fix.

    2. Find Common Ground

    “I think in most relationships that have problems, there’s fault on both sides. And in order for it to work, there has to be some common ground that’s shared. And it’s not just one person making amends.” – Michael Gary Scott from “The Office”.

    For every two things you and your supervisor disagree on there are probably twenty that you actually do agree on. Focus on the common ground first, then start talking about the points of disagreement in a safe and private forum, rather than just going into whatever it is that’s making you feel reactive.

    Often the points of agreement mediate the points of disagreement; for example, you may not agree on a specific item of the dress code, but you do agree on the need for the company to be professional and successful. Bring out your support for professionalism as a mediating factor for your disagreement about the item of clothing and the conversation will be more productive. Who knows? Maybe both parties can find things they can change.

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    3. See the Other Point of View

    “The war… was an unnecessary condition of affairs, and might have been avoided if forbearance and wisdom had been practiced on both sides.” – General Lee.

    Your supervisor has a point of view. By actively listening to them express that point of view, you are signaling a willingness to listen and engage, as well as a respect for their authority. You don’t have to agree with what they are saying, but you do need to listen and take their view into account.

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      If you’ve already identified what you believe the core problem is, you might test the waters to see if your supervisor agrees with your number one issue being the primary area of concern. If they don’t, then you need to add their concerns to the list of issues you made to consider their points.

      4. Set Boundaries

      “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

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        There are things you and your supervisor will not agree on. These usually include illegal situations such as sexual harassment and discrimination, but you may have ethical boundaries of your own that you simply cannot cross. Know what these are, and keep them in the forefront of your mind as you talk to your supervisor.

        5. Escalate if Absolutely Necessary

        “Between an uncontrolled escalation and passivity, there is a demanding road of responsibility that we must follow.” – Dominique de Villepin

        Most companies offer several ways of resolving conflict between supervisors and workers, including employee assistance programs (EAP), human resources intervention, and even third party mediators, that can all be valuable resources when you feel like you are “stuck”.

        I rarely recommend going “up the chain” to your supervisor’s supervisor because this can be seen as an aggressive move that puts your supervisor into the complex position of having to manage both you and their boss – a situation sure to cause conflict in itself.

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        Employees often do well to start with an off the record discussion with their Employee Assistance Program to help them frame their thoughts, before working with human resources to address the issue. The only exception to this case is when you believe something illegal is occurring in which case it is your obligation to notify HR or your internal compliance officer immediately.

        The role of HR is to take both the company’s and the employee’s interests and attempt to mediate a mutually acceptable solution wherever possible. It’s a complex role where you can’t make everyone happy, and skillful practitioners are in high demand.

        Remember your HR representative is a person who should be treated with respect if you expect them to work on your behalf.  Outbursts of emotion should be checked at the door, and your best chance of resolution is being seen as willing to work with your supervisor to find mutually acceptable outcomes.

        To Sum Up

        “Human beings are born solitary, but everywhere they are in chains – daisy chains – of interactivity. Social actions are makeshift forms, often courageous, sometimes ridiculous, always strange. And in a way, every social action is a negotiation, a compromise between ‘his,’ ‘her’ or ‘their’ wish and yours.” – Andy Warhol

        Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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        Colin Rhodes

        Chief Technology Officer

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        Last Updated on April 17, 2019

        10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

        10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

        What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

        Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

        They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

        1. Communication Skills

        Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

        To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

        Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

        Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

        After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

        2. Flexibility

        Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

        Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

        Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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        Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

        3. Being a Team Player

        Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

        What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

        This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

        Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

        4. Positive Mental Attitude

        There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

        Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

        Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

        It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

        Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

        5. A Strong Work Ethic

        People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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        If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

        Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

        • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
        • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
        • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
        • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

        For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

        6. Public Speaking

        Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

        Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

        If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

        For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

        Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

        7. Integrity

        From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

        • Always doing what you say you will do
        • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

        …even when no one is around to check up on you.

        There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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        Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

        8. Managing Your Time

        Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

        A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

        Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

        Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

        These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

        9. Assertiveness

        In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

        • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
        • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
        • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
        • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

        Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

        How do you use this information for yourself?

        It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

        Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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        How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

        10. Creative Thinking

        LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

        Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

        How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

        Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

        These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

        You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

        What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

        Final Thoughts

        The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

        So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

        The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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        Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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