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How to Recon Like a “Spy” to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace

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How to Recon Like a “Spy” to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace

I love a juicy plot with dynamic characters and kick-ass action. Growing up I romanticized about being the next Sydney Bristow in espionage. My martial arts training kind of fulfilled this dream. I believe that we can all take a page from spies like Lorraine Broughton, Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne or James Bond and apply it to our work. Spy skills can help us better manage conflict in the workplace and navigate difficult situations.

My greatest takeaway from spies is doing reconnaissance (aka ‘recon’). Please don’t mistake this approach to act in a sneaky or unethical way!

‘Recon’ means observation, survey, or research of an area to make discoveries.[1].

I always like to be prepared and learn as much as I can about the environment and people I’ll be encountering, especially at work. The degree of my ‘recon’ will vary depending on what’s at stake. For example, meeting a new vendor or client, addressing a difficult behaviour, a team meeting, or attending an interview.

Take a different approach for a moment and think about your favourite spy character or superhero. What kind of skills do they have that can help you gain a different perspective about how to navigate conflict in the workplace.

Here are the five key spy skills you need to thrive in your workplace and why they are helpful to manage conflict.

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1. Awareness

Awareness is defined as having the knowledge that something exists or understanding of a situation at the present time based on information or experience.[2]

When dealing with conflict in the workplace:

  • What’s your role in the conflict?
  • How much awareness do you have of the situation?
  • How are you reacting to other people’s behaviours?
  • How can you approach the situation with an open-mind and remain unbiased?
  • How much do you know and understand about the other parties perspectives?

Be self-aware. Knowing yourself gives you key insights into your strengths, development areas, and how others perceive you. How well you understand yourself and your interactions with others can limit or boost your impact and effectiveness as a leader.

Here are a few ways to enhance your self-awareness:[3]

  • Take time to reflect on your values, strengths, personality traits, behaviours and experiences
  • Understand how you interact with others by asking for specific feedback
  • Understand how others perceive you by asking questions about your reputation

You need to take intentional action, make space for reflection, digest the information and learn how to receive critical feedback so that you can continue to develop yourself.

This process takes time, commitment and practice. And your approach may change as you learn more about yourself.

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Be organization-aware. Knowing yourself and your surroundings like your team and company culture will better help you prepare for unexpected situations.

Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) or PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, Environmental) analysis of your situation or environment.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to understand your stakeholders and your company:

  • What are the parties trying to achieve?
  • What are the parties interests? How are the interests similar or different?
  • What are the constraints in which the business operates?

By understanding the people and the environment in which your business operates, you’ll be better equipped to navigate difficult workplace situations and manage conflict.

2. Build Relationships

Know who your allies are. When dealing with conflict at work, speak with people who you trust Have a group of trusted advisors or mentors who you can vet your difficult situation with. Sometimes having someone be your objective sounding board is all you need to see a new perspective of the situation.

Build new relationships. Continue to build quality relationships that can help you strengthen your conflict management skills. Maybe you admire someone who deals with conflict in the workplace with ease. What skill sets do they have? What is their approach? Perhaps a coffee meeting with this person can help you learn more about their approach so that you can develop your own conflict management style.

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Maintain existing relationships. Don’t forget to schedule time to touch base with your current relationships. Continue to assess what you need out of that relationship and how you can help each other progress with your projects and careers.

3. Change Management

Your ability to adjust to constant market changes in your work environment is essential. The better skilled you are at pivoting, the better positioned you’ll be to navigate challenging work situations.

Being able to adjust to the ebbs and flows of people’s behaviors and your changing environment can better help you communicate with others during times of uncertainty.

Here are a few change management resources that can help you better understand people’s emotions during times of change:

4. Professionalism

Having a certain level of business etiquette and grace in the workplace is key. And this covers interpersonal skills like active listening and nonverbal communication.

Here are some key characteristics of professionalism to keep in mind:

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  • Be on time
  • Be organized
  • Keep your cool
  • Dress appropriately
  • Be reliable and follow-through
  • Admit your mistakes and learn from them
  • Have good etiquette (E.g., verbal, non-verbal, and written)

5. Special Skills

We each have our own set of lethal and targeted skills that we can use to navigate conflict in the workplace. Know what your strengths are, what feels natural to you, and know what gives you energy. Maybe yours are listening deeply, communicating with clarity, or negotiating.

Do an inventory of your skills. Which of these skills can you leverage during times of conflict? How can you use these skills to resolve conflict?

Summing it up

What are some of your favourite TV shows or movies? Who are some of those characters that you identify with? Why? Whether it’s, Batman, Sherlock Holmes or Jason Bourne,

there are skills that we can learn from our favourite characters and apply them at work.

The five key spy skills you need to thrive in your workplace and manage conflict are:

  1. Being Aware and Prepare
  2. Build Relationships
  3. Change Management
  4. Professionalism
  5. Special Skills

Approach conflict with a sense of curiosity by asking questions to understand the situation. This can reduce stress and fear. Open and non-judgemental discussions can lead to a facilitated approach to resolve conflict.

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More Work Skills for Career Success

Featured photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Reconnaissance
[2] Cambridge Dictionary: Awareness
[3] Center for Leadership: 4 Ways to Boost Self-Awareness

More by this author

Ami Au-Yeung

Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

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How to Recon Like a “Spy” to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace
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