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Published on February 6, 2020

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

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.

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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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

13 Critical Things to Consider Before Switching Careers

13 Critical Things to Consider Before Switching Careers

Do you have a path not taken? Maybe you had big career dreams when you were younger, but somehow they didn’t materialize.

Maybe you took your first job, thinking it would be a stepping stone to a better job. It seemed like a good idea at the time, you recall, except the better job never came along. Or perhaps, saddled with student loans, you took a job that helped you pay them off. You paid them all right, but now you feel stuck in a career you don’t really like.

The average person spends 90,000 hours in their lifetime at work[1]. That’s too much time to be doing anything you don’t love!

Is it time to think about switching careers? Here are 13 things to do when making the big leap.

Diagnose Your Current Work Situation

Before switching careers, it’s important to figure out why you’re currently unhappy so you don’t step into another situation that isn’t right for you. Start with these considerations before making any big decisions.

1. What Are You Passionate About?

It’s somewhat shocking, but research shows 87 percent of workers have no passion for their jobs[2]. Passion can be measured many ways, and one person’s passion is another’s poison. Still, if you believe in your company’s core mission, it really helps.

How can you find your passion? You may have to switch careers. Try to arrange informational interviews with as many people as you can who work in the field of your dreams to be certain that making the switch will make you feel more engaged with your work.

Your aim: To be as happy walking into the office on Monday morning as you are leaving the premises on Friday afternoon. When you love your job, no day feels too daunting. When you love your job, it doesn’t feel like work.

Need a little help finding your passion? This article can help: How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life

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2. Can You Keep up With Technology?

Are you keeping up with it? And is your current company supporting your efforts? The speed of technology is so fast that many companies today can’t keep up. This may result in anxiety among the company’s leadership. The sense of anxiety can filter down and impact the workers. Morale is low, and everyone fears for their job.

When switching careers, try to find a company that will allow you to learn as you grow. It also helps to consider yourself a lifelong learner. These days, we all have to be.

Invest the Time to Dream Big

If you’re now sure of why you want to make a move, it’s time to dig into your dreams to find exactly which direction to go.

3. What Does Your Vision Look Like?

Athletes visualize their signature moves. Politicians fantasize about winning. Your task is to visualize your dream. Where do want to be working five years from now? Ten years from now? Fifteen years from now? Figure out what your titles will be at each point along your new trajectory. Will you be living in your current geographical area or will you have moved?

Ask yourself the hard questions as well. Can you afford to switch careers right now? Will you be making more money or less than you currently do? How will you support those who depend on you?

Once you have your vision clearly committed to paper, run your vision by a few of the people who know you best. Do your friends encourage you to pursue your vision? (If they don’t, consider finding more supportive friends.)

4. Do You Know What to Expect?

It’s harder to switch careers than to find a new job in your current field. You may have to accomplish the move in several discreet steps. Will making a lateral move at your current company take you one step closer to your ultimate goal?

In addition to researching your dream field online, try to surround yourself with some friends who have recently switched careers. After you have formed a rough idea of the steps you will need to take to get from where you are now to your new career, consider committing it to an action plan. The more concrete you can make your Plan, the better.

Should you be attending more networking events? Do you need to burnish your online profile? Commit to action steps, and then put those steps into your daily calendar. You’re going to do this!

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If, for instance, you’ve decided to move from marriage counseling to financial planning — you’ve seen enough divorces resulting from money matters to know there’s a better way to help people — your listening skills and discretion will be an asset. Your research will reveal whether you need specialized training or licensing to qualify. If so, go online and add your name to every list you can find to learn more information. Start calculating how to pay for your courses. A bonus you’ll get with continuing ed courses: you’ll gain access to a strong peer network.

Take Action

Time to make the move. Start considering how you will approach these steps to get where you want to go.

5. Who Will Support You?

What if, early in your career, you made a job switch that you regret? Now is the time to call your ex-boss and try to get together for lunch or a cup of coffee. Let them know you are thinking of making a U-turn back to your former field.

What if your sister disapproves of every idea you have? Either resolve to avoid her for the next 12 months or call her right now — and tell her you’re switching careers and you don’t care whether she approves! Keep all naysayers at a distance during this transition time.

6. What Can You Do Each Day to Accomplish Your Dream?

Switching careers can be quite time-consuming, but if you break down the task into small chunks, tracking your progress as you go, you’ll have a better chance of success. Whether you spend a few hours today googling your dream career, or refurbish your LinkedIn profile to emphasize the skills you have that will help you land this new job — just keep at it.

Career-switcher’s hint: Working on your new dream for one hour each day is more productive than spending 12 hours working at it on a Sunday. The more committed you are to achieving your goal, the faster it will happen.

7. Does Your Resume Highlight the Correct Skills?

First, research the qualifications of the position you hope to land. Then, look for ways to mesh them with your own skills. While some careers require specific degrees and credentials, there are many positions you can transition into that require no additional education. Sometimes, what you bring from your own background is perfect.

Take inventory of all the hard and soft job skills you possess. For the skills you don’t have, put a plan in place to acquire them!

Highlight your qualifications in a way that makes a well-argued case for your compatibility with the organization and the position you’re after. Keep in mind that all employers look for candidates with skills that show leadership and the ability to solve problems, persevere through challenges, and get results.

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Refine the skills on your resume to incorporate these resume “musts.” Make sure, though, to only claim skills you truly possess. Unless you’re proficient in a software program or are fluent in a second language, leave any mention of them off.

Switching Careers Shortcuts

When switching careers, there are ways to make it easier. Look into these questions to see what can work for you in your search.

8. Do You Have Any Contacts in Your Desired Career?

People are remarkably forthcoming on their LinkedIn profiles. This helps when you search out employees in your dream field or a targeted company. But before you take full advantage of online networking, first make sure that your profile content is fresh.

Curate all social media accounts to reflect your new direction. Social media can increase your networking opportunities exponentially. Comment on the posts of your targeted contacts and pose pertinent questions to get on their radar.

9. Are You Networking Enough?

While it may be considered old-school to tap your organically grown (offline) network, it still comes with the best odds of success. Reach out to your friends and acquaintances with industry connections who can help you make a connection.

Make a point of meeting face-to-face with anyone who can offer you a lead or provide a reference. You never know what kind of opportunity will unfold from these offline connections.

Learn more about networking here: How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

10. How Can You Become an Expert in Your New Field?

Start building the skills you’ll need to make your career switch. LinkedIn and many other providers offer online courses in everything from accounting software to mastering Excel. For extra credit, see if you can find classes that award online badges for completing each course. Don’t be shy about adding these certificates to your online profile.

Read trade magazines and study up on industry trends. Write and post articles on timely topics. Develop an online presence in the field of your dreams.

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11. Are You Willing to Put Yourself out There?

Nonprofit organizations often look for volunteers to help them with their outreach, social media, fundraising, and more. Once you’ve mastered the needed skills, be sure to have the head of the organization or a board member write a glowing recommendation for you.

Depending on your desired career, it may be possible to take on a contract assignment at a company where you learn on the job. A freelance gig allows you to polish your skills, make connections, and prove you’re serious about this career change.

For example, if your dream is to transform your knack for attracting followers through pithy postings into a career as a social media manager, don’t be afraid to pitch your services. Most companies need someone to manage their online presence and may welcome your fresh new strategy.

Switching Careers Results

Now that you’ve taken the steps to switch careers, bask in the success you’ve found in doing so.

12. How Can You Reward Yourself?

Set whatever benchmarks you need to achieve as you embark on switching careers, and think of them as cause for mini-celebrations. Find frugal ways to reward yourself.

However, hold out for the big, pop-the-champagne celebration until you land your dream job.

13. Has the Risk Paid Off?

People who prefer to play it safe throughout their careers often fall short of their potential. Research shows the primary reason executives derail is an inability to change[3]. It takes a large measure of courage to pursue a new path. And when you succeed, it fuels your confidence.

You have an air of self-assurance about you and a can-do spirit that stands out. And best of all, you’ll have moved from a dead-end or lackluster job to one into which you can pour your passion and realize the feeling of self-fulfillment.

The Bottom Line

Don’t be afraid to switch your career path once you’ve outgrown the one you’re in. Set out to intentionally pursue career satisfaction and you’ll reap great rewards by realizing the joys of job satisfaction.

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Featured photo credit: Kevin Bhagat via unsplash.com

Reference

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