HR News October 2 2017 values, beliefs and disagreement at work

One issue has dominated the news recently and it DOES relate to work. The Australian same sex marriage survey has polarised workplaces, families and communities with three notable key elements and lessons to learn for business and leaders of people.

  1. Values and beliefs are important to workplaces and the work/team culture. Managing those well does not always come easily.
  2. Frustration and disagreement over an ongoing issue often shows up in unhelpful ways. Holding effective conversations about ongoing frustration does not always come easily.
  3. Systems and processes can easily undermine working relationships and the progress of a project or change process. Setting up and managing good systems is often more complex than first expected.

Please note – this post is NOT about the survey or about responses. It is about the importance of culture, conversation and systems in the workplace.

Values and beliefs at work

The current issue is really highlighting the impact of shared values and beliefs in the workplace – or the fall out when it is discovered that key values/beliefs are not shared.

Reports have included a business owner cancelling a contract with a supplier and a company terminating the employment of a staffer over differing views.  (You can read more here)

At the heart of the matter for a workplace is the fact that Fair Work Act and Anti Discrimination legislation provide protection for employees in regards to grounds for reasonable termination of employment. No such legislative protection exists for suppliers or B2B relationships. The employee matter is with the Fair Work Ombudsman and is on foot and not resolved, making any comments speculative at best. In a business sense what Broadspring would observe that:

  • shared values and company culture are significant to employees and to employers, yet are rarely well documented
  • beliefs aren’t usually discussed – they form the basis on which we make decisions and assumptions. Our beliefs have often developed over time and we rarely question how they came to be
  • values and beliefs typically get described with emotive rather than logical language. Challenges to our values or beliefs are usually met with a shocked response
  • you cannot resolve an emotionally based issue with logic

What can you do?

  1. Ensure that your Code of Conduct or House Rules or similar document includes behaviourally based descriptions of what desirable workplace behaviour is like. Make it clear from the outset that respect is a foundation for your culture
  2. When you imagine your ideal workplace culture, also imagine what tangible evidence would support that it exists, What would employees (and managers) DO, what would they SAY and HOW would others describe that “ideal” behaviour if they were to experience it?
  3. Train and support the development of high level communication skills in your leaders and managers

Dealing with Frustration and Ongoing Issues

Regular readers of Broadspring blogs and newsletters along with attendees at our training and clients of coaching will know that the one comment on this matter is:

Deal with matters before they become large and difficult

The challenge facing a number of our clients is when they have stepped into a new role and found an ongoing issue or a situation that could have been resolved previously. (in their eyes at least) So what can you do?

Imagine this situation: Rob is appointed to be Regional Sales Manager for a new company. Within the first week Rob has met with all of the team as well as his bosses and understands the expectations of him and his team. He has also heard many complaints about the National Sales Manager and sales reporting processes and is wondering if he made the right decision.

(Yes, buyer remorse affects new hires as much as it does those who buy new clothes. shoes or gadgets!)

So what can be done? It’s always awkward as the new employee to start pushing for change. You join a new company and start trying to bring across ideas from your old company and get met with criticism such as “If things were so good there, why did you leave?” However there are times when a “fresh set of eyes” is precisely what is needed and in fact expected. Getting back to the scenario, you can imagine what emotions Rob has been hot with by people:

  • anger
  • frustration
  • disappointment
  • denial

There are probably more we could go into, but the point has been made. Rob has walked into a new role where others are very frustrated and demanding change now. There are a number of challenges that Rob faces

  1. Does Rob have enough facts and evidence other than what has been provided by others?
  2. The action (or inaction) that Rob takes will be part of the “history” and reputation that stays with Rob while with the company
  3. Acting too quickly on incomplete or biased information could undermine Rob’s reputation with all stakeholders
  4. Being confronted with emotional people in your first few days is confronting, especially when those people expect something to be done now that a new Sales Manager is in place

This is a thin slice view of a situation however it is not uncommon. There are a few tips for dealing with ongoing frustration in others:

  • reassure them that their concerns have been heard
  • advise that you want to make the best decision and take the right action – including that this may take a little longer than they hope
  • request support and ongoing professionalism
  • advise that the way they behave will form the basis of their reputation. (one phase Pam often uses when coaching is”Imagine that you are looking back on this time in 4 years, will you be proud of how you are behaving right now?”

It is a workplace conversation that needs to be had, yet all too often is left alone because of the emotional content.

The role of systems and processes

Always check and rehearse how systems and processes will operate in “the real world”. This is why technology implementations include components such as a sandbox test area, parallel running of old and new systems to manage risk and user acceptance testing to make sure that things work the way they should.

In summary, early workplace conversations to:

  1. clearly define workplace culture
  2. address differing views and conflict
  3. set out expected standards of behaviour (frustration may be the reason for bad behaviour but it never excuses it)