Posts Tagged ‘Hill & Knowlton’

Escalating conflict

posted by Scott McKenzie

A few years ago I had a slightly uncomfortable moment while working at a world famous Oil & Gas company.

I was in a meeting with a client when one of her stakeholders knocked on the door and asked to speak to her. My client went out into the corridor where the two of them proceeded to have what I can only describe as a “right barney”. For non-native English speakers -”barney” could be translated as a prolonged – and very vocal – argument.

Clearly it was both an uncomfortable and awkward situation. It highlighted the level of pressure both individuals were under. And the lack of awareness that they had around the impact their behaviour had on those around them.

The incident came back in to my mind as a result of some data the CIPD released earlier this week around conflict in the workplace.

The CIPD research makes an explicit link between the challenging economic circumstances with increased levels of conflict.

This is not really a surprise. Over the last couple of years most of us have had to adhere to the maxim “more for less” as we seek to reduce inefficiency and increase productivity.

But this can lead to a human cost. More workload, tighter deadlines, more stress. Is it any wonder that stressed employees then find themselves in conflict situations?

For people managers this puts even greater focus on their communciations. Do they have the skills, capability and experience to manage this conflict? Can they recognise the underlying issues and handle them with emotional intelligence?

This is one of the great cross-over points between communications and HR, pyschology and management. And it’s something we have some experience here at H&K  in tackling.  For example, we work with a fabulous Organisational Pyschologist called Arndis Jonsdottir who is really adept at understanding what the underlying causes for conflict are.

We also offer a great Leadership Communciations course  which has a specific section on managing conflict. I’d be happy to talk to you about it.

Whether you enlist our help or not there seems little doubt that conflict in the workplace is a significant issue. One you can’t afford to ignore.

Engagement, Discretionary effort and Freakonomics

posted by Scott McKenzie

I like the way that my successor as CIPR Inside chair Sean Trainor describes the importance of engagement in his recent PR Week podcast.

He rightly talks about “engagement” being an over-used term. In my view it is often inappropriately used – sometimes lazily, occasionally more cynically.

One of my biggest concerns is how often employee engagement is described as the outcome we are seeking to achieve. It is not.

We live in a world driven by the bottom line. Engagement is an enabler to better results – whether they are profits, customer service, patient satisfaction, etc., or whatever results drive your organisation. These are the real outcomes our Chief Executives care about.

Sean makes the absolutely key connection between engagement and discretionary effort. In other words if I have the choice to do something of incremental value for my organisation will I do it?

These are the real moments of truth that we all face every day of our working lives.

I have always believed that it makes intuitive sense that if you have an employee who understands the direction of their organisation, and believes in it, and understands the role that they can play… you are likely to get better business results.

But how do I prove it? Is it too much of a leap of logic to assume that an “engaged” employee will be a more productive one? It’s at this point that I wish I thought like Professor Stephen D. Levitt of Freakonomics fame. Perhaps we should all club together to ask him to explore the behavioural economics behind employee engagement?

Although there may be no need. A couple of pieces of research may be making the picture a little clearer.

Thomas Lee brought this research by Hewitt to my attention, and I am also grateful to Kevin Dwyer for highlighting some work the Corporate Leadership Council has released.

This data is useful to us. As I have long argued the way we promote this profession has to be about more than good use of language. We need to understand the numbers and how they relate to what we do. We can then present an overwhelming business case to our leadership.

Perhaps I should put that call into Professor Levitt after all…