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Workplace Conflicts: Watch Your Tone of Voice

  • Posted by: Ellen Kandell

Lots of interesting questions were posed by the reporter who interviewed me recently.  The likelihood is that others share these questions.   I will feature many of these questions in my posts over the coming weeks.  If you have questions about conflict resolution, mediation or negotiation,  please post in the comments section of the blog and I’ll respond.

What are the most common conflicts or disputes that arise in today’s workplace?  The most common subjects of workplace disputes center around issues about performance, work assignments, promotion and compensation.  Based on my experience as a workplace mediator the dispute, at its core often concerns  issues about dignity and respect, whether it is a charge of workplace discrimination under the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statutes or another workplace complaint.   If parties could easily talk about these subjects openly and honestly they would not need a mediator.  But these workplace conflicts come to mediation because there is a misunderstanding due to some failure of communication.

While we focus a good bit of intellectual energy on the content of our communication, the reality is that only 7% of our communication is based on our words.   Ninety-three percent is body language and non-verbal communication.   In my experience the root of many of the communication problems in workplace disputes lies with issues about tone of voice that is perceived by one party as derogatory and insulting.  Whether you’re a supervisor giving directions to an employee or a team member responding to a colleague,  are you conscious of “how” you deliver the message?

Another factor complicating communication is today’s  multi-generational work force.  It is common for a supervisor to give an assignment to an older subordinate.    Each generation has different communication preferences and obstacles.   An astute supervisor needs to be cognizant of these differences when communicating with his or her team.  Likewise, a smart employee should be aware of how best to communicate with management.

Conflict is a naturally occurring phenomenon.  Good conflict management is about good, straight forward and honest communication.

Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse, national clients. Get in touch with her via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or give her a call at 301-588-5390.

Author: Ellen Kandell

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