Working with Difficult People

May 29th, 2023
top view of man with hands on head at a workstation feeling frustrated

Having read this article from the Chief Medical Officer, Kierstin Kennedy, MD, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, I wanted to share with you what I learned from her article and add some additional comments based on experience to help you with resolving conflict in the workplace. How conflict is managed is up to individual leadership.  

May 22nd, 2023
A sign with desire pointing right and avoid pointing left with blue sky and clouds in the background

How many times might you see something, want to say something, don’t and move on to avoid potential conflict. Let’s dig a litter deeper and look at conflict, conflict resolution at work, and conflict analysis and resolution in terms of conflict avoidance. With small things this may be fine. You have to decide when and where to act. However, there are times when there may be conflict in the work place and simply avoiding the problem can make the situation worse. It is not going to correct itself on its own. So, the question is how can you move beyond interpersonal conflict avoidance and work constructively to address a conflict at work that really needs to be addressed? This article from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation is summarized below and contains additional commentary for your consideration.

April 24th, 2023
Silhouette of a side of head with a brain filled with various descriptors and the phrase RETAIN THE BRAIN below it

Have you thought about the terms of conflict resolution and conflict management. Google shares with us research on key terms. Conflict resolution is at least three times as popular as conflict management. Perhaps that is because the initiative is on how to resolve a conflict rather than looking at a way to manage conflict. Not all conflict is bad. Collaborative conflict working together and exchanging ideas professionally focusing on the goal is ideal. The question is how to manage conflict to stay positive and focused to avoid it becoming negative, frustrating, and counterproductive. This is where conflict management comes in. Let’s look at both conflict resolution and conflict management.

March 27th, 2023
Two shaking hands with the word partners underneath drawn on a blackboard

Would you like to have better collaboration at work. Consider identifying where others are coming from. Really listen to them. What is going on in their lives at work, home, and life?  What are their biggest concerns? Next how do you appreciate them?  There are a host of ways for you to inspire, promote trust and appreciate others. Finally, how can you collaborate and affiliate with them on common goals, shared values, and common interests.  All of these can help you have better collaboration with others. Read on to learn more.

March 21st, 2023
Outlines of three faces facing each other

I have recently learned that providing three ideas on a topic and approaching the topic from three different angles is an optimum way to share information and for others to optimally take away key points.  With that in mind I am offering you three models related to conflict resolution. Hopefully one of these will help you when you are in conflict with someone else.  Read about all three and then pick out what works best for you. Try it. Practice it. See if this might work for you. If not try another alternative. Do what works for you.

March 6th, 2023
A woman and man arguing with each other

When you argue with someone else what would you like to have happen?  Do you argue to win? Do you argue to try and convince the other party that your view is right and theirs is wrong? What do you want to have happen as a result of this argument?  All too often these questions might be how you initiate an argument thinking you are 100% right and the other party is 100% wrong. The question is how successful is it for you to try and win the argument? Did you really convince the other person you were right, and they were wrong, or if you have the power, did you simply bully them into acceptance? Would you like to know a better way?  Read on.

February 20th, 2023
A scattering of faces on a blue screen with more concentrated towards the center

What is collaboration versus communication?  Communication involves the sharing of ideas. Collaboration is more than communication. Collaboration involves parties working towards a common goal. If you would like to enhance your skills in this area and need to work with others to work towards a common goal, read on. The idea for this commentary came from a Forbes article entitled “4 tips for building a culture of collaboration within your business”.  This article begins with these four ideas and then I expand upon them to help you and add value going forward.

January 9th, 2023
Photograph of lady justice statue

Having taught ethics to CPA societies and in other venues I make use of my own texts and also those of Linda Fisher Thornton with her book, 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.  This commentary makes use of these sources and an article from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation written by Katie Shonk entitled Ethics in Negotiation: Avoid Complicity in Wrongdoing. In negotiations this implies not committing illegal and immoral acts, but also calling out unethical behavior of others. Shonk’s article highlights Max Bazerman’s book, Complicit: How We Enable the Unethical and How to Stop. You only have one reputation. You need to protect that all costs. So, what do you do? Read on.

December 5th, 2022
Two groups facing each other while sitting with the word negotiation in the background

The last two weeks I offered ideas on the Top Strategies for Negotiation Part One and Part Two. This article is one of a series of five articles over the past five months. The focus of this article is entirely with the IRS on a technical issue. Having worked for the IRS for 28 years at all levels from specialist to executive, having brought mediation and mediation training to the IRS Large Business and International Division and trained some 2,500 employees in the techniques, having been involved with over 2,500 mediations from boards of directors with fortune 100 companies on billion dollar issues, to the IRS on valuation issues or issues on research credit from thousands of dollars to a billion dollars, I wanted to offer you some insights on how to negotiate with the IRS on examination on these types of issues. Similar techniques can be used at Appeals and with IRS Counsel, but the emphasis there is on hazards of litigation. There is a different emphasis on examination that focuses on factual development. This commentary will introduce you to factual issues and negotiations on examination where issues are discussed and may be resolved factually.

November 14th, 2022
A hand with a bouquet of three flowers

When you are involved in a multi-issue negotiation you may have asked yourself whether you should make the first offer and if so on which issue? Should you offer something significant on a major issue? Should you offer a token offer on a minor issue? There are different schools of thought on this. Recent research from the Harvard Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School offers some good insights for you to take advantage of this multi-issue negotiation. Additional insights are provided based on real world negotiations between a major taxpayer and the IRS.

October 31st, 2022
A group of keys on a ring

Having been involved in over 2,500 mediations, facilitations, and negotiations in my career, I thought what are keys to a successful mediation? Revisiting this I want to offer you some thoughts that may help you. My experience is largely oriented towards the federal judicial system, working with experts and clients, administratively with the IRS, and as a volunteer in housing court, conciliation court, with neighborhood disputes, in public housing and other venues including between gangs. I have found that alternative dispute resolution focusing on mediation works, saves time and money, is confidential, and it is successful in implementation because the parties produced a solution that they can both live with going forward. What follows are some key elements and what I have found as best practices that you may find helpful too.

October 10th, 2022
two people. One with hands on face and possibly crying. The other has arms crossed

Invariably conflicts or disputes arise between employees for a variety of reasons. Often the best solution is for the two parties to determine how  to work amicably with one another. However, sometimes these issues simmer over time or become caustic in nature. As a manager or peer this can poison a work environment. As a leader you may be called upon to work with the parties to help them come to a solution that everyone as a minimum can live with going forward. The hope would be to come to a solution where everyone is pleased with the final outcome. In reality often times the final solution maybe anywhere between these two extremes. So, how can you do this?