“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi
Hopes that the global recession will end soon are dashed daily. Many businesses are still going bankrupt or laying off staff to cope with the situation. Your company is probably no exception. Employees have to work far harder so that your business can make ends meet. And the fact you cannot offer increases anymore, let alone annual bonuses, is bound to be a source of resentment amongst the team.
Further, cross-cultural clashes and diversity issues continue. This is the perfect breeding ground for workplace conflict and additional problems that are likely to affect productivity.
Diversity and cross-cultural conflict
You may pretend not to hear the racial comments, misogynistic remarks, and jokes about other ethnicities going around your office. When you confront the people responsible, they defend themselves by saying they are â€˜just teasingâ€™. Even though youâ€™ve made a commitment to diversity, you may still let the behaviour slide.
You may also be aware of the grudges that certain employees hold when their input is not properly acknowledged. And, you may even be aware that they are under the impression that his happens because of their age, race, or gender. In short, thereâ€™re plenty of suppressed issues undermining your company.
These issues need to be resolved; regardless of your employeesâ€™ status. So, what should you do?
Use emotional intelligence
You want productive and collaborative partnerships from both your management team and your employees. If you want greater harmony and increased productivity, you need leaders that can empathise with their staff members, and them develop their skills through honest feedback and constructive feedback. This requires emotional intelligence, which is the ability to recognize your own feelings and those of others and being able to manage both effectively.
As emotions are an inherent aspect of workplace activities, like they are at home, focusing on growing employees in this manner can only produce the best results.
Anita Rowe, Jorge Cherbosque and Lee Gardenswartz, from the Emotional Intelligence And Diversity Institute, developed the EIDI model, which is aimed at diversity and conflict resolution in the workplace. The model consists of:
This step asks you to look at yourself honestly and non-judgementally, so that you can understand your own thoughts, emotions and behaviours in the face of diversity. You have to look critically at your vulnerabilities and strengths. Managing your emotions and accepting others is rooted in self-awareness. This also applies to understanding your prejudices, and being comfortable with yourself.
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You need to learn how to constructively manage your energy and emotions to acknowledge and effectively deal with the feelings triggered by diversity. This entails monitoring your inner dialogue and taking responsibility for change within yourself.
You also need to understand how cultural differences influence behaviour. It entails understanding the pros and cons of different cultural norms from different perspectives. This promotes positive inter-cultural interaction through empathy.
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It is everyoneâ€™s responsibility, regardless of your corporate status, to make the workplace an emotionally-healthy environment. This means that everyone has to work on creating dialogue that will resolve and, ideally, avoid conflict. Good communication skills are vital for this step.
Some companies still dismiss EI training, saying such attitudes and habits, which are often formed in childhood, cannot be changed. However, psychologist, author and EI expert Daniel Goleman disagrees. According to Goleman, habits can become hard-wired from the very first instance. Itâ€™s the practice that makes perfect.
Shellee-Kim Gold writes for a South African-based corporate coaching company that helps businesses resolve conflict, build team spirit and manage change.
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