HR Learner in Development

Posts Tagged ‘Class

I suggested a while back to take several steps in career development to encourage career growth and satisfaction. A note of caution is that too much focus on developing your career, or any other activity, could have a propensity to be self-destructive, even if it is what you most wanted or loved from your job.Whether you work in a field which requires a large emotional capacity, large intellectual capacity, or large physical capacity, the body and mind can easily be overtaxed if you do not allow it the proper rest.  This is even clear over the course of a work day or work week – you will feel drained by a demanding time.  To avoid this, you can do several things:  

1.  Eat well  

2.  Get plenty of sleep – During sleep, the body has a chance to re-energize and the mind can organize everything you have learned  

3.  Take mini-breaks – During the course of the day, if your work environment allows it, rest your mind by thinking of something non-work related, even if that means having a fun conversation with a co-worker.  Take a coffee break, go for  a walk, do whatever you need to do to break the constant flow of work thoughts.  Believe it or not, you will return to work more energized and more on your game than if you had been focused on the work all day long.   

4. Use your vacation and personal days – For goodness sakes, please!  If this is a benefit within your company, use it.  Get away from the “But my role is vital,” or “Things will just pile up while I’m away” thinking.  Believe me I’ve heard it.  And I’ve also heard, from the same people, that taking that day away or that week away, unplugged, was re-energizing and made them more efficient upon their return.   

All in all, know your limits.  If it is a busy time in your life, adding more to the mix will not necessarily help you.  Keep this in mind as you add development activities to your routine.  Striking the proper balance will get you far.

Advertisements

Workplace conflict can have catostrophic consequences. Avoiding them can be done by analysing your interpersonal communication techniques.

 

I am posting below a critical incident report I have written as part of my training in an Interpersonal Communication class that I thought might bring some insight to others.  While I have not done an employee relations case or investigation, I can’t help but think that these would be some of the steps I would use to assess the situation and suggest action items for the future to resolve a dispute.  

Incident Description 

Nancy, Steven, Paul and Sylvia work together.  Within team meetings, they collaborate and respect each other’s opinions.  After work, they often unwind at a bar, joke with one another, and enjoy each other’s company without the pressures of their jobs.  Nancy works with Sylvia at the front desk whereas Steven and Paul have private offices.  One day, Steven, the Director of the department, signed his name on Nancy’s calendar, but Nancy used white out to erase his name.  A few days later when she was away from her desk, Steven noticed what had happened and joked with Paul about it.  To tease Nancy, he again signed his name to her calendar for the current month, and the four months following.  When Nancy returned, Sylvia told her what had happened and she became noticeably upset.  When Sylvia commented about it, Nancy went so far as to call Steven a jerk, and suggested that he must be trying to get her to quit.  When Steven heard that she had gotten upset, he said to Sylvia, “She didn’t have to be so OCD about it.  The calendar isn’t even technically her’s.” 

Analysis 

Nancy is clearly territorial about her space.  She prefers supplies and personal items at her desk a certain way and if someone challenges that order, she reacts negatively.  This extends of course to her desk calendar.  When Steven challenged that space, Nancy’s security seemed to have been threatened.  Additionally, Steven violated her space not once but twice.  Nancy was expecting him to understand that she was not pleased with him writing on her calendar after the initial exchange, when she used white out to make the calendar ‘clean’ again.  A drawback of this non-verbal communication was that the degree to how much the act of signing her calendar affected her did not come across in her behavior.  It seems as though Steven did not take the context into consideration when he decided to recreate the act again.  

Another aspect of this exchange is the issue of rank.  Nancy has a lower position than Steven.  Her responsibilities are to provide support to the department and to Steven directly.  In the past, Steven has expressed his desire to be viewed as a ‘team member’ as he views the term ‘boss’ in a negative light.  His objective, it seems, is to create a working culture which has a lower power distance.  This is clear even in how he invites us to all participate in after work fun.  One expression in the department has always been “We hang; we cool.”  However, Steven is providing mixed messages, as his actions speak louder than his words.  

In this scenario, the presence of the high power distance reality becomes apparent.   Steven feels that it is in his power to sign his name on Nancy’s calendar.  As he understands the office, Nancy’s space serves him, and he should be able to manipulate that space as needed.  However, the negative emotions that ensued because of his behavior actually impacted Nancy’s productivity a great deal for a period of time.  

It seems that Nancy is more comfortable in a low power distance scenario seeing as she is uncomfortable with her boss taking over her space.   At the same time, this points to her desire for a high level of uncertainty avoidance.  Again, she appreciates order and neatness in her area, and if a pen is not where it is supposed to be, she knows someone else has moved it.  Steven, however, feels that this level of uncertainty in the work environment is ill-advised.  In discussing the event, Steven mentioned that Nancy should learn how to better adapt to change.  His reasoning for signing Nancy’s calendar for the second time was that he was trying to help her get more comfortable with the idea that not everything in her office space is untouchable.  

Finally, when he realized how much the second occurrence had affected her, Steven jumped to conclusions and used a stereotype for Nancy’s behavior.  Because she wanted a degree of order he was unused to seeing, he verbally categorized her as maybe having an obsessive compulsive disorder.  

Teachable Moments/Insights 

After speaking with Steven about the event a bit more, it becomes clear that the intentions behind Steven’s actions were good. While he did want to make her slightly uncomfortable, Steven was trying to provide Nancy with a growth opportunity to get past her strict assumptions of her work environment.  He in no means intended for Nancy to get upset about the matter and he did apologize in the end after discovering that it did hurt her.     

But who is right and who is wrong in this situation?  Should Steven have been more respectful of Nancy’s space, or should Nancy be more open to change?  Overall, the lesson Steven was trying to impart could have been done differently, with greater tact, if it were done more openly and without an element of power. 

Continuing in the duality vein, an additional insight is how quickly something can go from innocent fun, to an environment of tension and blame, especially when it comes to labeling someone.   Because Steven persisted in writing on Nancy’s calendar, she called him a jerk.  Because Nancy was so defensive of her area, Steven said she might have OCD.  While the statement came out slightly in jest, the mere fact that he could accuse her of having a psychological disorder based on this occurrence seemed unfounded.  However, as tensions normalized, the labeling disappeared.  It stands to reason that each were protecting their self-concepts.  They were each labeling the other as an attempt to save face.  However, the reality of the situation was more complex than Steven being a jerk or Nancy being OCD. 

Additionally, it stands to reason that Sylvia  will more readily side with Nancy because she spends more time with her and is on her same level.  While Paul was unable to comment about the situation. 

Action Plan 

Going forward, several measures should be taken to avoid further conflicts. 

For one, the goal of having an open working environment free of the pressures of rank needs to be reassessed.  While some areas of the work are freely on the same level, such as creating departmental objectives and brainstorming future initiatives, others are more exclusively rank specific.  To some degree, this is to be expected, but these roles have been blurred over time.  For the department to function at a greater level, it is important for a more succinct system to be in place for communicating what is and what is not culturally acceptable within the department in terms of power distribution. 

Additionally, Nancy assumed that Steven would know not to try marking her calendar again due to the fact that she had removed it in the first place.  However, he did not use the context of his surroundings to reach that conclusion.  Going forward, communication should be made verbally and explicitly.  Assuming that Steven will know based on a look or a change in the environment is not enough, but he will respond to a conversation. 

I would not suggest Steven press the issue of training Nancy on becoming more comfortable with change in her environment.  The territoriality that occurs in the office environment is only natural for one who has been on the job a few weeks, let alone three years, as Nancy has been.  Everyone has their own unique way of operating with their environment, and Nancy has found a way that is successful to her.  At this point, to threaten that continuity, or to encourage her to change, is more of a hindrance to her productivity than an opportunity for growth.   There is also seemingly no need for this change in environment as the department is not in danger of being relocated. 

While this team has been working together for over two years, they are still learning about the expectations, assumptions, learning styles, and communication styles of each of the members.  All in all, it would benefit this team to take some time in meetings to discuss where they each stand on certain matters such as Geert Hofstede’s cultural value dimensions, how they use non-verbal communication, and how their self-concepts and perceptions play into their roles within the department, among other issues.  This understanding of interpersonal communication would provide them with the tools necessary to function at a higher level as a team.

There is more than one way to attain your goals and actualize your dream career, and you don't have to do it alone.

As mentioned before, I am on the bottom rung of my career development.  Working myself up from assistantship is my current goal, and my long-term goals revolve around being a point person for learning and organizational development.  Career development is at the forefront for me right now, but I hope that I never lose my drive for self-improvement, or my status as an advocate for career growth.

Just today, my boss told me that he is pleased to see me taking an active role in my career development.  He went so far as to say that I have a better base right now than my current supervisor had coming in to his position.  At the same time, he gave me the impression that I should be moving on soon.  My internal struggle tends to be how long is too long, and how quickly is too quick?  These questions make up the subtle nuances of career development that I am not yet versed enough to understand.  In the meantime, I do have a few workable tips for career development for you:

1.  Ask for feedback – One of the most valuable ways of finding how much you are growing and how much you still need to improve is to ask those around you (not just your supervisors but your colleagues as well) to provide feedback.  Feedback can be a double edged sword.  Given correctly, it can really motivate the recipient to take an active role in improving performance and taking charge of results.  Done incorrectly, it can discourage.  My advice to you is to not shy away from a negative session.  While discouraging and disheartening, keep an open mind.  Was there truth to what was said?  Is there anything you can turn into a positive?  Always keep in mind, however, that negative feedback needs some time to breath.  Don’t be rash.  Take some time to mull over what was said.  Definitely don’t lash out at the giver of advice.  That can be very dangerous to your current position, and possible future prospects in the company and in the industry.

2.  Talk to your supervisors about your goals – There may be projects that they might be able to assign that will bring you closer to learning more about your areas of interest, or give you skills that will bring you closer to your goals.  Be aware, however, that not all supervisors appreciate this candor.  You need to assess your relationship with your supervisors in order to determine whether this is a feasible option for you.  For instance, as petty as it sounds, there are some supervisors who really don’t want their key team members to progress because they hope to utilize their skills, expertise, and man hours for as long as possible.  Others really want to see their junior employees to fly the coop and grow.

3.  Speak to those people in positions you wish to attain – Try to get advice from the people you idolize.  Perhaps you really want to serve in the role that they currently have in a few years, or even in a decade or so, after additional training.  Ask them how they got there, if they have any advice, and what skills are useful for the position.  Ask what it is about the position that they truely enjoy, and what it is that they have grown to accept as a part of the role they must play.  Ask them about the interplay between their role and how it plays in the greater scheme of the department, divsion, and organization.  You may learn that you would not enjoy being in that position as much as you initially expected, or you may learn about some means of getting there that you weren’t aware of before.  Either way, you will be making a contact out of someone who has been there.  This mentorship will benefit you, whether you decide that path is for you or not.  Please be aware that this relationship, like that of the supervisor, will also need to be handled tactfully.  Hopefully you are not gleaning advice from this mentor only to gain tips as to how to steal the job away from that person.  I am not here to judge, but be aware that your perpective mentor may not be as open to share with you if he or she thinks that his or her position is in danger.   Try to find someone who can be open about what it is they do, even if that means branching outside of your own department or company.

4.  Take classes – If your company offers any professional development courses internally, try to sign up for them.  If your company offers tuition reimbursement, take advantage of it.  Don’t think of these things as perks, but as a part of your take home salary.

5.  Step outside of your comfort zone – Whether that means speaking to your supervisor about possible learning opportunities for you, or volunteering for a work committee, expanding your horizons is not only a great way to learn more about other people and other opportunities, but it is one of the best ways to learn about yourself.  Learning what you are capable of and what your areas of growth could be are key in personal and professional development.

6.  Keep an eye on where you’ve come from – It is all too easy to improve one area only to let another area suffer.  Keep a rein on where your strength areas are, and where your growth areas are.  You don’t want them to flip around.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking those strengths are safe.  Be especially careful of times of stress; these often bring out the worst of the worst, and the worst of the best.

7.  Finally, keep your goals in sight – Know what you are aiming for, and evaluate what is attainable.  Having lofty goals can often be completely demotivating, so make sure you can have manageable goals with set milestones or steps.  If there is a milestone you are struggling to achieve, perhaps you need to reassess your goals.  However, as mentioned before, don’t forget to utilize your contacts and your network – social, professional, or global – in order to obtain some additional assistance or advice to overcome some hurdles you may be struggling with.

The start of a blog is a new adventure for me.  I’ve never really done this before, so forgive my noob tendencies – I’m sure they will present themselves pretty frequently.  But the true purpose of delving into this world is for my own self-fulfillment.  I am a young professional, often getting too far ahead of myself, and I’d like a place to develop my professional voice, mindset, and overall share of thought.   My field?  Human Resources.  As a current Human Resources Assistant, I’m truely at the bottom of the barrel, but I know I am capable and can grow within the field.  My true interest lies in a mishmash of Training, Coaching, Talent Management, Change Management, and Organizational Development. 

Therefore, as I delve into learning more about the track that I am on, I hope that you, reader (if you exist) bare with me, pitch in when you want to give your two cents on a matter, and hopefully grow with me.  I hope to really bring some thought provoking ideas to this board, and I won’t stop until I have some solid information under my belt.  With the help of SHRM, ASTD, the Harvard Business Review, Professional Development courses and a massive library at my disposal, research is at my fingertips, and hopefully I can put something of what I learn to good use – if not for me, then for some reader out there without these resources.