Monday, September 5, 2011

Why You Should Look Outside the (Company) Box

As a specialist in interpersonal workplace relations I often see dismay in the faces of Business owners, senior executives, HR managers, and the like when they engage with me to provide services for their organization. They express frustration, anger, or even shame as they share detailed information about the conflict or problem which is occurring, and their unsuccessful efforts to remedy it thus far. What they rarely seem to recognize however, is that their struggle may stem more from their proximity than their competency.

Consider the following advantages of being a consultant:

Objectivity - As an outsider to the company, a consultant has an unclouded perspective of the conflict or problem, and the people involved. Simply sharing this unbiased and unique viewpoint can begin to pave the way toward clearer solutions.

Neutrality – As both a function of their role as Mediator, and as a person not otherwise involved with the company or its employees, an outside consultant is recognized as being neutral to the conflict. This allows each side to believe that the process and any resolution will be fair.

Confidentiality – Staff experiencing conflict can feel assured that their issues are not going to be shared in the lunchroom, now or ever. More to the point, any shame, embarrassment, or fear they may feel in connection with their dispute can more easily be managed as the person who has this knowledge isn’t down the hall or socializing with their coworkers.

Availability of time – With the goal of getting to the root of the conflict, it is imperative that time is taken to allow staff to open-up completely and to fully discuss the issues that are occurring between them. Time constraints only serve to undermine this goal, and in-house helpers (managers, executives, HR) are simply unable to devote unrestricted time to these efforts.
Beyond those initial advantages, are other benefits which tip the scales in favor of change being possible:

Trust – Fear is the biggest impediment to honesty. By bringing in an outside expert and allowing for confidentiality, you demonstrate to your staff that they are valued and that you also place great importance on their resolving the issue. This dispels fear, and allows staff to feel safe when they open up.

Subject-Matter Expertise – Beyond the challenges of gaining trust and carving out time to resolve interpersonal issues, is the importance of having the right skills to bring the conflict to positive resolution. Placed in the wrong hands, even well-intended efforts may yield greater problems like increased tensions, unwanted turnover, or worse. A capable and expert consultant, can address even the most sensitive of issues in a way that promotes understanding, improves cohesion and creates better workplace relations.