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Methods for navigating confrontation in the workplace

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable, but how you deal with conflict can make all the difference in the world in how you are perceived by your peers.

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Conflict is inevitable in the workplace

When you work with people, you have to learn to handle disagreement and confrontation while maintaining your cool. During conflict, the words you choose make the difference between finding a peaceful resolution or making the problem worse.

Saying the wrong thing is easy when you’re upset. First, there’s your own discomfort about dealing with your negative feelings. Many people don’t know how to process anger and resentment effectively, which means you stumble over what you want to say. When emotions run high, it’s often because the stakes are high.

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Another reason people say the wrong thing during conflict is because they forget to understand what’s really happening. You may be defensive or blame the other person, which is a normal feeling, but it doesn’t serve to resolve the conflict. Don’t try and build your case for why you’re right, but focus on the resolution. In addition, what you say may not interpreted as how you meant it. People hear your words through the filters of their own experiences, and they may notice the nuances or inflections in your voice that might change the message.

Try this when you’re in a difficult confrontation

When you’re in a situation where words can be misinterpreted, you need to be cautious about how you proceed. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it can defuse the conflict when you take another approach before opening your mouth. Try these methods when you’re in a difficult confrontation.

  • Listen. Do not talk while the other person expresses their own frustration. Also, don’t try to think about your own position during this time. Make sure to really listen to them. (Hey, I said it wasn’t going to be easy.) Avoid trying to assign feelings or blame while they’re talking. Just listen.
  • Get information by asking questions. Clarify their position. Learn more about why they feel upset, so that you can get to the root of the problem. Knowledge is power.
  • Paraphrase their position back to them. “I understand that you’re upset because….” “Did I hear this right?” or “Let me make sure I understand.”
  • Own up to your own part. Begin your sentences with “I” so that you present your own perspective and don’t try to put words in the other person’s mouth. “I’m uncomfortable right now” sounds less threatening than “you make me uncomfortable.” Before you speak, notice what word you’re using to start your statement.

Of course, every situation is different. Dealing with your angry boss is much different than handling an angry customer. Don’t forget to consider your relationship and any cultural context that could be important. You can learn to do better when you’re in conflict. Think before you speak to make sure that you choose your words carefully.

#WorkConflicts

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Dawn Brotherton is a staff writer at The American Genius, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

Business News

Overtime laws could soon be getting an update

(BUSINESS NEWS) There are some potential changes coming to overtime laws – employers must know how to be complaint, and employees need to make sure they’re getting paid fairly.

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An important new overtime rule is being proposed that could change overtime for the better. With unemployment at an all-time low, this change could affect at least one million workers.

Overtime is determined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If an employer allows for overtime work, then overtime pay must be paid to employees. Overtime pay is typically one and a half times the hourly rate. Overtime is considered traditionally as any time worked over 40 hours in a work week. Employees are classified as either exempt (also called salaried, meaning no overtime eligibility) or unexempt (allowing for overtime).

This is determined by whether you earn a salary or wage at or above a certain threshold. Currently, the exempt threshold is $23,660 annually. If you make below that amount, you are eligible for and required to be paid overtime if it is worked. Many employers restrict positions from working overtime in order to avoid paying it so this new law won’t change much for them. For more specific details about the rules, see this cheatsheet.

The overtime rule proposal, which has been published and taking comments since 2016, would increase the overtime threshold to $35,308 per year. This would make as many as 1 million more workers potentially eligible for overtime under the law. The overtime law is an important one to protect worker’s rights and prevent abusive work practices by employers. The last change was made in 2004. Another proposed change is for periodic reviews of the overtime law. It’s important to note there is no change for firefights, police, paramedics, and nurses as well as some other unionized workers like carpenters and electricians.

The classification of ‘highly compensated’ employees would change from $100,000 to $147,414.

The new rule, if it becomes law, will require more employees to be paid overtime. This is especially important for those employees who are required to work on holidays. Currently, law makers are working to finalize the rule for approval.

An official publication has been made in the Federal Register and closes for public comments on May 21, 2019. Submit your comment before the deadline is up.

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How to conduct a proper informational interview

(CAREER) Informational interviews comprise a technique in which you ask an employer or current employee to explain the details of their job to you. Try doing this before you transition into your next occupation!

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At some point in your career, you may ask for someone’s time to do an informational interview — a process in which a job-seeker asks questions about a field, company, or position in hopes of receiving information which will inform both their decision to go into the field and their responses to the specific job’s actual interview. Since the power dynamic in an informational interview can be confusing, here are a few tips on how to conduct one. Not how to obtain one, but how to conduct one once both parties agree to connect.

The process of an informational interview typically starts with finding a person who works in your desired field (and/or location if you have a specific company in mind) and setting up a time during which you can ask them a few questions about things like their job responsibilities, salary, prerequisites, and so on. Once you’ve set up a time to meet in person (or via Skype or phone), you can proceed with putting together a list of questions.

Naturally, you should understand the circumstances under which asking for an informational interview is appropriate before requesting one. Your goal in an informational review should be to ask questions and listen to the answers, NOT pitch yourself as a potential hire. Ever. Nobody appreciates having their time wasted, and playing on your contact’s generosity as a way into their company is a sure way for your name to end up on their blacklist.

Once you’ve set up an informational interview, you should start the conversation by asking your contact what their typical day is like. This is doubly effective: your contact will most likely welcome the opportunity to discuss their daily goings-on, and you’ll be privy to an inside glance at their perspective on things like job responsibilities, daily activities, and other positive aspects of their position.

They’ll also probably detail some drawbacks to the position — things which usually aren’t explained in job postings — so you’ll have the opportunity to make a well-informed decision vis-à-vis the rigors of the job before diving head-first into the hiring process.

After your contact finishes walking you through their day, you can begin asking specific questions. However, unless they’ve been unusually brief in their description of their duties, your best course of action is probably to ask them follow-up questions about things they’ve already mentioned rather than asking targeted questions you wrote without context. This will both indicate that you were listening and allow them to expand upon information they’ve already explained, ensuring you’ll receive well-rounded responses.

You should save the most specific questions (e.g., the most easily answered ones) for the end of the interview. For example, if you want to know what a typical salary for someone in your contact’s position is or you’re wondering about vacation time, ask after you’ve wrapped up the bulk of the interview. This will prevent you from wasting the initial moments of the interview with technical content, and it may also keep the contact from assuming a strictly material motive on your part. And be willing to ask “what does someone with your job title typically earn in [city]?” instead of their specific take-home salary which might not be reflective of the norm (plus, it’s rude, and akin to asking someone their weight).

This is also a good time to ask for general advice regarding breaking into the field, though you may want to avoid this step if you feel like your contact isn’t comfortable discussing such a topic or if you’re intending to apply as someone with experience.

Of course, you won’t always be able to meet with your preferred contact directly, especially if they work in a dynamic field (e.g., emergency services) or have a security clearance which negates their ability to answer the bulk of your questions. If this happens, you have a couple of back-up options:

1. Send an email with a list of questions to the contact, or send them your phone number with a wide-open calling schedule. This is useful if your contact has a random or on-call schedule.

2. Ask your contact if there is someone else you could connect with (it could even be their assistant).

3. Speak to the company’s HR branch to see if you can request a company-specific job requirement print-out or link. These will usually be more particular than the industry requirements. But don’t ask for something you can find yourself on the company’s Careers page online.

Nothing beats an in-person interview over a cup of coffee, but — again — wasting someone’s time isn’t a good way to receive useful information about the position in which you’re interested.

Before transitioning to your next position or career field, consider conducting an informational interview. You’ll be amazed at the amount of insider information you can glean from simply listening to someone discuss their day in detail.

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Business News

The sad truths you missed about the US Women’s Soccer Team lawsuit

(NEWS) The US Women’s Soccer team dominated headlines by suing for equal pay, but there was so much more to the lawsuit that could have a ripple effect in the business world.

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Recently, on International Women’s Day, the United States Women’s Soccer Team (USWNT) filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation. The timing of the suit is not only a sign of the team continuing their decades long fight against the organization (only three months before they are set to defend their World Cup title in France), but a recognition of the symbol that they have become in the larger battle that women and other minorities are waging in order to be given the same resources as the men leading in their fields.

It should go without saying that the women’s soccer team is unparalleled in its athletic success: over the past twenty years they have won three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. These players, as ESPN acknowledges, are among the most accomplished and best known women athletes in the world.

Their counterpart, the Men’s National Soccer Team, leaves much to be desired (they failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup, for example) yet they consistently receive much more support from the US Soccer Federation.

Although the pay disparity between the USWNT and the male soccer team is certainly stark, the “gains” that the women athletes are fighting for go beyond monetary compensation.

According to Mashable, “This [suit] includes how women frequently play on a dangerous artificial surfaces when the men do not, fly commercial when the men travel by more convenient, comfortable charter flights, and the alleged allocation of fewer resources to promote women’s games compared to men’s.”

As if being the best players in your sport in the world and having to share hotel rooms after getting torn apart by the seams astroturf and receiving less-than-world-class medical care wouldn’t be infuriating enough, it’s truly this final point that highlights the glaring mistreatment of the USWNT.

Without support from the US Soccer Federation, not only in the form of payment but in promotion of their games and general good-will toward their players, the USWNT will not be able to grow their following so that they can establish a consistent revenue near what the men’s team attracts. This “lack” of revenue continues to create the chicken/egg excuse that the Federation has for not propping up the USWNT like they deserve.

It’s simply the opposite of “sportsmanship” for the US Soccer Federation to use these players’ love of playing the game (that, again, they are the best in the world at) and their country as a way to gaslight them into playing for less.

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