26 February, 2011

Tips to Manage Conflicts

Clarifying Confusion About Conflict

Conflict is when two or more values, perspectives and opinions are contradictory in nature and haven't been aligned or agreed about yet, including:
1. Within yourself when you're not living according to your values;
2. When your values and perspectives are threatened; or
3. Discomfort from fear of the unknown or from lack of fulfillment.
Conflict is inevitable and often good, for example, good teams always go through a "form, storm, norm and perform" period. Getting the most out of diversity means often-contradictory values, perspectives and opinions.
Conflict is often needed. It:
1. Helps to raise and address problems.
2. Energizes work to be on the most appropriate issues.
3. Helps people "be real", for example, it motivates them to participate.
4. Helps people learn how to recognize and benefit from their differences.
Conflict is not the same as discomfort. The conflict isn't the problem - it is when conflict is poorly managed that is the problem.

Conflict is a problem when it:
1. Hampers productivity.
2. Lowers morale.
3. Causes more and continued conflicts.
4. Causes inappropriate behaviors.

Types of Managerial Actions that Cause Workplace Conflicts

1. Poor communications
a. Employees experience continuing surprises, they aren't informed of new decisions, programs, etc.
b. Employees don't understand reasons for decisions, they aren't involved in decision-making.
c. As a result, employees trust the "rumor mill" more than management.

2. The alignment or the amount of resources is insufficient. There is:
a. Disagreement about "who does what".
b. Stress from working with inadequate resources.

3. "Personal chemistry", including conflicting values or actions among managers and employees, for example:
a. Strong personal natures don't match.
b. We often don't like in others what we don't like in ourselves.

4. Leadership problems, including inconsistent, missing, too-strong or uninformed leadership (at any level in the organization), evidenced by:
a. Avoiding conflict, "passing the buck" with little follow-through on decisions.
b. Employees see the same continued issues in the workplace.
c. Supervisors don't understand the jobs of their subordinates.

Key Managerial Actions / Structures to Minimize Conflicts

1. Regularly review job descriptions. Get your employee's input to them. Write down and date job descriptions. Ensure:
a. Job roles don't conflict.
b. No tasks "fall in a crack".

2. Intentionally build relationships with all subordinates.
a. Meet at least once a month alone with them in office.
b. Ask about accomplishments, challenges and issues.

3. Get regular, written status reports and include:
a. Accomplishments.
b. Currents issues and needs from management.
c. Plans for the upcoming period.

4. Conduct basic training about:
a. Interpersonal communications.
b. Conflict management.
c. Delegation.

5. Develop procedures for routine tasks and include the employees' input.
a. Have employees write procedures when possible and appropriate.
b. Get employees' review of the procedures.
c. Distribute the procedures.
d. Train employees about the procedures.

6. Regularly hold management meetings, for example, every month, to communicate new initiatives and status of current programs.

7. Consider an anonymous suggestion box in which employees can provide suggestions.

Ways People Deal With Conflict

There is no one best way to deal with conflict. It depends on the current situation. Here are the major ways that people use to deal with conflict.
1. Avoid it. Pretend it is not there or ignore it.
a. Use it when it simply is not worth the effort to argue. Usually this approach tends to worsen the conflict over time.

2. Accommodate it. Give in to others, sometimes to the extent that you compromise yourself.
a. Use this approach very sparingly and infrequently, for example, in situations when you know that you will have another more useful approach in the very near future. Usually this approach tends to worsen the conflict over time, and causes conflicts within yourself.

3. Competing. Work to get your way, rather than clarifying and addressing the issue. Competitors love accommodators.
a. Use when you have a very strong conviction about your position.

4. Compromising. Mutual give-and-take.
a. Use when the goal is to get past the issue and move on.

5. Collaborating. Focus on working together.
a. Use when the goal is to meet as many current needs as possible by using mutual resources. This approach sometimes raises new mutual needs.
b. Use when the goal is to cultivate ownership and commitment.

To Manage a Conflict within Yourself - "Core Process"

It's often in the trying that we find solace, not in getting the best solution. The following steps will help you in this regard.
1. Name the conflict, or identify the issue, including what you want that you aren't getting. Consider:
a. Writing your thoughts down to come to a conclusion.
b. Talk to someone, including asking them to help you summarize the conflict in 5 sentences or less.

2. Get perspective by discussing the issue with your friend or by putting it down in writing. Consider:
a. How important is this issue?
b. Does the issue seem worse because you're tired, angry at something else, etc.?
c. What's your role in this issue?

3. Pick at least one thing you can do about the conflict.
a. Identify at least three courses of action.
b. For each course, write at least three pros and cons.
c. Select an action - if there is no clear course of action, pick the alternative that will not hurt, or be least hurtful, to yourself and others.
d. Briefly discuss that course of action with a friend.

4. Then do something.
a. Wait at least a day before you do anything about the conflict. This gives you
a cooling off period.
b. Then take an action.
c. Have in your own mind, a date when you will act again if you see no clear improvement.

To Manage a Conflict With Another - "Core Process"

1. Know what you don't like about yourself, early on in your career. We often don't like in others what we don't want to see in ourselves.
a. Write down 5 traits that really bug you when see them in others.
b. Be aware that these traits are your "hot buttons".

2. Manage yourself. If you and/or the other person are getting heated up, then manage yourself to stay calm by
a. Speaking to the person as if the other person is not heated up - this can be very effective!
b. Avoid use of the word "you" - this avoids blaming.
c. Nod your head to assure them you heard them.
d. Maintain eye contact with them.

3. Move the discussion to a private area, if possible.

4. Give the other person time to vent.
a. Don't interrupt them or judge what they are saying.

5. Verify that you're accurately hearing each other. When they are done speaking:} a. Ask the other person to let you rephrase (uninterrupted) what you are hearing from them to ensure you are hearing them.
b. To understand them more, ask open-ended questions. Avoid "why" questions - those questions often make people feel defensive.

6. Repeat the above step, this time for them to verify that they are hearing you. When you present your position
a. Use "I", not "you".
b. Talk in terms of the present as much as possible.
c. Mention your feelings.

7. Acknowledge where you disagree and where you agree.

8. Work the issue, not the person. When they are convinced that you understand them:
a. Ask "What can we do fix the problem?" They will likely begin to complain again. Then ask the same question. Focus on actions they can do, too.

9. If possible, identify at least one action that can be done by one or both of you.
a. Ask the other person if they will support the action.
b. If they will not, then ask for a "cooling off period".

10. Thank the person for working with you.

11. If the situation remains a conflict, then:
a. Conclude if the other person's behavior conflicts with policies and procedures in the workplace and if so, present the issue to your supervisor.
b. Consider whether to agree to disagree.
c. Consider seeking a third party to mediate.

Read, Learn & Flourish!

For your success & Glory!

20 February, 2011

Go & Grab! Twenty Sure Fire Techniques to Expand 24 Hours!

Time: A scarce resource

The real problem of leisure time is how to keep others from using yours." - Arthur Lacey

Are there a hundred different things you wish you could do with your life someday — anything from exercising to meditation or yoga to writing that novel you always wished you could write to reading more to relaxing and watching the sunrise? But perhaps you never have the time, like most people.

The truth is, we all have the same amount of time, and it's finite and in great demand. But some of us have made the time for doing the things we love doing, and others have allowed the constant demands and pressures and responsibilities of life to dictate their days.

It's time to move from the second group back into the first. Reclaim your time. Create the life you want and make the most of the free time you lay claim to. It's not hard, though it does take a little bit of effort and diligence.

Not all of these will be applicable to your life — choose the ones you can apply and give them a try:

Take a time out. Freeing up your time starts with taking a step back to take a good look at your life. You need to block off at least an hour. Several hours or half a day is better. A whole day would be awesome. A weekend would be even more ideal, though not necessary practical for many folks. With this block of time, take a look at your life with some perspective. Is it what you've always wanted? How would you get to where you've always wanted to be? What do you enjoy doing, but don't have enough time to do? What things actually fill up your day? Are there things you could drop or minimize to make more time? We'll look at some of these things in the following items, but it starts with taking a time out to think and plan.

Find your essentials. What is it that you love to do? Make a short list of 4-5 things. These are the things you want to make room for.

Find your time-wasters. What do you spend a lot of your time on that isn't on your essential list? Take a close look at these things and really think about whether they're necessary, or if there are ways to reduce, minimize or eliminate these things. Sometimes you do things because you assume they're necessary, but if you give it some thought you can find ways to drop them from your life. Figure out what you do simply to waste time — maybe surfing certain sites, watching TV, talking a lot at the water cooler, etc. You're going to want to minimize these time-wasters to make room for the more important stuff, the stuff that makes you happy and that you love to do.

Schedule the time. As you sit down and think about your life and what you want to do, versus what you actually do, you will be looking at ways to free up time. It's crucial that you take a blank weekly schedule (you can just write it out on a piece of paper, or use your calendar) and assign blocks for the things you love — the stuff on your essentials list. If you want to exercise, for example, when will you do it? Put the blocks of time on your schedule, and make these blocks the most important appointments of your week. Schedule the rest of your life around these blocks.

Consolidate. There are many things you do, scattered throughout your day or your week, that you might be able to consolidate in order to save time. A good example is errands — instead of running one or two a day, do them all in one day to save time and gas. Another example is email, or any kind of communication — batch process your email instead of checking and reading and responding throughout the day. Same thing with meetings, paperwork, anything that you do regularly.

Cut out meetings. This isn't possible for everyone, but in my experience meetings take up a lot of time to get across a little information, or to make easy decisions that could be made via email or phone. As much as you can, minimize the number of meetings you hold and attend. In some cases this might mean talking to your boss and telling her that you have other priorities, and asking to be excused. In other cases this might mean asking the people holding the meeting if you can get the info in other ways. If so, you've saved yourself an hour or so per meeting (sometimes more).

De clutters your schedule. If you have a heavily packed schedule, full of meetings and errands and tasks and projects and appointments, you're going to want to weed it out so that it's not so jam-packed. Find the stuff that's not so essential and cancel them. Postpone other stuff. Leave big blank spaces in your schedule.

Re-think your routine. Often we get stuck in a routine that's anything but what we really want our days to be like. Is there a better way of doing things? You're the creator of your life — make a new routine that's more pleasant, more optimal, more filled with things you love.

Cut back on email. I mentioned email in an earlier point above, regarding consolidating, but it's such a major part of most people's lives that it deserves special attention. How often do you check email? How much time do you spend composing emails? If you spend a major part of your work day on email, as many people do (and as I once did), you can free up a lot of time by reducing the time you spend in email. Now, this won't work for everyone, but it can work for many people: choose 2-3 key times during the day to process your inbox to empty, and keep your responses to 5 sentences.

Learn to say no. If you say "yes" to every request, you will never have any free time. Get super protective about your time, and say "no" to everything but the essential requests.

Keep your list to 3. When you make out your daily to-do list, just list the three Most Important Tasks you want to accomplish today. Don't make a laundry list of tasks, or you'll fill up all your free time. By keeping your task list small, but populated only by important tasks, you ensure that you are getting the important stuff done but not overloading yourself.

Do your Biggest Rock first. Of the three Most Important Tasks you choose for the day, pick the biggest one, or the one you're dreading most, and do that first. Otherwise you'll put that off as much as possible and fill your day with less important things. Don't allow yourself to check email until that Big Rock is taken care of. It starts your day with a sense of major accomplishment, and leaves you with a lot of free time the rest of the day, because the most important thing is already done.

Delegate. If you have subordinates or coworkers who can do a task or project, try to delegate it. Don't feel like you need to do everything yourself. If necessary, spend a little time training the person to whom you're delegating the task, but that little time spent training will pay off in a lot of time saved later. Delegating allows you to focus on the core tasks and projects you should be focusing on.

Cut out distractions. What is there around your workspace that distracts you from the task at hand? Sometimes it's visual clutter, or papers lying around that call for your attention and action, or email or IM notifies on your computer that pop up at the wrong time, or the phone, or coworkers. See if you can eliminate as many of these as possible — the more you can focus, the more effective you'll be and the less time you'll waste. That equals time saved for the good stuff.

Disconnect. The biggest of distractions, for most people, is the Internet. My most productive times are when I'm disconnected from the grid. Now, I'm not saying you need to be disconnected all the time, but if you really want to be able to effectively complete tasks, disconnect your Internet so you can really focus. Set certain times of the day for connectivity, and only connect during those periods.

Outsource. If you can't delegate, see if you can outsource. With the Internet, we can connect with people from all over the world. I've outsourced many things, from small tasks to checking email to legal work to design and editing work and more. That allows me to focus on the things I'm best at, the things I love doing, and saves me a lot of time.

Make use of your mornings. I find that mornings are the absolute best times to schedule the things I really want to do. I run, read and write in the mornings — three of the four things on my Essentials List (spending time with family is the other thing on the list). Mornings are great because your day hasn't been filled with a bunch of unscheduled, demanding, last-minute tasks that will push back those Essentials. For example, if you schedule something for late afternoon, by the time late afternoon rolls around, you might have a dozen other things newly added to your to-do list, and you'll put off that late-afternoon Essential. Instead, schedule it for the morning, and it'll rarely (if ever) get pushed back.

The Golden Right-after-work Time. Other than mornings, I find the time just after work to be an incredible time for doing Essential things. Exercise, for example, is great in the 5-o'clock hour, as is spending time with family, or doing anything else relaxing.

Your evenings. The time before you go to bed is also golden, as it exists every single day, and it's usually completely yours to schedule. What do you want to do with this time? Read? Spend time with your kids? Work on a hobby you're passionate about? Take advantage of this time.

Lunch breaks. If the three golden times mentioned above don't work for you, lunch breaks are another good opportunity to schedule things. Some people like to exercise, or to take quiet times, during their lunch breaks. Others use this time to work on an important personal goal or project.

For your Success and Glory!

Read, Learn & Flourish!

19 February, 2011

360* Evaluation

The 360-degree evaluation is a common tool in human resource management. Simply put, it is a mechanism for evaluating someone's performance based on feedback from everyone with whom the individual comes in contact — supervisors, coworkers, partners, subordinates, the general public. It is a method of collecting input from many sources in an employee's environment.

This can be a powerful tool. Each one wants to know how we're doing in our work. This method of collecting evaluative input is an excellent source of motivation for employees because it provides a truly honest assessment of how the employee and her performance are viewed by a variety of constituents.

In the more traditional method of performance appraisal, supervisors meet with employees one-to-one to discuss performance. By contrast, the 360-degree method uses confidential input from many people who can truly respond to how an employee performs on the job. The supervisor and employee meet to discuss the feedback received.

This type of feedback helps employees see themselves as others see them and allows them to seriously examine their behavior. It can reveal areas in which employees are performing particularly well and those areas in which there is room for improvement. It provides information of which neither the employee nor the supervisor may be aware. Specific input allows employees to adjust their performance.

The most challenging aspect of the 360-degree evaluation is the evaluators' concern about confidentiality. When implementing this type of evaluation, it's best to assure other employees that what they share will remain strictly confidential. Likewise, explain to each employee that he will be evaluated by many people, including those who know his work best.

Typically, employees will find this methodology to be more fair. When they consider this process as opposed to being evaluated by an individual supervisor who has limited knowledge of what they do, they will begin to see the value in this type of evaluation. They will conclude that the 360-degree feedback is more accurate and equitable than other traditional approaches and puts all employees on a level playing field.

This review process is also helpful for the supervisor. It can provide a more accurate assessment of an employee's performance and help eliminate accusations of favoritism. The 360-degree process provides greater objectivity. And because the feedback is submitted anonymously, it provides a supervisor with the most unbiased and accurate information from which to draw performance conclusions.

Most people are not able to see clearly how their performance is either enhancing the work situation for others or detracting from it. This performance evaluation method can help reveal these areas and allow us to improve the way we do our job, thereby creating greater harmony and better productivity in the workplace. The 360-degree evaluation will help employees identify their strengths so they can build on them at the same time it addresses their skill gaps. It is a process that leads to continuous learning, team building, growing self-confidence and improved productivity.

Sounds like a winning system, right? It can be, but your organization must be ready to accept the change from the traditional method of employee evaluation. Your formal and informal leaders must buy in to this idea and see the value of its adoption. Some questions you should ask yourself include the following:

  • Is your organization committed to continuous learning?
  • Does your organization see the value of developing leaders in-house?
  • Are you willing to make the changes necessary to do this?
  • What is the level of trust in your organization? Will your culture support honest feedback?
  • Is upper level management willing to lead the way and volunteer for 360-degree evaluation?

If you cannot answer "yes" to these and similar questions, then your organization may not be ready for 360-degree evaluations. While this can be a powerful and positive tool when tied to strategic goals and individual development, you might consider doing more research on the subject before implementation.

For your Success and Glory!

Read, Learn and Flourish!

Cost To Company or CTC salary: Understanding and Calculation

What is Cost to Company or CTC salary? How is it calculated? If your CTC package is so high, why do you get so little in hand?

This article explains it all.

Your company offered you a salary of Rs. 6 Lakhs per year. That means you should be getting Rs. 50,000 in hand every month. Even if you consider income tax, you should be getting about Rs. 40,000 in hand.

But you get only Rs. 32,000 in-hand every month! Why? Where did the promised money vanish? Is your company cheating you?

No! It is because the company promised you the salary as Cost to Company, or CTC.

So, what exactly is CTC?

The concept of Cost to Company (CTC)

Simply speaking, CTC is the amount that you cost your company. That is, it is the amount that the company spends – directly or indirectly – because of employing you.

Thus, it is the money given to you (your in-hand component), plus the money spent because of you.

You’ll understand this better while we discuss the various components of your CTC salary, so let’s jump into it right away! We will also use an example parallel to the discussion, so that you can understand the concept of CTC better.

Components of Cost to Company (CTC) Salary

In “Understanding components of your salary”, we saw the various components of your in-hand salary.

These are:

  • Basic
  • Dearness Allowance (DA)
  • Incentives or bonuses
  • Conveyance allowance
  • House Rent Allowance (HRA)
  • Medical allowance
  • Leave Travel Allowance or Concession (LTA / LTC)
  • Vehicle Allowance
  • Telephone / Mobile Phone Allowance
  • Special Allowance

All the above are a part of your in-hand salary, and therefore, are a part of your CTC pay as well.

Example: Let’s understand this using a simple example. Say your basic is Rs. 15,000 per month, DA is Rs. 10,000 per month, you get conveyance allowance of Rs. 800 per month, and you get HRA of Rs. 4,500 per month. So, your package so far is Rs. 3,63,600 per year.

Now let’s look at some of the other components of your CTC pay – the parts that inflate your CTC package but may not be actually given to you!

Company’s contribution to Provident Fund (PF)

It is mandatory for you to contribute 12% of your basic towards provident fund (PF). Your employer makes an equal contribution (12% of your basic) to your PF account.

(Please read “Provident Fund (PF) and Voluntary Provident Fund (VPF)” to know more about provident fund)

So, although this amount is not given out to you every month, for your company, it is an expense that it incurs on you every month! Therefore, this forms a part of your CTC pay.

Example: 12% of your basic is Rs. 1,800 per month. That is, Rs. 21,600 per annum. Your CTC package becomes Rs. 3,85,200.


Various reimbursements that you get from your company can also form a part of your CTC package.

This includes reimbursement of:

  • Medical bills
  • Phone bills
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Book purchases, etc.

Example: Say you get reimbursement of medical bills of upto Rs. 15,000. So, your CTC package becomes Rs. 4,00,200.

Life Insurance and Health insurance

Most respectable employers provide free health insurance cover to their employees and their dependents. Some companies also provide life insurance for their employees free of cost.

The premium amounts paid for such insurance on your behalf can be included in your CTC salary.

Example: Say you get a health insurance cover of Rs. 1 Lakh for yourself and your family. The premium for this is Rs. 2,000. Thus, your CTC package becomes Rs. 4,02,200.

Medical Facilities

Many companies have in-house health centers, hospitals or other health care facilities where medical care is provided free of cost to employees.

Companies work out a per-employee cost for such facilities, and can include that in your CTC pay package.

Transport Facilities

Many companies provide free transport facility to their employees from their place of work to the job location.

The cost of such transportation can be added to your CTC package.

Subsidized Meals

Many companies run canteens or cafeterias for their employees, which provide subsidised meals to the employees. Such subsidy can be included in your cost to company package.

Example: Let’s say your company provides you lunch for Rs. 10, and the actual cost of that lunch is Rs. 25. Thus, there is a subsidy of Rs. 15 per meal.

For 21 working days in a month, this is Rs. 315. Or, Rs. 3,780 per year. Thus, your CTC package becomes Rs. 4,05,980.

Taking it too far

The components of your CTC salary sound reasonable so far, right? After all, this is the money that you get in one form or the other.

But some companies take the concept of cost-to-company too far! Look at the following:

Office phone bill

The bill for the office phone that you use can be included in your CTC salary too.

Office space rent

Shocked? Its true! There are many companies – especially large investment banks – that include your office space rent in your CTC package!! Yes, it defies logic, but it is true!

Example: Let’s say your office is in Churchgate in Mumbai. Your have a small cubicle, say 6 feet by 8 feet (48 square feet). Let’s say the going rate for rent for office space in that area is Rs. 200 per sq. ft. per month.

What is the cost of your cubicle in that case? Its Rs. 200 * 48 = Rs. 9,600 per month, or Rs. 1,15,200 per year.

When this is included in your CTC, your overall CTC package becomes Rs. 5,21,180!

A side note: Remember this when you read about the whopping, exorbitant salaries paid out to fresh management graduates (Like the IIM Ahmedabad MBAs)! Their large salaries might include the office space rent as well!!

Source: RaagVamdatt

For your Success & Glory!

Read, Learn & Flourish!