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When Good and Poor Work Ethics Collide- Addressing the Ethic’s Dilemma

Lazy-Coworker-BlogI have a memory from about ten years ago of a snowstorm that hit Maryland. The snow touched most of the state and especially the northern part of Maryland where it hit hardest. I lived in this part of the state with my family. At the end of our long, gravel driveway where snow accumulated it would take my Dad and neighbor several hours to dig us out. During this particular snow, my Dad, who leaves for work at 4:00 in the morning, was unable to drive his truck up the driveway. So what did my Dad do? He called and asked a co-worker to come pick him up and take him to work. I watched from my bedroom window in the early hours of the morning as my Dad walked through the snow, up to the main road to catch a ride. I can recall thinking, why doesn’t he just call out? But, that’s not my Dad. I have always been impressed by his work ethic, a trait he has subtly instilled in me over the course of my life.

Since the start of the workplace series, I have been reflecting on my work experience over the past ten years, beginning with when I filled out my first W-2 at the age of fifteen. I determined that one of my biggest pet peeves in every experience I have had was when a co-worker lacked a strong work ethic.

What is a strong work ethic?

Amelia Jenkins a contributor on Chron.com identifies five factors that exhibit a strong work ethic, “Integrity”, “Sense of Responsibility”, “Emphasis on Quality”, “Discipline”, and “Sense of Teamwork”. Our work ethic is about personal values and what we believe to be most important. Most of these factors are self-explanatory, but “emphasis on quality” Amelia Jenkins mentions is a worker’s ability to provide quality work rather than just delivering the bare minimum.

When a colleague demonstrates a poor work ethic such as consistently showing up late, not meeting deadlines, or slacking off on work, other employees may become annoyed, angry, and resentful. Why is this? Because our definition and values are different. When our work ethic values clash, then these feelings arise. For me, the thing that bothers me the most is when a co-worker consistently makes excuses for why they have been unable to complete their work, rather than admitting they do not know how to do it or that they were procrastinating.

So how can one co-worker address another who is exhibiting a poor work ethic?

When co-workers show a poor work ethic, I have approached them and asked what they are finding most difficult. If they say they are struggling with a problem I have dealt with before, I show him or her how to work through it; however, if it is a problem I have never had before, I find someone else who can assist them.

Ashley Miller from globalpost.com suggests, “No one wants to come across as a goody two-shoes, but there’s usually no harm in addressing your concerns directly with your co-worker in a polite, professional manner. “ A fellow employee may be more willing to change their behavior and less likely to hold a grudge if you, for example, say, “Hey Nancy, I noticed you have been getting to work late recently, I wanted to check in with you to make sure everything is okay?” When you acknowledge the poor behavior in a non-confrontational way, your co-worker will be aware that s/he’s conduct is being noted and may be more likely to get to work on time. If something is occurring to prevent the employee from getting to work on time, then the issue can be brought up and addressed. However, it is imperative that the discussion be done in private that way your co-worker is more likely to be receptive.

Frances Burks from Chron.com advises, “Find out if your coworker understands how to complete his assigned tasks when you discuss work-ethic problems with him.” If a co-worker is struggling to meet deadlines, it may be wrong to assume that s/he are lazy or do not care. Instead, verify that they understand what is being asked of them. If the problem is they do not have the skill level to complete their assigned tasks, suggest they talk with a manager to obtain the necessary training needed. Do not take on the tasks yourself, by doing that you, as the employee will only grow more resentful.

Finally, Ashley Miller recommends, “Talking to your supervisor in a [concerned and kind] manner provides him with the opportunity to address your concerns and shows that you are dedicated to the success of your workplace.” A discussion with your supervisor should be a last resort after you have spoken with your co-worker regarding her/his behavior and nothing has changed. If the issue requires you to approach your boss, you might start the conversation with ‘I have a concern I need to address with you regarding my co-worker’.

For me, when I feel riled about my work ethic clashing with someone’s lack of work ethic, I now make a point of speaking with my co-workers rather than jumping to conclusions about what is causing their work ethic to lack. I have found that by talking with my coworkers directly in a calm and collected fashion, that most issues get resolved. Now anytime I receive praise for my strong work ethic, I always think of my Dad and how he showed me what it means to be a hard worker.

Abigail Clark,

M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Intern

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Virtual Disputes Are Very Real: Resolving Consumer Complaints

ecommerce_472With the internet being as prevalent as it is today, most people have either bought or sold items online. Some people rely on the internet as their main method of shopping, while others use online resources to compare competing prices before physically heading to the store. No matter how you use the internet for business, conflict is an underlying issue that is definitely going to be included in transactions. It is important for you to understand that these types of conflicts are unique because of the distance and anonymity between the seller and buyer. Usually, the individuals conducting business do not know each other and most likely will never meet. There is in a sense a virtual disconnect between seller and buyer; however, disputes between the two remain very real. Language barriers and cultural differences on both sides of the transaction create an even more complex situation.

So how have websites like eBay, a major online shopping platform, been so successful in establishing smooth transactions and customer confidence? The reason for these successes is primarily due to a trust-based feedback system. After each transaction, both the seller and buyer leave feedback remarks about each other. That way, a new customer can choose a vendor and read about the experiences of previous customers. Additionally, this motivates sellers to conduct legitimate and appropriate business because a negative review might deter a future buyer. This method has created a safe and organized business environment amongst strangers that other marketplaces like Craigslist cannot offer. However, even with this structure, conflicts are bound to arise.

On a previous Texas Conflict Coach® radio show, Colin Rule, current CEO of Modria, an online dispute resolution company and former eBay and PayPal’s director of online dispute resolution spoke about some of the issues he noticed when dealing with online disputes. During his time with eBay, he created a page with advice on how to deal with conflicts. Interestingly, when the strategies were localized for the Italian eBay site, many believed that the tips were written in a patronizing way. Instead of directly changing the advice, the importance was on rephrasing it in a culturally acceptable way. Cultural standards and social boundaries are often overlooked during online disputes. Another strategy towards preventing online disputes that Rule mentioned while on the show was the significance of creating a personal or conversational relationship with the users. It is easy to skip over traditional conversational norms when dealing online with a person you will never meet. Rule mentions that being polite and conducting online interactions more similarly to face-to-face interactions has better results in resolving disputes.

However, when online disputes cannot be resolved through the use of a feedback system or personal negotiation, a neutral third-party is most beneficial. Centers like Youstice, featured on a previous show, and Modria provide the resources for turning online disputes into resolutions. These types of sites provide quick results and allow the customer to feel like their disputes are more personalized. The issue of a language barrier is overcome with the help of Youstice because their system automatically translates disputes and interactions into the corresponding language. eBay currently uses a similar third-party dispute resolution center in order to reduce hurried negative feedback posts, create customer trust and resolve online disputes in a timely and fair manner.

If you are interested in learning more about online conflicts and dispute resolution, visit this resource and also check out Online Dispute Resolution for Business (Jossey-Bass, 2003) written by Colin Rule.

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

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