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The Stressed Out Office – Managing Co-Workers Who Lash Out

co-workers-294266_1280I work at a mortgage office in the compliance department. My role is to review changes the Loan Officer’s make to a loan and ensure that what they are doing is compliant with the law. I spend a lot of my day speaking with Loan Officers on the phone and through email. Our office has been very busy recently, and so everyone has been under a lot of stress. Therefore, some of the conversations I have had with Loan Officers are asking them to remove a fee that was out of compliance or to redisclose to correct an error. These requests I am making can be frustrating to some Loan Officers as it adds onto their workload; however, I want to note I am not exactly happy about it because it adds onto mine as well.

Some Loan Officers can become very irritated and short-tempered when discussing these necessary changes and often resort to taking their feelings out on me. So I decided I would write about dealing with difficult people in the workplace for my post this week.

The first thing to keep in mind is that people handle stress differently. I will admit that I do not manage stress well. I get testy, overwhelmed and reactionary. When a Loan Officer is lashing out at me, I struggle not to react the same way. So keep in mind that the person losing their cool may be responding this way because they are under stress. Just keeping that in mind can help put things into perspective.

The second thing to do is to look at yourself. Are you frustrated? Or angry? Perhaps you are conveying a tone or are responding in such a way that is triggering something in the other person. It is important to be self-aware of your own, feelings, moods, and reactions to better address the situation.

The third thing to do is speak and convey your message calmly and if a break is necessary to take one. If the person continues to be difficult or nasty- ask them if you could take a break and pick up the conversation later. Recognize when a conversation is escalating and try to put the breaks on before it goes too far.

The final thing to do is bring others in if needed. When Loan Officers continue to be snippy with me, I approach my boss about the matter. If you require involving upper management to help resolve the issue you are facing then, by all means, include them. Upper Management tends to have more experience dealing with troublesome people; especially if the individual is a repeat offender and can provide tips and strategies on how to approach that person in a way that won’t escalate the matter.

At work, difficult people are bound to cross your path, and it is important that you learn constructive ways to manage those situations so that the workplace can remain a safe and productive place.


Have a good week,

Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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Building a Bridge, Creating a Bond Between Baby Boomers and Millennials

BrainstormingThere is no surprise there is a generational gap between those in upper management positions and those first entering the workforce. In truth, I had to look up my generation because I wasn’t sure to which I belonged. According to Samantha Raphelson a digital news intern at npr.org, anyone who was born between 1980 and 2000 is a part of “Generation Y” or the better-known name, “Millennials.” The majority of those in upper management positions are a part of the “baby boomer” generation. The gap between these two age groups can and does raise many conflicts in the workplace.

Just recently, I encountered a generational gap issue with my supervisor, a baby boomer, over the way a task was being completed. I developed an Excel Spreadsheet that allowed me to input numbers which in turn accurately calculated the totals without having to do any actual math yourself. The spreadsheet quickly produced the results and there were fewer margins of error. My supervisor’s preferred method was doing the math by hand. My supervisor said before that he didn’t “trust” the math calculated by computers because he couldn’t see the work. My trust and confidence in technology greatly differed from my supervisor. Once my supervisor and I sat down, and I showed him how my spreadsheet worked he agreed that it was more efficient for calculating the final totals.

The comfort level when using technology is just one characteristic that differs between baby boomers and millennials. I compiled a list below using two articles by Sandy Kane, a legal careers expert, to outline the features and variances between the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations.

                 Baby Boomers                                                                                      Millennials

√ Focuses primarily on work                                                                    √ Balances work and family

√ Strong work ethic and loyal to their employer                                   √ Self-assured and determined

√ Believes you must earn your position in the workforce                  √ Appreciates constructive criticism and advice


How can we bridge the gap between these two generations to diminish or prevent conflict in the workplace?

I think the best way is to cultivate understanding about the differences between the generations instead of digging in one’s heels to who is right or wrong. In the example of technology, my millennial generation often forgets that using computers comes as second nature to us because we learned how to use them from the time we were little. The baby boomers learned a different methodology for doings things. Considering and learning how to use computers, social media or other technological applications requires changing and adapting one’s views or attitudes; something with which many Baby Boomers struggle. One path to cultivating understanding is for the organization and its upper management to ask questions and get curious about specific issues each generation may be having. Another possibility to bridge the gap and create a bond is to host a town hall meeting where management and the staff share experiences and together, outline workplace expectations.

It is also important to recognize that each generation has its benefits and vulnerabilities. The baby boomers have historical workplace knowledge including past challenges, problems and ineffective work methods the Millennials are unaware of when they first come onboard. Millennials bring a new and fresh perspective, new technologies and attitudes to the workplace that commonly experienced by baby boomers. In the experience I had with my supervisor, he taught me how to solve the math out by hand. I was thankful he had shown me this because shortly after, we lost electrical power and I was unable to use my computer or the spreadsheet. At that moment, I saw the benefits and appreciated my supervisor’s approach.


Abigail Clark- M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management



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The Blockage Between Upper Management and Employees: Poor Communication and How to Improve It

communication.jpegI have had the experience of working in several organizations that despite having competent employees, financial means, and a solid customer base have failed to achieve their goals ultimately. These organizations are riddled with disorganization, frustration, and an overall negative atmosphere. Why might these previous employers of mine be experiencing these issues? A lack of communication between the Upper Management and its employees is a major cause. When those in leadership roles do not converse with their employees, those in lower paid positions feel frustrated, angry, and helpless leading to low workplace morale.

Mike Myatt a contributor to Forbes and leadership advisor points out, “If you reflect back upon conflicts you have encountered over the years, you’ll quickly recognize many of them resulted from a lack of information, poor information, no information, or misinformation.” I learned in my conflict management classes that the moment people stop communicating with one another the chance of resolution diminishes. However, if what is being communicated is omitting wrong or untrue information, conflicts will also rarely reach resolution.

Chris Joseph writer for Chron.com outlines four ways poor communication can cause conflict in the workplace.

  1. It can “[create] uncertainty.”
  2. It can cause issues when employees have to “[share] resources.”
  3. It can generate “poor teamwork.”
  4. It can spread “rumors and gossip.”

If communication issues such as these four examples continue to cause conflict and are not addressed, the overall business could be impaired. So why does poor communication continue to occur?

Miranda Brookins marketing professional and writer for Chron.com suggests six reasons, “Lack of leadership, unclear goals and duties, undertrained employees, limited feedback, employees disengaged, and virtual teams.” In previous organizations of which I have worked, one or more of these reasons have been the cause of poor communication.

How can companies improve communication in the workplace?

Inc. Staff from Inc.com suggests that an organization, “Create a culture. Above all else, to the extent possible, strive to be transparent and straightforward about the challenges of your business and even about your company’s financials. Such candor fosters trust and understanding”. A contention I had with one of the companies for which I worked is when upper management came and spoke to us, the employees. They informed us that there were not going to be any layoffs, and then, a week later, laid off fifty people. From that point on, I did not trust anything upper management said to us. I could understand upper management not wanting to cause panic among its staff; however if they had been upfront about layoffs they would have maintained the respect and trust of their employees.

Tim Eisenhauer co-founder of Axero, “Checking in with how your employees are doing is an essential aspect of running a business that should never be overlooked.” He goes on to explain, “Open forums such as [a town hall meeting], not only serve to improve internal communication, but can also help to empower your employees.” I once worked for a company where one of the bosses, took the time to walk around and speak to us employees, He simply walked around and asked, “How is your day going?” I remember feeling like he truly cared about my well-being, which made me feel appreciated. In other organizations where the upper management did not take the time to converse with me or they talked down to me, I often felt less inclined to work hard for them.

Another suggestion by Tim Eisenhauer is instead of one-sided communication, “allow for communication to be a two-way street, as you’ll see a number of benefits by taking this approach.” In one company of which I worked, the upper management often told us what their plans were instead of consulting us for ideas or allowing an open door policy to air our grievances. Therefore, we only knew what was going on after plans have been set in motion. Employees may have useful knowledge that could contribute and push the company forward. By not accessing this human capital resource an organization is limiting their success.

For an organization to be successful they must communicate. When people understand what is expected of them and they feel appreciated, they tend to work together more efficiently with less stress and frustration. This only benefits the employees and the company. If I had an opportunity to speak with upper management with my previous employers, I would suggest communicating openly and honestly with their employees. In doing so, employees will feel valued, trust their employer, and ultimately have the desire to perform to the best of their abilities.

Abigail Clark

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore –

Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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