Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: conflict

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to conflict.

Build a Stellar Client Relationship by Managing Realistic Expectations

Build a Stellar Client Relationship by Managing Realistic Expectations

A reality IT recruiters face is that some gigs are going to go wrong. The contractor and client get off to a good start, and then a few months in, we get a call that things aren’t working out. There are a number of reasons IT contracts crash and burn — personalities, lack of skills, poor leadership — but many times, we learn that the situation could have been avoided if more clear expectations had been set up front. Obviously, the contract between all parties defines the project and deliverables, but a good working relationship has to be built on more than is typically written in a contract.

Failing to define realistic expectations with your client, your team, or anybody involved with an IT contract can lead to damaged relationships and unnecessary conflict. As the project progresses, all parties may make assumptions that drift further and further apart. Suddenly, when one person thinks everything is running smoothly, another is disappointed and angry at the status.

A standard contract will define the final deliverables, expected hours to be worked, location, duration and rate. But there are always other smaller expectations to be discussed upfront with your client. For example, you might ask your client for more details about the final deliverables, their own goals for the project, and milestones they would like to see met. It’s also the time to be upfront about your own limitations to avoid and scope creep. For example, which days you are unable to work and which skills you do not have (and never claimed to have).

Expectations are not limited to complete projects and should be set on a micro level as well. One example is meetings. These are frequently referred to as a waste of time because proper expectations were not set. If everybody attending is aware of the goals, desired outcome, expected duration and who will be in attendance, it not only helps them prepare, but you know if the meeting was successful at the end. When it’s a waste of time, everybody will understand why and can work to improve it.

How Can You Set Realistic Expectations with Your Client?

The earlier you can set expectations to ensure everyone is working towards the same, common goal, the more efficient the project will be. Here are a few tips to get you on your way:

  • Don’t assume anything. Put everything on the table and ensure you both clearly understand each other’s expectations, desired outcomes and definitions of success. Understand what’s a must-have and what’s nice-to-have.
  • Eliminate the fluff. We’ve posted many times about realistic SMART goals and expectations should follow the same guidelines.
  • Build your communication skills. It is impossible to understand expectations if you cannot communicate your own. You also have no control over other people’s communication abilities, so yours need to make up for their shortfalls.
  • Confirm it all in writing. Not everything has to be in a formal contract, but a follow-up email summarizing the agreed expectations can be invaluable.
  • Provide updates. Things are going to go wrong and off-track, and that’s ok. But if expectations were never adjusted, there is going to be disappointment when reality is revealed.

What expectations do you set with your clients before beginning a project? What about with your recruiter? Are there any discussions you like to have upfront before moving forward on an application? Please share your opinion in the comments below.

Stop Being So Critical of Others!

Stop Being So Critical of Others!Back in March, self-proclaimed “gameplay engineer & software sorceress” Jessica Baker Tweeted out a comment that went viral: “I wish engineers hyped each other up like artists do, the other day I commented “nice” on someone’s code review and they thought i was sarcastically pointing out a bug.

The UK-based IT professional’s comment resonated with developers around the world, earning hundreds of retweets and thousands of likes. Stack Overflow’s 2018 Developer Survey found that at the beginning of their career, around 40% of developers strongly agree that they think of themselves as competing with peers and that they’re not as good as most peers. While the number drops based on experience, it only goes down to about 20%. It’s safe to say, then, that a good chunk of developers and engineers are in a similar situation to Jessica — working in environments with competition, a need to get ahead, and prone to criticism.

Critical co-workers are not limited to just those who write code, but its prevalent across all roles in all industries, as well as throughout our personal lives. Certainly, feedback is the only way we can improve in our careers and as painful as it can be to accept, criticism is a necessary evil in our development. However, the colleague who is constantly complaining, pointing out errors, and telling you how you can be better gets downright annoying and creates a negative atmosphere for everyone.

Are You a Critical Person?

The first step in the battle against negative, critical people is to double-check you’re not a culprit yourself. Consider your interactions throughout the day and ask yourself some challenging questions about how you communicate. Do you have trouble praising people? Are you regularly irritated and complaining or focusing too much on people’s faults? Do you always want to fix other people’s work? If not out loud, are these conversations happening in your head?

The way others describe you may also be a sign that you’re too critical. For example, although referred to as a “perfectionist” sounds positive at first, it might have a passive connotation.

How to Stop Being So Critical

If after careful self-evaluation, you come to realize that your team tiptoes around you and resist sharing their work with you due to fear of more unreasonable criticism, it’s time to start down the path to improvement.

The first step is to understand why the urge to criticize keeps arising. Often, overly critical people arrive at that state because of their own insecurities. They are overly critical on themselves and project their feelings and behaviours onto others. You may also be a genuinely caring person to wants to help others succeed and experience the same successes you have in your career. Regardless, too much criticism is harming your relationships and it needs to be minimized. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Focus on people’s good behaviour and help others improve by reinforcing positive accomplishments;
  2. Remember that because somebody does something differently it is not inferior. We all have different backgrounds and experiences;
  3. Double check if you really are right, or if that person you’re about to criticize is possibly on a better track; and, most importantly,
  4. Verify that you have all of the information and understand the full context as to why work was completed a certain way or a person reacted in a specific manner.

Working with an Overly Critical Person

As nice as it would be to just avoid the people in our lives who make a habit of tearing apart everything we do, sometimes that’s impossible. You can’t ghost your client or their employees forever when you’re on contract, so you’re going to have to come up with a solution to manage them before you go crazy.

  • Don’t take it personally. As noted earlier, critical people are often projecting their own issues onto you, so have empathy in noticing that they’re working through their own struggles.
  • Take their feedback for what it is. Their communication and delivery strategy may be brutal, but if there is some genuine feedback buried in that insulting comment, use it to improve on yourself.
  • Consider that you may be the problem. Are you struggling on the project and being resistant to feedback from a person who is acting appropriately?
  • Objectively and assertively tell them how it is. With the proper tone and carefully thinking through your words, explain the perception they give you, how it makes you feel and ask them to adjust their approach.

Nobody wants to spend all day listening to everything they’ve done wrong or how it could have been completed better. It’s an ingredient to a toxic work environment and you can fight back by both ensuring you’re not guilty yourself and stopping others before they rip a team to pieces.

What tips do you have to deal with super critical people?

The Dos and Don’ts to Approaching a Stinky Colleague

The Dos and Don'ts to Approaching a Stinky ColleagueWe’ve all been there. On the bus, in a checkout line, or in a meeting and the person right next to you is letting off an awful stench that makes you want to gag. This terrible situation is compounded when you’re indoors and can’t escape, and it’s worse when you must suffer from it every day because the culprit is your co-worker.

There are multiple reasons a person is smelly and dealing with it is never easy. Poor hygiene jumps to the top of one’s mind as the most common cause, or at least the most perceived-to-be-common, cause. Often, there’s a natural odor or health issue creating your discomfort and the person puts in more effort than you realize to control it. Another case of strong odours that can be a concern in the office are the unnatural, self-inflicted scents from perfume or cologne.

Regardless of why somebody’s stench is unbearable, you need to deal with it professionally if you want it to go away, and the key phrase here is “deal with it”. If you read some stories across social media or talk to friends who’ve dealt with smelly co-workers, you’ve heard of passive hint dropping. For example, some people recommend subtle gestures like practicing good hygiene in front of them, decorating your workspace with pleasant plants and fragrances, or dropping a mysterious “hmmm…. Do you smell something weird?” More harshly, others joke about leaving deodorant on the person’s desk or sending them a random note. All of these suggestions are the easiest cop-outs but are guaranteed not to work. If your colleague does pick up on the hints, your approach is going to offend them, and the work environment just got even worse.

What are the best ways to deal with your stinky co-worker?

Here are some dos and don’ts when you find yourself in this extremely uncomfortable and awkward position:

  1. Don’t be Passive: As the previous paragraph pointed out, no good can come of this.
  2. Do be direct and polite: You’re already about to deliver a tough blow, don’t make it worse with a harsh or awkward delivery.
  3. Don’t Embarrass Them: This conversation is best to be had one-on-one and in a way that they don’t feel the whole world is against them.
  4. Do be sensitive: If this is a regular struggle, then they thought they resolved the problem. Your news is going to hurt even more.
  5. Don’t shift the blame: You’re not fooling anybody when you start with “Other people are saying…” You’re just fueling a more self-conscious feeling.
  6. Do choose your words properly: Language matters! “Strange odour” is a better choice than “stinky” or “terrible smell”.
  7. Don’t Gossip: If there’s a problem, deal with it. Talking to everyone else and snickering behind somebody’s back is childish.
  8. Do talk to a manager or HR: Given the sensitivity, it’s smartest to talk to the manager or your client’s HR department.
  9. Do reassure them that you don’t hate the them: Finally, your colleague may feel alone, especially if the approach went worse than expected. People want to feel accepted even at work, so it’s important to let them know you still respect them.

Dealing with sensitive conversations like this can be even more challenging for the independent contractor who isn’t an employee or always regarded as a true member of the team. How have you handled these scenarios in the past?

An IT Contractor’s Field Guide to the Most Frustrating Clients

We all love clients. They give us interesting work, innovate to move technology and services forward, and, of course, pay us. But let’s be honest, some clients are easier than others, especially as an IT contractor.

One of our favourite videos uses humour and exaggeration to highlight annoying clients and the struggles subject matter experts sometimes go through while working on a project. This infographic from Ciplex does an equally good job of picking out the quirks of 15 different types of clients. As a bonus, they also give some advice for navigating your way around them and best serving them.

An IT Contractor's Field Guide to the Most Frustrating Clients

Getting Along at Your Client’s Site

Tips for Dealing with Permanent Employees Who Hate Independent Contractors

Tips for Dealing with Permanent Employees Who Hate Independent ContractorsWhen you consider moving from being an employee to an independent contractor, you weigh all of the pros and cons, considering new challenges such as accounting, insurance, and the risk of being out of work. One challenge new IT contractors sometimes don’t consider is dealing with the negative feelings and the cold reception they sometimes get from a client’s full-time employees.

Building relationships at a new client site is challenging enough, and when employees already have a negative pre-conceived idea of you, you will find yourself starting from behind. So how can you deal with these permanent employees and their bad attitudes, while also building a productive working relationship?

Start by understanding why they resent you

The employee failed to understand your situation and made assumptions, so don’t intensify the issue by falling into the same behaviour. Although you may not agree, keep their point-of-view in mind and consider these reasons that your client’s FTEs may dislike you and your fellow independent contractors:

  • They find out that their company, who they’ve been loyal to for many years, is paying you a lot more;
  • Employees have to deal with the entire job, including office politics, performance reviews, training sessions and admin tasks, whereas contractors get to do only the core work;
  • Independent contractors come in, do the high-profile “fun” tasks, then leave the IT employees to “clean up the mess” and do the grunt work; and,
  • By nature, independent contractors are experts in their field so tend to be more focused and productive. If management hasn’t communicated the IT contractor’s role properly, this is threatening to employees.

Take the highroad and start building that relationship

Depending on the scope of work in your technology contract, odds are you will need that good report with employees if you’re going to be successful, so start building it immediately. It’s up to you to be the grown-up, positive person, so try some of these tactics:

  • Communicate well, especially when explaining your role and that you’re not there to take their job;
  • Be generous of your time by offering training and mentoring;
  • Avoid coming off as a jerk, patronising, or acting above the employees. This can happen unintentionally when trying to pass on your knowledge, so be selective of your words;
  • Stay out of office politics or exposing lazy employees. Simply do your job and help the employees look good; and,
  • Refrain from talking about money or answering their questions as to how much you make. Where figures do get exposed, take the time to explain all of your extra costs. If you do make significantly more than employees, avoid flashing your success in front of them.

Some people won’t change. They’re bitter, disgruntled employees who are going to despise you no matter what you do or how hard you try. Like every other person you come into contact with who is like this, don’t put energy into them. Your options are to put up with it for the duration of your contract, work from a different location (home office?) or, if it’s really bad and you’ve explored all possible avenues with no end in sight, start looking for a new contract.

Do you have experience dealing with permanent employees who didn’t want you in their office? Is there any advice you would offer to a new contractor? We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

How to Tell a Client’s Employees They Suck

How to Tell a Client's Employees They SuckIt’s not unusual for independent contractors to suffer backlash from the full-time employees at their client site. You’re sometimes seen as a know-it-all who’s coming in to take their work. That means, that when there’s feedback to give and change to recommend, you’re likely to see some sort of resistance.

Delivering this sort of news is common for independent contractors, and many have mastered the art. For others, it’s still an uncomfortable situation or you always find it blowing up in your face. Here are a few simple pointers you can keep in mind next time you need to move a project in a different direction.

Don’t Assume They’re Wrong

It’s important to remain humble and accept that there may be more than just one way (your way) to do something. There are many variables involved in any decision, and whichever choice you disagree with may have also had some factors associated with it. Ensure you understand the full picture, including all of the client’s goals, resources and limitations, to better understand why they’re going in the direction they selected. If you still think they’re on the wrong track, then this exercise may help you uncover the root of the problem or develop a better fitting solution.

Prepare an Effective Feedback Strategy

Before you start explaining how you disagree, ensure that you’ve set up an environment and scenario where your feedback will be understood and compelling. For example, is it something that needs to be said to only one person in private, or do you need to call a meeting to discuss it with an entire team? You also need to consider timing. Providing the feedback immediately will keep the project from continuing in the current direction, but casually mentioning it in the lobby won’t allow for optimal communication. Finally, especially if your comments have potential to start a heated disagreement, refrain from email at all costs; the tone will never come across as you desired.

It’s All in the Delivery

How you say it is more important than what you’re saying. As already noted, it’s important to choose your timing. If your meeting is impromptu, then don’t surprise your client and team members. Open up by asking if you can give some feedback. When you start, be brief, factual, direct and calm. It’s also important that you choose your words wisely. Avoid negative words like “can’t” or “but” and be inclusive with “we could try this” rather than “you need to do that.” Finally, depending on how technical your audience is, you may need to refrain from too much jargon, to make sure they accurately understand the situation.

Get the Most Buy-In

You’ll know you succeeded at telling your client and the employees they’re wrong when they buy into it, rather than being left in an angry state. To achieve this, start to demonstrate your expertise the moment you come onto the site. We’re not recommending you always show them up by flaunting your knowledge, but instead, show your professionalism in simple ways like dressing properly and being punctual for meetings. Build a relationship of trust by mentoring full-time employees so they can learn with you, rather than feeling inferior. When you do give your feedback, come prepared with suggestions that match the overall project goals and backed up with facts and past experiences. Above all, when possible, work with the client and team to develop a solution together.

Feedback on a project is never easy to give, especially when it’s to people who may not be open to it or are dedicated to the current method. Following the tips above should help but above all, remember to pick your battles. Make recommendations in your areas of expertise (what you were called in to do) or it may come off as telling others how to do their work. In addition, be prepared for rejection. The changes you recommend may not happen and that’s ok. If you want to keep working on the contract, you will need to suck it up so you can move a project forward to success.

Resolving Conflict at a Client Site (Video)

We all have a story of a company with such awful customer service that we swore we would never return and told all of our friends to never go back either. When companies handle just one situation badly, it can have drastic effects on future business for a long time. The same holds true when you’re an independent contractor.

As an IT contractor, you are running a business and customer service should be as important to you as it is to any other company. The way you interact with clients, project managers, your team, and any of the client’s employees will play a role in where you work in the future. A negative review by any of these people could affect whether or not the client extends your contract, your agency calls you for a new gig, or a colleague recommends you to a recruiter down the road.

A common downfall in customer service is conflict resolution. You’re challenged to ensure problems are solved, the blow to your business is minimal, and the client leaves happy.  This is a hard balance. Fortunately, this video from Executive Leadership Training can help with great advice for resolving conflict around the office.

How to Resolve Conflict in Workplace (Video)

Conflict arises multiple times throughout any work day. Sometimes it comes while negotiating a contract, it can be due to a disagreement with a client about the best solution, or you may need to deal with a terrible team member.  The best way to deal with conflict is to better understand it and the different options you have when confronting it.

This quick video from Executive Leadership Training sums it all up nicely. If you’ve been finding your conflicts keep leading to negative outcomes, take a watch and see if there’s anything you can improve.

4 Conflict Resolution Tips for the Office

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

4 Conflict Resolution Tips for the OfficeJudging by what makes news these days, conflict is a prevalent human condition and one that is responsible for a great deal of stress and anxiety in the world today.  And judging by the level of conflict going on around us, one could make the assumption that as a species, we are not real good at figuring out and resolving these situations.   In the staffing world, it’s interesting to note that our clients often start a job interview with “situational” or “behavioral” questions centered around how you, as an employee or contractor, handle conflict.  The very fact that you are being evaluated on your ability to answer a question around this issue is evidence of just how important it is to organizations.  According to CPP Inc., publishers of the Myers-Briggs Assessment, in 2008, U.S. employees spent  on average 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict.  That accounts for approximately $359 billion in paid hours (based on average hourly earnings of $17.95), or put another way, 385 million working days.  The economic impact is obvious, but the emotional strain and stress may not be, and is just as important.  So how do we manage workplace conflict?  The following are some great strategies for managing conflict when it arises:

  1. Rip off the Bandage!

Covering up the wound and ignoring the conflict is the worst thing that can happen.  Most of us don’t enjoy dealing with uncomfortable situations and it is easier to think that things will just fix themselves, or fade away with time.  The truth is they won’t.  In fact, what is likely to happen is that the transgressions responsible for the initial conflict will only escalate, causing direct stress to the participants and indirect stress to those who work alongside them.  Workplace stress can lead to increased sick days, personal leave and in the worst cases, employee turnover

  1. Ask (nicely)

Communication is essential to any conflict and often lack of communication or misunderstandings are the prerequisites for conflict to occur.  So if you don’t understand someone’s viewpoints or you can’t for the life of you understand what upset the other party, just ask.  But don’t forget, how you ask is just as important as what you ask.  Try “Say, I was wondering why you did X yesterday?” or “I believe you are upset with me and I’m not sure I understand why?”   These tend to work better than “What the #$%@ is wrong with you?”

  1. Be Prepared to Take Some Blame

It is very rare for one party to be completely blameless in any conflict and once you have asked, be prepared to take some blame.  The best way to diffuse a conflict is to admit some culpability, apologize and explain a) why you behaved the way you did or b) what may have been the cause of the misunderstanding.  It’s amazing how as soon as you are willing to take some responsibility, the other party will do the same.

  1. Write the Rules

Once you’ve had the conversation and are comfortable with the results, make sure you finish the discussion with some rules around further interactions.  Reiterating what were the causes of the conflict in the first place by promising to do your best to avoid them in the future is a great way to ensure that you don’t get into old habits.  Say “Moving forward, I’ll be more respectful of your ideas in meetings” or “I won’t make disparaging remarks about your favourite (fill in the blank) in the future.”

Finally, conflict in the office can take on a life of its own and can be complex and intimidating to address.  But the costs can weigh heavily on your well-being and to the bottom line of the company.  If you absolutely don’t know how to move forward, there are always folks who can help.  Your direct supervisor or someone in HR will be able to assist you and if you are temporary or on contract, don’t forget to ask your staffing agent for help.  They will not only give you great ideas, but they will know how to escalate things appropriately.

10 Basic Work Rules You Already Know

If you speak with almost any manager, whether they’re managing contractors or full-time employees, they’ll be able to tell you countless stories of conflict in the workplace dealing with interpersonal issues and personality clashes. The fact is, these situations could be avoided if everybody just followed the most basic rules of being in the workforce.

Here are 10 basic rules every contractor should remember when at a client site. As simple as they are, many people (not you, obviously) seem to ignore them and end up being the cause of conflict in the office. As you read through this list, see how many people you can think of who could use a refresher.Teacher teaching basic rules of the workplace

  1. Build balance in your life. Work should not be your life, yet it should be an important part of your life. Give each part its due and always give your client 100%.
  2. The people working around you did not choose to be your spouse, your partner or even your friend. When at work be a professional “work colleague”.
  3. If you have issues in your private life, then you should deal with them during your own time and not bring them onto your client site.
  4. Your lifestyle requirements should be formed based upon your income, not the other way around. If you demand more money from a client, it should be because you’re worth it, not because you want to go on vacation.
  5. Your client, their employees, and your colleagues are at work to focus on work so they appreciate everyone else who takes that same approach. (Don’t be a distraction)
  6. Take the emotion out of your dealings with colleagues. It doesn’t matter if you like them or not, you all have a job to do.
  7. Make decisions based on facts, business realities, best practices etc.
  8. Communicate professionally with all around you.
  9. Always treat the other person the way you would like to be treated in the workplace.
  10. Get thick skin.

These rules are common sense but we’ve all worked with people who never got the memo.  For that reason, there’s a button at the top of this post that will let you to email these rules or share them on a social media profile (not that we’re trying to start conflict, we simply want to help you improve your work environment).