Coaching Can Help Counter Personality Clashes

By John T. Mooney Jan 28, 2009

Q: How can OD interventions address employee relationship problems in the workplace?

A: Whether following the systems and values of a large Fortune 500 corporation, a small entrepreneurial endeavor or working as an independent consultant, interpersonal interventions are rooted in the psychology of human potential, growth and development.

Intervention techniques primarily focus on four areas of interaction:

  • Individual or interpersonal.
  • Teams or groups.
  • Inter-group.
  • Organization-wide.

To address employee relationship problems in the workplace, focus first on actions around the individual or interpersonal level.

Managing Conflicts

On the surface, conflicts often appear as disagreements or problems to solve. Beyond the surface, personality instruments offer unique insights into how people’s natural personality type and style preferences influence the way they think, act and communicate with others in the workplace.

When style differences are explored and understood, both the employee and the organization grow. For example, OD professionals often use a variety of assessment instruments to help them provide support or guidance to new senior leaders. The more leaders understand about themselves and how their behavior affects others, the more quickly they can add value to boost organizational performance. Such interpersonal intervention tools and the self-awareness they provide often help them to “get there” faster; they’re better able to articulate and model desirable leadership behaviors aligned with the direction and goals of the business.

Internal Coaching

Internal coaching is another effective organizational development intervention that delves beyond superficial symptoms of employee discord to address root cause concerns.

Internal corporate coaching can help sustain an ongoing professional relationship, enabling employees to produce extraordinary results in their careers, life and professional endeavors.

For example, reflection, self-discovery and openness—realized in part through a trusting, collaborative relationship between the coach and the employee-client—can be accelerated, resulting in greater personal accountability and focused effective actions. The coach, focused on the employee’s goals and needs, provides the tools, support and structure, while the employee provides the desire and initiative; together they move forward as a team.

This behavioral strategy is intended to help an individual to acquire awareness, which in turn facilitates their choices and subsequent changes. Informed decisions, aligned with their values and beliefs, give employees the opportunity to evaluate outdated belief systems and shift their perspective. Powerful change and personal commitment come from the distinctions between “shift” and “change,” with shift defined as intended change that creates movement from one distinct position or belief to another. This often makes it possible for employees to reframe a problem as an opportunity with their actionable agenda moving forward.

Effective coaching interventions can lead to the right behavioral changes that can affect bottom line business goals and results positively. Performance metrics, 360-degree feedback and climate or engagement feedback also are intervention tools that can lead to and be used to measure tangible evidence of successful individual behavior change, whether used internally or outsourced to a third-party provider.

John T. Mooney, SPHR, ACC, is the organizational effectiveness manager for Irving, Texas-based Abbott Diagnostics. Mooney also is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management’s Organizational Development Special Expertise Panel.


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