Awkward situations. One might even call them...difficult.
We've all dealt with them before—sometimes better than we'd imagined. Or worse than we might have hoped. In your role, chances are you encounter or will encounter some people who are less than happy with the service they've been provided, or the state of current affairs in your community.
As a part of the community team, that's really tough to hear—first because you want people to be happy and feel like they can do their best work in our spaces, and second because conflict can be hard and messy. But it doesn't always have to be. With the right training and the correct tools, you can feel confident that no matter what the situation, you'll know how to make members of your community feel heard, feel happy, and feel like they are a part of the WeWork experience.
If you'll take the next 30 minutes of your day to learn from the expertise of the WeWork team, share your own best practices, and consider your next steps, you're on your way to earning a Service Rocks! badge, which signifies a new competency on your road as a service professional.
Let's get to work!
OUR MISSION, OUR MEMBERS
In every learning and development opportunity, it's important to first stop and ask yourself why you do the work—what drives you? That sense of purpose will help you understand and put into practice new skills and mindsets.
To begin your reflection, our six core values are listed below. As you click on each, you'll see a connection between the value and the work that you do for our members every day. Following the image, you'll share your thoughts on the types of situations that might merit application of these values.
Think about a time when you've seen a member have a less-than-stellar experience. If you haven't encountered that yet, what sorts of experiences might happen where a member would be unhappy? Submit your thoughts below. You'll continue with this scenario through this learning experience.
ENCOUNTERING DIFFICULT SITUATIONS
MAKING CONFLICT PRODUCTIVE
Conflict is an inevitable part of life. Emotion is a given, and can't be avoided when it comes to interacting with humans. Sometimes, that emotion runs high when priorities don't align or there is some misunderstanding. You'll likely deal with difficult (negative or complex) situations and people all the time, even in the most amiable of atmospheres. The good news? Conflict can be productive!
For example, conflict yields discussion and thoughtful reflection. When you're talking about project direction and scope, interpreting data, having strategic and tactical disagreements, or making decisions in the absence of information, having a healthy dose of opposition means that you're considering the bigger picture. And with our members, sometimes conflict and difficulty means unearthing ways in which we haven't been serving our community, or needs our community have not made known before. That's great, as this kind of insight only helps us perform better in the long run!
In the next activity, you'll think about the types of situations that you've encountered. What characterizes them as 'difficult' for you? By reflecting on this question as you complete the activity, you'll better recognize the warning signs of a potentially complicated situation when you face one in the future.
WHAT DIFFICULT WORK SITUATIONS HAVE YOU FACED?
A co-worker has the annoying habit of [x] and you can’t stand it anymore. Obsessively clicking pens. Playing music too loudly. Chewing gum like a cow munching on grass. They may seem like small habits, but they become unnerving when you have to put up with it all for eight hours or more on a daily basis. If you keep it all in, you may just lose it.
You suspect someone in the office is working against you. Your paranoia gets the better of you. You’re put in defensive mode, and you begin actively working against the purported offender.
A member tries to engage you in a heated religious or political conversation. Politics and religion are almost always a big no-no in the workplace. Controversial conversations can quickly turn into animosity. Someone may feel offended and can rightfully complain to management.
A member or co-worker incites you to participate in nasty office gossip. Participating in gossip may be tempting, but it’s almost always ill-advised. The problem with gossip is its potential to hurt others’ feelings and lose others’ trust. When you participate in gossip, you run the risk of alienating the people with whom you work.
Someone is stealing a member's food from the refrigerator. The stealing becomes habitual. The member has decided to let it slide. They go hungry and resentment builds. Confrontation ensues.
A member overloads you with tasks that aren’t in your work description. At first it starts out with little things, like “Do you mind doing [x]?” Eventually, all your time is spent with this high-maintenance company.
You’ve had an argument with a co-worker or member, and you know you’re right. When there are unresolved issues among people, everyone suffers. Tensions during arguments only keep the cycle of workplace tension going.
Think about the following work situations. Some might be with colleagues in your own company, and others might be scenarios that members bring to you, or that you observe with members. Select each situation that you've observed or of which you've been a part.
LEARNING FROM EXAMPLES
The work we enable, and the work that we do, is inspiring in its spirit of collaboration and purpose. That overarching sense of purpose and we doesn't always translate to the every day, however, especially for our members. After all, they (like us) are human. So what happens when we're faced with a situation where anger and frustration boil over? What kinds of reactions can you expect, or anticipate?
It helps to look at some other examples of customer service interactions from the bastion of public interaction: Twitter. In the following article, you'll read about a real example of handling an angry complaint. While Kyle, the CEO who features in the article, doesn't always follow an approach that feels authentic to WeWork values, it is authentic to his own, and therefore, is illuminating to explore.
After you've visited the link and read the story, consider how your own approach might have differed or aligned. In the next section, you'll learn more concrete tips to respond to situations like this, but it's helpful to understand what resonated with you here and why.
P.S. Looking for some examples of maybe what not to do? Check out the video below!
RESOLVING DIFFICULT SITUATIONS
YOUR CONFLICT MANAGEMENT STYLE
There are a few different styles of conflict management. Before you learn some helpful tips that can help anyone, regardless of style, take a look at the five conflict management tendencies below. Which one(s) do you feel more closely resemble your approach? How can that approach be helpful and detrimental in your work environment?
HANDLING DIFFICULT SITUATIONS
So, once you're in a difficult situation, what do you do?
Below, you'll find a collection of resources that give you an idea of how to respond to difficult people and potentially explosive situations. As you look through each, take note of skills and mindsets that you might need to further develop. You'll be able to talk with your manager about how to factor them into your growth plan over the next year.
APPROACHING A DIFFICULT CONVERSATION
Here are six helpful tip to guide you when confronted with a difficult conversation. Remember, it's not a battle, but a discussion. As defensive as you may feel, you're there to help!
Let them vent. Listen to their entire story without interrupting; sometimes people just want to be heard. Reiterate or paraphrase what they tell you so they know you fully acknowledge what happened. It’s very important to members that you understand why they are upset.
Don’t take it personally. Every one has problems and stresses that you don’t know about. In general, members are upset about the circumstances, not about you. If you can help them fix what is wrong, you’ll become the hero instead of the target.
Take responsibility for the problem. Don’t blame others. Don’t try to explain or make excuses. Members don’t really care if you’re understaffed; they care about their results.
Try to come up with a quick and easy solution. Most angry people will calm down after being treated respectfully. Try to offer them a quick and immediate solution that improves the situation. If that is the final solution, that’s awesome. If not, offer them the immediate fix and then give them a reasonable timeline for the final solution. The immediate fix gives them time to cool down and makes them more likely to accept the solution when it’s resolved.
Never argue with a member. When the member wins, WeWork wins. It’s inevitable that a member will occasionally try to get something for free, or will have a bad attitude. This doesn’t matter. It is always better to appease a difficult member than to lose one. Never argue. Never get defensive. Never get rude or sarcastic.
Eat humble pie. Even though the customer is always right, sometimes they are technically wrong – they misread the membership agreement, they write down the wrong date, etc. These situations are easy to pounce on and to “win,” but what do you win? Sometimes it’s better to let it go and keep a customer, than to win an argument but lose the customer forever.
DEVELOPING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
One way to diffuse a difficult or angry conversation is to know beforehand how a person might react to the unexpected. That means having emotional intelligence, or EQ.
In the following video, you'll learn a little bit about how being emotionally intelligence can help you both as a leader in your space and as someone who must anticipate emotions from others. Watch the video below!
AGREE, EMPATHIZE, INQUIRE VS. ATTACK, DEFEND, ESCALATE
There is the natural tendency when engaged in a particularly unpleasant conversation to go on the defensive. Once an individual is focused on defense, the other person is focused on inciting an even bigger reaction. This process is called attack, defend, and escalate. It is characterized by the interaction below:
Fred: “Your estimate of how long this project will take is way too low. You forgot that we are depending on Fenster to do some of the work and everyone knows he is always late.” [ATTACK]
Freida: “No, I already talked with Fenster and went over the schedule with him. I mentioned that last week. You never listen.” [DEFEND]
Fred: “You’re a jerk if you believe anything he says.” [ESCALATE]
There is a better way! Try agreeing, empathizing, and inquiring. Find something to agree with—acknowledge there is an issue. It’s hard to argue with someone who is agreeing with you. Then, empathize with them by considering what they are feeling.Acknowledge their emotion even if you disagree with their perception of the problem. Finally, inquire get more information. Understand the issues. Move from confrontation to collaboration as quickly as possible. Let's see Fred and Freida again:
Fred: “I need to use the conference room that you are signed up for. OK?”
Freida: “Fred, you have an important interview, right? I can see that you’re in a bind. I may need the room depending on our client call.” [AGREE, EMPATHIZE]
Fred: “Do you or don’t you? Because I have to use it.”
Freida: “Is there some way we might both be satisfied? When do you need it? For how long? If it turns out we need it, can we have the room back?” [INQUIRE]
TO TRY: Consider this: your collaborator is pressuring you to complete a project in a week so she can move on to another more important project. You think it will take at least three weeks to do the research and write it up. She says, "We need to finish this project by the end of the week.” What is your response using Agree, Empathize, and Inquire?
Below, you'll work on two scenarios where a member has some concerns to bring to you. Pick the response that you think is best. In the Capstone event, we'll talk about what everyone picked and why. Remember the tips you learned in the last activity!
WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
Even if a member is factually wrong, you should take the burden of responsibility in a dispute.
If a member is being rude, that means you can be a little rude back. There's no call for being stepped all over!
Your job is to ensure the member is happy and enable productive workspaces, which sometimes means coming up with a solution quickly, even if it's imperfect.
Members should be able to vent, complain, and let steam off in conversation to you.
If a member is unhappy, that's not an indicator of your level of worth as a person—it's not personal!
Check True for every statement with which you agree, and False for every statement with which you disagree. During our Live Event webinar later this week, you can elaborate on your choices.