Can A Common Performance Language Reduce Workplace Conflict?

05/15/2019 3:57 PM | Paul Venderley

What if you could take away the root cause of a majority of conflicts in the workplace? What will that do to productivity? What will that do to the retention of workers?

Rex Conner points to subjectivity in the work processes as a root cause for a lot of workplace conflict, and states that "fuzzy language" can create an unstable foundation for performance at the very beginning of an employee life cycle.

"Fuzzy language" is a concept brought about by human performance guru Dr. Robert Mager when discussing performance outcomes, and Rex Conner, Lead Partner and Co-Founder of the Mager Consortium, applies it here as he discusses how Recruiting, Training, HR, and Evaluation describe job performance expectations.

"You need one methodology on which to build the processes for recruiting, training, evaluating, and developing employees," Rex shared in a recent interview. "You need a common performance language."

What is a common performance language?

"That is a lot like English," Rex says. "In the workplace, when you speak a common performance language, no one is speaking in fuzzy terms when we're talking about people performing.

Fuzzy terms are subjective terms. Terms that are common in the workplace, like: 'You need to be a team player.' or 'You need to provide world-class customer service.' Those are fuzzy terms. They're open to interpretation. When you're talking about a big organization, that's fine. But when you're talking about an individual performing, every time you have subjective language that you leave open to interpretation, you're inviting conflict, you're inviting inefficiencies.

"So a common performance language means: everyone speaking in clear terms, and in addition to verbal speech, the processes that are involved, the work processes, the way you get things done, do not have subjectivity in them. You've worked through all the processes and made them objective."

As long as HR, training, the business units, and the quality people are speaking their own languages you are bound to have conflicts, misunderstandings, and inefficiencies that sap the human spirit and the bottom line.

That quote comes from the description for Rex Connor's upcoming seminar: "Creating A Common Performance Language." We asked Rex if the argot specific to each department contributed to the subjective language.

"It's OK if each discipline has its own jargon," he replied. "We all develop jargon just around the work we do. But when we're talking about the common effort about helping people perform when they're on the job, that's when you need to take out the subjectivity, both in the language we use, the discussions we have, and in the work processes.

"It's definitely a cross-functional effort. It doesn't mean that all the functions need to morph together. HR can still be HR, and the recruiting component can still be recruiting and have their own terminology. But the processes that they use need to be built on the same objectives on which the training is done. The evaluation of workers needs to use the same standards that they used in training. Needs to use the same job description that they used in recruiting. And so, those functions don't have to merge, but the processes that they use have to have the same language, the same basics. It all needs to be governed by the same performance objectives."

Learn more about Establishing A Common Performance Language at our May 22 Learning Event.

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