David G. Lightner, C.P.M.
David G. Lightner, C.P.M., Purchasing Manager, World's Finest Chocolate, Inc., Chicago, IL 60632, 312/579-6433
Abstract. How we respond to the actions of the people we report to has a profound impact on our ability to perform our job functions effectively. Our performance is judged more by our boss's perception of how we are doing than by our own. When the boss does not know what we are doing or how he or she is affecting what we do, we suffer and our company suffers.
This workshop explores some of the issues purchasing managers face during their day-to-day dealings with their bosses. The workshop offers an innovative method of managing conflict and improving our day-to-day work life.
Improvisation. Nearly everything we do is improvised. We may plan what we intend to do, even how we intend to say something. The emotion, the words, the meaning all come out for the first time when the actual moment of action arrives.
When we interact with someone, we are improvising. Nothing is scripted. We improvise with our spouse, our children, our friends, teachers, and coworkers. Rarely do we know exactly how someone will respond to what we say before we say it. We are unable to plan our precise response until we receive theirs. How many times have we thought of a better response to a situation long after the communication has ended? We have all said at one time or another, "I wish I had said 'this'" or "Next time I'll tell him 'that'." If we take the time to formulate the perfect response each time we communicate with someone we appear aloof and insincere.
Conflict. Timely, appropriate responses are key elements of effective communication. When presented with conflict, our responses may be quick but inappropriate. When the conflict stems from the actions or inaction of our boss, the importance of appropriate communication becomes all the more relevant.
How we approach conflict in the workplace can make or break a career. There are several methods of dealing with conflict. Self awareness is an important step in conflict resolution. Once we understand why we feel a certain way about something, we are able to determine if our feelings are justified.
Too often we fail to understand someone else's point of view. We may feel we are being treated unfairly. We get all worked up and the next thing we know is we are in trouble. By failing to look at a situation from the other person's point of view, we respond inappropriately. This may turn a minor misunderstanding into a major conflict. Understanding what drives another person is an important step toward averting or resolving conflict.
Inhibition. It is difficult to express ourselves when we feel intimidated. The feeling of intimidation escalates when the person we wish to express ourselves to is someone in a position of authority over us.
We have all heard the sayings "Out of the mouths of babes" and "Kids say the darndest things." These phrases hold some validity. As we grow older and more experienced, we become more inhibited. We avoid the people who make us feel the most intimidated. The simplest task may seem insurmountable when we have to interact with someone who is unapproachable. As children we were more single minded. As adults we are inhibited with worry and anxiety.
Action. In the theater, actors are known to become completely immersed in their characters. Once on stage, the actor becomes the character and is no longer his or her self. Actors in improvisational theater develop characters on the fly. Scenes are created and written as they occur.
Most actors do not step onto a stage cold. Many actors work through a series of exercises which allow them to focus on ideas as they flow into their minds. In real life, we can not slip into character and back again. We are real people interacting with other real people. How we interact with others will have lasting effects on our lives. We can still use the exercises that actors use to help us open our minds and concentrate on the important issues we are faced with.
Summary. This workshop will introduce several exercises designed to increase self awareness. Employing methods taught in improvisational theater workshops, participants will act through many of the issues purchasing managers face in relation to their superiors. By employing the techniques presented in this workshop, participants become more effective in approaching avenues to resolve conflict. Communication skills are enhanced while self confidence improves. People around us begin to recognize our improved abilities. Ultimately, even the boss becomes more approachable.
Spolin, Viola Improvisation for the Theater. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1990.
Johnstone, Keith Impro. New York: Routledge, 1991.