Workplace Wisdom

02 Jan 2019
What Would It Mean to Be an Activist at Work?

What Would It Mean to Be an Activist at Work?

Sometimes things happen at work that seem just plain wrong. Most of us stand by, hoping conditions will get better. But all too often, they don’t, and we continue waiting, meanwhile becoming more and more worried or disengaged. When we see something going wrong or not working well, it can be hard to know what to do. Is it appropriate to say something? And if so, who should we tell? You don’t need to suffer in silence. If your boss […]

06 Nov 2018

How to Raise a Problem and Not Hurt Work Relationships

Maybe you’ve heard this saying: “The world is divided into people who know they are right.” That’s the entire saying — and you can see why! Whether it’s a kneejerk reaction, or a data-gathering process that’s heavily subject to confirmation bias, most of us have a hard time questioning our belief that what we assume happened must be what actually happened. So when something goes wrong in the workplace, how can you avoid confronting the other person as if it’s […]

10 Jul 2018

Focus on Tasks, Not Emotions, to Save Money on Conflict

“Conflict costs businesses a ton of money,” management guru Steve Caldwell observed while interviewing me recently. Caldwell is a team leadership coach, the author of Manager Mojo: Be the Leader that Others Want to Follow, and the creator of the podcast Manager Mojo, where he highlights commonsense solutions to management and leadership issues. These lightly edited excerpts from our conversation create a through-line from the reasons for conflict to tips for reducing the disruption and expense that conflict causes. How […]

10 Oct 2017

Please Don’t Do It That Way: How Not to Help

“This doesn’t make sense to me!” Halfway down the train car, a woman’s voice was rising. She was assisting one of her two daughters with homework, and her aggravated tone caught my attention. “This doesn’t make any sense!” the mother kept saying. “You’re not answering the question!” She probably believed she was helping, but I shuddered for the child’s sake at the frustration I could hear in her voice. “Not right now, honey,” she snapped at the younger sibling, who […]

03 Oct 2017

3 Powerful, Practical Fundamentals to Help Change Stick

Change may be a constant in life, but in business, many planned change initiatives either peter out or don’t even take hold in the first place. According to a Towers Watson study, only slightly more than half of all change initiatives succeed, with only 25 percent sticking for the long term, mostly because of a variety of management failures. I consider this a problem of oversimplification — the result of the all-too-common “just do it,” “just say no,” “just tell […]

19 Sep 2017

4 Ways to Ease the Pain of Interdepartmental Conflict

When departments operate in silos — say operations wants to streamline processes while sales seeks to please customers by customizing — the result can be repeated misunderstanding and extreme mistrust. Even otherwise reasonable employees can appear to be locked in perpetual battle for authority, resources, status, or the pure triumphant joy of being able to one-up the other. Senior leaders often treat ongoing conflicts as just the cost of doing business in complex organizations. But the actual expense attributable to […]

21 Feb 2017

How to Reduce the Risk of Shooting from the Hip

Years ago, I had a client who actually used to say, “Fire! Aim! Ready!” when he was issuing some decree or other. This business owner acknowledged he was shooting from the hip, reacting suddenly and without considering the impact of his words or his actions. Often there would be collateral damage, when his of-the-moment command or policy didn’t account for all the aspects of a situation or account for other initiatives that were already under way. Too frequently, employees ended […]

08 Nov 2016

How to Cope with Post-Election Impact in the Workplace

I’m writing this post a few days before the historic presidential election of 2016. No matter who wins, an enormous number of people are going to feel horrified and upset. After all of the heated rhetoric and breaks with political history, it may be even more difficult than usual for people of differing belief systems, social preferences, and cultures to find the necessary middle ground to get back to transacting business and cooperating on projects. And I’m not just talking […]

26 Jul 2016

How to End Meeting Madness and Get Better Results

Some of my clients go crazy with meetings. They schedule them back to back, invite a cast of thousands, start late and in disarray, drag on unproductively, and end late without closure. Suddenly, everyone is grabbing their stuff, still talking as they push past the people standing clustered outside the door, waiting to come in for the next meeting. At these meetings, even when discussions seem to result in agreements, it’s hard to tell afterwards if anything actually gets done. […]

05 Apr 2016

The Surprising Truth about Consensus

Consensus sounds so nice: Everyone agrees and moves forward together. Kumbaya! Seems like a good thing, right? But here’s how one client described the way his company practices consensus (with my italics): “We have to take all these teeny little baby steps to get to consensus, one painful meeting after another. So by the time we get close, we’re all bought in, and we smile and swallow the Kool-Aid, even if it tastes like battery acid.” A Common Drawback to […]

 

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