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Crying In The Bathroom
What does "Professionalism" mean to you? How you define "professionalism" has a huge impact organizational culture. Take a look at some of the responses below.

Here are versions of real life answers:

"Professionalism is not talking about problems."

"Crying in the bathroom instead of in front of people."

"Taking it because I am afraid for my job."

"Acting as a buffer between my tyrannical manager and my people so that they are not hurt."

"Not discussing negative performance in front of others-even if they are throwing me under the bus."

"Just stopping the fight because I will never win"

"Respecting one another-not just asking what I think because you were told it was a good idea."

"Having some degree of empathy."

"Living the organizational values."

"Recognizing that sending emails at all hours of the night is not encouraging work/life balance."

"Setting a high standard without telling me that I should make people fear their yearly reviews."

"Setting a clear, cogent direction for the department."

"Trusting your people."

"Really empowering people to do the job."

"Not having secret agendas."

"Creating elaborate work- arounds."

"Promptly returning phone calls and emails."

"No eye rolling."


"Share if there is a change in direction."

"Adapting the management style to the person."


"Keeping negative opinions about other managers and team members to yourself."

"Pitching in when needed."

What do these responses tell you about the organizational culture? Then consider how you would answer the question AND how others within your organization would answer. If you don't know ask. You will be surprised by people's answers.

Death, Dying, and Conflict Resolution
You might be familiar with the work of Dr. Elizabeth Kuber Ross. She wrote the book on Death and Dying. Even if you don't know the book you might be familiar with the 5 stages of grief:

• Denial/Isolation
• Anger
• Bargaining
• Depression
• Acceptance

Kuber-Ross explains that the stages are really not linear. People dance into and out of each stage at different times and at different intensities. There is often a triggering event that causes the grieving to start or to restart.

Workplace conflict is no different than grief. There is definitely anger and often feelings of isolation. Some folks minimize the problem or minimize the person bringing forward the concern. I see bargaining in the form of attempted and failed problem solving and collaboration followed by feelings of depression and frustration over wasted time or potential unrealized.

Acceptance I find comes in two forms.

•  Form 1: people have really come together to attempt a solution that they can live with maybe even a solution that makes the whole working environment better.
•  Form 2: people have given up and given in and are not happy about it. In Form 2 people become depressed or complain a lot or leave or become depressed and complain a lot and stay.

It can be a Pandora's box-grief and conflict. But, like Pandora's box, the underlying and overlooked element is hope. Hope that things will get better. Hope that their point of view will be heard, understood and acknowledged. If you can discover what people are hoping for, you can move through the stages of conflict and grief.

Posted by:Carol in Causes of Workplace Conflict

It's A Business Decision
"It is a business decision- the staff will understand…."

Here is one just for Managers & Supervisors (or anyone else). A mentor of mine one time said "we often forget what other people don't know."

Owner and executives are in the business, as it were, of making business decisions. They or you do it all day every day. Profit and Loss statements, Strategic Objectives, Enterprise Risk Analysis, and (heaven forbid) Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. It is enough to keep the wisest and best of us up at night….and probably does.


The warehouse staff, drivers, IT folks, and receptionist may not know (and I am certain that they don't care)—as much as you do or as much as you should- that you have to make decisions to keep the organization healthy or at least afloat. It is one of the joys of a leadership position.

It is also an unfortunate fact that the higher you go in any organization the more you know, the more you are held accountable for and the less that you can share with the others within the organization.

Some plans are not appropriate to share. Some information needs to remain confidential. That is the way it goes. I think that most bosses do want to share information and hope that employees will know and understand why reviews and raises aren't given or appreciate the difficulty in coming to certain decisions. At least good bosses hope this is true.

However, an employee's view is limited by their position in the company and most have zero access to business information and performance reports. THEY don't know what you know. Consequently, they WOULD NOT LIKELY MAKE THE SAME DECISIONS that you would.

This can lead to feelings of resentment and frustration on both sides. It is not easy to be the decision maker. Expecting to have sympathy for the difficulty is a pipedream. It is not the employee's job to fully understand the difficulty of management or ownership. It is manager's and owner's responsibility to understand the impact of their decisions on the people.

So says me.

Posted by: Carol in Leadership

What Are You Teaching These People?
There was an article out recently stating the "most important ingredient in a child's maturity is the casual conversation that goes on in the home."

Let that sink in.

Children, like adults, learn by observing. Employees learn how to behave at work by watching how managers and fellow employees conduct themselves.

So let me ask you…When you stop to look around what lessons are being taught?

• How do leaders interact with subordinates?
• How is gossip handled or not?
• Is good performance acknowledged?

Take a minute to look around. Look for inconsistencies. Look for opportunities for improvement. Then ask yourself & those around you "What are we teaching these people?"

Posted by: Carol in Workplace Insights

Why Are Small Work Groups So Hard To Manage?
"I have managed a group of 35 direct reports. This group of 8 is harder to manage than the 35!"

Sound familiar? If things become more complicated with more variable, why is it that smaller work groups are so much harder to manage than larger ones?

Simple. The smaller the work group the more you may know about the individual members. Their preferences. Their foibles. Their history. Because you know more about them, they expect more of you and they expect more of each other. More flexibility. More one-on-one attention. More forgiveness maybe less accountability.

For example:"We all know that Grace is constantly late with assignments and has a short fuse, but her mom is sick so we let it go."


"He has been like that for years-short tempered and cranky. That is just him. We let it go."

It is fine to have close relationships at work. It is not OK to have relationships that are enabling, co-dependent, or unproductive.

Posted by: Carol in Workplace Insights

Cracks In The System
"Conflict is the sound made by cracks in your system."

So says my colleague Ms. Sue Pivetta. Here are some more words of wisdom from Sue.

[Conflict] is contradictory forces co-existing in a single space. So, when conflict happens, you could recognize the great opportunity for a leader to show leadership by filling NEEDS. Or by setting limits on behavior that is the result of immaturity in the work place.

Yet in conflict people tend to:

(1) avoid, ignore the conflict and hold resentment
(2) deny the conflict; (what conflict?}
(3) react emotionally; become aggressive, reclusive, victimized, or defensive
(4) blame the other
(5) delegate the situation to someone else - generally a supervisor

As a leader it is important to become the 'curious observer' and not the victim of this stuff. It is also important as the observer to understand ALL BEHAVIOR MAKES SENSE (it's about need silly). Doesn't mean all behavior is acceptable though!!!" Amen!

Consequently, if you were to analyze your departmental & organizational culture which of the 5 responses to conflict do you see the most? Digging deeper, how do individual team members respond to the conflict?

If you have someone who denies and minimizes working with someone who holds onto resentment & keeps a secret score card, you will be hearing loud cracking noises in the form of gossip, complaints, and coalition building.

As a leader, set down the expectations of behavior. Play mediator when you need to. Umpire when you must. Finally, take personal accountability that as a leader you are ultimately responsible for the team. Its' performance. Its' emotional climate. Its' dysfunction.

Good luck!

Posted by: Carol in MyBlog

Marine Scandal & Blood Sucking Fiends - What Do They Teach Us About Management?
Many of you have seen or heard about YouTube video showing US Marines urinating on bodies. Marine Corps leadership called the actions "wholly inconsistent with the high standards of conduct and warrior ethos that we have demonstrated throughout our history." Investigators are trying to determine whether the commanders knew of the misconduct or whether a breakdown in discipline occurred.

For those of you who are in a position of responsibility, look for the lesson here:



So what does Blood Sucking Fiends have to do with this? Plenty. Blood Sucking Fiends is a book by author Christopher Moore (also author of another great management title Practical Demon Keeping). The story revolves around vampires, San Francisco, and a group of employees known as "the Animals."

The Animals work for Safeway as the night stock crew. Their favorite past time at work, other than getting drunk, is turkey bowling. According to Wikipedia,

"Turkey bowling is a sport which is based on ordinary bowling: a frozen turkey serves as a bowling ball and 10 plastic bottles of soft drinks or water are the bowling pins. The turkey is bowled down a smooth surface, for example, ice."

What is the link you might be asking between Turkey Bowling and desecrating the dead-lack of supervision, lip service (at best), abandonment (bad) of organizational principles, or a complete "screw you" attitude (very worst).

Take a minute to think about it. Then step up to the plate and do the right thing.

Posted by: Carol in MyBlog

The Emotional Litter Bug
There are 2 types of emotional litter bugs:

1- The Intentional Litter Bug. The person who poops on everyone. If they are upset they make everyone upset. They want everyone to not only know about their pain; they want people to feel their pain. If they are upset. You should be upset.

Strangely, these folks do have a rationale that makes sense. Sort of. They have a strong sense of right and wrong AND believe that everyone else believes what they believe or should believe what they believe. They likely believe that misery loves company. Consequently, they will try and try and try to persuade you to their side of the argument. Expecting that you will either give up arguing or give into their point. If you don't, they think, you are just dim.

2-The Unintentional Litter Bug. The person who has "diarrhea" of the mouth. They have no filters. Everything they think, feel, like, don't like. It is a running commentary. They just keep talking & talking & talking. Never noticing that people are not responding or have turned them out entirely.

The Unintentional Litter Bug is more annoying (but less aggregating) than the Intentional Litter Bug because they just don't get it. The "it" being the social conventions of not discussion everything & stop talking when no one is interested.

If you have a litter bug in your life, set a boundary.

Give a Hoot Don't Pollute.

Posted by: Carol in Causes of Workplace Conflict

When Is A Victim Not Really A Victim?
There I was sitting outside of Whole Foods eating my lunch. It was a beautiful day. An older man with 2 miniature pinchers (think very small Doberman ) sat a few tables away. He seemed to be enjoying the day. He seemed to be enjoying hanging out with his dogs. It was all tranquil.

Until...SHE showed up! The wife. Oh boy, was she steamed. She was yelling at him. Shaming and Blaming. "Where were you!" "Why don't you have your cell phone!" "I have been looking for you!" "I have been all over!"

I thought "Wow, the poor guy. He is getting pooped on in public big time." He looked like a hapless victim. He acted like one too. Standing up quietly and walking away from the wrath of THE WIFE.

Then I started to reflect on what THE WIFE had said. During the course of her rant she mentioned that

• She went in look for something that was not there
• She went back to where he had dropped her off.
• He was not there
• She went back into the store to look for him. Not finding him, she went back to front entrance and waited for him.
• She waited and waited.
• She tried calling him. She could not reach him.
• She spent 20 minutes searching the store for him.
• She decided to shop
• She finally found him.

"You ALWAYS do this!!"

It was "You ALWAYS do this" that really got my attention. I can imagine that THE HUSBAND thought it was a nice idea to go run an errand or two, park the car, take the dogs for a walk then find a pleasant place to sit. I will bet he thought "she will figure it out."

Now, at the outset HE looked like the VICTIM. Upon reflection, I had a lot more sympathy for THE WIFE. I mean, how annoying is that behavior.

So here are the morals to this sad tale of The Victim Who is Not A Victim

• A victim may not be a victim, but an instigator.
• People can and will follow their own agendas
• Your agenda may be obvious to you and a mystery to others
• You need to move forward or get sucked into the "YOU ALWAYS DO THIS" ridiculousness
• I think all THE WIFE, like most of us who feel neglected or victimized, wanted to hear was "I am sorry. I didn't realize the impact on you. It won't happen again."

Too bad. I wonder who will get those miniture pinchers in the divorce?

Posted by: Carol in MyBlog

Self-Entitled Babies
Is the world full of "Self Entitled Babies"?

In a Twitter post some time back I asked "Are employees seizing the day or seizing the pay?" One response was telling "It's all about the pay in this world of self entitled babies. I see so many 70% out there it's amazing anything gets done".

Apparently, some feel employers aren't doing enough to drive performance while other feel employers aren't doing enough to meet needs. Are the two related-who really knows. My bet is that it isn't the same for everyone.

What is amazing to me is the amount of mutual resentment that is out there. Here is what folks don't seem to get:

•  It is the employee's responsibility to look after themselves.
•  Our culture equates pay with value.
•  People equate level of pay with Personal Value.
•  Everyone knows an overpaid idiot.
•  Life is expensive. We need money to survive.
•  Most people have ZERO concept about the true Fair Market Value (FMV) of their services. They don't see what others are paid.

HR & MANAGEMENT ASKS people what their last salary was to determine how much they are "worth" then get upset when prospective employees decline to provide the information. THUS, no fair turning around and becoming miffed when people want more money because they believe that they are delivering value.

Employees believe that they are doing the work required of the job. If they are not, that is an issue of management failing to manage.

Who wasn't a whining, overly entitled cry baby at 20? Seriously, most employees entering the work force have to be trained to be employees. They have little or no real life experience. Did you really expect a worldly-wise 20-something?

Posted by: Carol in Workplace Insights

Be Wary Of False Alarms
Be wary of "false alarms" one person who attracts all the attention, in fact demands it.
Yes, they get attention. The flip side is that others, the folks who come to work and do their stuff, often are over-shadowed and feel unappreciated. While supervisors feel as though one person or one event is sucking up  too much time and energy.

For each time there is someone doing a version of Chicken Little's "THE SKY IS FALLING!" check in with your tried and true workers to see how they interpret the situation.  Listen to the Steady Eddies. Pay them as much attention-if not more.
While the concern of the person who raises the roof over and over again might be legitimate, you cannot allow them to overshadow the others.

You can let them know that you heard their concern, but it is not an urgent issue at the time.  THEN articulate that "we have a good group of folks here. Folks who are bright, articulate, & who can speak for themselves." If you get push back , REPEAT, "we have smart people her who can speak for themselves." REPEAT "People can speak for themselves & I will respect their choice not to come forward as much as I respect YOUR choice to come forward.  I heard your concern, do you have something else to add?" 

13 Feelings That Lead To Negative Behavior
Everyone has a bad day now and then.  There are people, however, who don't simply have a bad day. They have a bad decade.  Where does this come from?  Sue Pivetta of Professional Pride has identified 13 instances that if not addressed can lead to perpetual negative behavior.

Take a look at the list below. The first element is the cause followed by the behavior.

Do any of these stand out to you? Do co-workers or management suffer from these pernicious feelings?  The first step to improvement is identifying the problem.  Let the games begin….

1.  Lack of control causing people to exert control in inappropriate ways or hold on with a death grip to any areas of control that they believe that they have.
2.  Inability to set boundaries resulting is others feeling steam rolled or violated by comments that are personal attacks.
3.  Feelings of abandonment causing people withdraw and not share information.
4.  Feelings of dependence resulting in people unable to make independent decisions or act without first getting permission-not matter how minor the action.
5.  Need to be liked or listened to causing people to avoid conversations, agree with whomever is in the room. OR repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating the same story or complaint over and over and over again.
6.  Authority and power Issues causing individuals to take actions on either side of a broad spectrum. On one end, if they love power and authority they will try and make people bow down to their ideas, proposals, ways of doing things because "I am the boss" or "you have to pay your dues" or "this is the way it was for me, it will be the way it was for you." 
7.  Alternatively, there are folks who HATE people who have authority over them. They will be contrary simply to assert their own independence as a way to say "You are not the boss of me" even if you are.
8.  Need for excitement and chaos. 
9.  Yes, there are drama queens and kings out there. They will create drama to show how valuable they are. They need something to focus on. 
10.  They need to create a driving force to stir up the daily routine.
11.  Loyalties and protectiveness. Resulting in coalition building and backing individuals or ideas simply to back the person.
12.  Low professional or personal self-esteem causing individuals not to contribute, take calculated risks and become the "go along, get along" lump.
13.  Disappointment over being unfulfilled resulting in individuals withdrawing emotionally and physically from the work. Increase absenteeism. No participation in meetings. Work pace slows & performance suffers.
14.  Personal professional needs not met 
15.  resulting in frustration and job/life dissatisfaction. 
16.  May become shorter tempers, time on the internet searching for new jobs, push back on new initiatives at work or statements that "it doesn't matter anyway!"
17.  Personality type, learned behavior causing individuals to play the role of victim or bully. 
18.  Increased complaints & water cooler conversations.
19.  Follower personality, lack of personal power resulting in minimal amount of engagement. Follower characteristics are good. 
20.  This situation is bad because the follow is completely overshadowed the leader who may be a handful themselves. 
21.  The follower will not take any action against or contradict the leader. 
22.  The follower is assimilated into a coalition and voiceless.

From the esteemed Ms. Sue Pivetta of Professional Pride

Posted by: Carol in Causes of Workplace Conflict

Big Bossy Cow - The Dangers of Interruption
Big Bossy Cow! That is how I feel when someone interrupts me. BUT - I am really guilty of interrupting others.  This article by my friend and college Ivy Meadors of High Tech High Touch Solutions really got me thinking so I wanted to share it with you.
How Do You Feel When Someone Interrupts You?

Interruption one of my pet peeves. I have been known to make the same mistake too - all of us do, from time to time. There are people who do it constantly though, and no matter how often they are called on it, they don't modify the behavior.
It is not only inconsiderate and disrespectful, it can damage your communication efforts. Groups of people who do not listen to one another are hurting the team... risk having a negative impact on handling a situation correctly.

It seems some people prefer to talk over one another constantly, or simply do not pay attention to what their colleagues or customers are trying to talk with them about. Sometimes, this is an ego-centric issue. In other cases, it is a behavioral thing. For instance, people who have ADHD tend to interrupt more often because their brain works differently. Some people don't even think about the fact they are interrupting others, until it is pointed out to them. The younger generations are pros at interrupting. They need direction to understand the importance of changing this behavior.

If you, or your team members, tend to interrupt people, you can start training today to modify this behavior using a cell phone. Since the wireless systems have a small delay in the signal (latency), you can use that as a "timer" to remind you to pause longer. Try to avoid interrupting the people you speak to on your cell phone and you will likely see an improvement in how often you interrupt others.

You've probably watched programs who have someone on a remote video conference call over satellite (i.e. Anderson Cooper, Oprah) and noticed how they have learned to wait for an answer instead of talking over one another.  Try waiting to hear the other person's' response before speaking. You will have a much better exchange of information and your listener will feel like you have more respect for them and are interested in what they have to say. You'll be surprised what you will "hear".

NO Talking!
So I returned from the Dr.'s office with my RX for antibiotics and strict instructions. "No Talking." 
I come back surrounded by the folks who urged, begged me to go to the Dr.  When I said "I am not allowed to talk for the next 36 hours. Then only for my work with a client. Then no more talking until Friday."  Everyone seemed fine. Until they needed something…then my doctor's directions were irritating. It happened over and over again. 

People would come up start talking to me ( not with "yes" or "no" answers, but full sentences and expecting me to answer in full sentences.) Everyone knew that there was a RX to help things get better, but everyone fell into their old habit patterns. Even after the 36 hours with the little reprieve, they still came.  "I thought it was only 36 hours."  "come on you are OK to talk now."  (My voice is still hoarse)

How does this relate to conflict resolution?  Easy.  People may recognize the need to change habit patterns, but once it becomes an effort. They balk. Say that the change really isn't necessary. (even though 24 hours ago it was)
The result is that there has to be at least 1 person who is stubborn enough to stick to it. Tenaciously stick to it. Until the new way of doing becomes more ingrained.

Sue's Tips for Performance Reviews
Take the scary out of performance reviews. One of my heroes is Sue Pivetta. Sue started a 911 call center training company. I met her during my work with Pierce County Center for Dispute Resolution. She is a rock star and committed to making the workplace better.

This blog is from her latest newsletter & provides great tips on how to conduct performance reviews so that they are less scary & uncomfortable.

Feel Good Going In

1. Start with YOU.
You will feel better about giving evaluations if you are not stressed for time. Be prepared and feel good that what you have in your evaluation document is representative of your true measurement. Double check to make sure you aren't evaluating on a) historical perceptions b) rumor c) conjecture d) isolated incidents. And yes - SMILE this is a time to really connect with someone important.

Know Your Direction

2. Read Everything
Before you sit down to evaluate someone, read everything you can about their past evaluations, any notes from or to them, their training records. Get a full history of this person in order to know the direction you need this person go.

Be sure to discuss the person's history with them. Some people drag negative history around like a stinky bag of dead fish.
This may be a good time to encourage a new direction. You do that by letting the person open up the bag and have someone really listen. Some people however, love their negativity so often it's important to be very clear about the idea of LETTING GO of historical 'wrongs' and moving forward towards a more peaceful career and more job satisfaction.

Understand What

3. Understand why you are evaluating.
Without good evaluation systems the agency has NO idea what is happening compared to what is 'supposed' to happen with individuals, shifts, the entire agency. Good evals provide responsible supervision and direction.

Also evaluations provide documentation of agency accountability to manage the Center responsibly. Regular evals improve communications and morale. Through evals, the agency can look for common themes and if found can set goals for organizational training.

Evaluations can be pro-active noticing of potentially dangerous practices, methods and habits before they become a problem. Individual evaluations can be used for analysis for future training needs.

It's All About Me

4.Time to listen to them.
Typical evaluations may say the evaluator talks, the person being evaluated listens - sign here and don't let the door hit you on your way out.

A productive evaluation allows time for the employee to share, vent, question, advise, offer and feel heard. Now, to feel heard, a person must not feel the evaluator is defensive and can be trusted with very important (to them) private or emotional information.

Let down, let go, allow and relax when listening.

Because I Said So!

5. Bring your measurement to the table.
Authentic assessment can only take place after measurement. Authentic assessment takes place repeatedly over a long period of time, not the day before the evaluation. Patterns of success and failure are observed and reported from the work.
Your measurement tool is listening to a series of the person's 'work' on tape - not by osmosis[at work]. Bring the 'work' to the session and study it together. "How do you think you did with this [project]?"

phone: 1.800.830.8228

Are You F.I.N.E.?
F.I.N.E. - Faulty, Inferior, No Good, Erroneous

I am a huge fan of  Patrick Williams.  He is an expert in communication and building relationships.  Yes, he is a salesman extraordinare.  I subscribe to Patrick's "Sales Tip of the Day."  He has some real gems of information on how to care for customers, energize yourself, & the importance of knowing-really knowing your craft.  (See his contact information below).

Several months ago Patrick sent out this little gem.  I know that I am guilty of saying "fine" when what I really mean is "NO! IT IS NOT FINE."  Read on about F.I.N.E.  Although Partick uses the example of a poor experience at a restaruant, the principle rings true for workplace encounters too.  Finally, take Patrick's advice and move to solutions!


Have you ever had a less than perfect experience at a restaurant??

Not so bad that you complained about anything, but not the best quality either.  And when the server came around to ask how everything was, you just answered "fine" rather than reveal what you really thought.

We both know that "fine" is not good.

Fine is the enemy of fantastic.
F.I.N.E. stands for "faulty, inferior, no good, erroneous".

Have any of your customers said that your product, service or treatment was just "fine'?  Whenever that happens, you can bet that something is not quite right.  If you want to keep that customer, dig a little deeper to uncover the problem so you can fix it.

© 2010 YOU ROCK!(TM) Communications

REQUEST LINE IS OPEN - Got a sales or marketing challenge? Send an email with the details, and I'll share some ideas in a future sales tip.

- - -

Patrick Williams, Hit-Maker 
Helping people and businesses be #1 in their market!
(253) 318-7503
Connect With LinkedIN

YOU ROCK Communications
10408 Bujacich Rd NW

Gig Harbor, WA 98332

You Will Be Judged - How Managers Fail to Address Workplace Conflict
Same song different day.  "Carol, he is a good person. BUT he wants everyone to be happy and will not confront people and hold people accountable"

This statement drives me crazy!!! Why?  Because it is what the folks a Crucial Conversations would call a "Sucker's Choice."  That is a belief that people will either be happy or be held accountable.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE hear me!  It is not an either or choice. In fact, it is one choice. Hold them accountable in a humane and predictable way by articulating your expectations.  People will not be happy with you if they feel blindsided by allegations that they are not performing their jobs.  While it is excellent that people are happy at their jobs, it is not the function of business or government to pay people to be happy.  The function of work is work.


Here is the good news. The conversation is likely not as uncomfortable as you imagine it to be. Talk about your expectations, your assumptions, and the benchmarks.  Easy.  The conversation is not about their personality traits or lack of skill, or other potentially demeaning stuff.  It is about what the job is and requires.

Will there be push back. YEP. Especially, if you spring this on them.  Instead do some prep work with the entire group so everyone is moving forward.

Sitting In Judgement On Others
- Ground Zero of Workplace Conflict
There is something delicious about sitting in judgment of others. I was having coffee with someone last week and the subject  of judging others came up. It got me thinking....why do we sit in judgment of others?

Is it because it is part of our job description?

Is it because we like being "right" and telling others that they are "wrong" or at least "not as right as we are?"

More importantly, what is the impact on us, the workplace, and our peers when we sit in judgment of others AND do so inappropriately?

Let me paint a picture...You are working hard.  Someone says something to you that YOU find dumb, insensitive, or whacked.  You make a determination about that person's character and competence BUT you never check it out to see if the person INTENDED to mean, insensitive or whacked.

As a result, your working relationship changes for the worse.
I will bet for those people with whom you have a poor working relationship that you can point to an exact moment when the relationship went downhill.

Now take 5 seconds to evaluate if you ever checked in with the person to verify if they did indeed INTEND to damage you or the working relationship.  If you didn't verify their intention then you may have inappropriately sat in judgment.

Do Star Performers Makes Good Leaders?
Hope and faith are important things.  I don't think that humans could survive with out hope and faith.  Unfortuately, too often hope and faith are used to make promotional decisions. Case on point: hoping that the Star Performer will become a Star Leader.

By placing faith in a Star Performer to transform into a Star Leader is foolish.  A well-intentioned, but foolish, choice that places the organizatioh at risk and can negatively impact peoples lives.

It is often said that "people don't leave companies; they leave bosses."  The traits that make some one look like great pomotion potential from above: task focused, high achiever, go-getter, works well with out direction, innovator, driven are THE SAME traits that can make poor leaders.

Because the go-getter attitude may sideline important LEADERSHIP TRAITS such as empathy, time to listen, relationship building, willingness to listen to contrary opinions, in short...all those elements that insprie TRUST in others.

Without TRUST from those who CHOOSE to follow-there is NO LEADER . Therefore, NO LEADERSHIP.
So look beyond, the Star Performance. Look to the ACTUAL STAR LEADERSHIP that currently exists.

• Who do people TRUST in the organization?
• Who looks out for their TEAM as much as themselves?
• Who continually holds themselves ACCOUNTABLE?
• Who is ADMIRED by thier peers, not just liked by those up the food chain?
• Who has a THIRST for learning?
• Who has the HUMILITY to know that there is alot to learn-no matter how long they have been around the block?

Monkey Brains, the Economy, and Workplace Conflict
A colleague just sent me a link to a CNN article that says employees are too afraid to take vacation-because they are afraid that during any time away from work their employer will discover that the job can be done with out them.

Fear has taken hold-the Monkey Brain has taken over. The Monkey Brain is that part of us where the fear response lives. The Monkey Brain engages and creativity dies, logic dies, freak-outs thrive.

So what can you do? Simple. Tame the Monkey.
The Monkey Brain is triggered by threats. In the working world that is down turns in the economy, lay off's, performance reviews, restructuring, escalating tension, cut-backs, mergers, and bankruptcies.

I find that the common denominator is a feeling of lack of meaningful control and a sense of "I don't know what I can do here!!!!!!" This feeling of lack of control often hides behind "IT's NOT FAIR!!!"

Have honest conversations.

Name the elephant in the room.

It is OK to tell people that you don't know or that you aren't at liberty to tell them

No one really knows everything that is  going on.  Do your best to share what information you can. Avoid (like the plague) speculating.  It doesn't help and only serves to increase tension.
Ask people what they would like to have happen. They may not know or what they want is not with in your power to deliver.  Just get folks to start talking. It is your best Monkey taming technique.

If you want more tips - please visit and check out the enews archive page for articles and action tools.

Management Theory According to Honey Bees
I came across this interesting article on honey bees. What had me stop in my tracks was this quote by Beekeeper Jerry Webb, "It [the hive] is a perfect society. You're either useful or you're dead".

How much of management theory is in part based on this premise? Just wondering...

Featured on Work Does Matter Radio Show
Earlier this month, I was a guest on Denise Rubin's Radio Program Work Does Matter. It was a great conversation about how to handle workplace conflict, the definition of "hackles", and tactics that work. Give it a listen via the Work Does Matter website. Tell me what you think. Really. I know that some of you do have different opinions.

Top 10 (Hidden) Sources of Workplace Conflict
The International Association of Business Communication asked me to contribute to their CW Bulletin: Effective Conflict Management. There are some great article there by folks, like me, who are geeks for conflict.

I chose to write on the Top 10 (Hidden) Sources of Workplace Conflict. Here is an excerpt of the article. For the full article check out the CW Bulletin.

"The best internal communication systems can break down. The top performers can be a pain when they push for their own agendas and timelines. Even the "Best Places to Work" suffer from workplace conflict. Unless the hidden sources that cause and escalate the tension and conflict are addressed, bad things happen: conflict escalates; people suffer; managers lose credibility; business suffers.

The pain of unresolved conflict can be avoided – but only if the source of the conflict is addressed. Here are the Top 10 hidden escalators of conflict at work, how to recognize them, and what to do about them."

Guest Blog: Reflections of a Workplace Investigator
I am so pleased to share with you this post by guest blogger Amy Stephson. Amy and I have enjoyed coffee dates talking shop about workplace harassment and conflict. I thought that you would enjoy hearing some words of wisdom from her.

Reflections of a Workplace Investigator

A gay male employee complains: My co-worker and her husband lunch together every day, but it's discriminatory that she doesn't want me to discuss my same sex partner. The co-worker says: I'm a Christian and homosexuality is against my religion. I'm happy to interact with my gay co-worker, but don't want to have to hear about his partner.

An African-American employee complains: My co-workers laugh and talk about me in their native language. This is harassment. The co-workers reply: When we use our language, we're not talking about her; we're just chatting and only do it when no one else is around. Our employer's policy allows us to speak in our language and it would be discriminatory to stop us.

These are just two of the many scenarios in the life of a workplace investigator. Most are more mundane: Managers have terrible communication skills or play favorites. Poor performers blame bias rather than their job performance. Managers have anger problems. Perceptually challenged employees create havoc. People hate their jobs, but can't find another that pays as well, so make trouble.

And now a new source of conflict is creating challenges in the workplace: generational diversity. The 62-79 year-old "Matures" (as consultant Karyl K. Innis calls them) have very different attitudes toward work than the 43-66 year-old Boomers, who in turn have different attitudes than the 28–42 year-old "Gen X'ers" or the under-28 "Gen Y's."

Is there an underlying reason for all this? Much of it is just human nature: people are complex, see the world through their own perceptual lens, have competing interests, have personality conflicts, lack the necessary competencies, offend and get offended. We live in a country where personal boundaries are often blurred, many have a sense of entitlement or victimhood, and television shows workplaces where there's more talk of sex than work.

There's another reason why employers end up having to hire investigators: They fail to prevent conflict through policies, training, and coaching. And then, when conflicts do arise, they fail to manage them in a timely manner. Proactively dealing with conflict may seem like a distraction, but it's an essential part of risk management and running a productive, efficient business.

Amy Stephson is a Seattle employment attorney whose practice emphasizes conducting independent workplace investigations. She is also a workplace consultant and coach. She can be reached at

Through the Looking Glass - What Are You Looking For?
Here is something for you to ponder. I received it in an email this morning from a colleague:

In the morning my new mantra before I step on the floor to say good morning to my friends. I say to myself- "Today I will look at this floor through the eyes of an owner." I find if I am subconsciously asking myself "If this was my building and my business, how would I see the things around me?"

In the evening I ask myself, "Did I do more good than harm today?" and "Why did I just answer that way?"

This forces me to "STOP!" and take a personal inventory of the day. If I am off track then I use that as my focus for tomorrow.

So how is your day going?

The Power of Perception & Bless You
This is an email I received from a colleague. I thought that I would share it with all of you - after getting permission and redacting. It is an excellent example of how one statement can make a difference at work! READ on…

Good Morning ****,

I just had this happen to me and wanted to share it with you both…

To me there seems to be three types of people in this world, (1) Optimists (the glass is half full), (2) Pessimists (the glass is half empty) and your (3) Optimistic Pessimists (the glass is half full of POISON) ;o). I guess it is true however that perception is reality and we take things as we choose to see them.

Case in point my little email parlay with our front desk receptionist.

From: ***
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 10:37 AM
To: ****
Subject: BLESS YOU!
From: ***
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 11:04 AM
To: ***
Subject: RE: BLESS YOU!

Well Thank you Miss *** You just made my day. I am not sure what I did to deserve it but I will sure take it. Bless you, ***! I am glad that you are here with us!
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 11:41 AM
Subject: RE: BLESS YOU!

I actually heard you sneeze.
Your welcome!
And thank you for the comment!


From: ***
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 11:56 AM
Subject: RE: BLESS YOU!

HA HA HA! It wasn't me you heard but I will save your bless you in my pocket for next time. ;o)

7 Tips For Resolving Workplace Conflict
from Negotiation Expert Jeanette Nyden

Some times dealing with conflict is a negotation. Here are some tips that negotiation expert Jeanetter Nyden shared via her newsletter.I thought "Wow! This can be easily transferable to folks dealing with workplace tension and conflict!" So here you are! If you would like more negotiation tips, visit Jeanette's website She also has a book coming out: Negotiation Rules! A Practical Approach to Big Deal Negotiations.

Best Practice #1 - Get past needing to compete

Competition, while a part of the negotiation process, can destroy long-term relationships, which in turn can destroy your bottom line. Therefore, you must be able to balance competition against the desire to foster long term relationships.

Best Practice #2 - Get down to the real issue

Separate the real issue the driving force of the negotiation from all the less important issues that take up time. People lose valuable time and money chasing after non-mission-critical issues.

Best Practice #3 - Know and use your leverage

Business people must know and use their leverage. Leverage is your ability to get a deal on your terms. If you want a deal on your terms, you must know and appropriately use your leverage.

Best Practice #4 - Don't assume that people will act in rational ways

You cannot use rational arguments with people who have an emotional charge. It just doesn't work. Address the emotional argument. If it is not your strength, then find someone for whom it is.

Best Practice #5 - Things are not black and white.

Americans in particular like to talk in terms of the bottom line, bullet points and principles. The reality of the situation is that what you are negotiating is not likely a black and white issue. There will be nuances and shades of gray.

Best Practice #6 - Don't let bad things linger

This piece of advice got the most laughs as they all remembered times when matters got really ugly. Matters just get worse the longer they linger. They don't go away.

Best Practice #7 - Let bygones be bygones.

People make mistakes. People also do really stupid things, like denying responsibility for their obvious mistakes. For the good of business, it is wise to let bygones be bygones.

Featured Radio - Managing Conflict In The Workplace
Join me on June 3 at 3pm PST. I will be the guest of Larry Kaminer, President of The Personal Safety Training Group for BlogTalk Radio Live. Our topic? Managing Conflict in the Workplace. We will talk about:

Early recognition of tension, conflict, and potential violence in the workplace and the impact of gender on workplace conflict and resolution. Cool stuff that you really need to know.

Poking The Hornets Nest - How Motorola Let Emotions Get In The Way
"Sometimes emotions get in the way of judgment." So says Richard Robbins, an Atlanta based employment law attorney. Robbins comments were based on the Wrongful Termination lawsuit that former Motorola CFO has brought.

Here is the short version:

Motorola CFO made remarks during a Board meeting intending to rally the Board to action. It worked, but the hornets went after him instead. The very next day, he was fired. He now is suing. So whose emotions got in the way of judgment? My educated guess is everyone's over a long period of time.

For more of the details check out this article on Corporate Counsel Center. Frankly, I find it somewhat refreshing that SOMEONE has acknowledged that emotions can impact decisions and that a breakdown of a working relationship can and DOES lead to bad stuff happening—even in the C Suite.

Is Conflict Contagious?
Managing Working Environments in a Down Economy

Yes, conflict is contagious! Surprised? I will bet not. Emotion is contagious. As contagious as a yawn or the Swine Flu.You can't be responsible for someone else's happiness or anger. You can only be responsible for yourself BUT you can take a temperature of the emotional environment of your workplace.

Are people laughing? Are people talking about each other or to each other? Is there something in place to help people handle stress?

Here is my advice; Ask yourself these questions:

• How am I doing with this work environment–really?
• What is really freaking me out?
• What am I disappointed with?
•  Would my co-workers or boss agree with me or would they describe me differently?
•  What one thing can I do to help me make it to lunch? To the end of the day? To the end of the week?

Then - seek out others just to say hello and how is it going. If you are concerned, share your concern then share what you are doing to make it through the day.

Why? Because unless the GIANT Pink Elephant in the room is addressed it will grow and suck the life force out of everyone. The result is that the conflicts, unless identified and addressed, the emotional climate will worsen.

The Collaborative Leader - What Are the Keys to the Castle
I am a geek for reading articles about leadership. Why? Because I hear over and over and over again from folks that they are desparate for their leaders to control, moderate, address bad stuff at work. So when I found this article from HR Executive online I stood up and cheered.

According to the authors (didn't save that part of the article) six attributes that distinguish successful collaborative leaders:- Here is their list and my (sometimes snarky) comments.


Amen to that! But patience for what? Dealing with people most likely. Yet, how many executives actually, exhibit this so that the people feel it? Most people want others to be patient with them, but patient doesn't mean sacrificing business objectives so that people have unlimited time "to figure it out". Patience generally comes from the leader knowing what the answer is and giving the other person room to figure it out.

Collective decision-making

Yeah, just wish that there was more definition of what that was or that people had a shared definition of it or what it looks like in practice. Collective decision-making could be taking information from multiple sources or it could be negotiating a solution.

Quick thinking

One would hope so. My impression is that the "quick thinking" attribute relates to problem solving and not delaying making difficult-and perhaps unpopular decisions. Leaders know that "things will resolve themselves".


A big Double AMEN!!! According to our friends at Websters' on line, tenacity is a persistence in maintaining or seeking something desired or valued. I love that. I love that so much that you can hear me telling colleagues and clients that "you must be tenacious and deliberate in applying conflict resolution skills!"

Relationship building

YEP – because it is really hard to be collaborative with strangers if you don't know what their interests are, or if they are as smart as you think you are, or if they are telling you the REAL STORY - not just a PR spin.



Leaders lead by example. You may be the best business person ever, but if you can't set the tone at the highest levels for how differing opinions and poor behavior is addressed, no one will follow you through a buffet line let alone a risky venture or a new initiative.

So …how do you stack up, as a leader? As an informal leader? Is there more to add to the discussion? Eagerly awaiting your comments!

Silos In the Workplace (and not the pretty kind)
Look at those pretty silos. Unfortunately, silos at work are not so pretty. Business consultants/ and HR geeks like me, refer to deliberate lack of communciation and hard boundaries between divisions or departments as "silos".

Did you know that "silo-ing" can also take place in small and very small employers or work groups. Symptoms of siloing are lack or communication, miscommunication, or obfuscation. It can also come informs of emotional shut down at work, not talking, not even looking at each other.

What is scary about silos is this….most people don't recognize that they contribute to the siloing. Consider this:

When is the last time that you made eye contact with a co-worker? The last time you spoke to someone–maybe even the person with the desk next to you– just to acknowledge their existence, not to make a request for information.

Here is my challenge to you….just observe yourself. Are you creating a mini silo farm? Do you see it going on around you? If so, break the silo effect. Just say "hi".

The Flip Side of the Same Coin - Employee Conflict / Employee Recognition
Conflict, conflict, conflict. I love conflict. It is amazing what lengths managers and companies go to to avoid addressing conflict. I regularly attend a local Recognition Roundtable sponsored by Recognition Works. Simply, it is an informal gathering of employees who are trying to create or sustain recognition programs. Why do I go? Because sometimes -well … often – employees and managers mistakenly try to use a recognition program to address a workplace conflict issue.

Workplace conflict and tension cannot be resolved by implementing an employee recognition program – unless the cause of the problem is lack of recognition and appreciation. Otherwise, time, effort and $$$ are wasted on the wrong solution.

So what do conflict and recognition have in common? When done well, there is an increased sense of well being and engagement in the workforce. WHY? Because recognition involves acknowledging the needs and values of the employees and managers. SO DOES RESOLVING WORKPLACE CONFLICT.

Here are some statistics that show the importance of recognition. When I see these stats, I think how easy it is to improve the workplace and how easy it is to spoil the workplace.

1. 91% of employees ranked "recognition for a job well done" as important for motivation. Recognition Professionals International (RPI)

2. 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite "lack of appreciation" as the #1 reason for leaving. Jackson Organization

3. Managers are the single largest influence on employee retention and productivity. Gallup Organization

4. 65% disagreed with the following statement: "My supervisor does a good job recognizing my accomplishments." RPI

5. Training managers on the right way to deliver recognition increases recognition usage by more than 30 percent – which has a direct impact on employee retention and engagement. Dose of Recognition Newsletter, Gostick & Elton

6. 30% of employees improve performance after being criticized. 90% improve performance after being praised. J. Pfeffer, Stanford School of Business

7. As the economy improves, 83% of employees indicate they plan to look for a new job; 34% of those are your top performers. SHRM

8. It takes an average of 2.5 times a person's salary to find a replacement. Sharon Jordan Evans, Love 'Em or Lose 'Em

9. Companies that have a thriving employee recognition strategy are more profitable – outperforming S&P 500 companies by 30-40%. Contented Cows Give Better Milk

10. Companies that have an employee recognition strategy have 50% less turnover than companies that don't recognize their employees. Contented Cows Give Better Milk

11. In 2006, "recognition & trust" were identified as key factors in creating and sustaining a positive work culture in the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Fortune Magazine

Compiled by Recognition Works

Why Conflict at Work Escalates
I am always amazed of people's need to be "Right" and how the need to be "Right" impedes the process of problem solving. So why is it that we want to resolve conflict but hold on so tightly to being "Right" and explaining the "Rightness" of our position with so much righteousness that we escalate the argument?

New ADA Amendments Will Cause Increase in Discrimination Filings
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Some of you may know that there are a ton of new federal laws going into effect. Americans with Disabilities Act has been amended. COBRA -the law impacting insurance coverage once someone leaves a job- has new provisions.

I spent the better part of the last two weeks attending seminars to get up to date-me and a whole bunch of Human Resource folks. We were the lucky ones. I have heard through the grapevine that employers are no long paying for HR to attend these seminars in an effort to manage costs. The consequence is that the key people within the organization don't know what is going on or the best practices to implement the changes.

Here is the really scary part…

Employees rely on other employees or a trusted adviser such as a parent, spouse or union shop steward to learn about "the way things work." Unfortunately, the advice they get is often outright wrong or misapplied.

The reality is that employees, at all levels, get a little bit of information then "fill in the gaps" with a "common sense approach." This spells danger for both the employer and the employee. First, the law does not care about common sense. The law cares about how a particular provision can be universally applied. Thus, the laws are written to apply to large corporations as well as smaller organizations. So one employee's definition of "the common sense thing to do" is rarely what the law requires.

The scarier reality is that most employment discrimination claims, in my experience, arise from mid-level managers not knowing or understanding the intersection of the law and company policy. Most employees will not go to Human Resources with questions about ADA or FMLA leave. They will go to their lead or direct supervisor. If the employee misinterprets or the the lead/supervisor misinforms, what the respective obligations are under the law-there will be trouble.

Trouble = more filings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or State Human Rights Agencies.

So what to do? Have a campaign to make everyone smart on the rights and responsibilities of both sides of the employment relationship. If your are an employee-you should know what you are entitled to AND where that entitlement stops.

If you are an Employer -Tell the employees what you expect of them and what you will and will not do.

Impact of the Recession on Employee Morale
No surprise. News of recession will have a negative impact on employee morale. Disheartened employees mean disengaged employees. In the current economic climate if a business is to survive, the work force must be fully engaged-emotionally, physically, even spiritually.

The unfortunate reality is that many companies will go under because of failure to motivate, empower, and acknowledge their employees.

Instead of deliberately and consistently communicating with employees, employers will go into "shut down" mode. The result will be increased fear among employees and mistrust of management.

According to the Respectful Workplace Blog:

"Communicate constantly to minimize uncertainty. Uncertainty arouses the fear circuits in the brain and is an absolute killer to employee productivity. When people are unsure about the stability of their organization, their standing with their boss or supervisor, or a clear understanding of what's expected of them, most assume the worst. The ensuing stress decreases the amount of a chemical called dopamine in the brain, a chemical that is critical for clear thinking and reasoning by the prefrontal cortex. Continuous uncertainty can also increase the levels of cortisol in the body, too much of which can permanently damage both the brain and the circulatory system."

The morale to this story is that survival in the current economy will depend on EVERYONE in the organization bringing their best selves to work.

Top Ten Ways to Help Employees, Peers, & Yourself in Turbulent Times
1. Name the elephant in the room – yours & theirs. Acknowledge out loud that you and others are worried. It is a WASTE of emotional and psychological energy to either pretend the elephant doesn't exist or to ignore it.

2. Avoid the blame game. Self-righteousness keeps feelings of victimization on life support.

3. Recognize that people really can't compartmentalize their emotional states. Happy, sad, stressed – one area of our life will seep into others.

4. Stress, concern, and increased tension will cause people to have a short fuse. Expect more arguments and push back at work-but in strange and unexpected areas. Help peers and yourself. A re you angry at the person or task in front of you-or is it just a convenient target? (For action tools to address this check out The case of the convenient victim as well as the reply in the Feedback section of the next e-news. )

5. If you are targeted, attempt to recognize it as the person's way of expressing frustration.

6. Anger is an energy-redirect the energy. Take a walk. Take up kick boxing, write in a journal, have a 5 minute pity party, clean your workspace, jump up and down.

7. 60 second vent-write down everything that is pissing you off, irritating you or otherwise is "just not fair". Cross out what is outside your immediate influence or it will take more time and emotional energy than you have this week. Determine what is within your circle of influence. Don't ruminate over the rest.

8. Create best case-worst case & most likely case scenarios. Have an action plan for each.

9. Think of 10 things that you are grateful for – write those on 10 sticky notes and post them around your work space.

10. Then pick 1 thing that you can do something about and do just one small thing.

Why Reality TV is Bad for the Workplace
I admit it. I love, love, love reality TV. Project Runway, The Apprentice, Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, The Amazing Race, The Next Food Network Star. I spend every Sunday catching up on the trauma and drama of people fighting to make it to the top or stay out of the bottom.

Why do I love these shows that glorify malfunction, back biting, and nastiness? Because as someone who dives into others conflict all the time, it is like Jane Goodall observing the chimps.

What is good for ratings and interesting entertainment is actually horrid for the workplace. Through shows like the Apprentice, Hell's Kitchen, and Project Runway naive people are learning everything not to do to be successful at work.

Teamwork? No way! Look out for number one. Respectful communication? Nope. Snipe and gossip. Conflict resolution skills? Forget it!

One lesson that is spot on; if you mess with someone, they will not forget and will try and take you down.

Impact of Workplace Stress on Sleep
Trouble sleeping this week? Workplace stress might be the culprit. The September issue of Body and Soul magazine cites a University of Michigan study that found "people who often feel hassled on the job were more likely to develop sleep problems. In fact", says Body and Soul, "everyday struggles with coworkers seem to disrupt sleep even more than long hours, night shifts, or job insecurity."

Yep. I have experienced that. And still experience disrupted sleep when work pressure (often self-imposed) increases. Anyone else experience this? Maybe the better question is "has anyone experienced you as cranky, ill-tempered, abrupt, even snarky because you were stress and sleep deprived. Do I even need to say how that will not help you career advancement? Did you even recognize that you weren't at your best or did someone point it out to you? How did you recover?"

While I am no expert on sleep, I do know that tired = cranky and non productive. If you need some resources to address sleep check out the articles on Body and Soul on sleep. If you would like more info on how to address the tension check out the Enews archive. (You may want to check out the H.A.L.T. Article inparticular). To hear a a newscast on the U of Michigan report click here.

Avoiding Claims of Workplace Harrassment
In the traditional models of male group dynamics the new members of the group undergo some form of hazing to "earn" their way into the group. Once "in" the group, the new guy is made the butt of jokes or "given grief" as a demonstration of his belonging.
Ask a women the last time, she felt "in" when she was made the butt of a joke. To the average female, being made the object of exclusion or ridicule is the exact opposite of belonging and a BIG BLINKING SIGNAL THAT SHE STOP TRYING TO BECOME PART OF THE GROUP BECAUSE-for whatever reason- SHE IS NOT WELCOME. In the workplace, the worst thing is to be viewed as disengaged or "not team player".

In life, it is awful to feel purposefully excluded and have no control to "get back into the game." What maybe intended as a sign of inclusion-kidding around, target of practical jokes-teasing maybe perceived as harassment, retaliation or purposeful exclusion. NOT what is desired in the workplace for full engagement.

Think about it. Then take a look around. How does your workgroup let individuals know that they are "Teamplayers"? How do you? Is this based on "the way we have always done it?" Is it possible that your method falls into either a "male" or "female" model?

If so, have there been any unintended consequences??

What You Can Learn About Resolving Conflict From Deal-Makers
We often think about conflict as something to be avoided. Unfortunately we do get caught up in the trauma and drama of the workplace and can't figure out how to get out of the mess-without more trauma, drama and mess.

Well, I just read this great article in the October issue of Pink Magazine (for a FREE trial issue go to The article is Diamond Deal by Tiffany Meyers. Don't be put off by what looks like a bad ad for a pyramid scheme jewelry franchise. The article has some concrete tips on how to get deals done. These tips are readily transferable to how to address tough situation at work.

There are 5 main categories that provide 21 tips. Here are my top 5 of those 21 tips.

Listen to Learn - Since much of the information you need isn't on the surface, get comfortable reading between the lines.

Thinking Past the Handshake - In the heat of the moment, when emotion might otherwise cloud judgment, return to the objectives you've identified as important.

Maintaining Perspective - Acknowledge strong emotions if they crop up-but don't let them drive decisions.

Calling for Backup - Understand that you'll probably never have all the information you want or feel that you need.

Setting the Tone - Know what the other side stands to gain from the deal, Once you understand that , negotiations are easy.

What Great Employers Know
So what do to be a great employer? Well lots of things. My focus is on how the culture and the management treats employees (even the management) and how organizations foster good conflict management. As you may know, I regularly write a Free e-news (see to help people deal with workplace tension and conflict.

I solicit feedback. Here is one piece of feedback that got me thinking and my response.

I read your newsletter every time it comes and I like the format generally. I am trying to think why it doesn't really grab me.

I think I finally figured it out.

Human resources and work place conflicts are due to people getting together to do business. It is like carpooling. If the driver is reckless the ride will be difficult not to mention the wear and tear on the occupants and the business/vehicle itself. But if the ride is smooth and deliberate the ride will be successful with pleasant and comfortable occupants.

It is almost as if the part of business is ignored unintentionally. I wonder how many owners come away with this same feeling. Unless a conflict rears its head I am not going to worry about this. It is like business fraud though – only a fraction of the amount that is really going on gets detected and then by accident after a great part of the damage has been done. These are just my thoughts – I may be wrong.


Carol Responds:

Awesome insight. Conflict does lurk under the surface and often goes undetected. AND well run work places often take what goes well for granted.

So let's take the conversation to a different place. I want to hear from those of you whose workplaces DO handle things well. What are your secrets, tactics, strategies?

So folks, what are your secrets, tactics, and strategies. What does your company or a singular person do that makes your workplace fairly stress free?

"Crazy Makers" at Work
What are these people thinking?!?!?!?!?! You have heard it. You have said it. But what can you do about "them"? The people that drive you crazy.

Understand that no one wakes up in the morning and says "I want to look like a jackass today!" People make decisions with the hope of the best pay off. Most people crave respect, dignity, and peaceful relationships. Generally, it is how "the other guy" goes about getting his needs met that rubs people the wrong way.

So ask yourself what is it about the person that is driving you crazy ?

Is it the way that he or she is going about something or is it that you don't know what he or she is trying to accomplish?

Assume that that "crazy maker" does want respect and acknowledgment. Then determine if they are making you crazy because you would handle it differently. If you would handle it differently, it is a matter of style rather than substance.

However, if you are the supervisor or head honcho, you could be driving people crazy with your preferences unless everyone knows, understands, and appreciates that standards you set are essential to a functioning organization or department & not just "I am in change and that is the way I like it" power trip.

So let people know your reasoning on the front end.

Ask for their opinions-listen. Once people feel heard, they tend to become much "saner".

Avoiding Claims of Workplace Harrassment: Gender Differences
In the traditional models of male group dynamics the new members of the group undergo some form of hazing to "earn" their way into the group. Once "in" the group, the new guy is made the butt of jokes or "given grief" as a demonstration of his belonging.

Ask a women the last time, she felt "in" when she was made the butt of a joke. To the average female, being made the object of exclusion or ridicule is the exact opposite of belonging and a BIG BLINKING SIGNAL THAT SHE STOP TRYING TO BECOME PART OF THE GROUP BECAUSE - for whatever reason - SHE IS NOT WELCOME. In the workplace, the worst thing is to be viewed as disengaged or "not team player".

In life, it is awful to feel purposefully excluded and have no control to "get back into the game." What maybe intended as a sign of inclusion-kidding around, target of practical jokes-teasing maybe perceived as harassment, retaliation or purposeful exclusion. NOT what is desired in the workplace for full engagement.

Think about it. Then take a look around. How does your workgroup let individuals know that they are "Teamplayers"? How do you? Is this based on "the way we have always done it?" Is it possible that your method falls into either a "male" or "female" model?

If so, have there been any unintended consequences??

Avoiding "Dizzy-ingly" Self Destructive Behavior At Work
I just read this great article by Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press about (now former) Governor of New York-Eliot Spitzer. The headline read "Why the powerful do dumb things?" As someone who regularly dives into situation where people made some pretty poor choice. Ms. Noveck had me hooked. She then had me laughing and nodding with 100% agreement.

"Yet, if the New York Governor is proved to have been involved in a prostitution ring, it would hardly be the first time that a powerful, brilliant person in public life has done something dizzyingly self destructive."

Dizzyingly self destructive. I love that quote and as a person who steps in to messes at work. I say that Ms. Novek is on the mark. Much of what I see is that people create circumstances where they get in their own way-primarily by making poor choices. Choices, by the way, that seemed like a good idea at the time. So Governor Spitzer, I am sure that calling a prostitute from a hotel room seemed like a viable option to pass the time…whatever.

However, talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. I think had he asked for some advice or disclosed his idea to a trusted adviser - even his dog - his actions might have been different. Yet, how often do we make choices in secret. Don't seek objective feedback. Bounce ideas off of someone to our detriment?

Here is the other part of the article that I really liked, "In order to be such a high profile position, you have to believe that what you are doing is innately right"

So how does this apply to the average working person, manager, or owner? Simple, we too lack introspection. Managers-realistically- can not delve in to deep consequential analysis with every decision. The nature of management is to make decisions-often decisions that impact the lives of others.

Work Life Balance Is A Myth
Work Life Balance Is a Myth!! I know that I am about to skewer a sacred cow here. Expose the fact that the transparent, dangling carrot of achieving "balance" between the demands of the workplace, demands of home life and the aspiration of achieving harmony, Zen, and self-fulfillment is as real as the Wizard of Oz.

Well, I am saying it. There is no balance. Every time I hear the term, I feel a boiling rage inside. Why? Because I get a mental image of a circus seal with a hat balancing on a big, beach ball, on one flipper. I also have flashbacks of attempting to bend myself into a pretzel in vain attempts to achieve the balance.

Balance no. Congruence, yes.

Work and life must be in congruence with one another. Banish the guilt. Banish the fallacy "if I just worked harder," "if I was a better person," "if I had better time management skills," "if I just didn't stay up watching CSI Miami last night."

So how does this relate to conflict at work? Simple – if people are over-stressed, blaming and shaming themselves for not being good enough and not doing good enough, they are ripe for workplace conflict. They are overly sensitive to criticism. They may withdraw. Or worse, lash out inappropriately. The result is damaged credibility and damaged workplace relationships.

Anyone else out there felt pretzel-like? Interested in your comments.

Women Jest. Men Joust. Gender & Humor at Work.
At work, humor can be used to build or break working relationships. Often men and women have the same intent -to build a sense of camaraderie -when joking or kidding around.

However, women jest. Men joust.

The Jester, if you will, will use self deprecating humor or feel good humor.

The Jouster will use humor to skewer or unseat the opponent and for the benefit of others. It is humor and one- ups-manship. And unless you are prepared to skewer back, it can be a demoralizing experience.

Not a big deal? Oh contraire! I hear of more women leaving male-dominated environments because of the Jousting Atmosphere.

As one woman put it "there was just too much testosterone! The men did not know when to dial it down!"

I am not saying that men need to become women with penises. Nor should women be men with breasts. What I am saying is that everyone should be conscientious of how they use humor in work groups.

So are you a Jester or a Jouster? Have you ever been a Jester in a group of Jousters? Or a Jouster in a group of Jesters? (For that second one, will anyone fess up if the Jouster with the Jesters might have led to complaints of bullying or harassment? Just wondering…)

Honoring Personal Boundaries at Work
True story. A woman worked for a small business. Boss/owner was in the office everyday and hyper-viligilent about "customer service." The company offices were small enough so that every phone call could be heard. More important for this story, the single-stall restroom was immediately off of the main work area. When a customer called and sales reps were in the restroom, the boss would stand – get this – outside the door and yell that "Your client is on the phone! Hurry up!"


Now as a business owner and as a consumer, I am all about providing great customer service, but come on!!! What this boss did not appreciate was the significance of recognizing and honoring personal and professional boundaries. As a result, he created a very uncomfortable workplace.

Did the conduct rise to the level of illegal harassment or bullying. Probably not. Did it create uncomfortable situations in the workplace. You bet. Unfortunately, the problem of not respecting boundaries or too intrusive bosses is widespread.

Take a look at's workplace site or one of my other favorite sites.

Each of us has a personal and professional boundary and if someone comes trespassing it is up to you to tell the offending party. No fair playing the "he should know" card. Maybe he should know. Maybe you should remind him (or her).

If you want some guidance on how to start or stay in the conversation, take a look at my website for free articles.

How to Avoid Being Torpedoed at Work
I hate feeling torpedoed at work!!! Well, it wasn't quite a torpedo hit more like a punch in the gut. Yes, me the Workplace Conflict Queen. I, too, at times am in the line of fire. Amazing. Particularly, since I own the company.

Here is what happened. I regularly instruct a Basic Mediation Course for a local community based mediation center & I LOVE it. Training on the critical life skills of conflict resolution is something that I look forward to every year. Well, this was the week for the training. There was a lot of preparation. The group was resonating with the material. At the close of the day, I congratulated the participants on a job well done, handed out the evaluations, and bid them so long for now.

So here is where the punch in the gut part comes…one of the evaluations said that the person did not like my style of presenting "too physical" and "she flipped her hair". Nothing about the content or the key learning points or the interactive exercises (which others really liked). Just something that was more about them then me.

The comment stung. My first response was "Wow-Ouch." My second response was "Now, WHAT am I supposed to do with this big poop that has been dropped on my shoe!!!!!"

Now let me say this. I speak and train for a living. I have spoken before hundreds of people. I am confident in my abilities in the content area and in presentation skills. I have never gotten any feedback like that. It felt weird and inappropriate.

So, I needed to practice some of what I preach about how to handle conflict in the workplace. First, I needed to step back and ask if ANYTHING about the comment was legitimate.

I decided "No". Why "no." Simple. The comment had nothing to do with content or substance AND was off the chart from any of the other feedback. Nothing else said by the other participants was even the same ballpark. The person stated that he or she felt weird with my physical presence. Is that something that I am responsible for? No. Am I responsible for making sure that I am dressed professionally and do not purposefully and inappropriately raise issues that may transgress guidelines for a discrimination/hostile free learning environment? Yes. Absolutely. Did I do anything to cross a line of good taste or decorum? No. Yet, the comment still bothered me.

Why, because the message that I took away is that the person did not view me in the same light that I view myself - as a confident and competent professional. Unfortunately, I will bet that many of you can relate to that feeling. It is a bummer. I hate feeling that way at work.

Here is how I got over it…As I mentioned, I took a step back and asked "Is anything said here legitimate?" Second, I really thought about whether that comment was for my benefit or theirs. From what I could tell there was nothing in that comment or any others from that person designed to help me or in any way benefit me or the organizers of the program. It, in essence, was all about them. So I let it alone.

It was all about them. Not me. So I let it go…after venting to a girlfriend and having a glass of wine or two. And my friend, did just want a friend would do. Honestly tell me if there was anything that I should take from it or just move on. So I have moved on…Really…that is why I am blogging on it. To take this experience and turn it into a lesson and by doing so let it go. Now I am sure that I am not the only one out there who has received weird and inappropriate feedback. What have you done with it? Anything? Willing to share? I would love to hear your insights.

Gender and Conflict at Work - Part 2: Men Don't Whinny
Yes, you read that correctly."Men Don't Whinny." Recall last month's eNews and how women use the power of the group to reward or punish. Now, let's take a look at the other side. The guy side and some might even say the"right side".

Now, some of you might be thinking"Who the heck is this Woman to talk about how men do it, don't do it, or how they do it." How do I know? I asked…MEN. Lots of them. I asked a High School Football Coach. A Marketing Executive. A CPA. A Human Resources Professional. Lawyers. Airline Pilots. Management Consultants. I asked. I listened. I took copious notes. I stopped talking and took a look around. This is what I heard and saw and what took me by surprise.

Recall, for the majority of women- it is all about the relationship and fitting in to the group. Contrast this to, well, the male dynamic.

Men don't care about the group. There is no group. There is only the task…and trust…and respect.

Conflict Management Strategies Inc
6716 Eastside Dr. NE, Suite 1
Tacoma, WA 98422-1169
(253) 219-5532

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