Agreeing with someone is easier than confronting them, and it feels good to be “on the same page.” But conflict-free work environments are virtually non-existent. Disagreement is not only inevitable, but also a normal, healthy part of
relating to others.
Disagreements in the workplace have the potential to lead to better work
outcomes, opportunities to learn, higher job satisfaction, and even improved
relationships born of working through conflicts. Writing in the Harvard Business
Review, Amy Gallo, an HBR contributing editor and author of the HBR Guide to
Dealing with Conflict at Work, offers advice for those who are reluctant to
work—and what was the result? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
Anyone who says they have the answer to every important question is either clueless or lying. So says John Hagel III, founder of Silicon Valley’s Center for the Edge and author of The Journey Beyond Fear. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Hagel says, “leaders should ask powerful and inspiring questions, convey that they don’t have the answers, and solicit others’ help to find them.”
“The kind of questions leaders need to ask,” he adds, “are those that invite people to come together to explore major new opportunities that your organization hasn’t identified yet.” For example: “What is a game-changing opportunity?” or “What are emerging, unmet needs of our customers?” or “How can we customize our services to the specific needs of each client?” Focusing on big opportunities is wise because:
“Leaders who ask powerful questions,” concludes Hagel, “have the greatest success in both seizing new opportunities and addressing unexpected challenges —and they build cultures that will carry these benefits into the future.”
What questions have you asked that have made a difference in your organization? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
Dreading confrontation, many of us avoid or delay uncomfortable conversations even with co-workers who sit nearby. It’s even easier to
let issues languish when you only see your teammate on a screen.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Liane Davey, a team effectiveness advisor and author of The Good Fight, offers guidance for managing potential conflict before it escalates:
How have you addressed conflicts with remote co-workers, and were your strategies successful? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
“The one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are now is to hone your communication skills. You can have all the brainpower in the world, but you have to be able to transmit it. And the transmission is communication.”
Research backs this up with empirical evidence. A study from the Carnegie Institute of Technology found that 85 percent of a person's success comes from "human engineering"--the ability to effectively communicate, negotiate, and lead, both when speaking and listening. (Technical knowledge comprises the other 15 percent.)
Learn more about creating a habit around masterful communication: Sign up for our BreakThrough Communication winter academy.
If your job involves serving people, part of your work is dealing with their frustration. It's all too easy to take it personally, and—let’s face it—sometimes they do get personal. You may also find yourself having to solve a problem you didn’t create, and then offering an apology on top of that.
But stop yourself if you have a tendency to apologize using some form of these six words: “ I’m sorry you feel that way.”
Writing in Inc., columnist Jason Aten notes that saying this isn’t really an apology at all. “First, you can't actually be sorry for the way someone else feels. You can only be sorry for your own behavior and the things within your control. More important, however, is that the sentiment behind those words is something along the lines of: ‘Look, I don't know why you're being irrational about this. This isn't my fault, and I think it's ridiculous that you're upset with me.’”
Telling someone you're "sorry they feel that way" avoids responsibility for your role in the situation. So, what are your options?
A recent study from Forrester estimated that 10% of U.S. jobs would be automated this year, and some estimate that many more jobs will be automated in the next decade. But perhaps asking which jobs will be eliminated is less relevant than asking which aspects of remaining jobs are unlikely to be automated.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Stephen M. Kosslyn, former Dean of Social Science at Harvard and author of Building the Intentional University, posits that while routine and repetitive tasks lend themselves to non-human replacement, aspects of jobs that require two critical elements will be difficult to automate.
As Kosslyn points out, employers highly value the kind of “soft” skills that are intrinsically linked to contextual evaluation and emotion: critical thinking, clear communication, and holistic decision-making. “All of this suggests that our educational systems should concentrate not simply on how people interact with technology,” he writes, “… but also how they can do the things that technology will not be doing soon.”
What do you think humans can do much better than machines in the workplace? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
The pandemic will make this a holiday season unlike any other, but that doesn’t mean a holiday party is out of the question. Now, perhaps more than ever, teams want to feel bonded, express feelings of mutual appreciation, and have some good old-fashioned holiday fun.
Here are some suggestions from the Paperless Post blog for a festive Zoom celebration:
Keep in mind that many party festivities, from charades to impromptu dancing, are easily adaptable to an online format. Whatever activities you choose, the important thing is to acknowledge one another, particularly during a time that hasn’t been easy on individuals or companies.
What are you and your team planning to celebrate the holidays? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
If you can do the work well, you can lead other people to do it. Right? Wrong. “Occupying a leadership position is not the same thing as leading,” says executive coach and management professor Monique Valcour. “To lead, you must be able to connect, motivate, and inspire a sense of ownership of shared objectives.”
There is no magic bullet or infallible management tool to ensure good leadership. Instead, Valcour advises creating practices to increase leadership proficiency using the following steps:
What are you doing to promote your own continuous learning as a leader? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
Rude and divisive workers can contaminate an organization’s culture—their disagreeable nature spreading like a virus. They sap productivity and sow discontent. Best to avoid hiring them in the first place, but how?
Writing In The Harvard Business Review, Christine Porath, a professor of management at Georgetown University and author of Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace, offers this guidance:
In these unusual times, we may be spending more time than ever with family, and encounters with friends and co-workers might require lots of arrangements and negotiations. We might find ourselves butting heads about new topics, like sharing home WiFi bandwidth, helping kids homeschool, and wearing masks. That’s why NPR interviewed Kwame Christian, director of the American Negotiation Institute, about how we can have tough conversations without letting them boil over into full-blown arguments.
Christian’s technique revolves around a simple, three-step process:
When was the last time you turned a confrontation into a collaboration? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
We’re getting used to wearing masks, but figuring out what we’re looking at can stump even experts in face reading. “We use face recognition in every aspect of our social interaction,” said Erez Freud, a psychologist with the Centre for Vision Research at York University in Toronto. In the faces of others, we find clues about their personality, gender, and emotions. “This is something very fundamental to our perception. And suddenly, faces do not look the same,” Dr. Freud said.
That’s why Dr. Freud and colleagues decided to study how masks impair facial recognition. They recruited some 500 adults to complete a common face memory task online. Participants viewed unfamiliar faces, then tried to recognize them under increasingly difficult conditions. Half the participants saw faces with surgical-style masks covering mouths and noses, and scored substantially worse. In fact, 13 percent of participants struggled so much they may as well have suffered from prosopagnosia, or face blindness. Authors at the University of Stirling in Scotland posted a similar study: 138 adults completed online face-matching tests. When masks were superimposed, people performed worse — even when the faces belonged to familiar celebrities.
One of the main takeaways has been that facial recognition happens holistically, or all at once; we don’t scrutinize people’s features piecemeal. But all isn’t lost. Research shows that out of all facial features, we rely most on the eyes. Even if we struggle to know who we’re looking at when only their eyes are visible, we may still pick up information about a person’s identity and emotions.
“We also use other cues, and we can fall back on some of those other cues if they are helpful,” said Marlene Behrmann, a cognitive neuroscientist at Carnegie Mellon University. For example, we might recognize people by the way they walk or talk, or by their facial hair or hairstyle.
Have you been having a difficult time recognizing masked faces? What cues do you use? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
Garden-variety lies and corner-cutting are not uncommon, but where is the boundary between this sort of behavior and more egregious dishonesty? In a new paper, researchers in Spain have created what The New York Times calls “a field guide of lying and cheating patterns”…at least among participants in simple lab experiments”.
Researchers instructed 180 participants to perform a coin flip, electronically, and report the outcome. If heads, they won $5; if tails they won nothing. Unbeknownst to participants, the research team could track each coin toss. After the trial, the researchers factored out everyone who got lucky and flipped heads on their one try. The remaining participants fell into distinct groups. Some 20 percent were honest, flipping tails and reporting tails. Ten percent flat-out lied, rolling tails and reporting heads, for the reward. A third group didn’t bother to roll at all, and reported heads — they were “radically dishonest,” as the authors put it. Finally, about 8 percent flipped multiple times until they got heads, and reported that result to collect the cash. This group was termed “cheating non-liars.”
“This [last] group is the most interesting to us,” said lead author Dr. Pascqual-Ezama of Universidad Complutense de Madrid. “They’re willing to cheat, but they don’t lie about the last roll.” The mentality behind this behavior fits well into a vast literature detailing the psychological outs that people give themselves when cutting corners or breaking rules, small and large. Beginning in the 1990s, the psychologist Albert Bandura called these rationalizations “moral disengagement.” It’s a process of preserving self-respect by justifying cheating or worse, with thoughts such as, “Everyone cheats, why should I be shortchanged?”
Dr. Pascual-Ezama says coin-flips and dice-rolls are hardly a reliable guide for how people will behave in the world, where they face much greater, and often competing, social and professional pressures. “Still,” says the Times, “that 8 percent seems like a good group to interview about the developmental and childhood sources of compulsive lying-cheating syndrome. If they’d come clean, that is.”
How do you think you’d behave in an experiment like this? To join the conversation, click "comments" on above.
“The email greeting, no one’s favorite thing to write even in the Before Times, has been exposed by the pandemic for its stodgy emptiness; a hollow, yet necessary, formality,” writes New York Times “Smarter Living” columnist Tim Herrera. “But now we’re forced to consider what we’re actually saying when we’re really not saying much.”
“When the pandemic first hit, it felt so crazy, because there were deadlines that still needed to be met, so you were emailing people,” says Liz Fosslien, author of No Hard Feelings, which examines how emotions affect our work lives. “Like: ‘Hello, hope everything is OK given that the world is crumbling to pieces. Do you have that paper I needed?’”
So, what is appropriate now? How can we write an email and be casual without seeming inauthentic, or be personal without breaking boundaries? Should we try out a little humor, even though for many there’s not much that seems funny right now? According to Fosslien, a lot of that depends on your recipient.
Before sending your next email, give it what Fosslien calls an “emotional proofread.” Put yourself in the receiver’s shoes. Consider what you know about this person, your relationship with them, and what they might be going through. “A quick gut-check before you hit send could save the receiver from unintended anguish.”
Do you have a go-to email greeting you are using these days, and do you ever adapt it according to specific circumstances? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
Many traditional teambuilding activities don't work the same with remote teams, but certain strategies can bring remote teams together. Heather Morgan, co-founder and CEO of Endpass and a serial software entrepreneur who has managed remote teams for a decade, has some culture-enhancing tips:
Darwin said the fittest survive, but what kind of fitness counts most? Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, researchers at Duke University’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, believe species that have thrived and successfully reproduced haven’t done it by beating up the competition.
Their new book, “Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity,” posits that species endure — humans, other animals and plants — based on friendliness, partnership and communication.
“Dogs are exhibit A,” Hare says. “They are the extremely friendly descendants of wolves. They were attracted to humans and became friendly to humans, and changed their behavior, appearance and developmental makeup. Sadly, their close relative, the wolf, is threatened and endangered in the few places where they live, whereas there are hundreds of millions of dogs…”
The authors also point to the success of bonobos, apes that are often confused with chimpanzees. Chimps make war, but bonobos are natural sharers. “The most successful bonobo males have more offspring than the most successful alpha male chimpanzees.”
What does all this mean for us? For humans to continue to evolve successfully, Hare says, “friendliness is the winning strategy. Social problems require social solutions. The secret to our species’ success is the same as it is with dogs and bonobos. We are the friendliest human species that ever evolved, which has allowed us to outcompete other human species that are now extinct. When that mechanism is turned off, we can become unbelievably cruel. When it is turned on, it allows us to win. We win by cooperation and teamwork. Our uniquely human skills for cooperative communication can be used to solve the hardest social problems.”
Can you recall a time when friendliness helped you get ahead? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.