It can be tough to give tough feedback. The challenge is to do so in a way that motivates change without making the other person feel defensive. There are several common pitfalls in offering negative feedback: using the opportunity to blow off steam instead of to coach, surrounding negative feedback with so much positive feedback that it goes unnoticed, or simply avoiding and delaying because we anticipate the employee will become argumentative.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, management professor and executive coach Monique Valcour notes that powerful, high-impact feedback conversations share the following elements:
What was your experience the last time you had to deliver tough feedback? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
The ability to get things done competently and quickly is a key measure of success, but leaders can fall short if their efficient task-focus comes at the expense of a more relationship-based focus. Writing in The Harvard Business Review, executive coach Rebecca Zucker notes, “Things like building relationships, inspiring a team, developing others, and showing empathy can fall by the wayside” if efficient leaders believe these pursuits will slow them down.
The irony is that an intense, exclusive focus on efficiency can have a negative impact on organizational climate and make these leaders less effective overall. To combat this, Zucker offers advice for the overly task-focused:
How do you balance task-focus and people-focus? 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:
While many companies have returned to onsite offices, others plan to have their employees remain remote for the foreseeable future. But shifting workplace dynamics during the pandemic have led many leaders to question what employee engagement looks like here and now.
Writing in Inc., Marcel Schwantes, founder and Chief Human Officer of Leadership From the Core, says one fact remains constant: Employee engagement is about establishing a goal and a purpose for those you lead. “It's almost impossible to keep employees dedicated to their work without a larger purpose.” Schwantes asked four leaders how they do this:
How are you keeping your employees engaged during these times? To join the conversation, click "comments"
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:
What turns individual contributors into effective new managers? Google spent years finding out by analyzing over 10,000 manager impressions including performance reviews, surveys, and nominations for top-manager awards and recognition. The following are six key attributes that Google instills in its managers:
Google reported a statistically significant improvement in 75 percent of its underperforming managers after implementing the program.
What do you think is the most challenging part of transitioning to a management role? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
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.
Caught up in a vicious cycle that starts with frustration, leads to stress, and winds up causing workplace wars? This can engender more frustration, until the whole syndrome starts over. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Annie McKee, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and the director of the PennCLO Executive Doctoral Program, offers a three-step process for interrupting such vicious cycles):
“Developing self-awareness, increasing your emotional self-control, and recharging relationships at work takes commitment,” says McKee. To lay the foundation, build mindfulness practices into your daily life, schedule time for self-reflection, and tap into empathy that allows you to see the world through others’ eyes.
Have you found that taking more responsibility for your own feelings and actions can help reduce frustration, stress, and conflict? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
We all like to think we’d speak up if we saw something objectionable happening at our workplace—perhaps something ethically questionable or some evidence of discrimination. In fact, research suggests that most people tend not to act, and rationalize their inaction.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Heidi Grant, Associate Director of Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center and author of Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, offers suggestions for those who do want to be diligent employees and lend their voice to the conversation:
If you have spoken up at work, what were the results? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
Holding audience attention during a presentation is always a challenge, and more so if you are giving it via Zoom. In a virtual setting, you cannot employ or read body language as much as you would in person, and your attendees might well be distracted by other things in their environment (kids, pets, beeping microwaves).
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Carmine Gallo, instructor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and author of Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get From Good to Great, offers tips for sharpening your presentation skills:
At a time when clear written communication is more important than ever, many of us may have temporarily lost our in-house editors—those co-workers we drop in on when we want a quick assessment of our first drafts. Learning to edit our own writing is a skill that will serve us well now and in the future.
Writing in The New York Times prolific freelance journalist Harry Guinness offers practical advice for DIY editors: