Tag Archives: communication

Employee Feedback - Meaningful Conversations - Workplace

A Thimble or a Beer Stein?

You’ve followed all the rules for a effective performance review with your assistant:  you found a time that works for both of you; you booked a private spot; and you made sure you wouldn’t be interrupted.  It all seemed to be going well until he suddenly turned defensive and withdrawn. What went wrong?
You may have misjudged his capacity for feedback.
feedback-graphic
I like to think of feedback as being something you pour.  Some people have a huge beer stein-sized capacity for receiving feedback and they are appreciative the more you fill their metaphorical glass (to a degree). Others have a tiny thimble – and if you overpour, all you do is make a big mess. So how do you tell whether someone is receptive to what you’re saying? It’s all in the body language.
Keep talking if:
  • they are asking questions such as, “Can you tell me more?  Can you be more specific?”
  • they thank you for sharing your insights
  • they appear relatively calm
  • they are attentive and listening
Put a cork in it if:
  •  they start giving excuses
  •  they aren’t making eye contact
  •  they appear agitated
  •  they are red in the face
  •  they tell you why they did what they did
The key is to not let the session turn into an argument, or even a milder form of disagreement…
You’re going to lose their respect and it won’t be a productive dialog.
Understanding a person’s ability to handle feedback is a valuable tool for productivity, retention, and the bottom line.  In fact, it’s so pivotal – and so hard to get right – that we offer training on the art of giving feedback.
When have you been on the receiving end of positive feedback?   How has someone enhanced your career by sharing their observations and suggestions?  Feedback really can be a gift.
I would love to hear your experience.
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Conflict Resolution - Workplace

Bullying in the Workplace?

It’s not me, it’s you….
Four years ago, I was asked to coach Tracy.  Tracy was by definition morbidly obese.  She was experiencing extreme distress and anxiety because her colleagues – grown adults – teased and taunted her about her weight.
When the culprits were questioned, each acknowledged the behavior occurred within the department, but they said, “It wasn’t that bad,” and “They [not we] were only joking,” and even, “We just did it once.”
Interesting!  We might think bullying is an issue that goes away once we are out of elementary school.  But my years as a workplace consultant tell me that this is definitely not the case.  In some workplaces, it is overlooked when inappropriate jokes are told, when comments are made, and when whispering occurs.
Researchers have found that when employees are asked, “Does bullying exist in your workplace?” they answer “Yes.”  But, when the same researchers ask “Do you ever bully?” the answer is “No.”
stop-bullying
Who do you suppose is doing the bullying?
I asked Tracy’s colleagues, “What do you do to stop the bullying?”  They responded that it wasn’t their job to stop it.
Not only do I disagree with their attitude, so does the law:  If people are being bullied based on their gender, gender preference, ethnicity, religion, age, or as in this example weight/physique, the workplace is liable.
But not only that:  The behavior isn’t nice, and it leads to a toxic work environment.
So, what do you do if you see this behavior happening?
  1. Change the subject
  2. Talk to the perpetrators privately:”I’m really uncomfortable when you do that.  This is how your behavior affects me.”
  3. Express your expectations: “It’s really important to me that we treat one another with repect and that we only talk about people’s ideas as they relate to work.”
If these strategies don’t work, you must, by law, report the behavior to your manager and to human resources.  If your concerns are not taken seriously, you need to contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (https://www.eeoc.gov/) and ask them to research the situation.
Are you a manager who is struggling to create a positive work environment?  The law – and human decency – dictate that everyone has the right to an emotionally, as well as physically, safe workplace.
We can help you create one.
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Communication - Meaningful Conversations - Parents

Drinking and Driving in Cubicles

katiedrivingI was driving my daughter Katie when she was about six years old. Along the way — with a facial expression that communicated “I am very upset” — she exclaimed, “Why are you drinking that?”

It was true that in the afternoons, when I was feeling exhausted, I sometimes drank Coca-Cola. It would give me a much-needed boost to make it through the remainder of the day. It was hard juggling a career, three kids, and a busy household. I explained to Katie that although the sugared and caffeinated drink was not healthy, it was helpful so that I could drive safely. I felt guilty, but what else could I say?

I could tell that my answer didn’t win her over. Since Katie was my third child, and since I work with employees who are often unhappy, I admit that I was accustomed to giving unsatisfactory answers. I didn’t think much more about it.

A few days later, I brewed a cup of my favorite herbal tea, Bengal Spice, and savored the strong cinnamon aroma. I was looking forward to sipping it on the way to a client’s office. Before backing out of the driveway, I carefully placed my 16-ounce white thermal mug in the cup holder and put on my seat belt.

Katie, from the backseat, piped up, “Why did you bring that in the car?”

It was rather full indeed, and perhaps I had made a mistake in not taking time to find a lid. After all, it was likely that some of it would spill, but with 16 ounces I would still have plenty to drink. Plus the car was getting older, and it was nothing that a Clorox wipe couldn’t handle.

I told Katie that if it spilled, we had wipes and I would clean it up. In the meantime, I was enjoying the scent filling the car. Katie was not pleased with my response, and I was not pleased with her policing the condition of my car. She got out of the car and headed in to school with an attitude.

We didn’t even make it a few days more when I got in the car with an open can of seltzer. This time, Katie, on the verge of tears blurted, “Mom! Why do you keep drinking and driving?”

Finally, a light bulb went off. “Angel,” I said, “What have you been taught about drinking and driving?”

Katie shared with me that she had learned that drinking and driving causes accidents and lost lives. That was about all she knew as a six year old. I gave Katie a mini-lesson on alcohol and its effects. As you can imagine, we both felt great relief after our chat.

Clearly, Katie and I had been miscommunicating and upsetting one another for days. But it wasn’t just because Katie was a young child that the miscommunication occurred. Miscommunication happens in offices, in meetings, in cubicles, all day, every day.

Last week I was coaching a senior leader, Paul, in a government agency when he explained his version of a new department initiative. Paul saw it as a way to further develop his team, to challenge one of his star employees with a stretch assignment, and to uncover some personnel issues that were previously obscured. I left the meeting thinking it was a brilliant move for all concerned.

Within hours, I was working with the director, Sandy, whom the new initiative would impact most significantly. Sandy was furious! She was certain she was being “picked on” due to her lack of tenure with the agency and because she was an over-achiever. She felt that she was being given “the impossible team” to manage, and that her director did not want her to succeed because he hated women. She was headed straight to her EEO office to file a grievance, but luckily she ran into her friend Diane in the hall.

Diane truly was a good friend because after she validated Sandy’s feelings, she encouraged her to stop and think before she went to EEO. Diane encouraged Sandy to wait a few days and calm down and then go back and talk to Paul and share her feelings. Sandy did that and Paul was willing to put his own agenda aside and listen. After a couple of talks and brainstorming, the two decided that white papers coming from that office would have her name which would give her the recognition she deserved. It was a classic example of how communication, coupled with openness and brainstorming, can change perception.

Sometimes, employers and their employees have different intentions. Other times, it’s simple miscommunication. Usually, it’s a bit of both.

I can’t say that I am proud of the way I brushed off Katie and her concerns all those years ago. In our work groups and in our families, when we can see that someone is upset, it serves us and our organizations well to take the time to probe and hear, really hear, the other points of view.

Please take the time to share with me one of your examples of miscommunication, and with autumn upon us, treat yourself to a warm cup of aromatic tea.
Karen

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