I am leading a monthly series of Leadership Trainings spanning over a year. One of the modules is Time and Stress Management, and it’s a topic that I have been presenting and trying to learn more about myself for the past 31 years since I started Concordia Consulting.
To prepare for the program, I began my usual process of reading what’s current, watching a few YouTube videos, querying my colleagues on an HR listserv, and then poring over previous presentations of my own. I have no shortage of materials, and as you can see from the spread, it’s not a neat and tidy exercise as I like to fan things out all around me as I review the materials on the floor.
Reading through some of my more dated course books, I found that there were a lot of references to phone interruptions which I found humorous since the only phone interruptions I regularly receive are robo calls. There were also numerous references to facsimile machines which were invented in 1964 and became common in the 1980s. Of course with the widespread use of email, faxes are rarely used today. I filled my recycling bin and was happy to toss some musty paper out!
What I realized during this exercise is that while forms of communication have changed considerably through the years, the basic tenets of time management have not changed at all. I like to start my course by saying “Time Management Is a Fallacy,” and point out that you actually cannot manage time since we all have the same 24 hours each day. What you can manage is yourself and how you focus your time: what projects you take on, what tasks you say “no” to, and what your job, organization, and manager require.
One of the best methods for organizing your time is by accurately analyzing how you spend your time and then making sure it’s appropriate. The time management exercise shown that I used 31 years ago is just as relevant today. I hope you will take the time to click on its image or here to complete the exercise and share the results with me.
We like to think that employees are adults, that colleagues will all get along, and that everyone will focus on the organization’s goals and be united, but that is not the case in many work environments. While driving to a conference, my colleague Donna Cutting and I discussed how problematic it is when colleagues are petty or hostile with one another and how often that relationship must be mended before we can do even greater systemic work.
We realized that as HR consultants we have performed interventions when ongoing conflicts between colleagues, and sometimes customers, start to infiltrate other staff relationships or even the organization as a whole. After learning how similarly Donna and I approach these situations, I wanted to share the process with my readers. I hope that you don’t have petty or hostile situations to contend with, but the law of averages tells me that some of you do!
Enlist the help of the most senior leader and get support for handling the problem. Tell the senior leader, nicely, that he/she is contributing to the situation by allowing it to continue. Remind the senior leader that there’s no need to be harsh, but that doing nothing has allowed the problem to simmer and be contagious.
Talk to the quarreling employees individually. This is often referred to as the Discovery Stage. Have each one answer the following questions:
- How are you contributing to the problem? This is important since it requires self reflection.
- How does having this type of a conflict in your organization reflect poorly on you as a leader of the organization?
- How is this situation impacting other staff members?
- What would you do if a family came to you in this situation? Would you be more understanding if this was happening with someone close to you?
- Listen to their side longer than you may want or find necessary.
- Tell them that this behavior will not be tolerated and that you are going to interview others.
Interview others. Some of these interviews may be short, BUT it puts all parties on notice that they need to be a part of the solution and not contribute to the problem. They will also see that you are there for them and involved. Ask the following questions:
- How are you contributing to the problem?
- How do you think this situation is impacting other staff members?
- How does this situation reflect poorly on those involved?
- Tell them directly to stop any enabling behaviors and related gossip.
- Role model things they can say, like “I’m sorry you are feeling this way, but I think we need to all work together”, “Let’s give her some grace and latitude”, “We would be understanding if this were someone else,” or “This is hurting our group/our organization.”
Meet with each of the quarrelers individually again and say things like:
- “You are a role model.”
- “Other staff members say that this is a problem and it is impacting them in this way …”
- “Stop! Not only is it impacting others, it’s also impacting your career.”
Meet again with the employees together.
This meeting will go fast (15 minutes). They likely will both be annoyed, embarrassed, angry or horrified to be there. You can have them write a simple document and sign it. If you uncover bigger issues, the most senior level person in the organization should attend.
Good luck! And let me know if I can help you develop a process customized for your organization. In tricky employee relationships, ignorance is not bliss and effective leaders do intervene.
In order to create a respectful and inclusive culture, organizations need to provide regular diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training. But once you have had that basic training, how can you mix it up and make it relevant year after year?
At Concordia Consulting, we have found a way! We have adapted actual situations that we have been asked to remedy by changing them just enough to protect those involved. Then we implement the scenarios using a case-study approach to bring our training to life.
Want to try one?
Kanieka attends graduate school at Stanford with her friend Will. Kanieka is from South Los Angeles, and Will’s family lives in Beverly Hills. Over the winter holidays, Will invited Kanieka to a dinner party hosted by his parents. Every time Kanieka was introduced, her hometown was mentioned.
The guests asked Kanieka multiple times how she knew Will, and seemed incredulous that she was attending Stanford with him. A few asked where she went to high school, and when she responded, they were surprised they hadn’t heard of it.
While seated at the table with all the guests, Will’s mom asked Kanieka what her SAT scores had been.
- If you were Kanieka, how would you have handled the questions being asked at the dinner party?
- Have you ever experienced something similar, or witnessed someone else being treated in this way? If so, how did you respond?
- If you were a bystander at the party, would you intervene? How?
Have you ever witnessed a similar situation in your organization? Please let me know how you would deal with this scenario, as well as how effectively you think your organization might handle it. We will be sharing similar experiences in the months to come. If you would like facilitated training with us, we will customize a program specifically for your organization’s circumstances and culture.