The Sweet Taste of Revenge

There is a terrific game that most of us play that is based on revenge.

One person does us wrong by accidentally setting us up, or showing up our failings in front of our peers or blaming us for them feeling bad. And then we get them back with similar or worse behaviour.

Someone told me about an office they worked in where the staff found the management to be particularly disinterested and unsupportive; so when the photocopier ran out of paper every day by mid afternoon, no-one was prepared to refill it and they would all sit at their desks doing nothing until the end of the day because they couldn’t print off their work schedules etc.

They say revenge is sweet; but it is also really expensive.

Think of the cost to a company whose staff deliberately go slow or work to rule just to get back someone in middle management. What opportunities do companies miss out on when staff won’t tell anyone their great ideas because they don’t feel valued?

How much does it cost in legal fees if a revenge situation gets out of hand and one of the parties goes out on worker’s compensation?

How do you stop revenge? How do you stop human nature?

You deal with inappropriate behaviour the minute you see it. You model best practice and you speak directly to people who are unhappy. You are curious. You are empathetic. You ask what’s happening here; you say “you seem to be behaving in a manner that is not in your or the companies’ best interest. Help me understand what the problem is.”  You don’t jump to assumptions and you give your staff your full attention whilst you work out what is going on. And then you take action. You don’t ignore the problem. You deal with it immediately.

The sweet taste of revenge in business can be very sour. Don’t let it happen to you.

Acknowledging and managing workplace grief

I recently spent a couple of days with a team that has been through a lot.  

They got a new CEO in November 2017.  Then their head office has been moved from Canberra to Melbourne.  There have been a number of redundancies in Canberra as a result and then a handful of new staff employed in recent months.  To top it off they had to pull off a major event last month with some very new staff who are still getting their head around the corporate knowledge.

They have done really well. They are positive and keen and enthusiastic; but there are still wounds to heal, bridges to build and grief to deal with.

But a team can bear so much.

A new CEO brings about change. Change of approach, management style and priorities.

But a change of head office is huge. When things go wrong, and they will, there will many of the old guard fondly remembering the good old days.

We had to, as a team, honour the old days. Acknowledge the achievements of the past; recognise that we are here today because of all of the work that has gone before.

So we did two significant activities:

1) We created a time-line which the team created together; recognising key events and dates. The old guard got to explain what had gone before; to educate the newbies; to be sentimental. Their were long and detailed discussions where the team recognised the enormity of the achievements to date and how important it is to honour their history. They made a decision to get a timeline designed to be used as art for both their offices. Something that united them.

2) The Canberra team (the old guard) and the Melbourne team (the newbies) had separate meeting to work out what they wanted to tell the other group. They then met and shared important information. The Canberra team shared how painful the changes had been; how upset they had been. They wanted the Newbies to know that just because someone had been made redundant didn’t mean that they had done anything wrong and that many of them were still friends. They said they held the bulk of the corporate knowledge and they are keen to share it but the Newbies need to ask for information because they can’t know what they need to know when.  The Newbies said that they wanted to be a team; that they respected the corporate knowledge of the Canberra team; that they want to find ways to keep communication open and to socialise and to develop their relationships.

It was a truly beautiful moment in a two day workshop. There was real connection and healing. They were truly a team in that moment.

Grief is real; it is painful and it needs to be acknowledged and discussed to ensure there is healing.

 

What she said…

Sometimes I doubt myself.

Sometimes when I am in a group situation we are faced with a difficult problem to solve.  We start discussing it and I start mulling over some possible solutions. I am just thinking about what I would do next in this difficult situation and make a suggestion and then… bang – someone has come up with the solution which is the exact opposite to what I was about to propose and there are nods of agreement around the table and I think, “yeah, they’re right; they know more than me” and I go along with the flow.

I don’t speak up. I quietly accept the status quo and think judgmental thoughts about the person who came up with the response that we are now all following.

Why do I do that? Why don’t I trust what I know more and speak up at the time that people are looking for answers?

I and many others in the group get intimidated by the group bias. We just fall into line.

It is very common for the loudest and quickest voice in the room to dominate the decision making process. They often make a decision on behalf of the group or the team; everyone becomes deflated and we all go along with the flow. It’s often easier not to argue with the dominant person. It becomes the norm.

It doesn’t make them right. It doesn’t mean they have all the answers. It just means that they are often the loudest and they say what they want to say very quickly.

Some of us need time to process the information. We need time to analyse the situation and come up with a solution.

As leaders we need to find ways to give everyone a voice. We need to give the quiet and considerate people in the group an opportunity to respond. We often miss out on so much valuable insight and wisdom when we let first noisy response dominate our thinking.

There are many ways to do this. For example,

  • you can ask your team to silently brainstorm for a few minutes and then discuss their answers in pairs before putting all of the options on the table.
  • Give people prior notice of the issues so that they can come to the meeting prepared.
  • Use software, like Powernoodle, to get people to brainstorm and vote on important decisions without the group bias influencing the decision making process.

As I often say to my clients; do you want a good decision or a fast decision. They’re not usually of the same quality Sometimes slowing everything down will result in a better outcome for everyone.

 

Are you a scary boss?

Are you a scary boss?

I once worked in a solicitor’s office as a secretary.  Most of the lawyers were great. We’d chat about life, family and football as we made our morning coffee; they’d go out of their way to talk to the secretaries at Friday night drinks.  Sometimes they might even take some of us out for lunch or throw us a special breakfast.

But there was one lawyer, one of the partners, who locked himself in his room all day every day. He would come out to give his secretary work and then hurry back in to his office. We didn’t know him.

What we did know was that he was intolerant of mistakes, had a very short fuse, that he didn’t seem to have a sense of humour and as a result we were all a bit scared of him.

Sometimes in the lift he would say hello or smile at you if you accidentally established eye contact; but that I don’t recall having many conversations with him.

I was a baby back then, in my early 20s. I was easily intimidated by stern older men with big impressive law degrees.

I truly wanted to do well, but I always made more mistakes when I typed up his documents than anyone else’s because I did every task with sense of dread.

I’m sure he was brilliant. I am sure that he meant no harm and that his work was very important to him. I recognised that he had a lot of responsibility in the firm to ensure that his clients were properly serviced.

But one of the things he seemed to miss was that if he wanted us to do well, to not make mistakes, to bring our best game then he needed to have a relationship with us so that he wasn’t so scary. If he had a better relationship with us then he might have trusted us more and relaxed a little. If we had had a relationship we could have gone to him and asked if he could slow down a bit when he was dictating. But we were too scared to have that conversation.

So it ended up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. He appeared to doubt our abilities, to care more about his clients than his staff, and he criticised us for making mistakes. We rewarded his lack of trust in us by making lots of mistakes and creating additional work for him.

What’s your relationship with your staff?

7 steps to create a positive culture

We’ve all heard it… colleagues spending countless hours whining and whinging about the things other people/management do/don’t do/should do/could do…

It’s exhausting to listen to and it’s unproductive. These conversations are often petty and destabilising to management and teams. Endless gossipy conversations within a team reflect a negative workplace culture and diminish the capacity of the team to be effective.

And yet, so often, management tolerate the petty infighting, the moaning and groaning. They accept it as part of normal office culture. Some managers that I have worked have tried to sort out the problems by asking for “honest” feedback in the hope that they will get to the bottom of the problem, and then are surprised when no-one speaks up.

Employees are not going to “dob in” their boss or their colleagues to the boss. Nor are they going to be the one that rocks the boat; that takes responsibility for the unhappy culture of the organisation. That’s way too risky. There is a risk that if you speak up, you will then become the target of the criticism – so it’s just not going to happen.

So how do leaders/managers create a culture where people stop complaining?

  1. Call it out. If someone complains, ask them what are you going to do about the problem? As an individual in a workplace you don’t have to take on the problems of others. However you will be part of the problem if you listen to people complain and whinge and don’t encourage real action about the complaint.
  2. Increase the opportunities for staff to raise issues. Hold regular staff meetings and other touch point meetings and encourage staff to talk about what is working well and what can be done better. Be open to suggestions for improvement; make it safe for staff to speak up.
  3. Focus on the great work your organisation does. If you believe in what you do then sell it. Lots of workplaces are doing great work; but the work itself is hard. Don’t focus on how hard the work is or the problems that arise from time to time; focus on the value of the work you do for the greater good of society.
  4. Encourage staff to address problems immediately. Practice speaking up; provide training on assertiveness and conflict management techniques; make it ordinary and safe to have a critical conversation.
  5. Empower staff to problem solve. Give them the tools, space and trust to resolve issues. A lot of management time can be taken up resolving internal staff disputes. Trust them, as adults, to resolve these issues themselves. Don’t try and fix everything immediately; let the staff members attempt to resolve it themselves and support them to do that.
  6. Celebrate successes regularly. That way you focus on the good stuff; and stop sweating the small stuff.
  7. Check in at the end of every week. What worked well this week? What could we improve? Language is important. If you start the conversation with “what went wrong” this week, the tone of the conversation will deteriorate into negative territory.

If you want a positive work environment – create it.

Who’s the boss?

I have worked with a number of family businesses where the chain of command is hard to distinguish. There are often two or three members of the family who appear to be running the business but there is no real structure and it slows down the decision making process.

Alternatively, a parent is supposedly the Managing Director or CEO but they don’t have the respect of their children and other family members and their decision making authority is undermined. Or the opposite can be true; a parent has difficulty handing over the reins of
power to their children. They constantly question decisions made by their children.

This often leads to feelings of being disrespected, with increasing levels of conflict and disharmony. The reaction to the conflict may be subtle – eg not communicating information to other family members who might disagree with them or complaining to people outside of the business. Problems with communication can place the company at risk; errors may be made and opportunities lost because family members have a diminishing amount of trust and tolerance for each other.

In many cases the problems that are glaringly apparent now, have been a problem for years. There is always a history as to how these issues came about in the first place. When dealing with family business disputes we always have to go back and revisit the past.

We need to do that for two reasons; firstly we need to honour our past. We would not be where we are today if we did not do what we did in the past. We may have made some mistakes, but we are still operating and making money and that is due to the way we have managed ourselves in the past. And secondly we need to review what has happened in the past that may have impacted on our relationships now. We need to take responsibility for any pain we may have caused or arrangements we put in place which are not as respectful as they could have been.

It takes courage to rip off the bandaid and revisit events that happened in the past; but without acknowledging and healing old wounds or dealing with some of the elephants in the room it will be hard to move forward.

We then need to review the decision making process. We need to work out what is working and what is not and we need to create new boundaries and roles and responsibilities. We need to ensure that there is absolute clarity about people’s roles and responsibilities and
then honour these arrangements.

This is not a process that can happen overnight; it takes time, a great deal of care and everyone involved needs to ensure that they have a support network because unpacking old wounds can be painful. But the good news is that it is also very cathartic to finally deal with these issues. It gives the business new energy and a feeling of excitement about the future.

If you would like to book a Conflict Strategy session contact Kate at kate@adelaideconflictmanagement.com.au

Is competition causing your team more harm than good?

Many moons ago I was managing a team where there was a bit of tension between two specific sub-groups.

All the members of the team were incredibly skilled but their jobs in servicing the clients were marginally different. One sub-group had more day to day contact with clients and so had a lot of valuable practical knowledge and often very strong networks; while the other sub-group dealt with the more pointy end of the work that required their expert knowledge in order to ensure a great outcome for the client.

Both sub-groups needed each other in order to provide the best customer service delivery outcomes for our clients; but these sub-groups seemed to jostle for the position of who was most valuable to the team.

I have always been of the view that all members of a team are equally important; but most of us have healthy egos and we sometimes want to be seen as being the most important part of our team.

As managers we need to nurture these relationships and find ways to leverage the best outcomes for all members of the team and subsequently our clients.

So I developed a simple plan to create a more united front between these two incredibly important sub-groups – I created a buddy system.

I buddied up each member of the hands on practical sub-group with a member of the expert sub-group.  The expectation was that these small buddy teams would case manage each difficult case together; they started to actively share their knowledge, they mentored each other up and down the line. They developed strong relationships and they actively sought each other for advice.  Moreover they presented their work and findings together to the rest of the group.

Some of the buddy arrangements were quite flexible; but everyone acknowledged that the two sub-groups needed to work together to ensure the best outcomes for our clients.

It worked a treat! The morale of the team lifted and there was significantly more sharing of information and informal training taking place.

Competition within a team might generate more sales or higher productivity over a short period of time; but it is not sustainable. It can lead to high levels of conflict between team members, social isolation and sometimes despair that you will never be able to beat the leaders in the group.

For example, every football team has at least two main forwards, both wanting to be recognised for the title of leading goal kicker. But what’s most important to the the team is how many goals the team kicks during a game, not who kicked them.

So if we focus on the main prize which is our shared goal, then we can meet the needs of all of the team; that is the opportunity to truly belong and to be appreciated by the team.

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Respect is almost impossible when your team is disengaged

Over the last 30 years in my role as a mediator or decision maker, one or both parties to every dispute have complained that they didn’t feel respected by the other person.

Everyone wants to be respected; to be valued and appreciated. 

However it is hardly surprising that respect is so elusive because it requires the other person or members of your team to be engaged with you, to “see and hear” you.  

Most of us spend most of our days in our world of one, our world of me. 

We spend a lot of our day thinking about our own needs and how we want to be perceived. We often think people are doing things to us; and if we are hurt we might lash out verbally or retreat into ourselves and give the person who hurt us the silent treatment.

If the members of your team are disengaged, chances are they are also emotionally disconnected from each other as well. They are worrying about their own needs; they are not worrying about anyone else. 

Respect comes from connection with other people

We all have to be able to step out of our world of one, our world of “me” to be able to respect another person.

We have to intuitively pick up the needs and values of the person; to understand how they want to be perceived and then acknowledge and communicate that back to them.

This requires us to connect with the other person. Not only do we need to acknowledge them and what is happening in their world; but to do that well, we need to get know the people in our team. We need to establish strong relationships; strong connections.

Modern day football teams are constantly looking for ways in which they can develop deeper connections between the players, the coaches and the players and the community and the players. It builds a strong team who have each other’s backs; not a team of individuals.

Free Webinar – The Three Pillars of Team Harmony

If you are interested in knowing more about how you create a more engaged and productive team, please join me for my free webinar on Tuesday 23 January at 12 pm.  Register here. 

A vulnerable manager is a powerful one

I wish my staff appreciated all my efforts

Do you feel like you’re invisible some of the time? It’s not that you are ignored – you have a constant stream of people knocking at your door. It’s just that they take you for granted. They assume that you will be there fixing problems day in, day out.

They may also act as though they are doing you a favor; that they are working hard for you. That as a manager, you have the easy job because you are not necessarily hands on.

Chances are your team don’t know how often you work late, take work home, worry about your team member’s performances and how you are going to give that feedback. That you worry about possible redundancies or how you are going to cover staff when a few people want leave at the same time.

What if you and the team shared more of your experiences?

It’s difficult to understand what’s going on for people if we don’t talk about it. A lot of managers feel that they will be seen as “weak” if they are vulnerable with their team or if they let the team know what is really going on.

However the opposite is true. A manager who shares with his or her team is modelling behaviour that will be positive for the whole team. As they say – there is no “I” in team. If you want your staff to be part of a powerful united team – then you need to act as a team. You need to know what unites you; you need to talk about how you’re traveling, the threats, the successes, pretty much everything.

The number one issue that comes up with every team I work with is “respect”. People feel respected when they feel included, consulted, engaged. When there is communication about the important matters. They don’t want to feel protected; they don’t want to be kept in the dark.

Successful teams work as a team. They share their experiences. They work through problems and they celebrate successes. They have a leader and the leader is important – but the role of the leader is to bring the best out of everyone – not to make all of the decisions.

Use your regular team meetings as a time when you share what’s going on. The more vulnerable you are, the greater will be your connection with your team. They will love you for it and then you will start to feel their appreciation.

Do you spend your time putting out fires?

Do you often take work home at night or go in on a Sunday just so you can get some uninterrupted time to get work done?

 

Is much of your day spent with your staff lining up at your door to complain about someone else in the team?

 

Have you run out of ideas as to how to get the team to work better together?

 

Maybe you need a fresh set of eyes to help you see the trees from the forest. Importantly, you may need help setting boundaries with your team. If the boundaries are fuzzy, chances are your team will push against them constantly – some inappropriate behaviours may end up being tolerated and this will effect the level of trust in the team.

 

Positive psychology tells us that people perform best when they are trusted to do what they are good at doing. When the work aligns with their potential and their personal values. People also work best when they feel valued by their employer and when they are consulted and included in decision making processes. But most importantly positive psychology tells us that people perform best when they feel safe; because if they feel safe they will:

  • Trust that management is acting in the organisations’ best interest and be more trusting of decisions made
  • Deal with issues immediately without fear of retribution
  • Be more innovative because they will trust the team not to “steal” their ideas
  • They will keep their team and management in the loop about important issues that might impact on the performance of their team (ie health issues, family issues, planned leave etc)
  • They will be respectful of processes and will be better able to manage change
  • Be more tolerant of short term pain for long term gain (e.g. relocating offices during renovations, accommodating work experience students, working longer hours during an accreditation process, etc).
  • Take less unplanned leave
  • Be more supportive of other people’s success because they do not feel that this jeopardises their own employment

 

Powernoodle is powerful stakeholder engagement software that uses the power of anonymity to engage and build trust in teams. It provides teams with the opportunity to provide genuine feedback and give management a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. It can also be used to determine priorities for the team and create a safe environment to work through difficult issues.

 

As a licensed Powernoodle Consultant, I can work with you and your team to create a safe and dynamic working environment.

 

Spend your day doing what you were employed to do instead of constantly putting out fires.