Research Careers Blog

8 reasons why opportunity never knocks on your door

475041627You’re a hard worker. You stay late at the office and never complain. You’re your boss’ go-to person on big projects and you never let her down. You’re always taking on extra responsibility even when your plate is spilling over. And yet, your career trajectory is as flat as a board.

Meanwhile, you can’t help but notice the coworkers who put in fewer hours than you but who’ve managed to get themselves promoted over you. Or that friend of yours whose long-shot cupcake bakery idea turned into a huge success. Or the countless wealthy businesspeople featured in the business magazines and blogs you read religiously who seem to have reached even greater success over the past few years despite the down economy.

What’s their secret? Is it just pure luck? Or something else? “I guarantee that the successful people you see every day don’t have anything you don’t have,” says Vickie Milazzo, author of Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. “There is no single factor that prevents success or one that guarantees it. If you aren’t driven by your passion or continuously working toward important goals, then of course, you’re going to feel stuck in one place. But when you focus on your goals, plan your steps forward and have a little more faith in yourself, you can achieve wicked success.”

The first step, according to Milazzo, is to hold up a mirror and really examine what you’re putting in at work. “Long hours don’t always mean you’re more productive than everyone else,” she says. “If you are working longer hours and still getting nowhere, it is important to objectively assess the value of your output.

“For example, how much time do you spend complaining? Do you have to discuss every issue ad infinitum no matter how small? Are you a high-maintenance or low-maintenance employee? Are you stealing time from the company to manage your personal life and counting it as work? Figure out how to become truly productive and to continuously make progress toward project goals. The success you seek will follow.”

If you’re still stumped as to why success has eluded you, read on as Milazzo explains as few success obstacles and how to get around them.

You underprice yourself. You’d love to ask for more money but frankly, you’re afraid to. The economy still isn’t great so I’d better lie low, you reason. This just seems like common sense. But settling for less than you’re worth is a big mistake – even in the wake of the Great Recession.

“In fact, if you’re in the running for a new job or promotion, it might even cost you the opportunity,” says Milazzo. “When I’m hiring, I actually weed out candidates who underprice themselves because I assume they won’t perform at the level I expect. In my eyes and in the eyes of many other CEOs, job candidates actually lose credibility when they underprice themselves.

“Many people mistakenly think they’re doing their employers a favor by not pushing for more or that they’ll be more appealing if they don’t ask for what they’re worth,” she adds. “The bad economy might be the current excuse but I believe most underpricing occurs because many employees and job candidates just aren’t comfortable asking for what they think they’re worth.”

You’re viewed as a commodity. Commodities are easy to obtain and easy to replace. And that’s certainly not how you want to be perceived at your job – whether you’re an employee, a leader or an entrepreneur. After all, if the people you’re working with know that others share your skill set, they won’t have any reason to pay you more or give you advanced opportunities. They’ll be in control, not you. Do everything you can to ensure that you aren’t seen as interchangeable or dispensable.

“Don’t shrink into your chair and become the invisible employee,” advises Milazzo. “Do what you need to do to stand out. Get in the middle of everything and bring new ideas to the table. Build relationships throughout the company. If you’re able to make yourself invaluable and leverage the things that make you unique, you’ll also make yourself impossible to replace. And when that happens, you’ll be in control of your own price.”

You downplay your accomplishments. It can be hard to toot your own horn. But if you don’t announce your own achievements, you can bet that no one else is going to do it for you. With humility, make sure that you’re keeping your name, your accomplishments and your skill set in front of everyone. “Make sure you’re getting the recognition and credit you’ve earned,” notes Milazzo. “If you still have doubts, consider that announcing your accomplishments validates the investments others have made in you. Your boss, for example, wants to know that she bet on a winner when she hired you!”

You don’t network with big players. Generally, we tend to gravitate toward people who are similar to us: people who think similarly, who find similar things fun and who are in similar walks of life. That’s fine when it comes to your friendships, but you need to aim higher when it comes to networking. More than 60 percent of people find jobs through networking, for example, and you can bet that most of them didn’t achieve this goal because they knew someone at the bottom of the pecking order.

“No, I’m not advocating snobbery,” Milazzo says. “It’s normal to gravitate toward people who are the same as you – but in business, one of the main reasons people don’t get ahead is that they don’t get out of their groups. Make every effort to meet people who are a rung or two higher than you on the professional ladder. If you impress someone who is more successful than you are, they’ll have a lot more influence than someone whose position is equivalent to yours.”

You doubt your abilities. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll reach any goal you set for yourself if you don’t believe with your whole heart that achieving it is possible. Among other things, you won’t be confident enough to take calculated risks if you don’t believe that the limitations in front of you are surmountable. Anytime you find yourself entertaining doubts or trying to limit what you think is possible, remind yourself of your past successes. Let them infuse you with pride and bolster your resolve.

“Believing you can do it – whatever ‘it’ is – is 90 percent of the win,” says Milazzo. “When I walked into my first meeting with a potential client, my legs were literally shaking. I forced myself to remember that this attorney needed specialized knowledge that only I – a critical-care nurse – could give him. That reminder didn’t banish all of my nervousness but it did enable me to make the points I wanted. And I walked out of that meeting with my first client. I learned that when you expand what you’re willing to believe about yourself, you can transform who you are and what your life looks like.”

You need a mentor. There are two ways to develop the skills, habits, mind-sets, etc., that you’ll need to achieve success. The first is to go it alone and learn by trial and error in the school of hard knocks. The second (much smarter) path is to learn from others who have encountered and surmounted problems that are similar to your own. That being the case, surround yourself with as many mentors as possible and practice the skills they pass on to you.

“I’ve been in business for three decades and I still learn every day from my students, staff, writers, speakers, business experts and more,” says Milazzo. “And in the early days of growing my business, I devoured every book on business strategy I could find, even though none were aimed precisely at the niche I was creating. Aggressive learning is a competitive advantage in achieving any desired goals.”

You are too bogged down in the little things. In today’s world, we’re constantly sabotaged by nonproductive energy wasters. There are e-mails to read. Facebook statuses to update. Receipts to locate for that already-late expense report. Dishes to be washed. Files to be organized. And on and on. These are the easy, albeit often unproductive, tasks that make us feel good. They may not get you any closer to accomplishing your greater goals but at least you’ve checked a couple of things off your to-do list.

“Unfortunately,” says Milazzo, “this addiction comes at a high price, because that cheap check-mark high is guaranteed to frustrate, overwhelm and stress you out in the long term. By majoring in minor things, we never get to our big commitments. Breaking these addictions opens the door to achievement. Remember, what you engage and focus on is where you will yield results.”

You aren’t going after your BIG goals. When is the last time you set a goal and really went after it? Milazzo encourages people to identify their “big things” – those goals that connect to their passionate vision. Then choose one to schedule their day around. For example, your big thing might be to get promoted. So today you might agree to take on a high-profile work project in order to put you in the running for that promotion. “Set a target date for each of your big things,” says Milazzo. “And begin working steadily toward achieving each of them. Start strong and you’ll experience genuine elation from achieving real goals and solving real problems.”

“You can’t snap your fingers and suddenly become successful,” she says. “And the successful people you envy weren’t able to do that either. They worked for it. They set big goals. They didn’t settle for small-time achievements. Success can be yours too if you make the same big commitments.”

Posted in Corporate Researchers, Employment Tips | Comment

Top 10 tips for repairing your credibility

158762133Has your credibility rating taken a hit lately? If you’re honest, you might have to admit to a slip-up or two. Perhaps you were late more times than you would like to admit, you missed several deadlines or you told a few white lies to clients and somehow you turned into one of the office’s top gossips. There may even have been a couple of bigger transgressions.

Now, you’re dealing with the fallout. You have a sneaking suspicion that your fellow employees would rather not have you on the team. Water-cooler whispers tend to stop when you arrive – and start again when you walk away. And when the time comes to suggest names for a project, yours is no longer on the short list.

Is it too late to redeem yourself? Probably not, say Julie Miller and Brian Bedford. Chances are you haven’t hit the credibility point of no return just yet – but salvaging your image requires making a herculean effort to be more accountable in 2014.

“Credibility is a bit like Humpty Dumpty: easy to crack and substantially more difficult to put back together after the fact,” says Miller, coauthor along with Bedford of Culture Without Accountability – WTF? (What’s the Fix?). “That said, restoring your credibility isn’t impossible, either, as long as you’re willing to follow a specific set of rules from now on.”

“When your credibility has taken a hit, you have to understand that it’s not just your pride and reputation that are suffering – you have also disappointed or hurt other people in a tangible way,” adds Bedford. “So while a sincere apology for your behavior is the first step, it’s certainly not the last one. Moving forward, you will need to show others through your behavior that they really can depend on you, and that you won’t drop that particular ball again.”

Here, Miller and Bedford share 10 rules to help you repair your credibility after it has taken a hit:

Credibility repair No. 1: Cop to it when you screw up. It’s only human nature to make excuses when things go wrong. How often have you said, “It wasn’t my fault,” or worse, “It was his/her/their fault, not mine,” when you knew perfectly well that the blame should be placed at your feet?

It’s always best to fess up as soon as possible and take the heat, because, as Miller and Bedford write in their book, “The truth almost always comes out and the impact is worse than it would have been if the person had owned up to it in the first place.” Plus, points out Bedford, the way you handle your screw-ups defines the kind of person you really are. Are you credible or are you a lying weasel?

“By the way,” he adds, “if you’re feeling especially brave, proactively address your 2013 screw-ups with your boss and coworkers. Let them know that you’ve seen the error of your ways and that you will be changing your behavior in 2014. It won’t be easy – fessing up never is. But they’ll respect you for acknowledging your faults and that respect will increase as you boost your credibility with your improved behavior.”

Credibility repair No. 2: Always do what you say you’ll do. Doesn’t it make you crazy when someone says “I’ll get back to you tomorrow on that” and days later you haven’t heard a word? Or, “We’ll make sure you get it on Monday” and nothing happens?

“Don’t be that person,” instructs Miller. “If you make a commitment to do something, move heaven and earth to do it. If you can’t – because circumstances beyond your control have impacted you – let people know immediately, with a plan to fix it. You’ll find that generally others are pretty understanding when you give them legitimate advance notice.”

Credibility repair No. 3: Tell the truth. Remember those little white lies you told to get out of a commitment (“Oh, that e-mail must have gotten lost in my spam folder!”) or those misleading statements you made that contained enough truth to sound legitimate?

“Do that too often and you’ll become known as someone whose word isn’t worth much,” comments Bedford. “Telling the truth can be hard but it’s always worth it in the long haul.”

Credibility repair No. 4: Speak up when you see something wrong. Remember that time when one of your peers was throwing his weight around and bullying one of his employees? Not wanting to get involved in the drama, you took the “none of my business” approach to dealing with the problem. You chose not to speak up about the guy’s bad behavior to keep yourself out of the line of fire.

“Here’s a reality check,” says Bedford. “Ignoring someone else’s bad behavior is just as bad as committing the act yourself. When people see you ignoring these problems, especially when you’re in a position to do something about them, they think you’re approving the bad behavior. They assume you’re the same kind of person as the manager yelling at his employees. Don’t be guilty by association. Speak up and show that you value fairness and respect.”

Credibility repair No. 5: Give constructive feedback (and do it thoughtfully). Miller and Bedford say, “Most people don’t like giving feedback and like getting it even less.” That’s because feedback usually involves suggestions for improvement. (Ergo, your work isn’t currently up to snuff.) That’s why it’s important to give helpful feedback and to do so in a way that won’t offend the recipient.

“When you decide that feedback is required, give it some thought and plan what you’re going to say,” advises Miller. “Don’t just blurt out your spur-of-the-moment thoughts – chances are, you’ll make a mess of them. You may even come off as superior or hostile. Instead, choose a time and place when the recipient will be most receptive. By showing that you truly care about the other person’s feelings and performance, you’ll reinforce your credibility as a coworker, supervisor, friend or mentor.”

Credibility repair No. 6: When you’re on the receiving end, accept feedback gracefully. Hopefully, if someone has chosen to give you some feedback, it’s the product of a lot of thought and is meant to make you better.

“Feedback should be considered a gift,” says Bedford. “Treat it that way – even if the person delivering it isn’t as gentle as you would prefer. Pay attention, learn and improve your performance going forward. A willingness to accept and incorporate feedback also helps your credibility, because it shows that you put your work, not your pride, first.”

Credibility repair No. 7: Be respectful. No matter how many other things you get right, if you’re a total jerk, people aren’t going to think very highly of you.

“You might be having a bad day, but that doesn’t give you the right to lash out at someone,” says Miller. “Turn the scenario around whenever you’re tempted to be curt, condescending or nasty. If you were in a service position, for example – say, a bank teller or grocery store cashier – you’d dread dealing with those inevitable customers who dumped their frustrations on you. Yes, being respectful can sometimes require effort and restraint. But it costs nothing, helps maintain and build relationships and makes you a better person.”

Credibility repair No. 8: Say yes only when you mean yes. There are a lot of reasons why you might say yes to another person’s request when you truly don’t feel comfortable doing so. Maybe you’re a “pleaser” who hates disappointing others. Perhaps you want to avoid conflict. Or maybe you simply want to shut down an interaction that’s dragging on and on.

“Whatever your reasons, ‘yes’ doesn’t ultimately work unless you mean it,” points out Bedford. “You’ll either have to perform a task you don’t believe in or don’t want to do – which is bad – or you’ll have to break your word – which is worse. Say yes only when you mean it. Even if others don’t like hearing ‘no,’ your credibility will stay intact.”

Credibility repair No. 9: Over-commit and over-deliver. The world is full of people who want to do only the bare minimum. When you push yourself to commit to just a little bit extra, then make sure you get it done, you set yourself apart in the best possible way.

“Take the opportunity to differentiate yourself, even if it means staying at work a bit later or learning a new skill,” advises Miller. “Pretty soon, you’ll have a reputation for being someone to rely on, someone who’s good to have around.”

Credibility repair No. 10: Be on time. Sure, there are legitimate reasons why even the most responsible person might be running late: a fender bender, a sick child or an unfortunate coffee spill, to name just a few. And yes, everybody gets a pass on this one from time to time when life’s curveballs happen.

“But by and large, being late – especially if it’s a habit – is disrespectful,” points out Bedford. “It communicates that you don’t value others’ time and that you think you’re more important than they are. On the other hand, being on time just takes a little effort and a little planning but will garner a lot of respect and appreciation.”

“Focus on these 10 things in 2014 even if your credibility is doing fine – but especially if it isn’t,” concludes Miller. “Soon, you’ll differentiate yourself from the credibility-optional pack and you’ll be the first name picked when it comes time to assemble the team for the big projects of 2014!”

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Effective employee feedback is neither a sandwich nor a seagull

93459282Editor’s note: Kevin Higgins is the CEO of Fusion Learning Inc., a New York sales training company. He is also the author of Engage Me: Strategies From The Sales Effectiveness Source.

Managers recognize that their teams need feedback to improve and be successful. However, many provide feedback without having a clearly defined way of doing so effectively. Feedback ends up as a one-way conversation delivered from the manager to the performer.

One-way feedback conversations come in one of two types. The first is the sandwich, where the manager presents the performer with what they did well, “sandwiches” in negative feedback in the middle and wraps it up with more positive feedback. It’s a habit based on years and years of history “giving feedback” – and it’s a habit we have to break. Remember, if you tell the performer, the conversation is one-way, but if you ask them, it is now two-way.

The second is the seagull model, which is even worse. This is a situation where the manager doesn’t attempt to engage the performer – they simply state negative feedback and move on. This is why I liken it to seagulls: They fly by, poop and fly on.

You never want to provide seagull feedback. Feedback must be a two-way process with self-discovery by the performer being the first and most critical step.

The two-way effective feedback conversation has four easy-to-follow steps:

Step 1. Ask the performer what they did well.
Step 2. You add what you feel they did well.
Step 3. Ask the performer what they will do differently next time.
Step 4. You add what you would suggest they do differently next time.

Steps 1 and 2 build confidence. We need confident team members. Steps 3 and 4 build skill. All four steps create a confident, skilled and engaged team member.

Do we spend an equal amount of time in each of these steps? No. Definitely not! Different people have different capacities for feedback and different abilities to assimilate information. Those lacking confidence need more in Steps 1 and 2. Those who are very confident but lack skill need more time in Steps 3 and 4 – but be careful that it comes after reinforcing confidence in Steps 1 and 2.

Effective two-way feedback is common sense. The four steps are not a scientific breakthrough but they are not common practice. Making them common practice will engage your team.

Once this four-step process is in place and well-embedded in your culture, you’ll find team members are so well-versed in feedback that they can actually provide themselves with clear, actionable, realistic and balanced feedback on a daily basis.

Posted in Corporate Researchers, For Employers, Research Vendors | Comment

The 5 Cs of recruiting, engaging and retaining staff

Editor’s note: Kim Seeling Smith is a human resources expert and author of the forthcoming book, Mind Reading for Managers: 5 FOCUSed Conversations for Greater Employee Engagement and Productivity. For more information visit

166468204The war for talent is over and talent has won. Technology and globalization have dramatically changed the way we work over the last 20-30 years. However, very little has changed in how we hire and manage staff – which has led to low employee engagement and productivity and high employee turnover.

Instead of doing the routine, tactical and predicable work of yesteryear, the Social Age requires us to be more strategic, creative and innovative – more solutions-oriented. Yet, for the most part we are still hiring for skills and experience and using the same levers we have used for decades (if not centuries) to motivate and manage staff.

We must evolve our business practices to remain competitive in our digitally-connected, globally-oriented economy.

With any evolutionary process, a guide or road map proves invaluable. When your company decides to take the leap and join the Social Age, there are five Cs to adhere to so you can maximize employment efficiency and effectiveness, retain your staff and ensure that your employees are fully-engaged on a daily basis.

Correct hiring. We must start this evolution with hiring the right people. Without them, efforts to engage and retain staff become moot. The Industrial Age paradigm emphasized hiring for skills and experience. But skills can be taught and in today’s rapidly changing world, experience is far less important than agility and the ability to learn and adapt.

To not only survive but thrive in the Social Age, companies need to hire for both culture fit and competencies – those innate abilities that can’t be taught but will make them successful in the job.

Proper interviewing technique is essential to guaranteeing you get the right hire. Unlike the stock market, when it comes to potential job candidates, past performance is indicative of future results. The majority of interview questions have to be answered with past examples of how the candidate actually dealt with real-world scenarios.

Do not fall into the old trap of believing what a candidate would do is what they did do or, more importantly, will do.

Classify and manage appropriately. Even when you do everything right during the hiring process, you may still be surprised once the employee comes on board. Team dynamics or changing personal circumstances can affect individual behavior and performance.

You must continually keep your finger on the pulse of your staff – a daunting task to many managers who either try to devote equal time and energy across the board or who spend time with the wrong people.

Employees typically come in three flavors: Critical People, Squeaky Wheels and the Fat Middle. Most managers end up spending most of their time trying to grease their Squeaky Wheels, which perpetuates poor performance or behavior. Counterintuitively, by devoting the majority of your attention to your Critical People, you will bolster the productivity of the whole team. Squeaky Wheels? Train, motivate or move them on. Quickly.

Compensate fairly. Many companies diligently strive to create attractive incentive programs in an effort to engage and retain staff. Unfortunately, these efforts actually may be counterproductive to accomplishing these goals.

Studies have suggested that rewards can narrow our focus, innovation, creativity, strategic thinking and problem-solving – the very things needed from a Social Age workforce. Higher pay does not necessarily equal higher productivity. Managers should set their salary benchmark at or a little above market rate for individual functions. Even more importantly, managers should ensure that employees feel they are being adequately compensated for the work they do and this can only be accomplished by speaking to them directly.

Currencies of choice. Once your staff feels well-paid, real productivity and engagement can be unlocked by tapping into your their internal motivators or currencies of choice. What your staff really needs to be fulfilled and to go the extra mile is to:

– work for someone they trust and respect in a company they support;

– be appreciated and have their voice and opinions respected;

– have a firm career path that allows them to grow and develop;

– realize their underlying motivators; and

– be able to do what they do best every day.

By understanding and acknowledging your team’s individual currencies of choice, you can help to keep them engaged and decrease turnover.

How do you recognize which currencies of choice will motivate your staff? By talking to them. Unfortunately, many managers don’t talk to their staff enough, don’t know what to talk about or how to structure their conversations.

Communicate with FOCUS. FOCUS is an acronym that describes the best practices in leadership communication. Communication between staff and managers should revolve around:

Feedback. Ensure your team is updated on company information, initiatives and new hires. Give praise when it is due and maintain an open door for their questions, concerns or comments.

Objectives. The heart of sterling performance management is structuring specific and measurable job objectives and holding staff accountable for achieving them.

Career development. Many studies list career development as a main factor that employees gauge to determine whether to stay with their current employer or seek a new position elsewhere.

Underlying motivators. What does your staff need to go the extra mile and how do they respond to motivational techniques and rewards?

Strengths. According to The Gallup Organization, those innate abilities that make them unique and good at what they do is the No. 1 predictor of success.

May appear daunting

The process of changing the way you hire and manage your staff may appear daunting at first but experience shows that by taking it step-by-step, you can make significant changes quickly. The result will be a lifetime of more engaged, happier and more productive staff, as well as more free time, less stress and higher job satisfaction for yourself and your team.

Are you up for the challenge?

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5 tips for managing dueling staffers

Editor’s note: Barbara Jaurequi is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a nationally certified master addiction counselor and author of A.C.E.S. – Adult-Child Entitlement Syndrome.

462084163Child psychiatrist David Levy introduced the term “sibling rivalry” in 1941. Self-explanatory in its terminology, the concept of sibling rivalry is easy to grasp. The mechanism of employee rivalry works essentially the same way, with the employees in a competitive relationship, striving for greater approval from their employer or manager.

Many managers, in a desperate attempt to be perceived as fair, find themselves going crazy as they try to distribute praise evenly and acknowledge hard work equally. Moreover, when they are delivering criticism to one, they feel compelled to deliver it to the other, whether he or she deserves it or not, so they aren’t accused of playing favorites. Employees who are constantly trying to best each other don’t always deliver superior work because of their competition. In fact, the animosity they feel towards one another can stifle their creativity and cause them to deliberately undermine their opponent’s efforts. Furthermore, the tension between them can corrupt the attitudes of other employees and cause managers to lose objectivity regarding the rivalry.

Managers who recognize troublesome rivalries between two or more valuable staff members should seek to resolve these rivalries before they upset otherwise harmonious workplaces. The following is a list of tips that are easy to enact. Consistent application of these suggestions will help eliminate or lessen the negative impact of employee rivalries.

Collect data. Managers should keep their eyes and ears open when milling amongst their staff. Observe the two rival staff members as they interact with each other. Notice attitudes, body language and temperament. Pay close attention to the things that trigger negativity. Write your observations down. See if you can identify patterns of behavior. The important thing is for managers to recognize the symptoms of the problem such as arguing, gossiping and tattling on each other. Total resolution of employee rivalry may not be possible in certain circumstances; that’s when symptom-management becomes the goal. Effective management of the symptoms of employee rivalry can significantly improve an otherwise hostile work environment for everyone concerned.

Be willing to separate rivaling employees to reduce tension. This particular tip is a good way for managers to solve their rivalry problems with minimal managerial exertion. Consider, for example, that some personalities are very strong and, while not offensive to the majority of coworkers, may grate on the nerves of other employees. It is often like this with rivaling employees: They just don’t like each other. Their mutual dislike causes them to be overly observant about what the other is doing or not doing. They are too aware of the other’s responsibilities, deficiencies and positive qualities (which are usually deeply resented). Even the most brilliant conflict resolution specialist would not be able to overcome this sort of interpersonal problem, because the problem is personality-based and personality traits are enduring aspects of the self. They don’t change. Therefore, managers’ willingness to move people around could help reduce the kind of tension that leads to declines in productivity and employee morale. It may also reduce the number of tattle-tale sessions managers have to endure.

Know your limits. Managers need to decide how much energy they should spend on the problem of employee rivalry. If it has become a major disruption in the office, managers should address the problem with a plan for resolution in mind. On the other hand, if conflict resolution meetings are nothing more than fodder for drama-loving gossipers, a simple, private discussion with each of the rivaling employees would be a better way to go. Specifically, don’t make a big deal out of a small matter that might correct itself in time but don’t ignore a spreading cancer either.

Don’t strive for perfect fairness. Managers should not expect themselves to be perfectly fair, as per the opinions of rivaling employees. Rather, managers should strive to treat their employees impartially. For example, if you decide that one employee should be given an extra week to complete a particular project for whatever reason you deem worthy of the extension, then do so. But be prepared to do the same for the other employee if and when that employee needs extra time. However, don’t automatically extend the other employee’s deadline whether it’s needed or not just to be fair. Make your decisions on a case-by-case basis. If one employee comes to you crying “Unfair!” simply tell them that he or she does not have, nor is he or she privy to, all the information that went into your decision. Stick to your guns. Be unemotional, calm, deliberate and firm. Managers should not explain certain decisions or they will open themselves up to an inappropriate debate with a subordinate.

Conduct an honest self-appraisal of favortist behaviors. It’s important for managers to be aware of how their behaviors and attitudes may be perceived by those they supervise. It’s only natural for managers to have preferences when it comes to personalities and work habits. You may have a particular affinity for an employee who has, for example, a sense of humor similar to yours. Unintentionally, you may be favoring that person to a degree that is obvious and offensive to your favored employee’s rival. Consider if your preference for one employee over another is personality-based or if that employee is truly superior in terms of quality of work. If your favoritism is fueled by the former, it would be wise to check that! Better for you to make some behavioral changes than for you to lose a valuable employee who legitimately views your management style as inequitable.

* * *

One final thought about conflict resolution: Do some research about best practices before launching into a process with which you are totally unfamiliar. Better yet, get some hands-on direction about how to proceed. You will gain indispensable knowledge about how to handle similar situations in the future. Any consulting fees you may pay for such training would be money well spent. You will learn where, when and how to conduct resolution sessions. You will learn how to be objective, judicial and specific when laying out your directives and expectations and you won’t be blindsided by new cases of employee rivalry in the future.

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How to understand and adapt to different communication styles

Editor’s note: Ted Gorski is a Professional Certified Coach and president of Get Your Edge LLC, a Bedford, N.H., coaching and training firm.

179223218In today’s corporate world, leaders need excellent communication skills. Many are being asked to do more with fewer resources while also dealing with the stresses of a corporation that is downsizing and/or tightening budgets. To remain effective, leaders need near-perfect communication skills regardless of their own communication type. Understanding the style of the person you are communicating with can make the difference between getting your message across and getting it across well.

Consider these four communication styles and how you can effectively communicate with each one:

The Aggressor-Asserter

These are your “CEOs in attitude.” They are very competitive, goal-oriented, demanding, task-oriented and fast-paced. To these people, time is money and money is time. You know where you stand since they are blunt and direct in their communication. Their biggest fear is losing control and they ask the “what” questions. The Aggressor-Asserter has key strengths that include providing momentum, providing focus and making quick decisions. Their on-top-of-it approach to projects can keep the rest of the team on target or even get it done early. However, this must be balanced as their weaknesses include overstepping their assignments, taking over tasks that have been assigned to others (and not necessarily because they can do them better, they just want to get them done).

To effectively connect with the Aggressor-Asserter, you must:

• be direct and concise;

• provide options;

• use a fast pace;

• focus on results and return-on-investment;

• avoid providing lots of details;

• provide short answers;

• look them straight in their eyes;

• be truthful.


The Socializer

These individuals are charismatic, enthusiastic, persuasive, lively, loud, talkative, friendly and very social. They are also visual and creative. Their biggest fear is social rejection and they ask the “who” questions. The Socializer is a great motivator. In the most organizations, they are on sales team. They are very creative and enjoy brainstorming. They do not keep track of time well and sometimes work tight to deadlines. They enjoy being the center of attention.

To effectively communicate with a Socializer, you must:

• allow time for social interaction;

• put details in writing or an e-mail;

• have a fast-paced, positive approach;

• use a whiteboard in your discussions (Socializers are quite visual);

• use phrases like “Picture this” or “Do you see,” etc.;

• avoid a harsh, aggressive tone.


The Mediator

These individuals are calm, levelheaded, great listeners, team-oriented, introverted and loyal. They make decisions in a consensus manner. Mediators like to marinate on questions – you will not get an answer immediately. They dislike conflict so they will internalize and tolerate it. As a result, this internalization builds until they explode. Their biggest fear is loss of stability. They ask the “how” questions. Team and project managers are typically fall into this style. Weaknesses include being hesitant in their approach, which slows decision-making. They are going to try to keep everyone happy at the expense of their happiness. Mediators are hardworking and humble and do not pat themselves on the back. They make great teachers/trainers and mentors due to their calming and supportive nature.

To effectively connect with a Mediator, you must:

• be patient and logical;

• use a steady, low-key approach;

• involve Mediators in the planning process;

• praise them privately;

• allow time for “marination of ideas” (you will not get a quick answer);

• start conversation with a warm and friendly greeting;

• keep your tone of voice at discussion level.


The Analyzer

These individuals are meticulous, detail-oriented, introverted and task-oriented. They can be considered perfectionists and they are suspicious of others. They may answer a question with a question. Their biggest fear is criticism of work and they ask the “why” questions. Key strengths of the Analyzer include being detail-oriented, superb problem solvers and providing the team’s reality check. Weaknesses include having tunnel vision on projects and looking for the perfect solution.

To effectively communicate with the Analyzer, you must:

• be organized and logical;

• support your position using facts;

• make sure that each point is understood before moving to the next point;

• not use phrases such as “Let me give you some constructive advice…”;

• use words such as process, data and procedure;

• realize that Analyzers are motivated by quality and data.

Create harmony, avoid confusion

Communicating effectively with the various types is an art. Understanding a person’s style allows you to create harmony and avoid confusion. Developing your “adaptitude” – your ability to adapt your communication style to the listener – is a critical element of being an effective team member. When you are able to recognize the various styles and adjust your approach, your life will be easier and void of the common communication ills.


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Seven tips for boosting your work cred when winter weather hits

92521732If we’re honest, most of us love a good snow day. Especially for folks who grew up in cold climates but who now live in cities with milder weather, dire forecasts and gathering cloud cover take us back to those glorious days when we got to ditch classroom work for snowmen, sledding and hot chocolate. The problem comes when adults who are old enough to know better view the white stuff as a “get out of work free” card.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the snow, say authors Brian Bedford and Julie Miller. But rather than using weather as an excuse to slack off, they suggest using it as an opportunity to set yourself up for success. “Traffic may come to a stop when it snows, but business doesn’t,” says Bedford, coauthor along with Miller of Culture Without Accountability—WTF? What’s the Fix?. “If no one has noticed, we have a connected global economy now and it’s an accepted fact that most people can work from home these days. Out of sight doesn’t mean out of commission … or out of mind.”

In other words, take the day off and the boss will notice your vanishing act. This is especially true in a sluggish economy when employers can’t afford to eat those missing man hours. Show that you’re accountable for your commitments come hell or high water (or snow and ice) and you’ll demonstrate that you can be counted on. “Besides, just like you had to make up those missed school days, the work you didn’t do won’t melt away when the sun comes out,” says Julie Miller. “It’s still there waiting on you. So you’re not just trying to impress the boss, you’re doing the right thing for yourself as well.”

Miller and Bedford offer a few tips on how to differentiate yourself from the pack when bad weather strikes.

Plan for a “hybrid” day. Let’s address the big white snowy elephant in the room first: When you’re snowed-in at home, you likely won’t keep your nose to the grindstone the entire day. There might be power outages. There might be kids demanding your attention. There might be impromptu neighborhood sled parties. That’s okay. Work intensively when you can – and on the high-payoff projects – and your “snow breaks” won’t be a big deal. “Accountable people know they control their own destiny,” says Bedford. “They’re not clock punchers. They know as long as the work gets done it doesn’t matter when or how they do it. They seize opportunities to work … and opportunities to play.”

Think ahead before the snow starts. When bad weather is on its way, plan ahead for what you’ll do if you can’t get in to the office. Make sure your boss and coworkers know how they’ll be able to reach you and make sure you have their winter weather contact info too. “Take home any files or other information you might need,” says Miller. “Tie up any loose ends that will be difficult for you to take care of while working from home and reschedule any conference calls or meetings. Most bosses will understand that a snow day isn’t going to run like a normal day. What’s important is that you show that you’re doing everything in your power to keep important projects moving forward as efficiently as possible.”

Work late the night before. If you know it’s going to be difficult to get as much work done at home as you’d like to – you might be juggling child care duties alongside work duties or there might be certain things you just can’t do from home – take care of any high-priority tasks the night before the snow rolls in. “Move some of the next day’s must-dos to today,” says Bedford. “Let’s be real: You’re probably not going to give your job 100 percent of your attention once the snow starts, and this way you won’t have to feel guilty about it.”

While the kids sleep in, get a jump-start on your day. If you can get a couple of hours of work in before they wake up, you’ll be ahead of the game. Then, if you break away from your desk for a snowball fight, no big deal.

Do the big things first. If you have a chance to get only a few things done, make sure they’re the important ones with the biggest ROI. If something has to slide, make sure it’s the humdrum tasks. “Actually, this is a good way to work every day, not just on snow days,” says Miller. “But there’s something about knowing you have a limited window of time that really helps most people get focused and productive.”

Be responsive and reachable. Snow days are fun, even when you’re an adult. It’s okay to enjoy some time sledding with the kids or to indulge in a hot chocolate break, but be sure to let your coworkers and bosses know what you’re up to. “Chances are they’ll be taking time to enjoy the fun side of the winter weather too,” says Bedford. “As long as you keep everyone in the loop, you can be sure that things will run smoothly until you’re all back in the office.”

Go to extreme measures if (but only if) the situation warrants it. If it’s absolutely vital that you’re in a specific location during a snow day – say, your biggest client is in town for a face-to-face meeting – you’ll want to pull out all the stops to get there. Even if it means getting a room at the same hotel where your client is staying so you won’t be snowed in at home, you’ll be glad you made the sacrifice. “Gauge the situation and decide whether extreme measures are called for,” says Miller. “No, you wouldn’t sleep at the office in order not to miss an ordinary workday, but when the stakes are high, accountable people do what they have to do.”

“When you take a few simple steps to put your work ahead of your snow day fun, your higher-ups will notice,” says Bedford. “These are all great ways to build credibility with your bosses and coworkers. And when you do make the effort to put your work first, you can spend time building that snowman without any worries that something urgent for work has fallen by the wayside.”

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It’s all about me: Do narcissists make good managers?

96168540Does your boss lack empathy or have a “grandiose sense of self-importance”? If so they may be a narcissist and new research reported in Personnel Psychology explores the risks, and benefits, of having one as your manager.

From an employers’ perspective, many narcissistic traits mirror attributes considered strong leadership material, such as social dominance, extroversion and high self-esteem. The research team found that these traits, in particularly extroversion, led to a strong link between narcissism and what they called “leadership emergence.”

However, while narcissism may help managers get to the top, it may not make them effective leaders. Indeed, being managed by a narcissist is a dangerous business. Employees get very little encouragement, praise or recognition, and narcissistic bosses are known for high turnover in their businesses.

While the team found no positive relationship between narcissism and leadership effectiveness, such a link was reported in self-reports by managers, thereby offering further evidence that narcissists will self-enhance their own leadership achievements.

“Organizations should be wary of creating selection and promotion practices that cater to narcissists’ strengths, such as unstructured interviews; because narcissists can be quite charismatic under conditions of minimal acquaintance,” says Dr. Emily Grijalva, who co-authored the article “Narcissism and leadership: a meta-analytic review of linear and nonlinear relationships.”

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17 LinkedIn profile must-haves

Editor’s note: Neal Schaffer is the author of Maximize Your Social: A One-Stop Guide to Building a Social Media Strategy for Marketing and Business Success.

146865807If you’ve been in today’s job market for more than five minutes, you know that it’s a complex, competitive, even cutthroat environment that’s difficult to navigate. Not only is the market overflowing with highly qualified individuals, but to complicate matters, the job search and application functions of yesteryear are no longer valid. If you simply update your résumé and (e-)mail it off to a hiring manager, you’ll probably be left twiddling your thumbs for a long, long time while other applicants get all the interviews.

Whether you like it or not, you need to take your job search on the social media road. But even then, there are numerous do-and-don’t rules you need to follow. And the most important place of all to cross your t’s and dot your i’s is your LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn continues to evolve at a fast pace but many job seekers’ profiles are stuck in past years. That’s a big problem, because an increasing number of businesses use LinkedIn to find prospective employees and fill openings.

So if you want to maximize your chances of landing that interview, you need to consider your LinkedIn profile to be the front page for “The Web site of you” – a place that summarizes who you are, what you represent, what your professional history is and your area of expertise.

If you’re asking, “Why LinkedIn?” the answer is clear: It’s a professionally-geared site that’s focused on the quality, rather than the quantity, of its users – meaning that it’s fertile ground on which to find and develop meaningful networking connections.

From a demographic perspective, LinkedIn is very different from other social media channels in that it has a very influential, affluent, and educated audience. According to reported data, more business decision makers, people with household incomes exceeding $100,000, and college and postgraduates are LinkedIn users than the physical distribution audience of The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times. I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely the group to whom I want to be showcasing my skills and experience.

Whatever activity you do on LinkedIn, it will always lead people back to your profile.

Think of all the time and effort that businesses put into investing in creating a well-branded and strategic Web site. Have you spent even a fraction of that time thinking about how to create a strong professional LinkedIn presence?

If not (and even if you think you have your bases covered), read on for 17 LinkedIn profile must-haves. (You can also explore them in an infographic I developed with Tammy Kahn Fennell, founder and CEO of the social media dashboard MarketMeSuite.)

Must-have #1: A serious photo. You should always have a professional picture. In other words, wear office-appropriate attire and avoid distracting backgrounds. And no cocktail-in-hand photos or on-the-beach vacation shots.

You might be tempted to just go photo-less if you don’t already have an appropriate picture but keep in mind that having a visual will increase your click-through rate after people find you in LinkedIn search results. Actually, LinkedIn itself has asserted that profiles with photos are 7x more likely to be viewed by others. And, besides, if you want to make a deeper connection with someone, shouldn’t you be showing your real face?

Must-have #2: A professional name. Trawl LinkedIn for a little while and you’ll probably come across individuals who use keywords, or even worse, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, as part of their names.

When you employ this tactic, you may think you’re making yourself more conspicuous and/or more accessible, but the truth is, you look cheesy – and I can tell that you’re blatantly trying to sell me on something, which is a turn-off. LinkedIn is the most trusted social network out there, so you should have a name that is cognizant of its professional atmosphere. Stay away from gimmicky nicknames. You’ll have plenty of other areas in your profile where you can differentiate yourself.

Must-have #3: A headline that reinforces your professional brand. Speaking of areas to differentiate yourself, look no further than your professional headline; in other words, the 110 characters that appear prominently just under your name both on your profile and, more importantly, on search results. You don’t need to put here that you are TITLE at COMPANY NAME – viewers can see that in your profile.

Instead, you need to include information in your professional headline that will draw your potential visitor into wanting to find out more about you. Be explicit as to how you can help people – but do it in a professional and well-branded manner. Overtly selling to people in your professional headline feels like a slap in the face to many a LinkedIn user. For instance, here are some headline turn-offs:

Call me to hear why I’m the last branding consultant you’ll ever need to hire. Directly asking for a phone call is inappropriate for a professionally-branded headline.

Tri-state businesses get a free logo redesign. This headline makes you look desperate for business.

Bet your business doesn’t show up in the top 10 Google and LinkedIn results. But I can make it happen. This headline is provocative, not to mention questionable in terms of truth.

Ouch. Now, let’s look at some examples of professionals who add value with their headlines – and who are undoubtedly attracting more inviting contacts:

Providing thought leadership and compelling content in public relations @ XYZ Company.

Bilingual human resources professional with 15 years’ direct experience.

A proven track record in the financial services industry.

Much better, wouldn’t you agree?

Must-have #4: An optimized location. On LinkedIn, it’s sometimes best for your stated location not to match your physical one. Yes, this sounds counterintuitive, but it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your target visitor.

For instance, I live in Orange County, Calif., but if I were in charge of a territory that was primarily centered around Los Angeles, I would want to change my location to Los Angeles. This location change makes me more approachable in my target market because I’m considered “local” and it also means I get found in more relevant search results because many are using the location feature as a filter.

Must-have #5: An optimized industry. Much like optimizing your location, think about what the people with whom you’re trying to connect might type into the industry field during a search. This can be tough, I admit, because even individuals who work at the same company might list different industries here.

Note that if you upgrade to a paid LinkedIn account, your complete “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” will also include data as to which industries best represent the visitors to your profile. Regardless, you might have to do some experimenting in this area. While not everyone uses the industry feature to filter search results, you should still put your best foot forward and experiment in seeing how changing your industry might affect your profile views.

Must-have #6: A customized profile URL. LinkedIn provides you with a default URL that you can – and should – customize. Some talk about the SEO benefits of doing so, but I suggest looking at your LinkedIn URL in a simpler way.

Once you’re invested in LinkedIn as part of your professional infrastructure, you’ll probably want to include your LinkedIn URL in your e-mail signature or even print it on your business card.

Must-have #7: Strong status updates. Posting constant updates about our lives has become a common part of our culture but as you probably suspect, your LinkedIn updates shouldn’t reflect your political opinions, announce your child’s achievements or comment on the latest reality TV twist. For that reason, many users simply skip status updates altogether. But that’s a mistake too.

When someone finally lands on your profile, your activity section will show your latest status update, if you have one. This is the only dynamically-updated part of your profile that gives others the ability to see what’s on your mind, so get into the habit of updating your status on a regular basis. Sharing thoughtful, insightful and relevant news that might interest your target visitor just once a day is a great way to keep your professional profile fresh as well as engage with your own network of connections!

Must-have #8: A compelling professional summary. If done effectively, one of the most time-consuming items on this checklist will be writing a well-crafted and branded professional summary. But don’t worry – the effort will be worth it.

Your professional summary should support what you say in your headline and expand upon its branding, as well as potentially end with a good call-to-action. This is how you close the deal: by making sure that, after your profile visitors read your professional summary, they will be sold on you and want to initiate contact.

Must-have #9: A window into your past. Your LinkedIn profile is about helping you get found. It is an inbound marketing tool. That’s why it’s important to connect the dots with your past, so that as many people as possible can find you – and so that you can find them.

Don’t stop at your current employer. Go back in history and fill in every employer you’ve ever worked for and every educational institution you’ve attended. I go as far back as high school on my own profile, and even include short-term study-abroad programs, which have helped me restore old ties with valued professionals in my network.

Must-have #10: Valuable keywords. Many LinkedIn users a) haven’t leveraged keywords enough or b) have overstuffed their profiles with keywords to the point of meaninglessness.

To avoid falling into either of these traps, search for keywords that you’re thinking of using in your own profile. Examine the profiles of those that appear in the top few results, paying attention to the location and frequency of the keywords. Now take that knowledge and apply it to your own profile.

Must-have #11: Credibility-enhancing recommendations. With all of the quid pro quo recommendations you see out there, many people wonder whether LinkedIn recommendations should be taken seriously. Yes, very much so – because they can help you establish credibility if someone viewing your profile doesn’t know you.

When I speak on LinkedIn, I often talk about how I was looking for a realtor on LinkedIn and found three good-looking profiles. One had zero recommendations, another had two and another had more than 30. Who do you think I first contacted? You don’t need to have 30-plus recommendations but remember that every genuine recommendation helps to establish your credibility.

Must-have #12: Well-managed endorsements. Of all the features that LinkedIn has released, endorsements are the one that have stirred the most controversy in the professional community. I recommend that you ignore that controversy and utilize whatever functionality LinkedIn provides you. For instance, some believe that endorsements might affect how you appear in LinkedIn search results.

You should make sure that the people you’d most like to be associated with your brand comprise all of the maximum 50 endorsements you can display. Let them show off your skill set and provide your profile with a little bit more credibility (although not nearly as much credibility as having good recommendations, of course).

Must-have #13: Curated visuals. LinkedIn gives you the ability to upload contents from a link (presentations from SlideShare or Prezi; videos from YouTube or Vimeo; and documents from Scribd are all supported) or directly from your computer (in addition to images, PDF, Word and PowerPoint presentations are supported). If you’ve ever been interviewed or had your picture taken at a professional event, this is your chance to promote yourself by adding these visual elements.

But don’t stop there: this is the area where you can be as creative as you want to be. Even uploading your standard corporate presentation will at least provide something for your viewers to look at – and it might provide you business benefits as well!

Must-have #14: Clear contact information. Don’t make it hard for other users to contact you: If they can’t easily get in touch, they might just move on to the next person! Remember, if you’re a third-degree connection or beyond, many people won’t go through the hassle of sending a high-risk introduction or buying an InMail in order to initiate a conversation.

LinkedIn gives you the ability to include your contact details, such as up to three Web sites and a Twitter handle, for anyone to see. There is also an “Advice for Contacting [Name]” section where you could include your e-mail address and/or phone number. You also have the option to subscribe to the LinkedIn Personal Plus account plan and, for a low price, join the OpenLink Network, giving those not in your network the opportunity to e-mail you without having to pay for it.

Must-have #15: Membership in relevant groups. Joining LinkedIn groups is about enhancing your contactability. Joining the same group allows others to contact you using the group messaging feature. So which LinkedIn groups should you become part of?

You don’t have to join the maximum 50 but at least join a few groups that are related to your industry, discipline  or location – not to mention alumni groups from your university or even previous workplaces. If you haven’t been active in groups before, you might be surprised as to the business opportunities that exist within them! Even if you don’t have time to be active, displaying those group logos on your profile increases your contactability.

Must-have #16: Customized sections. While this might not apply to everyone, many LinkedIn users should be leveraging their profiles’ sections. LinkedIn gives you the ability to add a number of additional items to your profile called sections, including projects, test scores, courses, patents, certifications and volunteering and causes. If these are important to you or your professional brand, you’ll want to make sure they’re part of your professional profile.

Must-have #17: Connections. My final tip isn’t related to filling out your profile but to how many people might find and interact with you on LinkedIn. Simply put, if you don’t have enough LinkedIn connections, you might not show up on as many LinkedIn searches as a second degree connection. From an outbound networking perspective, you also won’t discover many of the hidden connections that exist all around you. Those are uncovered only when 1) you have a specific objective to search for and 2) you have a robust network.

* * *

After you’ve used this checklist to evaluate and tweak your LinkedIn profile, ask someone you trust to do the same. You might be surprised by what they find! Remember, when it comes to your profile, the opinion that matters most is that of the person who’s looking at it, not your own. Once you finish auditing and overhauling your LinkedIn profile, I think you’ll notice a difference in your job-hunting fortunes. So brush off your interview suit and start networking!

Posted in Corporate Researchers, Employment Tips | 1 Comment

3 tips for constructive confrontation in the workplace

Editor’s note: Tomás Garza is a conflict resolution and personal development expert. For more information visit

187096037To successfully navigate workplace conflict, managers must be able to confront team members in a positive, productive manner. Whatever the situation, whether two people are actively quarreling or whether one person’s behavior is impacting the entire work culture, a manager must be able to step in, take charge and do so in a way that does not contribute to the drama.

How, then, do you constructively confront team members? How do you both get your point across and preserve team chemistry?

For any manager, these conversations can be crucial. Ongoing conflict and drama can, of course, have a ripple effect on everyone and the last thing any organization needs is a dip in morale. Assuming this is not a situation that calls for firing, there is a great deal a manager can do to help resolve the problem, be firm and preserve group harmony.

In having these conversations, here are three things to keep in mind:

1. Use non-accusatory language. For many of us, it is tempting to place blame and pin an entire problem directly on someone else. After all, aren’t they the ones causing the disturbance in the first place? A constructive solution, despite our first impressions, involves shelving the urge to blame and taking a step back.

How you phrase things here makes all the difference. You can make the conversation productive by focusing the language on you. For example, you can say, “I notice you missed the last two staff meetings,” or “The other day I overheard your comments about the director.” The alternative would look like this: “You missed the last two staff meetings,” or “You made those comments about the director.” One statement talks about your observations, what you saw, noticed or heard. The other puts everything squarely on them.

This may seem subtle, just a matter of semantics, but in constructive confrontation your word choice matters. When you talk about your observations, people naturally feel less defensive. When people do not have their guard up, you will be able to get more accomplished.

2. Be clear. As a manager attempting to put a stop to harmful behavior, you must be clear in this conversation. Your group cannot afford any mixed messages. Therefore, be as clear as you can about the following:

  • What you heard or saw. Make sure there are no ambiguities here. If you didn’t experience any of the events firsthand, be sure you have gathered sufficient information. The person you are talking to needs to know exactly what it is they are doing that damages your group chemistry.
  • How this impacts the group. Be very clear on this. Often, people do not intend any sabotage, but their behavior may, nonetheless, have a detrimental impact. It is perfectly fine to be direct about this impact; often the person really needs to hear it.
  • Your expectations. If you don’t clearly state your expectations for future behavior, this conversation will be a waste of your time. Unclear expectations create needless confusion and can lead to future problems. As a manager, you must say what you expect. Luckily, this can be done in a non-accusatory manner that strengthens the group rather than pulls it apart.


3. Listen. A conversation – even one you must have with an employee about their behavior – is just that, a conversation. This means it involves two people. Though you will need to come into the dialogue with an agenda and get your point across, the process will be infinitely more productive if you give the other person a chance to speak and, more importantly, to be heard. This means you must take the opportunity to listen.

When the other person speaks and feels you have heard them, their tension level goes down. Defensive posturing that might otherwise stand in your way will disappear. The person may even feel grateful for your hearing them out. This can be crucial to maintaining group harmony. Provided you take the opportunity to clearly state your expectations, there is absolutely nothing to lose in taking a moment and listening.

Also, if you listen attentively enough, the other person may offer suggestions or solutions you hadn’t considered. You will never know unless they get an opportunity to speak, too.

* * *

Consider these three suggestions the next time you have to confront somebody in the workplace. In most situations, you can preserve group harmony, show respect and appreciation for the other person and be sure you have clearly stated your expectations. It is indeed possible to become a pro at constructive confrontation. Do it, and your organization will benefit.

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