In the top right quadrant of the Johari Window is the area labeled, “blind spot.” The concept may be useful when considering colleague (and potential colleague) behavior. It ties into some of what co-author Jody Foster presents in her book, The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively With Difficult People at Work.
In an interview discussing ideas related to the book, Ms. Foster mentions individuals in our work places whom the majority views as disrupters. These are people who routinely demonstrate annoying habits: habits viewed negatively by the majority of work place inhabitants. Instead of opening an uncomfortable conversation with any said disrupter, the rest of the team puts up with those little annoyances. Or, we think we put up with them.
What’s likely really happening is that the majority of colleagues – the ones who find a disrupter’s habit annoying – remain silent, letting little annoyances build into frustration and even into major conflicts: office blow-ups that become the subject of workplace legend. Who wants that?
I’ll take a bit of a detour and introduce a related arena in which a similar phenomenon occurs: selecting potential employees. I’ve experienced situations in which an ideal candidate has been interviewed, and a manager would like to extend an offer. What holds him back is a difference in stated salary expectations. Early in the process, the candidate has stated a salary objective, and it’s a bit over what the manager has determined the job’s value to be. What to do? Is extending an offer to a different candidate the best response?
In both situations, a better answer is, Talk. Have a conversation. Build a relationship based on trust and integrity. Consider:
- The individual perceived by nearly everyone as a disrupter may not even be aware that he is a disrupter. The behavior he’s demonstrating may simply be in his blind spot.
- The rest of the team is guilty, then, of letting the irritation – the one little annoying thing – spiral out of control. Through silence, the team implies everything is okay and, so, why would the disrupter change the behavior?
- If you extend him the courtesy of a respectful confrontation, he may say, “I didn’t know; thanks for telling me.” And the behavior may stop. Ms. Foster shares this may be true in about 80% of cases.
- In the selection scenario, considerable personal experience is that in at least 80% of situations, a respectful – and sometimes creative – conversation may lead to a win for both the candidate and the hiring manager: a good hire who comes into the organization ready to build upon a beginning based on integrity and trust. For example:
- Hiring manager begins, “We’ve each learned a lot during this interview process, including information about our benefit and other employee programs. I think you’re a great fit for this position, and I’d like to talk more about compensation. I’d like to negotiate a mutually agreeable starting pay level within both your expectations and our goals.”
In how many situations – work, social, family, etc. – might your willingness to respectfully begin an uncomfortable conversation yield an improved relationship, not just for you but for many?
Most often, I think of both/and opportunities when it comes to dessert. Who doesn’t like pie and ice cream or cake and fruit topping?
Since 2017, small businesses have had a both/and opportunity about which many leaders remain unaware. The opportunity is a Qualified Small Business Health Reimbursement Arrangement: a QSEHRA.
To put a QSEHRA in some context, consider a growing small business. Every new hire is critical for adding the right skills and strengthening the desired culture. It’s also critical to manage the budget. What to do when it comes to valuable employee benefits?
Recognizing that the health insurance market may well be out of reach within the company budget, some business owners turn to offering employees a monthly cash stipend to help offset the individual cost of health care. This is a commendable and valuable offer. And, it’s taxable to those individuals.
This situation may be ideal for a QSEHRA: a budget-friendly method for offering valuable health care assistance to employees on a tax-favored basis. Saving employees some of their income and payroll taxes can be quite attractive.
What is a QSEHRA? Broadly, a QSEHRA:
- Is available to employers of fewer than 50 employees who don’t offer group health insurance.
- Does not require pre-funding.
- Is flexible regarding funding and features.
There are administrative conditions and requirements for participation. These are manageable, and there are professional administrators in the market.
If you’re a business leader and valuable both/and opportunities are of interest to you – this one or perhaps others – call me.
of the Blind, author Louise Penny has her lead character observe:
our lives are like an aboriginal longhouse. Just one huge room. …if we thought
we could compartmentalize things, we were deluding ourselves. Everyone we meet,
every word we speak, every action taken or not taken lives in our longhouse.
With us. Always. Never to be expelled or locked away.”
Accepting some truth in this creative observation, one might consider how to apply the idea:
led a successful, difficult development conversation with a team member: you
had a clear focus on both relationship and results. It’s in your longhouse. You can repeat the success.
enjoyed that training program, practicing targeted interviewing skills until
you felt confident and competent. It’s
in your longhouse. You can repeat it and
select your next team members.
took a deep breath, focused on relationship and successfully talked with a
friend, spouse or a child about a tough topic.
It’s in your longhouse, and you can repeat that success.
Faced with having a difficult conversation in your immediate future, perhaps a deep breath and a moment to recall how you’ve succeeded in the past will benefit both you and your colleague, friend or family member.
I might have first heard that instruction as a part of a television ad. It did not cause me to remember whatever was being advertised. It did capture my attention as a great way to prepare my mind to greet a day.
Think with me.
“Check your lens.” It is short and easy to remember. As most of us have noticed, a photographer must first set the lens, and the result can then be constant throughout the day.
For example: Initially setting your lens to connect with and care about others and their ideas could take you through a day:
- Stopping for coffee on the way to work. As a friend has recommended, make the time to actually go into the facility, make eye contact, and greet someone who works there. Check your lens and take the opportunity to speak, to share a smile, to make a connection – even a brief one.
- Arriving at work. Check your lens and be the first to smile and greet others. Ask questions and listen to others’ replies.
- Participating in a meeting. Remind yourself that talking more than others likely makes it seem that others’ ideas are less important than yours. Check your lens. Listen. Ask for clarification. Encourage. Help assure everyone’s ideas are heard.
- Greeting your family at home. Once again, check you lens. Be the first to extend a genuine warm greeting. Listen. Your connecting (i.e., caring) lens will help you hear not only a report of activities but also the sense of achievement, the frustrations or the curiosities behind those activities. Those underlying emotions will provide fruit for caring conversation.
It seems a marketer’s shame that I don’t remember the product behind this reminder. Nonetheless, I am grateful for its value in framing a day.
How might you set your lens and check it throughout a day to make the most of your time?
Curious about a new term, I recently checked a definition of ludic loop: doing something over and over again because every once in a while you get a reward.
Considering the definition and how it might apply to the workplace, one imagines its usefulness in several situations.
- Individual Level: As a manager dealing with a ‘problem employee’ ask yourself a hard question: are you trying to address that problem the same way over and over again? If yes, stop the ludic loopiness.
- Take a fresh look at the situation and use a new, better approach.
- Before the next conversation with that employee ends, be certain you have a clear mutual understanding of what is expected going forward.
- Team Level: Put some time in your next team meeting agenda for a new discussion item with an opportunity for creative problem solving. During that meeting, share the term and come to a team understanding of its definition.
- Before the meeting ends, ask what is happening within the team that may fall into ludic loopiness.
- Collect ideas and identify one that seems to grab people’s attention.
- Use collective creativity to plan for changed behaviors so that particular loop is no longer preventing team success.
- Self Level: Do you get to the end of too many days without completing urgent items on your To-Do list? That’s another potential ludic loop.
- What changes will you make to better manage your work day?
- What rewards will you experience when the loopiness is overcome?
Use these ideas to identify and overcome the ludic loopiness within and around you.
Once your organization decides to make intentional Culture change, the work has only begun.
After agreeing on the need, value and direction of the change, each individual must be invited and expected to participate. At this individual level, ongoing work and success requires:
- Description: What work behaviors demonstrate this new intentional Culture: the way we will do things around here?
- Mutual understanding and commitment: Does everyone have the same understanding of what’s expected and the willingness to make the change? Express willingness out loud among the team.
- Repetition: repeat, repeat.
Relationships among staff need to be built so that it’s expected to reinforce and reward each other in making the change as well as to hold each other and self accountable for continuous improvements. Team members need to recognize there will be slip-up’s and need to talk about how to help each other recover and move ahead.
There are several personal techniques that may be useful in such accountability. One of those techniques is perspective: a personal pocket mirror so to speak:
“I am the person who __ (fill in the blank) __.”
- (respect) I am the person who starts staff meetings on time to show respect for those who are prepared.
- (courtesy) I am the person who actively listens to each person with whom I speak.
- (respect, courtesy) I am the person who takes a deep breath and practices continuing respectful conversation in difficult moments or on difficult subjects.
- (teamwork) I am the person who informs others about potential delays in a project timeline so that the whole team can plan well.
- (courtesy, leadership) I am the person who practices criticizing without judging and helps others do the same.
To help you visualize the value of this practice, consider a recent glaring example: Can anyone imagine the individual who would not have benefitted from a deep breath and a seconds-long break in the situation of removing a passenger from a flight to remind himself, “I am the person who treats others with respect?”
What powerful change could that moment of perspective have wrought? What every-day change can this practice make for you?
A familiar quote, “Get up, dress up and show up.” is attributed to author Regina Brett. It has entered my head and helped me start more than a few days through tough times. I have heard myself remind colleagues of the sentiment. We all have tough times, and we find different ways to keep moving forward.
Toward that goal of moving forward: in line with some of the ideas I have presented in these postings and influenced by a recent conversation with a friend, I have created a personal ‘work’ version of Brett’s solid three-part direction.
1. Shape up: Before showing up anywhere, one must “shape up:” focus at least a little time on getting one’s head into the approaching day. Once your feet are on the floor and you’re looking the part – and before you greet others in your day – get your head into it all.
2. Set up: Set a goal for those encounters you may have with people during that day. Three good possibilities:
• Listen well and get to mutual understanding to address an issue.
• Clear the air: have a necessary difficult conversation focused on respect and treating each other well.
• Learn something new from someone you didn’t expect to be your teacher / because your mind was open to growth.
3. Lift up: Simply share kindness because you choose to do so. If you will speak with others via telephone or other devices, setting goals is equally as important. It will matter that you’re smiling when you pick up the phone. It will matter whether you’ve decided to listen well and to treat the other party with respect – or not. In defiance of all the known laws of gravity, lifting another’s spirits often raises our own.
I have heard it said that sometimes life simply hits one in the head. While that may be true, I think this straightforward plan could help each of us focus, learn something and even grow along our way.
Once upon a time individual employees quit bad bosses. Attentive leaders could notice a trend, identify the problem (i.e., the bad boss) and make decisions: coach, train, transfer (!), threaten, discipline, ignore, etc. Of course some of these decisions led to better outcomes than others in terms of managing employee turnover and the impact of a bad boss.
Recent research tells us those bygone days may be over. In our modern era, individual employees quit bad organizations: whole companies with negative cultures see good employees leave.
Turnover is no longer dependent upon individual bosses who treat employees poorly. Turnover is about what the organization – and individuals throughout the organization – do to demonstrate and support the culture described in the employee handbook or in ads directed at customers.
Can you easily match the ads you hear and see about your own organization with the behaviors demonstrated by and toward employees all around you each business day? Is that match strongly positive? In other words, do individuals throughout your organization ‘walk the talk?’
One key issue to consider: are there talented and productive – yet negative and toxic – individuals in your work teams? What have you done to address the problem so that talented and productive – positive and thriving – individuals are willing to stay?
If you need additional convincing that toxicity in the workplace is more than an interpersonal conflict to be ignored or avoided, the Harvard Business School’s Toxic Workers study concluded that avoiding a toxic employee can save a company more than twice as much as the revenue bringing on a star performer can add.
It isn’t ‘just’ your Culture that suffers from toxic workplace behaviors. It’s your bottom line. Now is as good a time as any to:
- Affirm your desired workplace Culture.
- Assure every employee knows what that Culture looks like in everyday workplace actions.
- Actively reinforce your expectations throughout the organization. No one is above Cultural workplace expectations, and everyone will be held accountable to them.
- Announce, as you make changes in support of your desired Culture, showing that expectations are real and mean business.
Think about these findings reported in Susan Pinker’s book, The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier:
- Smaller groups that communicated face-to-face were more cohesive. There was more trust within the group, which made it easier for people to ask questions and seek help when they needed it. As a result, those groups were more productive.
- Want to be happier and more productive? Take your breaks at the same time as your friends at work do. This boosted performance, increased smiling and made the company that participated in the study an extra $15 million.
- When people connect— and especially when they touch each other— oxytocin is released, which damps down their stress and enables them to trust each other… A simple handshake, a pat, a fist-bump, a friendly nudge, or a high five does the trick. All evidence points to social contact lowering stress among colleagues and making a team more cohesive
What are some simple ways to build these productivity-boosting social interactions into your work place? Consider:
- If you’re tempted to drop a quick email message, don’t do it. Even if its efficiency is sorely tempting. Instead, get out of your work space and walk across the office. Smile and speak to the people you see. Shake hands with colleagues who’re available. Deliver that message or ask that question in person.
- When you’re planning a meeting, don’t gloss over the opportunity for participants to interact. Build time for conversation, connecting and hand shaking into the agenda.
- Missing colleagues who work remotely? Build some trust by connecting with them through a video chat.
- Had your nose to the proverbial grind stone completing a project? Reward yourself by taking a break with colleagues. Encourage others to regularly do the same.
Think about the productivity impact as well as the social value in these personal connections. Think about the long-term trust you’re building in such simple ways. Could there be better, more rewarding or less expensive ways to increase productivity and trust?
By description, a business process is a set of activities that, once completed, will accomplish an organizational goal. Likely several processes come to mind as you consider this description: sales, marketing, finance/accounting, product development, etc.
Now think about compliance. Rather than viewing compliance as a burden, an extraneous requirement or waste of time, instead consider the ways in which compliance, when well managed as a business process, helps accomplish a variety of business goals:
- Affirmative Action or Equal Employment Opportunity compliance supports innovation: diversity of customers and markets supporting organizational growth
- Selection/hiring compliance supports staffing: the right people with the right skills in the right positions to meet customer and business goals
- Wage & hour compliance supports organizational stability and corporate citizenship: regulatory updates are managed with a reduced threat of disruption or legal challenge.
Meeting external, statutory requirements (i.e., compliance) as a routine business process:
- Supports a culture of positive employee engagement and trust
- Frees employees throughout the organization to focus on the business rather than on covering or explaining marginal activities or wondering where perceived gray lines may be
- Focuses resources on planning and implementing what is or can be known and
- Avoids the turmoil, expense and bad press of potential legal challenges.