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Coworker

Via Fortune : Sheryl Sandberg’s highly personal Facebook post earlier this week served as a reminder of how challenging it can be to deal with a grieving co-worker.

A few days ago, Sheryl Sandberg published a very candid Facebook post about what she has learned about grief since the death of her husband, Dave Goldberg, last month. Her sentiments provided insight into a situation that many of us have come in contact with at work, but often don’t know how is best to react and show our sympathy. During the last few years, I have had the unfortunate task of helping my team deal with grief at work. Many of my teammates have lost a parent, child, or close friend, in addition to co-workers.

When tragedy strikes unexpectedly in the workplace, it can derail the entire team. Often times, work can be a distraction for us when we are grieving–a place where we can focus on something else and attempt to forget about the loss for a brief period of time. But when the person we lost is a co-worker, work only serves as a reminder of that person–from memories of conversations we had with them in the kitchen to noticing the absence of the energy they brought to meetings. As we sit and stare at the empty desk next to us that used to be filled with an incredible force of life, we can’t help but well up in tears.

On the other hand, the workplace can also provide an incredible community when we are grieving a common loss. Because we are experiencing it together, we don’t feel the isolation and awkwardness that Sheryl Sandberg describes having felt when she returned to work. There is no “elephant in the room” because everyone is grieving together. As a leader, managing grief in the workplace can be tricky, especially when the person who has passed away is a co-worker. From my personal experiences, here are some of the most important things I’ve learned:

Give people room to grieve
When there is a death in the office, it’s important to understand people are going to need time to work through it. Some people may only need a few hours, while others may need a week or even longer. Let people know it’s okay to take the space they need, and to encourage them to take a walk or talk to a co-worker if they need to clear their head. Assume productivity will decrease for at least a few days, and be okay with that. Invite in a grief counselor (be sure to vet them first) to be available for employees to talk to throughout the day.

Connect with their families
Often times, family members don’t have a sense of who we are at work–it’s not generally something we talk about with parents or friends. We lost two employees tragically at Yelp, both of who had very strong friendships with many of their co-workers. They were popular in the office due to their “joie de vivre” and ability to make anyone laugh. We decided to invite their families to the office, get to know their co-workers, and listen to stories about them. This gave the families a sense of how beloved their family member was in our office, and to our entire organization. Strong bonds can also be formed out of these introductions. I still keep in touch with a family member of one of the employees we lost, and value that relationship dearly.

Don’t judge the relationship
When someone dies, it can be easy to judge the reactions of others. Some people who barely knew the person will be greatly affected by the death. This may come as a surprise, or seem unnatural to other people in the office. Give people the day off to attend services and allow those affected by the death take some time off as well. It’s easy for a manager to assume someone who didn’t know the deceased person may be taking advantage of this time off. But remember, everyone grieves differently. One thing I have learned over the years is that the smallest interaction can have a huge impact on someone. So remember that even if a person didn’t know the deceased well, the grief they feel might be just as strong as someone who was much closer to them.

Don’t be afraid to grieve alongside your employees
As leaders, we need to be the rock for our teams. We lead them through adversity and calm them during chaos. But when someone in the office passes away, we may also be grieving ourselves. I still remember how I felt when I had to stand in front of 300 people and let them know one of their co-workers had passed away. I couldn’t hold back my tears as I gave them the news. I was incredibly sad about losing him, but also distraught for all of them; I knew how painful the next few weeks and months were going to be. For many of them, it was the first person they had ever lost. We have to remember that we, too, are human, and that it’s okay to show emotion.

Erica Galos Alioto is the senior vice president of Local Sales at Yelp.

Via LinkedIn : Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Those of us working in complex organizations (pretty much everyone) have not only heard this famous Drucker-ism – we’ve lived it. But why does this maxim ring so true, especially in today’s knowledge economy? Why do entrenched behaviors so consistently overpower the brilliant, finely honed directives from enlightened senior leaders?

Much ink has already been spilt addressing these poignant questions, and although I wish I had a silver bullet answer, I can only offer a few thoughts based on my experience working across 15+ Fortune 100 companies.

See if you agree with my points (the list is far from exhaustive)

A Crisis of Trust

Western capitalism, the most familiar economic model in business today, has proven itself to be a viable and resilient path to prosperity for many. However, it is not without cautionary tales that both undermine trust in the overall system, and thwart the efforts of strategists everywhere. Even the most upstanding, well-intentioned CEOs face an uphill battle in winning the hearts and minds of their rank-and-file (or even more senior) workers.

Why? Several reasons come readily to mind. Accounts of corporate corruption and greed litter the media landscape, and these stories, often reinforced by our own experiences, prevent any of us from embracing any CEO’s vision at face value. What is he hiding? What is she really after?

These questions haunt us, and without a relationship of trust to draw from, we believe we’ve seen this movie before, and it ended badly. Add to that a dash of post-modern skepticism that pervades popular culture, and every leader, big or small, faces a serious trust deficit right out of the gate.

The Power of the Everyday

While many of us live for mountaintop experiences – winning that proposal, closing that sale, hearing that applause for a flawless presentation – we still dwell in the everyday. Our everyday shapes more of our behaviors than we’d like to admit, and upsetting that equilibrium makes us feel vulnerable, because we care deeply what our everyday colleagues (team members, office mates, lunch buddies, etc.) think about us.

We often crave their acceptance and validation, regardless of level or even location. This is completely natural, and can positively impact culture, too, but it also creates powerful resistance to change. Behaving according to our cultural norms (both company and regional) keeps us on a sure footing, and provides us with a form of security and acceptance in a business world that offers little of either.

I may ‘get’ what the CEO is trying to accomplish with her new initiative, and I may even acknowledge it’s a necessary step towards saving the company. But if acting on that belief puts the acceptance of my everyday colleagues at risk, even the sharpest business logic becomes fuzzy.

Generational ‘bait-and-switch’

Most Gen Xers and Gen Yers watched their parents repeatedly get the shaft as the western job market evolved over the past couple of generations. Pension fund raids, broken government promises, mass offshoring, frequent layoffs for the nearly-retired, and a ruptured employer-employee bond all marked the total demolition of the implicit 20th century worker’s contract.

Certainly, some of these changes were necessary, but few of us stopped to analyze the macroeconomic factors – we just knew that our dad lost his job because a greedy bastard wanted to pad his wallet with a few more million than he could ever spend.

Now, as the boomers cede their workforce dominance to their offspring, Gen X and Gen Y are collectively saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…”

I’ll leave it at that for now, but will continue where I left off in my next blog post, focusing on some of the things leaders could (or indeed should) do to arrest this troubling trend and foster greater trust among their employees.

I welcome your thoughts and thanks for reading.

Via LinkedIn : Generational gaps have always existed in the workplace and managing them is a perpetual topic of debate, concern, and learning. I often wonder whether we over complicate this gap and our conversations concerning it. The current conversation revolves around Gen Y – the Echo Boomers – the generation now formally known as Millennials. You do not have to look very far to find a fount of information, assistance, and commentary related to our largest generational population on the planet. Viewpoints, counterviews, stereotypes, generalisations, and of course the real truth claims of this ever-elusive generation abound. Are Millennials really so elusive and should our quest to “sort them out” be so unidirectional? No magic wizarding map or cynical Swiftian satire needed. My proposal is indeed modest and perhaps best stated as a simple and uncomplicated approach to bridging generational gaps and increasing our organisations’ capacity for individual and collective effectiveness.Via

I believe that the basic tenants of addressing the myriad of Millennial concerns that surround us are, at a root level, the same as they are for all the gaps preceding this moment in time and all those that will succeed it. Localised conversations aimed at seeking to understand. Not globalised, overarching conversations, that assume all 90+ million Millennials (or any generation) will act the same and expect the same. Rather conversations within an organisation, a department, a team to uncover what it is that makes those individuals tick.

Through my work for Impact I’ve been bringing together older generation leaders and Millennials for a few years now, to have robust conversations concerning the generational gap. Topics of conversation tend to be focused on debunking assumptions, exploring ways to work more effectively together and understanding leadership needs. The message and the learning I continually capture from these interactions is the need to engage in grassroots conversations that challenge and align perceptions. This serves to uncover the real motivation behind behaviours – the behaviours that end up the targets of generational stereotypes and generalisations.

The stereotypes and generalised advice approach will not solve our generational gap dilemmas. One size does not fit all when it comes to understanding individuals, no matter what their generation. An effective way forward, therefore, is a grassroots approach. Begin, support, and encourage the bringing together of individuals in your organisation. Want your different generations to work more effectively together? The solution lies in enabling these smaller dialogues to happen throughout the organisation, not from a focus on overgeneralised generational traits that we should fight against, or simply accept. Are there exceptions to the rule? Will we encounter shining examples of the stereotypes? Absolutely. More often than not, however, I have found that if we have these grassroots conversations with intent we learn far more about how we can work together better. Engage in intentional dialogue to explore perceptions and stereotypes.

A recurring example I experience is the perception that older generation leaders have of the Millennial tendency to ask lots of questions and have skip-level conversations.

Older generation leaders formulate assumptions that this behavior means that these Millennials are trying to climb the corporate ladder too quickly, that they are gunning for the leader’s job and that they have a general disrespect for authority. What these leaders discover through grassroots conversations is that the reality for most of these Millennials is that they are curious learners who feel that with more information and transparency they can be far more productive employees. Millennials are the socially minded eco-friendly champions of the sharing economy. It’s therefore no surprise that they want a seat at the table and want to be having conversations with the boss’s boss. Doing so without understanding the other side of the equation and without their own understanding of the leaders they report to causes trouble. When these two groups engage in conversation that allows them to explore these behaviours, desires and expectations they often realise that they remain dedicated to the same end game – quality deliverables and a healthy, profitable organisation. In discovering this common ground they set them selves up for greater understanding, collaboration, and effectiveness.

Will this solve all of our generational gap struggles? Will this address all of the nuances that the Millennials bring to the changing and shifting workforce of the future? No. Without this crucial approach though – I fear it will be a journey more difficult then it needs to be. Hopefully we can all find the courage to have these intentional grassroots conversations. To bring transparency to generation gaps and to challenge the differences we hold onto like a crutch supporting our often misguided and uninformed assumptions. Give it a shot. I’d love to hear how it goes and what you discover.

Via Forbes : ‘My kids have just thrown up and three planes have broken. We’ve now been delayed two days. This is a nightmare. The worst thing is the airline staff don’t seem to care.’

This is the message I got from a colleague when bad weather and broken machinery had left him and his family stranded. It’s the opposite of what business leaders want, which is for their team to ‘go the extra mile’ and deliver great service whatever the weather . Psychologists call going the extra mile – doing things like helping out a colleague, mentoring new recruits, or taking responsibility to solve an unusual customer problem – Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB). OCB can make the difference between a great organizational culture and a terrible one. So, if you want a great organizational culture, it’s useful to know what helps and hinders OCB .

Two recent studies have come back with one theme that stops OCB: exhaustion. The pace of change in today’s organizations is a drain on employees’ emotional and mental resources, leaving them with little left to contribute above and beyond the demands of their job. This is especially true, the research suggests, in industries that require people to fake their emotions, such as customer service.

‘Surface acting’ – where employees hide their true feelings or fake positive emotions, is linked to greater exhaustion at the end of the day, which then negatively impacts on OCB. One study, entitled “Too drained to help”, asked administrative employees to fill out a survey twice a day for 10 days, measuring their levels of surface acting (‘faking it’) in the afternoon and then end-of-day exhaustion. They also asked employees to rate their performance that day, in comparison to an average day, and had a close colleague monitor how much that person helped out their colleagues.

The results found that surface acting throughout the day predicated exhaustion, and the more exhausted employees felt at the end of the day the less likely they were to go the extra mile to help out their colleagues. There was no link between surface acting, exhaustion and self-rated performance. The study also found that the negative relationship between exhaustion and OCB was especially pronounced for employees who were chronically exhausted, supporting the idea that OCB drains mental and emotional resources. When people are tired, they shut down – directing their attention to the task at hand, as opposed to helping out their colleagues or tending to stranded customers.

Sounds obvious, but it has important implications. Often business leaders see the answer to customer service as equipping staff with ‘people skills’ – teaching them how to forge better relationships and ultimately ‘fake it ’til they make it’. This study suggests that actually they’d be better off helping employees build their emotional resilience, so that when the going gets tough they have enough regulatory resources to help each other out as well as carry out their duties.

But it’s not all down to individuals. The climate that leaders create also has a significant influence on a team TISI -0.86%’s level of OCB. The second study, called “Well, I’m tired of tryin’” focused on what the researchers termed “citizenship fatigue” – a feeling of being worn out and on edge as a result of going the extra mile. Unsurprisingly, such fatigue makes people less inclined to go above and beyond in the future.

The study, which looked at faculty members at a Taiwanese university over a seven-month period, found three factors which affect citizenship fatigue.

The extent to which employees feel like they are supported by their company. When that support is low, OCB is more likely to lead to citizenship fatigue.
The quality of interpersonal relationships and cooperation between team members. When employees have strong relationships and look out for each other, there is a negative relationship between OCB and fatigue – presumably because people expect their efforts to be reciprocated later.
Pressure to engage in OCB – when there’s low pressure and employees go the extra mile because they find it personally rewarding, OCB is less likely to lead to citizenship fatigue.

“Organizations that continually encourage employees to go beyond the call of duty should be aware that while this may work in the short run, employees may eventually deplete the resources needed to achieve both high levels of task performance and OCB ,” summarized the study’s authors.

There’s little leaders can do to slow down the pace and reduce demands on their employees. So leaders’ efforts are better spent on equipping employees with the capability to cope with demands, create a supportive environment with high-quality relationships between peers and inspire people to be good organizational citizens. This will help create an environment where people go the extra mile even with bad weather and broken planes.

Via LinkedIn : Managing your boss or ‘upward management’ as it’s often referred to, is one of those things almost all of us do but don’t realise we’re doing it. The secret is harnessing the power of upward management and using it to aid the development of your relationship and, essentially, control expectations centrally.

Being great at your job is half the battle, the other half falls down to managing your manager and creating a happy medium; a working relationship which allows you both to flourish.

To help you get the best out of your manager and illustrate your competence in the role, I’ve pulled together some key aspects of upward management that you can’t afford to ignore.

Never waste time – use it wisely!

If they’re anything like me, your boss’ diary is probably booked up for weeks. Time is precious and you don’t want to waste it. To avoid this, illustrate your efficiency by making sure you know everything you need to discuss with them – this is no time for vague objectives! Be sure to have as much information to hand as possible and have a well thought out, conclusive answer for any questions you may be asked.

One to one time is hard to come by so don’t waste it by going through your day to day tasks – you can do that via email. Gain their insight, use the time to gain valuable feedback. Talk to them about the problems you face and ask them directly how you they think you can do your job better. By doing this, you’ll not only gain an understanding of how they think you’re progressing in your role but you will also learn exactly how to add value in your role and you’ll be in a much better position to get a promotion, a pay rise, more responsibility and a more authentic relationship with your boss.

Never over-promise and under-deliver

This is the worst thing you can do. People always make the mistake of agreeing to everything and then rushing to get it all done last minute. This is just a breeding ground for mistakes. One main aspect of managing upwards is managing expectations. Never say yes, you can deliver something if, on reflection, you can’t. You may be thinking ‘but I can’t tell my manager no, I’ll just have to do it’ – 9 times out of 10 that’s not the case. If you have an issue with a project and you think it will take longer than expected, tell your boss! As long as you go to them with some other options, they will appreciate your honesty.

Never assume anything

Every one of my colleagues will tell you this is one of my favourites. I always remember meeting a new employee and she used this word in a sentence. I asked her to open her notebook and write in huge capital letters ‘NEVER ASSUME’ because the only mistakes I’ve ever made in life are when I have assumed something. Assuming always end badly. Safe to say she didn’t assume anything again!

If you catch yourself assuming something, to me that means you didn’t ask the right question in the first place. Always challenge yourself and seek answers, only then can you begin to really understand the concept.

Always be prepared

Preparation, preparation, preparation is always the golden rule. You always need to be fully prepared for any meeting with your boss because you can guarantee they will ask for or about the one thing you don’t have or know nothing about. When this happens, they will be disappointed, you will feel frustrated and despite all of the other good things that come from the meeting, your mistake will be what they remember most.

The secret is being in control without them knowing you’re in control. For example, if you know what they’re expecting, you can drive and steer the agenda to your advantage. Share your highlights of the week, approach each project optimistically and remember to come with solutions, not problems.

The killer question

Put yourself in your boss’ shoes and ask yourself: If they are still doing my job after hiring me, why am I still here? Of course they are there to show you the ropes in the beginning but you should be illustrating your competency by doing all of the above in your one to one meetings. Doing this will make the question, how effective am I in the job? An easy one to answer.

Remember that a healthy working relationship is a two way process. You’re not just there to be managed and if you make it look that way, your boss will get bored very quickly. Try implanting these tips in your next one to one and I’m certain you will notice a difference.

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