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Brace Yourself – The Bottom Means Bounce

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces, Leadership, Workplace bullying | No Comments

I had the pleasure of being asked to share my personal story at an event here in Southern California called SUE Talks (TEDTalks’ baby sister).

If you have 15 minutes and want to know what drives my passion for creating positive workplaces, take a peek. I’ll tell you lessons learned from my experience with workplace bullying, and lessons learned from another (crazy) experience.

Thank you for watching!

You need a vision, mission and core values

By | Leadership | No Comments

I’m a consultant who works with companies that have a culture problem. Organizations call me when employee behavior has gotten out of control, and people are acting aggressively, and it’s affecting performance, and people just aren’t getting things done. I get called in to work with those organizations to create a different kind of a work environment, where people can function and even thrive.

Time and time and time and time again, what I see in these organizations who have this problem, is they have not been focusing on their vision, mission or core values. If they were, there wouldn’t be bullying.

Your organization probably falls into one of three buckets:

  1. There is no vision, mission or values.
  2. Vision, mission and values exist, but no one ever talks about them or even knows what they are.
  3. Your organization has them and they are a big part of daily functioning.

If your organization falls into bucket one or two, eventually people’s behavior – and maybe even yours – starts to get out of control and people aren’t acting in a way that pushes your vision forward. And that’s how you lose control like many of my clients.

Let’s talk about vision first.

A vision tells the world and your employees what you’re trying to accomplish.

Now, there are hundreds of articles and books out there on the topic of employee engagement, and 99% of them say that employees need to have a greater purpose, or meaning, in their work in order to be engaged. A vision can facilitate that.

If you don’t have a vision, or if you’re not constantly reminding your employees about the vision, then your employees aren’t attached to where you’re trying to go. Therefore their engagement and their productivity aren’t being maximized.

Your vision is all about what you’re trying to get to. It should be a strong powerful statement. For example, if you’re starting a nonprofit in your community to feed the homeless and hungry in your own community, then a good vision might be something like. “To erase hunger and homelessness in this community.”

Now when your employees – and when you – come to work you all have something to strive for. Each year, you’ll set goals to put a larger and larger dent in hunger and homelessness, always reaching for that 100%.

The point is that you have to give everyone something to work toward. It gives people meaning in their work, and in turn can help drive performance and engagement.

Next, let’s talk about mission.

While your vision is all about what you’re trying to accomplish, or what will be when your work is finished, your mission is all about how you’ll get there. Going back to your vision of ending hunger in your community, your mission statement might be something around research and education, obtaining volunteers, and developing strong partnerships. This is the how.

In another example, if you have a clothing line, and your vision is to make every person who wears your clothes feel amazing, then perhaps your mission is around using quality products, designers in your community, and offering great value.

Now let’s talk core values.

If vision is about what you’re trying to accomplish, and mission is how you accomplish that, core values are all about how you behave in order to achieve your vision and mission.

If you don’t have or aren’t focusing on core values, then your employees don’t know what’s required of them to achieve the vision.

One problem I see in core values is that they are often boring! Everybody says the same thing: Integrity, diversity, customer service… one trendy core value these days is, “act like an owner.” Blaaach.

What about values that mean something?

For example, one restaurant with several locations in Los Angeles serves chili hamburgers and hotdogs. They’ve been around since the forties, and they told me that great grandpa, who started this business, always made a big deal about not being stingy with the chili. In fact, he fired people if he caught them being stingy.

This restaurant might do well to create core values around this very interesting history. How about core values that start with, “Don’t be stingy with chili,” and also include, “Don’t be stingy with service?” and, “Don’t be stingy with quality.”

In the end, whether you have 3 or 15 or 100 or 5,000 employees, you need a vision, mission and core values. They literally drive your business. They give employees meaning in their work, drive your business decisions, and help employees understand how they are supposed to behave.

Talk about your vision, mission and values often – make them a part of everything you do. All of them should be powerful, and short, so people remember them.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

5 Reasons to Start 2017 with Communication Skills Training

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces, Leadership | No Comments

You know this already, but I’ll say it anyway-

Effective communication among employees and managers is vital to your organization’s success. If people aren’t communicating well, they aren’t producing quality work.

Yet, so many organizations don’t offer communication skills training.

So here are five reasons you should start your year off with employee and manager communication skills training.

Effective communication creates positive relationships and thus employee engagement. Read any article or book on employee engagement and it’ll tell you positive relationships are a hefty part of the engagement equation. Without effective communication, you can’t have positive relationships, and so employee engagement can’t exist. Ineffective communication creates anger and frustration, which most certainly thwarts any engagement initiatives you might be working on.

Effective communication facilitates innovation. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s highly regarded research found that when we experience positive emotions, our mind literally opens up and becomes more aware, flexible, and explorative. The positive emotions give us courage to act on those explorations, and we then build skills over time. Fredrickson calls this “broaden and build.” Negative emotions, however, narrow our thinking as we get focused on immediate solutions in the moment.

Think about this…

One of your client representatives has a positive, effective interaction with a co-worker, and then answers the phone immediately after (likely with a positive tone). The client on the other end has a problem, and due to the positive emotions your rep feels, he is innovative in his troubleshooting and solves the problem. He has added to his repertoire of problem solving and customer service, and is able to broaden and build his skills.

Now think about a rep who has a negative interaction with a co-worker, and then answers the phone immediately after (probably not with the best tone of voice). The client has a problem in need of a solution, but with his mind narrowed, he isn’t able to solve the problem as well as our first rep, and customer service has suffered. All he’s learned is not to interact with the rude co-worker.

Effective communication facilitates learning. In line with Fredrickson’s work, when people experience positive interactions their minds are open and able to learn new things. In order to learn, employees must feel safe to disagree, ask questions, and make mistakes; they must value competing ideas and feel encouraged to take risks. This can all happen with effective communication. Check out this HBR gem for more insight.

Effective communication promotes effective teamwork. When information flows easily between teammates, it increases the ability to interact and provide each other the right information to make good decisions and ultimately produce better work. Effective communication also reduces the chance for conflict, and inspires collaborative conflict resolution.

Effective communication decreases absenteeism and presenteeism. There is so much research that negative relationships cause people to get distracted and call in sick, it’s not even funny. For example, one study found that people who feel bullied take an average of 10 more sick days per year than those who don’t feel bullied (Agervold & Mikkelsen, 2004). Another study found that when employees are on the receiving end of an uncivil encounter they intentionally reduce their commitments to the organization as a result of being the target of uncivil behavior, and they waste time thinking about the incident as well as avoiding the instigator (Pearson, Anderssen & Porath; 2000).

What about accountability for implementing what was learned?

If you wrangle some budget for a training, you want it to have some lasting effects.

There are several steps needed to ensure accountability, but one important step is to get your managers involved in holding their employees accountable, and get your senior leaders involved in holding their managers accountable.

Before the training, all managers and senior leaders should review the learning objectives, and begin conversing with their employees about them. After the training, leaders should meet with managers and managers with employees, to discuss what was learned, what and how it will be implemented, and measurements of success.

Other ideas for accountability include adding effective communication to the performance management process, or training managers to coach employees who do not engage in effective communication.

All my training programs include a personal action plan, where all attendees are required to complete their plans for personal improvement. My manager training provides guidance on how to set expectations, and how to coach employees.

Check out my communication skills training program. If you’re interested in kicking the year off right, let’s talk!


Case Study: How a Property Management Company Rocks Their Culture

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces, Leadership | No Comments

I talk about organizational culture A LOT. While culture can’t solve all of your problems, it can certainly make your life easier.

If you have and live a culture of respect, most people in your organization will be respectful. When they aren’t, they will stick out like a sore thumb, and their behavior can be adjusted before it gets out of hand.

Many organizations do not focus on culture because they believe there will be no tangible benefits.

Well, I recently ran into an old friend who I saw speak at a conference when she managed the culture at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego, and she is now the Director of Human Resources (AKA “Employee Lifestyle”) at HG Fenton. Always fascinated by businesses actively managing culture, I asked her for a quick informative interview.

Here’s a recap of our conversation:

I know that a strong culture comes from employees finding meaning in their work. But you do property management, so how do you help employees find meaning in property management?

Our purpose is essentially to create opportunities for our employees to flourish, our residents to live well, and for businesses to succeed. So we focus on those three things all day, every day, and that’s how we find meaning in our work.

How does your organization communicate the culture?

We have a set of values and we live by them. I have never seen a company intertwine culture into the day-to-day the way we do here. We don’t need posters on all the walls, everyone knows the values and we honestly live them each and every day as they are incorporated into our conversations, decisions, and business goals.

I talk about living corporate values all of the time, but that’s an abstract statement for many. Can you provide some real examples of HG Fenton living its values?

One example is we do true pay-for-performance. A lot of companies say that but in reality they just manage “merit” increases by plugging numbers in a spreadsheet to balance out to an overall percentage increase across the board. Here, when determining annual compensation increases, the Executive Team holds a multiple day meeting, and every single manager comes in and presents how each and every one of their employees is performing.

The manager then proposes a salary increase based on the employee’s performance and the position market data provided to them. I’ve often seen the Executives say that they thought the employee deserved more than what the manager was proposing. The point is based on that employee’s performance and the market data for their role, we take this opportunity to celebrate success, make a plan for any opportunities the employee may have, and reward appropriately. It’s not a dreaded conversation like they are in most companies.

That’s awesome. What else can you tell me about managers intertwining with the culture?

We just rolled out a leadership development program that focuses on helping others flourish.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a training program focused specifically on helping people flourish. Pretty cool. So does your office environment speak to your culture? Sometimes people laugh at me when I offer redecorating the office as advice to change culture.

We realized that our culture is all about collaboration, but the way the office was set up, people weren’t colliding throughout the day so that they could collaborate. We decided to create more opportunities to collide, and we spent some serious dough to update our office. The new office creates a more transparent and collaborative workspace, and you can see people colliding informally and connecting. People develop great ideas in those casual collisions.

Wow. What is the ROI on the office remodel? I know my clients are going to ask what the ROI is on something like that.

We haven’t set out to measure the ROI on this project because it’s just common sense to us that our work environment should match our purpose and culture. We know our culture works, we know it’s why we’re successful, and we knew we needed an environment that supported this culture that drives our success.

Okay, one final question. I always recommend a culture strategic plan. Do you have something like that?

We don’t have a culture strategic plan. We have one strategic plan for the company, and half of the action items on it are focused on culture. Growing and developing leaders is all over the plan, and the strategic plan is our Bible – while we continually reassess it and update it as appropriate, we follow it to a T.

Okay, this really is my final question. Do you outperform your competitors? You said your culture works, so what does that mean for the company’s performance?

Without sharing confidential information, we’ve had 110 years of success and our goal is to have another 100 years of it.  Financially and from a service perspective (as measured in the industry customer satisfaction surveys) we outperform our competitors.  Our employee retention rate far exceeds within and outside our industry.  Each year we tell our employees that if we hit our aggressive financial plan, that we will close the office and everyone can enjoy the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  I am not sure what the feeling would be around here if we did NOT get that week off…because every year we have.  Our employees are flourishing, our residents/tenants are living and working well, and our shareholders are happy.  Win-win-win all around!

So there you have it folks.

A manager worksheet for behavior change

By | Leadership, Workplace bullying | No Comments

Workplace bullying can happen in any industry. I know lots of great companies who believe (or at least suspect) they have a bullying problem, yet they don’t implement solutions. Why?

Perhaps they’ve tried some ideas out, but they aren’t seeing change. Or the process seems daunting. Or maybe the CEO hasn’t signed off on fixing the problem.

But mostly, it’s because they just don’t know where to start.

Well, one place to start is with your managers.

Do they know how to stop bullying? Do they know how to coach people who are engaging in bullying behavior? If you haven’t taught them these skills, then probably not.

So here’s a tool for you to pass around to your managers. This is a worksheet managers can fill out before their meetings with anyone who is in need of a behavior or performance shift. It will help your managers figure out exactly what to say, so they feel armed and ready to have an effective coaching conversation with their employees.

But of course, this form in and of itself won’t solve bullying. It’s just one tool.

Here’s a tool to increase employee professionalism in 30 mins

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces, Leadership | No Comments

Last month I challenged you to take action against workplace bullying by doing something, anything, to put a stop to it. I presented the challenge, and now I’ll offer up a tool to help.

Your step to ending bullying doesn’t have to be a $1,000,000 initiative. The truth is, the best first step is to talk about creating a positive workplace – and talk about it a lot. It will expose the elephant in the room, and then you can start taking bigger, more powerful steps from there.

That said, I took the liberty of stealing from my own training materials and put this job aid together for you. This is an exercise I run for clients in my training programs, and I’m sharing it with you so that you can run it with your team.

The job aid provides step-by-step guidance to facilitate a 30-45 minute conversation about professionalism. Feel free to use it yourself or email it on to your managers to use in their staff meetings.

13 signs there’s bullying in your workplace and what to do about it

By | Leadership, Workplace bullying | No Comments

You think there’s bullying in your workplace but not sure.

Or you know there’s bullying and trying to figure out how to prove it to your boss.

Or your boss told you not to worry about the bullying because goals are still being met.

Or your boss told you to work out an action plan to solve the bullying this year.

If one of these sounds familiar, then I’ve got something for you. Here’s a list of things that happen when there’s negative behaviors at work, in no particular order.

  1. Reluctance to participate in meetings or after work socials
  2. Work-arounds in order to avoid interaction; or requests to change shifts or move desks
  3. Absenteeism or resignations from good people
  4. Confusion (e.g., removal from a project without explanation; frequent misunderstandings about work instructions)
  5. Frequent angry outbursts
  6. Arbitrary punishment (e.g., a write-up for being two minutes late)
  7. Unhealthy competition for attention, money, bonuses, etc.
  8. Favorites or cliques; clear division among the team
  9. Unresolved conflict; tension between employees, work shifts or departments
  10. Frequent miscommunication
  11. Lack of results from people, both in quality and quantity
  12. Hazing, practical jokes or sarcasm that seems to be getting out of hand
  13. People who were once great employees are all of a sudden receiving poor performance evaluations

If you can point to these issues in your conversations with your boss, then you might get buy-in that workplace bullying is a costly problem. If you already have buy-in, they can serve as a place to start in developing your action plan.

What to do about it

The list of “to-do’s” is long, but one thing you can do now is ensure your already existing harassment training includes information about bullying, as well as behaving in a professional way.

Too often, harassment training is focused on how the law defines harassment, and what not to do. But it’s so, so much more important to focus on what you should be doing instead.

So at your next harassment training – or even at your next staff meeting – spark up a conversation about what professionalism means in your workplace.  I’m happy to offer some tips to help you get started. Just shoot me a message.

Blaming workplace bullying on the generational gap is a cop-out

By | Leadership, Workplace bullying | No Comments

A question I get asked a lot is: What happens when the older workforce (who understands the value of hard work) holds the young people accountable to certain standards, and then those young people go crying that they are bullied?

The answer is:
Blaming the generational gap is a cop-out. But, this question highlights the importance of workplace culture.

Focus on building a certain kind of culture that celebrates a certain kind of performance, and then focus on hiring in people who already live that culture – no matter their age. Whether the culture is focused on work/life balance and having fun, or long hours and performance metrics, or something in between, there’s people of all ages at both ends of the spectrum who fit in.

The problem is that most of us aren’t even sure what our organization’s culture is, so how can we focus on hiring people who fit in?

How to do it:  
Think about how your organization is setting performance expectations. Are they clearly outlined somewhere? How does someone know if they aren’t measuring up before it’s too late? Are you positive all of your managers are great expectation-setters?

Once clear expectations are set, if an employee isn’t living up the manager should move into the role of performance coach. That means providing clear and concise information about what employees are doing well, what they should work on, what resources will be provided to help them, and when the improvements must be made.

This is coaching, not bullying.

And I promise, no one has ever said, “I felt bullied during our coaching sessions.” What they DO say is, “I was berated, told ‘I suck,’ and I watched her throw my work in the garbage can in front of my team.”

Bottom line:
If your organization has a solid performance management process in place, and if your managers know how to set clear expectations and coach their employees, no one will tie bullying to performance conversations… or generational gaps for that matter.

Having a hard time convincing the CEO workplace bullying is a problem? Check out this webinar on Selling Change to the CEO

By | Leadership, Workplace bullying | No Comments

In my own situation dealing with a workplace bully, I spent a lot of time trying to convince the Executive Director that the bullying was a real problem that needed to be solved. I was never successful in my endeavor, and the bully lived on while many people suffered. Now, as a consultant focused on workplace bullying, I often speak to human resources professionals who experience the same thing. They want to make a difference and solve the bullying, but they can’t get the C-Suite on board.

I’ve made it my mission to understand how to talk to the C-Suite about workplace bullying, and have shared what I’ve learned along the way here in this webinar.

Grab a pen and paper, a cup of coffee, and enjoy this one hour, ten minute webinar. Make sure to stay tuned to the end for some ideas on cheap ideas you can implement to start making a difference, and for my special offer!

Also download this Selling Change Worksheet to use as you sit down and have a strategic planning meeting with yourself about this conversation you will have with your C-Suite. The worksheet provides some things for you to understand about your C-Suite, and about the bullying, before you make your case.

The Price of Being Nice

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces, Leadership | No Comments

Robert M. Sapolsky, a Stanford professor and the author of “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” found that when people experience incivility for too long or too often, their immune systems suffer. Further, research is clear that incivility and workplace bullying causes damage to our health, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and ulcers. And, hormones called glucocorticoids are elevated during unpleasant interactions (and even when we replay those interactions later in our head) and this leads to increased appetite and obesity.

Christine Porath, a well known researcher in the “field” of incivility has asked hundreds of people via her research studies why they behave with incivility, and the answer was most often that they felt overloaded and therefore have no time to be nice.

It’s so interesting that people believe being nice takes time. Being nice doesn’t have to cost extra effort, it’s about changing the way you communicate in interactions that you will have anyway. You may as well make those interactions pleasant because if you don’t productivity goes down. According to Porath, most people tie disruptive behavior, such as abusive, condescending or insulting personal conduct, to errors. In the medical field, 27% of her research respondents percent tied incivility to the death of a patient. That’s some error.

Interestingly, there’s a perceived inverse relationship between warmth and competence. If a person is competent, he can’t be warm and nice. If he’s warm and nice, he can’t be competent. Think Steve Jobs. He was a well known asshole and clearly very competent. But Jobs likely succeeded in spite of being an asshole, not because he was an asshole.

So guess what? You can be both competent and nice. Competent leaders can certainly smile, say thank you, and demonstrate listening skills. Put your cell phone down when someone’s talking to you, and make eye contact with others when you pass them in the hallway. None of this takes extra time.

You can read more from Christine Porath in her article published in the New York Times.