Category Archives: Workplace Issues

What goes around, comes around: Why relationships matter in business

Building good relationships can ensure business successOne of the lessons which those of us who are conflict management or negotiation trainers seek to reinforce is the notion that it pays to be honorable and trustworthy in our interactions with others. In other words, it is possible to be an effective negotiator and still be a nice guy at the same time.

But people frequently operate under the mistaken belief that if they don’t want to be taken advantage of in a conflict or at the bargaining table or even in life in general, they need to be rude, overbearing jerks.

Being a jerk, however, is generally not an effective strategy in human interaction. It’s a really small world not matter how big we like to think it is. We simply never know when we’re going to cross paths with someone again.

And while people often remember acts of kindness, fairness, or generosity, they never, ever forget when they’ve been treated badly. (If you don’t believe me, just ask any group of people to describe their worst customer service experience—people will outdo themselves in recounting their stories of personal humiliation and outrage at the hands of maitre d’s, store clerks, cab drivers, airline ticket counter attendants, etc. In fact, you won’t be able to get them to shut up.)

It is true that memories of nasty and brutish encounters come back readily when summoned, with all the visceral impact and vividness that they possessed at the moment of their occurrence.

Although less likely to provoke the depth of emotion that these negative memories produce, memories of positive interactions with our fellow human beings possess a certain compelling and luminous quality of their own. These memories are every bit as enduring.

That both these kinds of memories persist is important, especially when you stop to consider how connected all of us are, and that often there are far fewer than six degrees of separation that stand between us and a chance encounter.

Recently I had a chance encounter of my own that brought all of this home—one of those moments that reinforces the beliefs that I hold as a conflict resolution practitioner.

I had a meeting at the offices of a business with which I have been negotiating. One of their managers welcomed me warmly when I arrived and introduced themselves to me. I realized with surprise that it was someone I knew from one of my first jobs straight out of college more than two decades ago. I identified myself, explained where we had met before, and the two of us had a joyous reunion as we discussed people and places I hadn’t thought about in 20 years.

I had fond memories of this person at this job long ago—they had treated me with great kindness, taking me under their wing, and offering me encouragement and good humor at times I needed them most. It was great to be able to tell this person after all those years how much that encouragement and compassion had meant to me at a time when I was fresh out of school, totally inexperienced, and new to the corporate world.

The manager then told our story to the senior executive I was there to meet with. And it led to a discussion at the meeting of the great value in developing and maintaining relationships with the people with whom we work and do business. And as a result the meeting with the executive resulted in a solid foundation for moving forward. On some deep level, that connection had made a difference to the meeting’s outcome.

This was one of those moments when you realize just how very small the world is and how sometimes, without knowing it, we come full circle and arrive at the places and the people where we began.

It is this connectedness that is critical. It stands as the foundation of our ability to create bonds with others. Relationships do matter, whether in families, neighborhoods, or in business. Our capacity to connect, to network, to establish ties, build trust, address conflicts, and problem-solve differences, determines our likelihood of success in business and work—and everywhere else in our lives.

RELIGION IN THE WORKPLACE: Using mediation to address conflicts between workers and employers

Balancing the demands of faith and work has increasingly become an issue for American businesses.

Such was the case at Dell Inc., in Nashville, Tennessee, when thirty Muslim employees walked off their jobs in February to protest Dell’s refusal to allow them to stop work for sunset prayers. According to an Associated Press release issued today, the workers have elected to take this issue to mediation, which is being handled through Nashville’s Human Relations Commission. Under federal law, employers must accommodate employees’ religious beliefs or practices so long as doing so would not constitute an undue hardship.

Religion in the workplace can lead to other tensions as well. As more businesses welcome spirituality into the workplace, complaints by employees have surfaced alleging that non-believers are subjected to hostile work environments by proselytizing co-workers.

Workplace mediators and ADR specialists will want to follow these trends closely as expressions of spirituality and faith continue to become more commonplace in business settings.

WEB SITE PROVIDES ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION TO ADDRESS WORKPLACE ISSUES IN CONFIDENCE

Web site offers anonymity and privacy for resolution of workplace disputes Earlier I had reported on Jobvent.com, a web site allowing employees to post anonymous ratings and comments about the companies they work for.

But another web site, Anonymous Employee, has taken this concept many leagues further by offering employees a confidential online dispute resolution mechanism for raising and addressing workplace concerns. As the web site explains:

AnonymousEmployee.com provides employees with the opportunity to express anonymous problems and concerns in the workplace. Employees can inform their employer of the issues they face in the workplace, without needing to reveal their identity. As an employee, you can recommend solutions to problems so that your employer can better understand your needs…The entire process can take place within the privacy of your own home, library, or friend’s house…

If your issue is serious enough, we can contact your company on your behalf so that they are doubly aware of the problem. If your issue has escalated beyond the point where communication can solve the problem, then Anonymous Employee also offers you the ability to request assistance such as professional mediation or legal advice. Issues such as corporate fraud, harassment, workplace bullying, pay inequities, unjust termination, workplace safety and more should be resolved in a positive, constructive setting where you can speak out without jeopardizing your job.

Thanks to Colin Rule and the Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution for reporting on Anonymous Employee in CITDR’s ODR News Blog.

DOOCED IF I KNOW: Getting fired for blogging

Companies get tough on employee bloggersYesterday’s posting concerned Jobvent.com, a web site designed to give employees a chance to anonymously rate and post comments about the companies they work for. For those of you who didn’t catch last night’s World News Tonight on ABC, the Internet may not be the safe and anonymous place everyone seems to think it is—as some bloggers have learned the hard way.

Blogging has swept the globe—by some estimates there may be as many as five million blogs out there, and that number grows daily. And any number of bloggers write about their jobs—recounting tales of workplace woes, insufferable bosses, and annoying co-workers.

Unfortunately in some cases bloggers have been “dooced”—fired over the content of their blogs.

Personally I’m not convinced that firing bloggers for writing about their jobs online is necessarily the right approach. Blogging may be symptomatic of a widespread internal problem that companies need to take seriously—a kind of corporate malaise that needs to be diagnosed and treated.

There are some tough questions companies should be asking themselves. Why do employees feel the need to vent online? Are there no mechanisms in place for employees to raise and address issues? If there are mechanisms, why were they not used in this case? How adequate are they? Does the company encourage or discourage open and honest communication between management and employees? What does the company do to promote dialogue and joint problem-solving?

Firing bloggers doesn’t eliminate the issues that prompted the blogging in the first place. Instead, it leaves them unresolved.

Wouldn’t surprise me if blogging doesn’t become the hot new topic in workplace mediation…

TALK AROUND THE WATER COOLER: Jobvent.com provides a forum for workplace issues

Jobvent.com provides forum for workplace beefsAnyone who’s ever earned a paycheck has stories to tell of their worst job or boss ever. (I certainly have a few of those myself. ) And a few lucky souls are able to boast about jobs they love and colleagues they enjoy working with. Job satisfaction is important to many of us, but it can certainly be elusive.

Jobvent.com gives employees a forum for letting it all hang out and sharing their reviews of the companies they work for. This web site allows visitors to search for companies by name or click on the list of top 10 best and worst companies to find out what people have to say about bosses, benefits, pay, working conditions, and other concerns.

A brief glance at the gripes posted about the 10 Worst Companies is most instructive for anyone who is interested in conflict as a phenomenon in the workplace. Poor communication and lack of respect are evident, and result in low employee morale, decreased productivity, absenteeism, and attrition. Many of these reviews are imbued with an embittered sense of “us versus them”.

Companies could learn some lessons here—a kind of “How Not To Succeed In Business”. Being proactive never hurts either—implementing conflict management systems, as well as providing training for h.r., managers and employees can make a difference.

Employers take note. (Especially my old manager Bob, who always stuck me on the closing shift on Saturday night.)