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Change Reactions: Your Emotional Cycle Part III

This article is the twenty-third in a series about Change from Steve Roesler

     "Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time;
    what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better."

          --Sidney Harris

"The connecting dots of all the comments  are all about the importance of looking at change from the point of view of the person on the receiving end. We need to communicate often and in varied formats. If we are aware of the differing levels of software users' needs, we'll provide a range of information. If we appreciate that staff need to know about managerial changes, we'll share as much info. with them as we possibly can."
   --observation by Galba Bright, EQ expert

Change_machine Move Through the Upswing

Yesterday's journey took us through the downward slope on the Emotional Cycle of Change.

Today we'll look at what happens and what to do after one "bottoms out" and moves further along the curve toward meaningful action.

Regardless of your official organizational role, try switching viewpoints along the way; think of yourself as a manager, then as an employee. I think you'll be moved by how quickly you begin to understand the challenges of each.


Bargaining, Accepting/Rejecting, Moving On

When the personal/group emotions look like "Let's Make A Deal" and people are Bargaining...

  • Express certainty and conviction, but not arrogance. "I believe in this change." And revisit a few reasons why.
  • Visibly move to execute your share of the change. When things are tentative, people are looking for an example. Be one. 
  • Be patient but persistent. Think of major changes as times when people lapse into a bit of adolescence. And for good reason: they aren't mature at what is happening! So persistence is important. It provides a "back door boundary" that continues to help people look ahead and not avoid the growth needed to move ahead to maturity.

When you see Acceptance...

  • Celebrate using specific achievements related to the goals. By the way: this is the one thing that is ignored most. I don't know why. I've asked, and answers range from "they're getting paid to do this" to "we don't do celebration." The same people give their dogs treats when they finally decide to stop doing their business on the carpet. Go figure.
  • Discuss and Document lessons learned. This is not only a chance to do just what it indicates; it's an opportunity for people to gain a group sense of accomplishment and even a sense of celebration.
  • Probe for opportunities. Once you've all reached this stage, the "how-to" ideas will be ripe.

When some choose to Opt Out...

  • Listen to their reasons and acknowledge that they are valid.
  • Ask what they want to do next. Help keep them focused on the fact that there is a life outside of your organization and that they can contribute. Tell them what you see as their strengths.
  • Offer assistance in some meaningful way. Every company I've worked with on Change projects has provide some degree of outplacement assistance knowing that not everyone would stay the course. The benefit to the company: enhanced reputation as a place where everyone is valued, even when their talents no longer fit the current circumstances.

At this point, people are Moving On. Keep moving...the next change is just around the corner!

Please Remember This...

The path isn't linear. I said it before and it's worth saying again. You and your people will bounce around the curve until everyone has reached a state of peace and equilibrium with the "new thing".

Here's where the chart really comes in handy. Keep it close by and use it as a diagnostic tool. When you see someone (or yourself) going into "Blame" mode, identify it and respond in an effective way. Is someone "Bargaining", hoping to make a deal and avoid some of the change? You now have some useful options to be helpful.

Most of all, remember this: people who are wrestling with change aren't items to be "fixed". They're people who are being people.

And Change invites Leadership. In the midst of disruption, we all want two things: Understanding and Direction.

This is an opportunity to offer both.

For more quick reads on Change, I hope you enjoy:

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Change Reactions: Your Emotional Cycle Part II

This article is the twenty-second in a series about Change from Steve Roesler

     Disconnecting from change does not recapture the past. It loses the future."

          Kathleen Norris, poet

Change: How to deal with Denial, Anger, Fatigue

Now that we've looked into the emotional cycle of change and the predictable (and natural) reactions involved, the question becomes:

What do we do about all of this?

(Manager Alert!!: "You are entering the classic "Goals" / "People" zone. Keep head and heart connected).

Here's  what it looks like to be helpful to people--and the organization--while on the downward curve of the cycle:


When the personal/group emotions seem to be in Denial...

  • Restate the change goal and the reasons for changing.
  • Be positive but not an apologist. What people really need is to see things as they are. Your job is to be clear about reality.
  • Don't make excuses, give honest context. Excuses are an excuse in and of themselves--to disavow one's own responsibility in the effort.

When you see Anger and Justice Seeking (let's get 'em!)...

  • Listen, then paraphrase for understanding. That is, make sure that you understand what they are really saying and feeling; and let people know that they are, in fact, heard.
  • Listen for real. I've gotta emphasize this one. Too many of us are street-smart from too many active listening workshops. Faking empathy is easy. Being believed isn't--unless we are acting in a truthful way.
  • Ask people what they want to do to move on. Help people get into an active mode. And help them realize that, while you are there to help, moving on is their responsibility.

When you realize people are Fatigued or even Depressed...

  • Prevent "ain't it awful " sessions while acknowledging the validity of how they feel.
  • Be quick to tell people when they are doing the right things.
  • Discourage rash statements or behavior. Allow that, while it might seem a satisfying exercise, it will hurt them--and their colleagues and family.
  • Focus on short-term, focused tasks where people can get a sense of success. And another. And another. Even if a large project is mandatory, take time to break it into chunks. Let's face it: none of us needs one more thing to make us feel overwhelmed if we're already feeling overwhelmed.
  • If someone truly exhibits verbal or behavioral tendencies that are abnormal, don't ignore it. Name it, ask what the person is doing about it, and wait to hear a substantive answer. If you don't get one, talk with HR or your employee assistance program rep about what to do next if you don't already know.

Note: In 30+ years of business and business consulting, I've never seen anyone commit a violent or hurtful act during a large-scale change. It does happen. I have,though, often discovered instances of people taking their anger and depression home and causing great turmoil in their families--a cycle which impacts the workplace and the well-being of spouses and children.  Err on the side of safety. When people are confronted with a description of their observed rash behavior, they often drop their head--or smile --and say, "You're right. I'm glad somebody finally said something." Healthy people understand that being confronted with the truth is an act of caring.

So, we all wanted to be managers because, "Hey--I'm a people person!" :-)

There's nothing like a good "change" to challenge our self-perception.

Tomorrow: Managing Change on the Upswing.

Hope to see you there.


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Change Reactions: Your Emotional Cycle, Part I

  This article is the twenty-second in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.


        “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.”
            --Aldous Huxley

Change_readiness_spiral What do you do with what happens to you?

And if you're managing, how do you bring other people through major changes productively?

It always helps to have a model--especially a visual one--to make sense of what doesn't make sense at the moment. Yesterday's article generated some profound and useful comments amount the Emotional Cycle of Change.

Today we'll look at the stages of transition through which we all travel and the emotional responses associated with those. These apply to both personal and organizational changes. Why? Because organizational changes are always personal.

Sometimes it's just plain comforting to know that what you are experiencing in the midst of a change is perfectly normal. It doesn't mean you are crazy, even though it may feel that way.

The challenge: Understanding where you are, what you can't control, and identifying and acting on what you can control.
Organizational Stability:

I'm not sure when I last saw long-term stability in large organizations. But for the sake of our learning, let's assume that things are moving along pretty well. People are content with what they are doing and how they are doing it. Life is good.

The Change:

Something new happens that causes disequilibrium. There are two normal responses:

1. The ever-popular Denial. This comes in the form of shock, confusion, and suspicion. "This isn't really happening."

2. Anger & Seeking Justice. "Let's get and punish the weasel responsible for this!"

Please note: It is happening and you will not punish the weasel--assuming that there is one. Talking with friends and associates feels good and is even cathartic for a little while. Getting stuck here will give you cardiac arrest or get you arrested. So why not just let go and move to the next step?

3. Depression, Fatigue. I know, it was more fun being angry. But you will wear yourself out shadow-boxing with unseen villains. And the ones you can see have made up their minds that things are going to be different. So it's time to move on. By the way: As Peter Vajda noted in a comment, "depression" is often defined as "anger turned inward." So it's a natural progression to go from 2 to 3. However, it's self-defeating to stay there.

4. "Let's Make A Deal": Bargaining. When things aren't going our way, we try to make tradeoffs and salvage at least something from our sense of loss. Anything that will help get us out of the current situation. This is a coping mechanism, not a resting place. It'

5. Acceptance. "OK," you say, "I'm cautiously optimistic and will invest a little in the new situation and see how it goes."


Opt Out. It's perfectly normal to assess a new situation and decide "This isn't for me".

6. Mastery. If one accepts the new thing, then a new sense of optimism, patience, commitment, and productivity returns.

Not a Straight-Line

We business-types like to make things nice and neat, especially when it comes to emotions. I've worked with managers who, once they've seen the model, developed project charts with dates attached:

November 5: Team will deny this happened. Leave them alone.

November 8: Angry with me. Leave them alone.

November  12: Depressed and tired. Give a motivational speech.

I really couldn't make that up. And you get the idea.

We're talking people. We're talking about individuals who, with individual constitutions and make-up, move along at different rates of speed. And, it's not a straight line. We all bounce around trying to make sense of things. When we finally accept that things actually are the way they are (reality), then we begin to work things through in a healthy, productive way.

Next: Management Action

If we're managing people through a change, what does support really look like?

Tune in for the next  article to find out.

In the meantime,  do check in with your own stories and thoughts on organizational change and the personal factors  that you've seen impact success and failure. Everyone (including me!) is ready to learn more.

If you'd like a little extra on today's topic, here are two that you might enjoy:

Surprise! CEO: "Hardly Any Real Change"

Initiating A Change? Think About This

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Change and "Hurry Sickness" at Work

  This article is the twenty-first in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.


"There is a thing called Hurry Sickness; we literally make ourselves sick by hurrying all the time to get too many things done -- work and personal stuff. Having too much to do seems to be so much a part of our lives these days that we just take it for granted and accept it..."

Jim Bolt at Fast Company wrote that when he realized just how much work he was doing at home on Sunday.

I'm not sure about the source of Jim's overload, but I am sure that it's something you and I can relate to without any difficulty.

Change and Hurry Sickness

When you're at your best, doesn't it feel as if you've got a rhythm or a groove going? (Just like the drummer in your favorite band).

Change interrupts our personal groove. When we make organizational changes, everyone's "inner drummer" starts pounding out a different beat until the groove comes back.

Does your organization allow time to regroup, rehearse, and learn the new arrangement?

If not, the very people wanting to initiate change may very well get in the way of success.

Cynical About Change

U.K.-based Management Issues took a look at the results of a survey done by virtual business school Pentacle. See if these findings strike a chord with you:

  • More than eight out of 10 managers surveyed believed that too many projects failed to result in anything that improved the profitability of their business.
  • And more than three quarters of senior managers underestimated the stress of repeated initiatives or how much such a regime of "permanent revolution" could unnerve their staff.

The Emotional Cycle of Change: This Week's Focus

I mentioned the work on death and dying done by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in a recent post about "Spirit and Change."  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it's not only important to understand but it serves as a practical diagnostic tool for any change you might be experiencing now. Here's what it looks like:

Join in the application and discussion this week...and add your own experiences and insights along the way!

If you enjoyed this and are involved with changes in worklife or life in general, I think you'll enjoy reading:

What Style Do You Use to Manage Change?

Making Changes: Does Everyone Know Why? Part I

Making Changes: Does Everyone Know Why? Part II

Tom Haskins' Problems With Making Change

How to Thrive on Change from Dr. EQ, Galba Bright

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Giving Thanks Since 1683

For those of us in the United States, today is the officially designated day of Thanksgiving. It's especially meaningful to our family.

Janluken1 In 1683, thirteen Mennonite/Quaker families from Krefeld, Germany, sailed for 2 1/2 months to escape religious persecution and settle what is known as Germantown  in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Our ancestor Jan Luykens and his wife, Maria, were among those original thirteen families.

Knowing persecution first-hand and thankful to God for their own deliverance, this small group began the first public protest of slavery in North America in 1688.

It has always struck me that those who experience deep thankfulness in their lives are also those who act on behalf of others who are oppressed. Yet we live in a time when "personal power" and financial power are touted as gods who will lead us into a personal promised land.

The truth of the ages shows otherwise. Thankfulness breeds a humility whose power surpasses any of that manufactured by the human condition. It focuses our attention on the needs of others and reminds us that we, too, have experienced some similar struggle. As a result, our eyes and hearts are opened in ways that allow us to act on behalf of a greater good.

So let us give thanks not only for what we have, but for what we are able to give.

And then give it.

(On Monday, November 26, we continue with the series on Change and look forward to seeing you there)

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Change: Does Your Spirit Lift You and Others Up?

This article is the twentieth in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

Uplifting No sooner did I insert today's title than my RSS reader popped up with Positive or Negative: What world view are you creating? from George Ambler. Do give it a read.

We business types seem to enjoy--and gravitate towards--discussions about Change. And it's almost always in the context of managing it, leading it, overcoming resistance to it...as if Change is somehow different than life.

It isn't. It is life.

Which means that how we approach our lives and what comes our way will influence how we approach things that are new and different at work. How we choose to respond to changes will determine our sense of success and  contentment, regardless of what comes our way.

It is, in fact, a spiritual issue. The world view that you possess will determine how you lead or respond to changes, and whether you will lift people up or cut them down in a display of anger or negativity.

I've been involved in leading or assisting  "change" efforts at numerous Fortune 500 firms. Some quite successful, most actually mediocre, a few downright ugly. So it's something that I've thought about often and quite deeply. Here are some conclusions I've reached:

1. Once you announce that you are undertaking a large-scale "Change", you've set the conditions for adversarial relationships. The human condition doesn't want change; it wants control. Therefore,

2. You have set in motion a struggle for control. Self-control, control of the situation, control of other people...

3. If you want to do something new or different, tell people you want to do something new or different. Tell them exactly what it is, why it is (reality), and how it will improve the business/workplace situation (hope). Then be prepared to "be there"--even more than usual--to support the effort.

Change models, for the most part, evolved from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' work "On Death and Dying." She did a magnificent job explaining the emotional cycle that people experience who are facing or dealing with death. In my experience, the model does, indeed, hold up in any situation involving changes. And it is for that very reason that the issue is always a spiritual one. People who are dying need to reconcile not only what is happening to them now, but what has happened in their entire lives--as well as resolving any unanswered questions regarding eternity.

Those of us facing changes at work do the same thing: we attempt to reconcile what is happening, what our career in the organization has been about, and what the unknown future will hold.

For that reason, I believe it's important for organization dwellers at all levels to have an understanding of the model. Everyone involved can then know how to respond in an uplifting or supportive manner when they recognize someone else experiencing a particular step along the way. (That also means painting reality for those who are stuck on Fantasy Island).

That said, my own experiences show this: Making "Change" the overarching theme in communication, training, and managing is a big mistake. It's not what you are about and it will drain the energy from the specific, meaningful improvements you have to make.

What to Do

If you truly believe in what you need to do, then do it. But first check out the spirit with which you are about to deal with the people who have to make it happen. What is it? Really?

If you are on the receiving end, is your response any different than to any other change in your life?

Whether  you are leading or following, the spirit with which you evaluate and participate will impact the accuracy and wisdom of your choices.  And those choices will determine business effectiveness and personal contentment in the days and weeks ahead.

It is a choice. And your choices are the only thing over which you have control. Be careful of the spirit with which you exercise them.

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Change: Reality, Hope, and Truth

This article is the nineteenth in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

"Virtue cannot separate itself from reality without becoming a principle of evil."
Albert Camus

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

You Can't Handle the Truth?Nicholson_2

We all struggle at times when it comes to delivering difficult news. Organizational changes usually fit into that category.

So it's easy to start rationalizing the truth by rationalizing that people won't be able to deal with it. "If I just schmooze a bit here and leave off a nasty detail there, it will be easier on everyone."

No. What we really mean is, "It will be easier on me."

What People Want When Change Starts

1. An accurate picture of reality.

2. A sense of hope based in the proposed new reality.

3. The whole truth about 1 and 2.

Change is really about adults making effective decisions. Decisions to commit, decisions to opt out, decisions to wait a bit, decisions about what might be best for their careers and their families...

None of those is possible without knowing the truth of the situation and why the impending changes make the future hopeful.

Making a Change? Ponder This

In Change: It's Personal, I shared two real-life examples of leaders who communicated in somewhat different ways. Both told the truth, but the second received a better response. Her announcement was face-to-face, two-way, and included how she felt about both the changes and the future. It turns out there is a sound psychological reason for her positive reception.

Psychology Today's  Allison Kornet explains: (bold face indicates my emphasis)

While studying how language patterns are associated with improvements in physical health, James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University, also began to explore whether a person's choice of words was a sign of deception. Examining data gathered from a text analysis program, Pennebaker and SMU colleague Diane Berry, Ph.D., determined that there are certain language patterns that predict when someone is being less than honest. For example, liars tend to use fewer first person words like I or my in both speech and writing. They are also less apt to use emotional words, such as hurt or angry, cognitive words, like understand or realize, and so-called exclusive words, such as but or without, that distinguish between what is and isn't in a category.

And in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Bella DePaulo, Ph.D. and Deborah A. Kashy, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University, report that frequent liars tend to be manipulative and Machiavellian, not to mention overly concerned with the impression they make on others.

In DePaulo's studies, participants (liars) described conversations in which they lied as less intimate and pleasant than truthful encounters, suggesting that people are not entirely at ease with their deceptions. That may explain why falsehoods are more likely to be told over the telephone, which provides more anonymity than a face-to-face conversation.

Lessons for Change Leaders

1. Even if you're telling the whole truth, your credibility may be diminished if you don't communicate in person. Why? Because the lack of face-to-face intimacy conveys an implicit undercurrent of deception. The listeners may not even realize it, but they know at some level that more truths get told in person than via another medium.

2. Tell people what you think and feel by using "I" and "my" vs. "Acme Widgetworks". People care how you see the reality--in detail--of the situation; and, specifically why you are hopeful about the future.

3. Changes prompt an entire range of emotions in everyone involved. That means you, too. An absence of honest emotional language sends the message that you actually don't care. People don't want a canned business speech. They want you. That means hearing the impact the changes are having and why, again, you are hopeful about the future in light of the current reality.

People can handle the truth. What they don't handle well is finding out later that they only heard part of the truth.

If you're tempted to put a little icing on the message, remember that Marie Antoinette thought it was a good idea to "let them eat cake." She didn't end up heads above her constituents.

photo source: www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/1792028/posts

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Change: It's Personal

This article is the eighteenth in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

"We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles but no personality."--Albert Einstein

Led_glowing In the past three weeks I've watched two different executives at two different corporations make brief speeches about serious, impending changes at their companies. Both were sincere about wanting to connect with their respective organizations.  Here are excerpts from each:


I want to let you know of the changes our executive group has designed to make our company more viable going forward. As you know, our profitability has been shrinking over the past four years. We have the ability to turn that around, and our shareholders deserve no less. As a result, here it I plan to implement beginning immediately: (List of items)


You are all here today for training and development. But I just found out a little more about what we've expected for some time now--that we need to change the way we approach our business in order to ensure the future of ____________, our work and relationships here, and the critical services that we provide for our 300,000 customers--some of which you know personally. The most drastic changes will involve laying off about 100 of our 5,000 employees.  So I want to use some of this time to tell you how I'm feeing about that; how I feel about the future of this company;  and what I believe we need to do together.

When I'm finished, let's sit down together and simply talk for a while. We've come through a lot together over the years so we'll work through this, too. So let's get started...

Both executives spoke the truth.

The second one--from observation--generated the more positive (Yep, let's do it!) response in the end.

"Oddly, the more personal something is, the more universal it is as well. When we dig deeper into truthful experiences, that's the work that really touches people and connects us all."--Bill Watterson, creator of the cartoon series Calvin & Hobbs

We're all different, so I'm curious to know which one would have connected, grabbed your commitment, and why?


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Change: Take a Pause for the Cause

This article is the seventeenth in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

"Logical pauses serve our brains, psychological pauses serve our feelings."--Stanislavski

Marty_allen_comedian Watch a really good stand-up comedian. You see pauses between jokes. Sometimes even a pause between syllables.

Sometimes they do it to allow the audience a chance to catch a breath or to create interest about what's coming next.


Because good comedians are masters of organizational change.

Night after night they move a new group of people from one intellectual and psychological state of being to another.

The Importance of The Pause

Psychological pauses build tension and heighten curiosity.

Logical pauses between words and sentences give an audience the time needed to piece together the key elements of the joke or series of rapid one-liners. When it all comes together, you've got a room filled with laughter.

Make "The Pause" part of your intentional change leadership.

Psychological: When you pause to create a "curious" state of mind, the tension makes people want to listen. That gives you the opening to help them learn.

Logical: Change initiatives mean new information and new experiences. Periodic, intentional pauses allow everyone time to make sense of what's happening and create new context.

Where can you insert intentional pauses in order to become a really good "Stand-Up" leader?

photo source: Wikipedia

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Change: Check Out Luc Galoppin

This article is number 16.5 in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

I'm somewhere between New Jersey and Seattle, but don't want to change the flow of change that we have going.

So I'm suggesting a look at Luc Galoppin's take on "resistance"--he's suggesting  Suspect Yourself First.

A kindred spirit.

Be back after a stop at baggage claim.

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Change: Success Starts Before the Change Begins

This article is the sixteenth in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

If you want to change an organization, you start by changing the patterns in which people talk together, the things they talk about, the frequency of their contact and the makeup of those who overhear them." --Art Kleiner, Who Really Matters

I would add: Start doing those things before you need acceptance for a new initiative.

Change Chips Are Earned Up Front

Most change models start at the point where someone shares a new vision or plan, then asks for enthusiastic support. But we're all poker players (whether we know it or not). We spend time unconsciously earning or collecting chips based on the frequency and quality of our interactions. When it comes time to ask for something, that stack of chips can mean a make-it-or-break-it hand. It looks like this:


So What Does This Mean?

If we're in a position to initiate something new or different, the time we've invested  building solid relationships can determine our ability to gain support and moment.  The leader who spends time playing corporate video poker may revel in his individual genius--but lacks the relational chips needed to convert that genius into action.

What are you doing today to build the stack necessary for a successful change?

Does your boss practice "starting change before it starts?"

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Change: How Does Your Company Manage Your Personal Changes?

Today's article is the fifteenth in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

"Change is not merely necessary to life - it is life."--Alvin Toffler

When You Are the Change

You are part of the system. Whether it's work, family, or your volleyball league, your presence--or lack of it--impacts the performance and equilibrium of those around you.

We love to wax poetic about intellectual models of organizational change. But how about real life? What happens when your life situation changes to the extent that you need to ask the system to make some temporary changes as a result?

Policy When Changes Change Your Change reflected a personal situation that asked others to alter agreements and expectations based upon "changes to a change". You can read the details here. What sparked the conversation was a question posed to a Senior VP of HR regarding how his company deals with serious, legitimate personal situations that require unusual amounts of time away from the normal work routine . He was understanding, yet the ultimate response was: "You have to remember, this is business."

OK, I get that. But that's more of a "code phrase" that says, "You know what's really important."

The issue for you and me at work is this: In the case of an exceptional personal change, how do employers respond to it? How does your employer--or you as a manager--deal with one-off situations that combine a legitimate pressing need with the needs of the organization?

What The Real-Life Experts Say

The question received such well thought-out responses, I thought you might like to learn from the breadth and depth of the thinking involved. I know I did. Each individual prompted a new angle on corporate policy, organizational character, individual character, litigation, and the over-arching importance of one's direct supervisor. These insights all come from someone who is a professional manager or entrepreneur.

(Bold type or italics are mine in order to highlight key phrases)

Joe Raasch:

What about the litigious society we live in? A private consulting company with six employees - easy to do the right thing. Once things get big, what's fair falls to the law v. what's right - unfortunately there is conflict and tension there.

e.g. Which is more important:

1.  Bob taking time off to care for a sick animal
2.  Sam taking time off to care for a sick relative

Would it matter that the animal is a service dog?  Or a house cat? 
Would it matter if the relative is a child, parent, cousin, or distant second aunt twice removed?

At some point, due to people's perception of fairness, companies that are liable to lawsuits have to draw a line (read: policy). This is the 'greater good' mentioned in your post.

Where the 'speed and need' works is when the entire corporate culture is one 'with a servant's heart' - the bigger the organization, typically, the rarer the possibility of this happening. One way companies get around the fairness issue is to leave some discretion to the local manager, and allow employees to donate vacation to individuals as they see fit.

Question for the readers: What would you do if you were the manager faced with this situation and worked in a bigger organization - one where the entire culture wasn't necessarily on board with doing what's right, but had policies?

Karin H. :

I find this a 'tough' one - tough to write down I mean. Tom's related post  talks about networking versus 20th century rules and regulations, strict policies if you like - and I agree with him.

My strongest feelings in regards of the 'problem' is: if the foundation of a company/business is firm, known to and accepted by all, employees would have an 'instinctive' understanding of what they can ask and where to draw the line. When they always have been treated with respect, in all regards, and have given the same respect back to the company the 'problem' ceases to be a 'problem'.

Like I said, tough to put into words.

Peter Vajda:

For me, the "problem" is linked to fairness. The question about what's fair if asked from the heart, instead of the mind, may result in a new/different perspective on what to do.

For those who view this issue from the perspective a small corner of a larger painting, they may see the "problem" as one of dollars, cents, legality, rules and "the past". Rumi said, "Out beyond right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field, I'll meet you there." Wonder what the conversation would be from that place, if all agreed to suspend their "past", their "logic" and their "why it can't work" frame and approached the question from the place of the heart where fairness has a different flavor. Just being curious without being judgmental as to what the real, real, real "problem" is.

Rather than repeat the past, doing the same things in the same way, reactive rather than responsive, what would happen if we looked at this "problem" in a different perspective, a heart-felt perspective? Perhaps then the future would not repeat the past. There's a "purpose" reality and there's a "business reality". For me, why some believe these two perspectives need to be at opposite ends of a continuum, never cto meld, never to merge, is the deeper, self-reflective, non-logical question.

When business and economic growth is based on the theory of individualism as opposed to a theory of "the collective", well, we see the results and it's not a pretty picture. Stand back 15 miles outside the planet and view the Earth. All good stuff? Hmmm.

Marketplace pressures frequently grind against spiritual values (read: not religious, but on a higher/deeper level of consciousness. Business people, if they choose, can consider tough questions that reverberate beyond the bottom line: How to handle layoffs? How much to pay people? How to reach out to others in a loving and compassionate way? How to react to unethical conduct? How to make money, and equally important, make meaning too?

We know that one of the greatest distances is that between the the head and the heart and nowhere is this more true than in the world of business. Like it or not we are all interconnected; resistance, denial, doubt or fear cannot change that fact. So, in the world of business, each one has the free will to make a change; each one also has "free won't". Life is choices. The challenge is to be curious about what's driving one's choices.

Robyn McMaster:

When change hits it can be slightly or terribly stressful... people need to feel valued as they grasp the skill and energy to adapt, which means encouragement through the process rather than a fast wink...

Wally Bock:

So what about "this is business?" It depends on where you hear it.

Sometimes it's the early warning sign of a coming shafting. This seems especially true in nonprofits when they start talking about how they need to be more businesslike.

Other times, it's a manager or HR person saying the equivalent of "Look, I know that it's not your fault, it's just your turn. But please understand that I have very little choice in what I'm about to do."

As in so many situations, it's often the manager that makes the difference. Here's an example. A young couple I know suffered the sudden loss of the woman's mother early this year.

Both worked for the same large company. Company policy allowed workers to share Personal Time Off (PTO) with others.

The woman knew that she would need more time than the bereavement leave her company allowed. In her department, the manager led an effort to take up a PTO collection for her. They gave her time to go deal with her grief and a maze of legal issues, along with time for days after her return to work when she just wouldn't be able to work effectively.

It was different for her husband. His boss told him that he could have his earned vacation time, but that he would have a counseling notice inserted in his file for not giving the required one month notice of intent to take time off. His boss told him that bereavement leave did not apply to him because his mother-in-law was not a direct relation He could appeal to HR, "but nobody ever does that." I'm sure if I'd talked to that boss he would have told me that he acted the way he did because "this is a business."

A week after returning to work, the husband quit to look for a new job. He's now employed by another large company. I contacted the woman's supervisor, with her permission, because I'm always looking for examples of great supervisors.

I praised him for supporting the woman who worked for him. I asked him why he was willing to give a person who worked for him so much time off.

His answer was that "this is a business." He said that the company had invested thousands of dollars in training for the woman. She was important to the team, in his view, and the sooner she was restored to full productivity, the better it would be for her and the company.

What strikes me most about this is that it was the same company. The company policies were the same. The rhetoric about "our people are our most important asset" was the same. The difference was in the actions of the boss of each member of the couple.

When it comes to personal changes, what does "This Is A Business" Mean To You?


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Change: When Changes Change Your Change

Today's article is the fourteenth in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

"We cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life's morning; for what in the morning was true will in evening become a lie." -- C.G. Jung, courtesy of Peter Vajda.

Climate_change I'm  frustrated.

But this isn't a personal rant, so please stay. It's about change, changes that change, and ultimately a workplace issue that deserves more genuine attention than it gets.

Those of you who stop by here regularly are familiar with the fact that my wife, Barb, had knee replacement surgery on October 1. It was originally intimated (rather strongly) that she'd be up and around and even driving in 5-6 weeks. So we programmed our expectations as well as my manner of doing business according to that schedule. I would care for her, the house, the meals, and the pets. Work with clients and writing here at All Things Workplace would happen a bit differently for a set period of time. Everyone around us, personal and professional, was understanding and "on board".

Now the expectation has changed. She's doing just fine according to the physical therapists and the makers of various painkillers. But it seems that the originally scheduled "change" period was somewhat optimistic and a bit unrealistic. It was based upon the doctor's best-known scenario to-date. The actual time period, according to the PT folks, will be two more months.

Changing the Change

What do you do? Well, you change your expectations, the time line, and all of the activities surrounding those. Here's where the story enters the business realm. Please see it through:

In order to make the necessary adjustments, I need to go back to my clients and re-adjust the re-adjusted schedule. But before I can do that, we have to line up friends and family to come to our home and, when I am away, even stay overnight. It also means having people who are capable and comfortable taking her to physical therapy. And, it means that she has to feel comfortable and confident with those who are the helpers.

Someone suggested that we hire "a service". Not going to happen. In the midst of a change, you want as much familiarity and trust as possible. Paying for a stranger, no matter how well-qualified, does not substitute for the warmth and comfort of being with family and friends. In fact, that kind of love is part of the recovery itself.

When This Happens, What Happens in Your Company?

Since I'm self-employed, I don't have to ask anyone for time off. I'm not worried about losing my job or my standing in the corporation. Of course, I'm not generating new business, either, and have to rely on the goodwill and understanding of current clients when something changes.  And, I've figured out a new schedule for writing articles daily here at All Things Workplace.

But I wondered how this kind of thing would be handled in a major corporation. So I asked a client (Senior VP--HR) of a company whose employee relations practices have been lauded as "outstanding" in major business magazines.

His response: "Well, that's always a tough one. But you have to understand that this is a business. If you had vacation time saved up you could use it all. And we always allow a few extra days for such things. It would be possible to ask for an unpaid leave of absence. And we would try our level best to make sure that nothing happened to your job. After a certain point, though, you have to understand that this is a business."

I've worked in and with large corporations for many years. I'm a card-carrying Capitalist. But the catch-all phrase, "This is a business", seems like the equivalent of winking your eye when you want someone to feel as if they are on the inside of an inside joke. It's an implicit disclaimer that really implies,  "You have to understand that our existence is a lot more important than yours." (But don't forget that our Annual Report says: "People Are Our Most Important Asset").

There are some wonderful HR pros out there who are regular contributors here and who have to face this sort of thing all the time.

What do you do in these situations in your company?
And, is it really an "HR" issue or one of overarching corporate philosophy?

I'm betting there are a number of readers interested in, and impacted by, these kinds of temporary--but normal-- life changes.


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Change: Reflect On These

Today's article is the thirteenth in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

Quotes Yesterday I mentioned that healthy growth--and change--involves reflection (the opposite of self-absorption and narcissism).

If we're going to tackle change, then why not do it while reflecting on the thoughts of some of the best. Even if you decide not to really change, these will look great in the Footer of your obligatory Powerpoint presentation:

Change Quotes for All Occasions

Change is not merely necessary to life - it is life.
-Alvin Toffler

Man has a limited biological capacity for change. When this capacity is overwhelmed, the capacity is in future shock.
-Alvin Toffler

Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you've got.
-Peter Drucker

Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.
Peter Drucker

We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.
-Peter Drucker

Things do not change; we change.
-Henry David Thoreau

It's not that some people have willpower and some don't. It's that some people are ready to change and others are not.
-James Gordon, M.D.

If you don't like something, change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.
- Mary Engelbreit

Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.
James Belasco and Ralph Stayer
Flight of the Buffalo (1994)

People don't resist change. They resist being changed!
-Peter Senge

If you have a favorite, add it in a comment and I'll use it in a future post!

If you liked this post and are enjoying the Change series, go to:


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Change: Where It Really Counts

Today's article is the twelfth in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.

Reflection_523 Do you think people--(would you?)--prefer to talk about the procedural and tasky parts of Change and leave the deeper, "personal change" part of it  alone?

That was the closing question in the previous post (number 11) on Change which resulted from Change: Reflection, Discernment, and Wisdom.

You might want to compare your own response with those from a wide range of business pros.

What Were Some of The Answers?

Entrepreneur Karin H.  and experienced management consultant Joe Raasch  both see the process and personal as intertwined, with the success of one directly linked to the other. Change aficionado Tom Haskins and author/consultant Jim Stroup added to my concern regarding pop-psych fads vs. the "real deal" of growth. Jim added that "the best thing for managers to do at work is to ground their thinking and actions in the work, not in themselves."

I really latched on to Dawna Jones' comment:

Do you have 12 years of experience or 1 year of experience 12 times. The difference is in the depth of understanding that was harvested from each experience. ...I think that there is a place to intentionally develop the consciousness skills because without them one cannot see clearly. Connection comes from seeing the wider vista of inter-relatedness.

No conversation about change, learning, and growth would be complete without input from Mr. EQ, Galba Bright:

As a serial reflector, I believe that reflection is by far the most efficient way to learn .. it enables a person to abstract and generalise, rather than having to directly experience an event in order to learn from it...

And the conclusion is...

. . . everyone acknowledges that accomplishment and growth are "two sides of the same coin"--an expression used multiple times in the comments. Yet I'm not 100% certain that the personal growth part is universally seen as something to be addressed intentionally.

You may chuckle at this, but it took me five days of serial reflection to write this post. This topic is so important to me that I wanted to read and re-read the thoughtful comments and not respond until I was crystal clear about the issue. (Waiting five days dropped my Blogtopsites ranking 31 places, proving that there is a price to be paid for seeking truth):-)

How About Visualizing Change in This Way?


We usually look at Change as a two-dimensional Task/Process effort. Both of those add to the outcome.

1. With a focus on Task, we're able to give and get Commitment.

2. When we examine our Process, we can adjust in order to maximize the effectiveness of the activities that we're performing in order to hit the goal. This is where most organizations spend time on analysis, during and after a project/change. I agree that this activity is genuinely important, necessary, and meaningful.

As I thought about it, though, something was wrong. Organizations aren't two dimensional because the people in them aren't two-dimensional. Besides, there is no such thing as an "organization" except in its document of incorporation. We're talking about a group of people who are connected in order to achieve.

3. As a result, long-term change comes from the personal changes that people undergo as a result of their experience and reflection.

Every company I know of wants to become bigger and better. Yet if we're going to examine the systems and processes in depth, then how can there be any growth without  encouraging people to intentionally examine themselves in depth and become bigger and better as a result ?

I think this may be where the confusion between personal growth and pop-psych du jour has led well-intentioned firms astray:

  • It's not about navel-gazing for the sake of navel-gazing. It's about seeking the truth about who you are, how you are, and what that means--personally and in the workplace. Self-reflection is the opposite of self-absorption.
  • It's not about 4 hours in a self-assessment designed to tell you whether you are a Bear or a Butterfly. It's about continuous attention to accurate and truthful information about how you are doing as well as encouragement, support, and re-direction when needed. Part of that encouragement is to take time to reflect on the underlying meaning of what you are hearing.
  • It's not about spending all day, every day contemplating everything you could have been or might become. It is about taking time to become keenly aware of who you really are and discovering how you can live a satisfying life while offering the most professionally.

If you look at the 3-D model vs. the two dimensions normally represented, what becomes obvious is that there is depth. No company I've ever worked with has told their recruiters, "Find me some shallow people."

Let's be truthful: the more people grow, the more they have to offer their organizations.

How can we help make that happen?

If you enjoyed this, I think you will also like:

How To Use Wisdom, Discernment, and Integrity in Your Organization

Is "Talent Management" Really Managing The Talent?

More Smart People, Change, and Willingness To Learn

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The Steve Roesler Group
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