Reconcile: 1 a : to restore to friendship or harmony <reconciled the factions> b : settle, resolve <reconcile differences> 2 : to make consistent or congruous <reconcile an ideal with reality. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010.
You and I wouldn't think about going through life without reconciling our bank accounts, ensuring that deposits, withdrawals, and balances are accurate. We know that unreconciled accounts can lead to overdraft charges and painful penalties. So we do our best to sit down, sort through the facts and figures, and when we see an error we do what it takes to reconcile the account. The longer we hold off, the more we risk creating a financial deficit.Workplace Reconciliation
The same dynamic holds true for on-the-job accounts: relationships. We talk about the importance of credibility, integrity, influence, and trust. But do we take the time to sit down and reconcile real and perceived wrongs with the people whose trust we need and value?
I'm seeing a couple of workplace phenomena that demand relational reconciliation in order to move ahead free, unencumbered, and "in relationship":
1. The protracted economic situation, along with its uncertainty (we want control) and attendant downsizing, is prompting normally relaxed people at all levels to lose their cool. Things are being said and done "in the moment" that are leading to disciplinary action and strained relations between people who have to work closely together to "get it done." Intervening to stop "it" and take disciplinary action is the right thing to do. However, although it stops the undesirable behavior, it doesn't re-start the relationship in a satisfying way to all those involved.
2. 360 Feedback. The Merriam-Webster definition #2 above mentions reconciling an ideal with a reality. That's what 360 Feedback is all about: surfacing any differences between intentions and actual impact. If you've ever been on the receiving end of a stack of 360 comments that were a total (negative) surprise, it's easy to feel "put upon" and defensive. It's equally easy to want to go on the offensive and even to make a biting remark or two about the results.
Both instances demand a follow-up session, albeit a bit different for each.
In example 1, someone did something offensive. That means, when things cool down, it's important for the individual to sit down with any others involved and:
a. Admit the error in judgment and the ensuing behavior
Those who were impacted need to:
a. Acknowledge that it was hurtful, and how, without belaboring the point. (The worst thing that can happen is saying nothing at all or "Oh, that's ok; it wasn't that bad." It was, or you wouldn't be there.
b. Thank the person for caring enough to take time to reconcile the relationship.
Both parties then need to express (if truthful) the wish to move on together and restore a mutually respectful working relationship.
Example 2 is a bit different, yet still requires a conversation. When people take time to offer feedback, especially the kind that requires numerical ratings and narratives, they've made an investment. Like corporate surveys, participants want to know the outcome and what, if anything, is likely to change.
For the sake of example, let's say a manager has received in-depth feedback from direct reports. A follow-up session would have this kind of framework:
a. Thank the people for their willingness to invest in his/her development.
b. Share the over-arching themes--not the details--of the data.
c. Acknowledge that there are clearly areas for development. Ask for any needed clarification and suggestions for specific changes that would lead to improved performance.
d. At the next regularly scheduled meeting, take time at the outset to let the direct reports know what the focus of the changes will be, after considering their suggestions. Ask for verbal reinforcement when a change is seen. Likewise, if something isn't happening as it should, invite continued reminders, especially "in the moment."
Healthy workplaces require healthy relationships. What's happening in your working world where reconciliation could move people, and the organization, toward a better place?