Category Archives: Crucial Applications


Staff Drama in Healthcare Puts Patients at Risk

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Discrimination at Work

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Politics: It’s How You Disagree

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Corporate Culture Chasm: VitalSmarts Research Finds Bosses Are Out of Touch with the Day-To-Day Experiences of Their Employees

Our latest study found a concerning gap between what managers say they want their company culture to be and what employees say is really valued by these same bosses. Specifically, leaders say they want innovation, initiative, candor and teamwork, but what employees feel is really valued is obedience, predictability, deference to authority and competition with peers.

Overall, the study of more than 1,200 employees and managers, found that employees have a much more negative view of their corporate culture than their bosses. And, the more senior a person is in the organization, the more positive their perception of their company culture.

And these perception gaps matter—a lot. When employees believed that what was really valued was obedience, predictability, deference to authority and competition with peers, they were 32 percent less likely to be engaged, motivated and committed to their organization. This perception also had a dramatic impact on their performance. They were 26 percent less likely to rate their organization as successful at innovating and executing.

To see more results from our latest study, download our infographic below.

Culture Chasm Inforgraphic_071916


Four Tips to Talk Politics – Even With Those Who Support the Candidate You Despise

Last month, we polled 1,866 of our newsletter readers and found that 9 out of 10 feel the 2016 elections are more polarizing and controversial than the 2012 elections. In fact, 1 in 3 have been attacked, insulted, or called names, and 1 in 4 have had a political discussion hurt a relationship.

The data shows most of these heated discussions take place in the following locations:
• the home (40%)
• the community (31%)
• the workplace (28%)
• on social media (26%)

And for most, talking politics is so bad that they just avoid speaking up altogether. In fact, 81% admit to avoiding political discussions at all costs; in general, people are far more restricted about who they talk politics with than they were in 2012. And the people they most avoid include coworkers (79%), strangers (70%), and neighbors (56%).

And yet, people aren’t fighting about the issues. Respondents report that many of the topics that were “hot” four years ago are no longer controversial.

In 2016, the issues people struggle to discuss include: foreign policy, gun control and terrorism. In 2012, people struggled to agree on: same-sex marriage, economic recovery, taxes, healthcare, education and the role of the government.

So if the issues aren’t lighting everyone’s fire, then it’s clear the candidates themselves are the toxic topic.

When asked to describe people who supported a candidate they didn’t like, the top ten most used adjectives included (in order): angry, uneducated, ignorant, uninformed, racist, white, narrow and blind.

However, we also probed to find formulas from those who successfully discussed politics with someone who held a dramatically different opinion. When asked what they did that worked, respondents most often used words like: agree, listen, common, open, respect, think, and ask.

By analyzing the tactics used by subjects who reported holding successful political conversations, we uncovered four tips for talking politics with others—even those voting for the candidate you despise the most.

1. Look for areas of agreement. Let the other person know you share common goals, even if your preferred tactics for achieving them differ.
2. Avoid personal attacks. While you don’t have to agree with the other person’s view, you can still acknowledge that his or her view is valid, rather than “idiotic” or “evil.”
3. Focus on facts and be tentative. Consider the source of your facts, and ask the other person to do the same. Ask two questions: Could the facts be biased? Could they be interpreted differently?
4. Look for signs of disagreement. If the other person grows quiet or starts to become defensive, reinforce your respect for him or her and remind him or her of the broader purpose you both share.

View the results of our study in the infographic below or download a copy for yourself.

Politics Infographic_051316


Pink Slips of the Tongue: VitalSmarts Study Reveals the Top Five One-Sentence Career Killers

A new study by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, authors of the New York Times bestseller Crucial Conversations, shows nearly everyone has either seen or suffered from a catastrophic comment. Specifically, 83 percent have witnessed their colleagues say something that has had catastrophic results on their careers, reputations and businesses. And 69 percent admit to personally committing a catastrophic comment.

The truth is, putting your foot in your mouth is easy to do. But can just any slip of the tongue be fatal to your career or are there some comments that are far more damaging than others? Grenny and Maxfield also uncovered the top five most catastrophic comments people made:

1) SUICIDE BY FEEDBACK: You thought others could handle the truth—but they didn’t.
How common? Experienced by 23% of respondents.
What it looks like:

“A co-worker made suggestions to a technical process in a meeting. Although he was more than qualified and his comments had merit, the manager took the suggestion as a personal insult. He verbally attacked this co-worker and put him in his place in front of everyone. My co-worker spent the next year trying to dig himself out of a hole. Everyone was afraid to associate too closely with him for fear of retribution. He was eventually pillaged by another firm that recognized his skills.”

“Our supervisor did not share with us important details about the reorganization of the company. My team was broadsided with issues that significantly impacted our work. I and others voiced concerns about the reorganization and we were completely shut down. Two of us were passed over for promotion. We felt it was retaliation for raising important issues for our unit. The person who got the promotion did not have the qualifications but he does schmooze the management.”

2) GOSSIP KARMA: You talked about someone or something in confidence with a colleague only to have your damning comments made public.
How common? Experienced by 21% of respondents.
What it looks like:

“I had recently found out my husband was cheating. At work, the company was circling the drain financially and morally. My department was one of the few in the green and was under pressure to perform even better. Fed up and frustrated with my current married boss flirting with peers (and triggering my own heartache), I blurted out to one of my staff—who turned out to be a friend of the boss—that the boss was sleeping with one of her married direct reports. My boss blamed me for that rumor. It took two years for her to find something to use to force me out of my job. In those two years, I received death threats, my car tires were slashed, and well-meaning peers even suggested I leave the state.”

“A friend and school teacher thought she was ‘talking’ in private on Facebook and made an insensitive (presumably funny) comment about all kids being germ bags, meaning they bring their germs to school. As luck had it, her social media privacy filters had been turned off. Parents saw the comment and were outraged. They went to the school administration and she was asked to resign. Her confidence was shattered. She hasn’t yet found another position in a school system.”

3) TABOO TOPICS: What it looks like: You said something about race, sex, politics or religion that you thought was safe, but others distorted it, misunderstood it, took it wrong, used it against you, etc.
How common? Experienced by 20% of respondents.
What it looks like:

“During an exchange with a much younger, less experienced nurse, an older nurse became exasperated after repeating the same instruction multiple times. She finally said, ‘Am I not speaking English?’ The younger nurse who was of Laotian heritage used this statement to claim racial profiling. As a result, the older nurse was treated like a social pariah, even though she apologized. Although the older nurse had extensive experience, all the other younger nurses no longer listened to her—excluding her from all conversation and social events.”

“A male coworker made an inappropriate sexual comment about an older female coworker. He said it too loud so more people heard it than he intended. He was the first to go in layoffs that happened a few months later.”

4) WORD RAGE: You lost your temper and used profanity or obscenities to make your point.
How common? Experienced by 20% of respondents.
What it looks like:

“Someone was frustrated by the project partner’s lack of response and decided to verbally confront this person in the heat of his frustration. He raised his voice and others around the interaction heard it. It was a very aggressive and unprofessional way to approach the situation. As this person’s leader, I had to administer disciplinary action which contributed to a year-end performance evaluation that will cost him his incentive.”

“One of my subordinate managers resigned verbally in a rage of anger, then proceeded to announce his resignation to all of his staff and our client only to try and retract it a day later. No luck, we accepted his resignation.”

5) “REPLY ALL” BLUNDERS. You accidentally shared something harmful via technology (email, text, virtual meeting tools, etc).
How common? Experienced by 10% of respondents.
What it looks like:

“About six or seven people were in an in-person meeting and one person was remote. We did a Lync screen share with the remote person so she could show something to the group. After a while, she evidently forgot she was sharing her screen. She started a separate messaging conversation with her boss. I (Scott) was the official leader of the meeting, but was still new to the organization. She chatted her boss, ‘Do you think it is possible Scott could be more incompetent than the previous person in this role?’ To which her boss responded, ‘Ha ha! Doubtful, but we’ll see.’ My predecessor in this role was in the meeting too. Finally, someone said, ‘Emily, did you know you are still screen sharing?’ She quickly took it down and tried to offer a quick, subtle apology. Apparently there were other issues with Emily’s boss and this was the straw that put him over the edge. Within two weeks of this incident, he was terminated.”

“Two employees were discussing the sexuality of our Director in a disparaging way in email and one of them accidentally hit ‘reply all’ and all of the administrators saw the comments. The two employees were terminated the same day.”

The stories illustrate why we call these verbal blunders, catastrophic. You can literally ruin your career with just a few words. In some cases, these comments do reveal people’s incompetence, their unsavory moral compass, or their true colors which may be ill-suited for the corporate culture. And when it comes to discrimination, racism, or violence, there are clearly comments that should never be tolerated in the workplace—or any place.

And yet, so many of these comments are uttered by well-meaning and talented employees who maybe just had a bad day. According to the data, every one of us is bound to make an unintentional slip of the tongue or misjudge a situation at some point during our career. And when you introduce the X factor of technology into the communication equation, all sorts of things are bound to go wrong despite our best intentions. So when, not if, we put our foot in our mouth, what can we do to ensure the results of our verbal blunder aren’t catastrophic, but rather recoverable?

Join bestselling author Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, as they discuss the skills for recovering from catastrophic comments in their complimentary webinar on March 22 at 1:00 p.m. EST. To register or watch the archive recording, visit

View the results of our study in the infographic below or download a copy for yourself.


How to Increase Student Success Through Communication

New research by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield reveals a discouraging communication gap between parents and teachers that has potential to affect a child’s success. Teachers feel parents don’t communicate major changes in the home and parents feel teachers don’t share revealing details about their child’s behavior in the classroom.

To bridge the gap between what parents and teachers want to hear and what the two parties actually communicate, Grenny and Maxfield suggest both take action at the beginning of the school year.

For Parents

1. Over-communicate. Use the beginning of the school year to build and strengthen your relationship with the teacher. Share your child’s interests, talents, and background that will help the teacher connect with and best serve them. During the year, update the teacher on any changes in their life, home, or friend group that could affect the mental, emotional or physical health of your child—such as illness, death, marital status of parents, etc.

2. Swap contact details. Make sure the teacher knows the best time and method to contact you.

3. Partner with your child’s teacher. Reach out. If you have a concern about your child, don’t wait for a teacher to bring it up to you. If you have a question, ask. Teachers work incredibly hard to provide the best for students and often must look after hundreds of them. And don’t forget: a simple thank you goes a long way in strengthening the partnership between teachers and parents.

For Teachers

1. Make a call. Use calls or home visits before the school year begins to build and strengthen the relationship. Introduce yourself and share something specific and positive about the child’s academic and character strengths. Share your vision of the teacher-parent relationship as a partnership that is crucial to the child’s growth. Invite parents to share critical information with you and explain the best time and method to get in contact with you. Consider giving the parent a postcard or visual reminder.

2. Send a family survey. Collect essential information about both the student and the family. Learn the student’s strengths, hobbies and unique talents. Ask about the parents and other adults in the child’s life. Learn about family history and family priorities that will help you better connect with and serve their child.

3. Invite parents. Don’t wait until report card conferences to invite parents into the school. Plan a family academic night, math night or literacy night. Increase attendance at these conferences by planning early and using all available methods of communication—the school website, newsletter, etc.

4. Share gratitude and praise with parents regularly. Use quick texts, notes, and emails of gratitude or praise. These build a deepening sense of trust. Keep an open mind about family situations and intentions.

View the results of our study in the infographic below or download a copy.