Tag Archives: layoffs

How Do I Say That Category

How to Disagree About Politics And Still Stay Friends

Joseph Grenny, coauthor of Crucial Conversations, shares a tip to talk with someone who has opposite political views from you. Turns out, with the right frame of mind, it’s possible to disagree and still stay friends.


Crucial Conversations QA

Rebuilding Trust After Layoffs

Dear Crucial Skills,

As a result of recent layoffs at our company, there is a lot of distrust between our management team and senior leadership. We’ve all been through Crucial Conversations Training. How can I use crucial conversations skills to rebuild trust and get the two groups talking again?

Two Groups Talking

Dear Two Groups,

Thank you for your timely question. For many, this scenario also occurs in the home as people struggle to build trust between a spouse or a child. When a crisis happens and choices are made that we may or may not agree with, it can be difficult to rebuild trust and get two groups or individuals to hold productive dialogue.

To answer your question, let me first review some important concepts and then provide a few suggestions.

Concept #1: In our thirty years of research and observation, one of the key findings we’ve uncovered is that all relationships, teams, families, and organizations have problems. The difference between the good and the best is not how many problems they have, but rather, how they resolve those problems.

Holding crucial conversations is about rapidly and respectfully resolving problems. And yet, as you’ve experienced, in tough times people often feel compelled to solve a problem rapidly, but at the expense of respect. Sometimes they do this because of urgencies, sometimes it’s just their style. Either way, this rapid and disrespectful approach causes others to disagree and lose trust. Layoffs certainly fit in that category as well as budget cuts, spending decisions, outbreaks of anger, and lack of involvement.

Concept #2: When held well, a crucial conversation can help you catch problems early, maximize input, make better decisions, and take more committed action.

When crucial conversations are avoided, distrust builds on both sides of an issue. As that distrust continues to rise, confidence or interest in quickly holding the very conversations that could help also decreases. So beware of avoiding the very crucial conversations your team may be facing for too long.

Suggestion #1: Meet with your team to talk through the issues ASAP.

As you’ve all been through Crucial Conversations Training, begin your dialogue with some key questions: “What do we really want: for us, for senior leadership, for our relationship?” “What should we do right now to get what we really want?”

I imagine that what some team members want is an apology or an assurance that their jobs are safe, or that they will not be kept in the dark and surprised if more changes arise. Also ask these key questions: “What are the key reasons for the feelings of mistrust?” “What do we really want going forward?”

Suggestion #2: As a team, identify the things you need to work on.

What do you and your team members need to do to build trust within your group? What do you need to do to build trust with the senior leadership team? Often agreeing and living a few specific behavioral commitments, or ground rules, will help the team see they can trust each other to make and keep commitments. Here are a couple of examples of commitments you can make:

1. We will keep confidential what is spoken in confidence.
We will speak well of all colleagues and coworkers regardless of level or department, and if we have an issue we will speak to the individual privately and respectfully.

After you have made these commitments, regularly ask each other how you are doing, what has gone well, and what you need to improve on. Too frequently, we have agreements about budget or work behaviors, but not about teaming behaviors. Several weeks of setting and living these ground rules can help build trust within the team.

Suggestion #3: Recognize your role in building trust and improving relationships.

Instead of asking, “What should senior leadership do?” ask “What can we do to improve our relationship with senior leadership?” Also remember to master your stories and ask “Why would a reasonable, rational, decent person act in the way they did?” Remember that when it matters most, we often do our worst. If your team will give senior leadership the benefit of the doubt and conclude that maybe the company’s financial standing is more complex than they realize, then you can, with mutual purpose, invite your boss or members of the senior leadership team to dialogue. Your purpose in this conversation is to reach a mutual understanding. The apology or the assurance that some employees are looking for may not be forthcoming, but if you engage in a process that is built on mutual purpose and is safe for all parties, you’ll make progress.

This advice is equally applicable to personal or family relationships. Crises, bad behaviors, or ineffective decisions can damage trust in these familial relationships. Often, an appropriate and sincere apology is enough begin dialogue.

When there is an opportunity for a crucial conversation, there are only three options: avoid it, face it and hold it badly, or face it and handle it well. The most common problem is avoidance. Silence and time cure so very few issues. If you can put issues on the table and work at resolving them rapidly and respectfully, then trust is likely to increase.

Best wishes,

Crucial Conversations QA

Facing a Potential Layoff

Dear Crucial Skills,

I’ve been with the same company for twenty-five plus years. It is a good company. We have had three “workforce reductions” in the past six years. I feel another one coming. I am fifty and therefore vested. However, at fifty-five, my early retirement pay would go up. Even though I have always received the highest reviews, I still feel that I could be next. How do I approach management about this? In the past, supervisors and managers have said that they have no input into who gets let go. I do not believe this. Is there anyone in management that I should approach about securing my future? And how should that dialogue go?

Worried in Texas

Dear Worried,

It sounds like your concerns about possible “workforce reductions” are justified because you have seen three of them in your company already. You are right to not let this subject become an “undiscussable.” Certainly if you don’t talk it out, you will act it out, and the possibility of being let go will affect your performance, your interactions, and your emotional well-being. You feel another layoff coming and definitely should talk to your management about this. Your question becomes, “How?”

Choose which manager to talk with by following your chain of command. Go first to your boss; then, if your boss isn’t able to answer your questions, request a conversation with his or her boss. You don’t want to create new problems by appearing to bypass your boss or by “ambushing” a senior leader.

Okay, so what do you say to your boss?

Let’s start by identifying what you don’t do. Don’t make accusations: “This company doesn’t care about its older workers!” Don’t start with an “I” statement of emotion: “I feel so betrayed!” These statements are sure to create defensiveness and take the conversation away from effective dialogue. Rather, begin your dialogue by stating the facts. For example: “We’ve had three workforce reductions in the last six years. I’ve noticed that each reduction is preceded by a fall in revenues, profits, and market share. The last three quarters have been trending down in each of these metrics. Even though I have consistently received high reviews, past managers have told me they have no input as to who stays and who is let go.”

By beginning with the facts, you minimize defensiveness and begin on common ground. People tend to agree on the facts, so they decrease the likelihood of an argument. By stating the facts, you also help your boss understand the reasons for your opinions.

Next, tentatively share your stories. In a way that shows you are open to consideration, share the assumptions and conclusions you are drawing based on your set of facts. The meaning we create from our experiences and data are our stories. Don’t dress up your opinions as facts. Take responsibility for the subjective nature of your conclusions and make room for other points of view. For example: “I’m beginning to think another workforce reduction is likely if not inevitable, and that my good performance will not protect me. I’m also wondering if my age makes me more vulnerable.”

Having stated your facts and shared your stories, you should ask the questions that are on your mind. Doing so invites others to disclose their knowledge and opinions and allows you to test your data and assumptions. Could you be mistaken? Is your data accurate and complete? Is there another way to interpret the facts? For example: “Is management planning another workforce reduction? Do my high reviews offer me any protection? Do you have input into these types of decisions? Does my age make me vulnerable? Help me understand what’s likely to happen.” Your next step is to listen well and ask clarifying questions.

This approach does not guarantee you’ll get the whole truth about what’s going on. Factors like management policy and corporate strategy still exist. However, this approach does dramatically increase the likelihood that your boss will dialogue with you and not get defensive or think ill of you. Crucial conversations skills are not methods of controlling or manipulating others. These skills do help to open up crucial subjects so you and others can talk about and revisit these issues as developments occur without great discomfort or unease.

By following this approach you might gain insights that will confirm or disconfirm your concerns and suspicions, enabling you to choose your response based on more accurate information and conclusions.

All the best in your crucial conversations,