Tag Archives: Management

How Do I Say That Category

Stress Is No Excuse for Bad Behavior When Getting Work Done

Emily Gregory, vice president of delivery operations, shares tips for managing coworker stress before it gets to be overbearing and unacceptable. For more on speaking up when it matters most, visit crucialskills.com/saythat.

Crucial Conversations QA

Dealing with Resentment at Work

Dear Crucial Skills,

In our hospital, we have a person who made a grave mistake during surgery. As the manager’s pet, she was not disciplined or reprimanded, but anyone else would have been fired on the spot. The rest of the staff noticed the special treatment given to this individual and are extremely resentful. How do I, as one of those staff members, interact with the offending person without letting my resentment show?

Sincerely,
Resentful Coworker

Dear Resentful,

We studied this very problem in our research, Silence Kills, and found that 84 percent of healthcare professionals observe colleagues take dangerous shortcuts when working with patients and yet less than 10 percent speak up about their concerns.

I applaud you for raising your concerns. Nobody wants to work in an atmosphere of resentment that could compromise your paramount concern of patient safety. However, the situation you describe is complicated. There are many parties and probably many perspectives on the same set of facts. Let’s begin by examining your concerns.

1. Ask yourself, “What do I really want?” Think about what you want long-term for yourself, the other person, and for your relationship. This is what I learned from your question:

  • You want fairness and justice. You think your peer is “the manager’s pet,” receives “special treatment,” and perhaps should have been disciplined, reprimanded, or even fired.
  • You want to make sure your team provides patients with the safest, best care possible.
  • You want a positive set of relationships so people don’t feel resentment toward one another.

2. Master your stories. Each of these concerns is based on a set of facts and/or a series of incidents, including the mistake that happened during surgery. But different staff members, and your manager, may interpret these same facts in different ways. All of you are telling yourselves stories about what these facts mean.

Treat your story as a story, not as a fact. Your story should be your best, most honest interpretation of what the facts mean. But also look out for what we call “clever stories”—interpretations that let you off the hook for feeling resentful and letting your feelings show.

Interrogate your story with two questions: a) “Do I really have all the facts I need to be certain my story is true?” and b) “Is there any other story that could fit this same set of facts?” Let’s examine two of the stories you’re telling yourself:

Your story about fairness and justice: What are the facts or incidents that combine to make you tell yourself a story about injustice? How confident are you that your story is true? Here are a few questions to consider:

It sounds as if you are holding your peer accountable for not being disciplined. Shouldn’t that concern be with your manager more than with your peer?

I wonder whether you and your manager are telling yourselves different stories about the “grave mistake.” Your manager may not have witnessed the mistake and that may mean he/she has less information. On the other hand, your manager may have interviewed your colleague as well as others who were there and this information might be both important and confidential.

Your story about patient safety: Any time you have a concern about patient safety you need to deal with it. It’s one of those non-negotiables. However, before you have this crucial conversation, examine your story.

It would be easy to tell yourself the story that your manager is putting friendship above patient safety. That would be a very troubling conclusion. But is it true?

In the old days, errors were often blamed on whoever touched the patient last. Every error was considered “operator error.” Then the pendulum swung toward “system error.” Errors and near misses were seen as caused by faulty processes and procedures rather than individuals. Of course, sensible people demand both capable systems and capable individuals. Neither is sufficient by itself. Do you see how this interplay complicates the stories you and your manager tell about the very same incident?

I don’t have enough information to know whose story is closer to the truth. But I think there is a lot of room for people who value fairness, justice, and patient safety to disagree. Have this conversation with your manager, but don’t assume he or she has bad intentions.

3. Start with the facts, then tentatively share your story. Take the time to prepare for this conversation. Try writing it out as a script and then review it to make sure you:

  • Avoid accusations or any “hot” words or phrases.
  • Begin with your good intentions—what it is you really want. Explain that this conversation is about patient safety. That is your mutual purpose.
  • Start with the facts. These facts include the incidents you are fairly sure you and your manager will agree on. This is your common ground.
  • Tentatively tell your story. Draw the pattern these facts are forming for you. But remember, your manager may see the facts—and almost certainly sees the pattern—differently than you do. Be careful to be respectful of your manager’s story.
  • Stop so that your manager can share his or her perspective. Understand that some of the facts your manager has are likely to be confidential.

I also encourage you to review our latest study, The Silent Treatment, at www.silenttreatmentstudy.com or register for The Silent Treatment learning series to learn how to solve critical communication breakdowns and avoid dangerous mistakes in the hospital.

David

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.
2.
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,
Al