Setting New Year’s Resolutions at Work? Better Get Your Mouth in Shape First

Provo, Utah, Dec 22, 2004 – Keeping your New Year’s resolutions this year may require more word power than will power. According to a recent VitalSmarts survey, 69 percent of people are setting New Year’s resolutions relating to things they want to change at work.*

Almost 86 percent said their path to success was currently blocked by a conversation they were either avoiding or not handling well. And while most want to make some significant changes, 95 percent have no idea how to speak up to get what they want.

“The right skills make all the difference. The people who routinely solve touchy problems at work know what to say and how to say it – they are masters at crucial conversations,” says Joseph Grenny, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High (McGraw-Hill). “When you learn how to talk through tough issues with your boss, peers, and senior management, you can resolve almost anything that has you bothered at work.”

Some common problems include:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • An unpleasant boss
  • An unreasonable workload
  • Not knowing how to ask for a raise
  • Lack of opportunity

Surprisingly, even though an overwhelming number of those surveyed thought they would fail in dealing with tough issues at work, 69 percent said they were going to try anyway.

“Don’t take a cue from the desperate,” says Grenny. “Before you step into a high-stakes conversation, you need to prepare. We’ve observed more than 25,000 influential people step up to tough conversations, and we know when you’re properly prepared you can talk about anything with just about anyone – and succeed.”

Grenny offers a few tips on how to have healthy conversations at work that produce real results:

Define what you want

If the problem has been bothering you for a while, there’s a chance you’ll enter the discussion in the wrong frame of mind. You may want to “set others straight” or “fix all of those people out there who are making life miserable for you.” If you allow these thoughts to control your conversation, others will sense this and become defensive.

Instead think about what you really want for yourself, for others and also for the relationship. Don’t focus on why something happened; focus on what you want to see change. Keep these goals in mind as you prepare for the conversation.

Start on safe ground

Start your high-stakes discussion by establishing something you both can agree on. Explain you want to work on an issue that will make things better for both of you. That means you have to think in advance how the changes will benefit the other person. Before telling them what you want, tell them why they should want it, too.


Do what you would do with any speech or presentation – practice before you address your audience. Sit down and write out what you might say and how you might say it. Ask a friend to play the role of the other person and practice expressing your views.

Be on your best behavior

Often we speak up poorly because we’ve judged the other person harshly. Those judgments can come through in our tone of voice, word choice, and demeanor, making us virtually ineffective at influencing the other person. Ask yourself, “Why a reasonable, rational and decent person would be doing what they are doing?” This mental reminder helps you from becoming angry, snippy or self-righteous.

*Survey results come from an unscientific poll of 211 people who responded to our December Web survey.


About VitalSmarts

Leaders in organizational performance and leadership, the founders of VitalSmarts have coauthored three books including two New York Times bestsellers Crucial Conversations (McGraw-Hill, 2002), and its newest title Crucial Confrontations (McGraw-Hill, 2004). VitalSmarts has trained more than 300,000 people worldwide including leaders of 300 of the Fortune 500 companies in these and others skills.

Note to editors: Joseph Grenny and co-authors Ron McMillan, Al Switzler and Kerry Patterson are available for interviews.

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