What is Emotional Agility, and How Can You Manage Your Emotions in the Workplace?

What is emotional agility? Emotional agility is defined as one's ability to deal with stressors and discomfort at work and in life. Read this blog post to learn more about being emotionally agile and how to manage your emotions in the workplace.


It’s a buzzword we hear all the time: emotional agility. So you may be asking, what exactly IS emotional agility? It’s defined as one’s ability to deal with stressors and discomfort in work and life. People are preprogrammed to deal with situations in certain ways, but these types of reactions don’t always allow room for emotional growth.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space,” explains Dr. Susan David, an award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist. “This space is born out of emotional agility. In that space is our power to choose. And it’s in that choice that lies our growth and freedom.”

When people are emotionally agile, that space gives them the opportunity to deal with difficult and stressful situations and become resilient. Dr. David elaborates: “Emotional agility is being sensitive to the context and responding to the world right now—and that allows us to move into a space where we are managing our lives more in accord with our values.”

Stop Managing Emotions at Work, and Start Experiencing Them

“Firstly, it’s normal, healthy and good to experience the full range of emotions,” Dr. David continued. It’s unrealistic to try to focus on being happy and positive all the time. This hyper-focus lessens one’s adaptability and agility.

The workplace demands a lot of employees. No matter how stressful or taxing, employees are expected to hide their emotions at work and only portray positive emotions. However, research shows that experiencing difficult emotions helps people successfully navigate complex situations at work and at home.

Dr. David believes all emotions are necessary for employees to succeed in their careers: “There is no collaboration … without potential conflict. There is no innovation … without the potential of failure. And if there’s no openness to the emotions, the disappointment and the loss that comes with failure, well then you’re not going to get real innovation.”

Becoming Emotionally Agile

Even with the best intentions, things don’t always pan out like we plan. Unexpected or non-ideal outcomes in the workplace can elicit rigid or preprogrammed reactions to emotions, like ignoring them, bottling them up, placing blame, or replaying situations over and over in one’s head.

“Rigidity in the face of complexity is toxic,” Dr. David said. In order to become emotionally agile, people need to acknowledge and understand their emotional responses but not take them as fact. For example, if a person is feeling a stress response, it doesn’t mean everything about their life has to be stressful. By understanding these emotions, one can learn from them and ultimately move forward.

Dr. David elaborates: “The radical acceptance of our emotions — even the difficult ones, even the messy ones — is the cornerstone to resilience, to effectiveness, to success, to relationships, and to truly thriving.”

Bonus: Tips & Tricks to Cope With Stressful Workdays

  1. Compartmentalization (when negative emotions from home affect your work). Try your best to leave personal matters and issues at home. When you commute to work, use that time to tell your mind to let go. You can also compartmentalize work-related stressors so that your emotions at work don’t spill over into your personal life too.
  2. Deep breathing & relaxation techniques. This will help with emotions like anxiety, worry, frustration, and anger. Take deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly until you calm down. Slowly count to 10. You can take a walk to cool down and listen to some relaxing music. Talk to someone who can help you calm down.
  3. The 10-second rule. This is especially helpful if you are feeling angry, frustrated or even irate. If you feel your temper rising, try and count to 10 to recompose yourself. If possible, excuse yourself from the situation to get some distance, but remember to reassure the other party that you will return to deal with the matter.

Sources:

SOURCE: Olson, B. (5 November 2019) "What is Emotional Agility, and How Can You Manage Your Emotions in the Workplace?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/what-is-emotional-agility


Consider these 4 strategies to boost employee engagement

Strategic compensation and benefits packages are at the foundation of any high-performing culture. HR departments can boost employee engagement is by developing a holistic employee benefits package. Read this article for four strategies to help boost employee engagement.


The foundation of any high-performing culture is always a strategic compensation and benefits package. Employee engagement at any company requires the involvement of the HR department — and one way HR teams can boost engagement is by developing a holistic benefits package.

Creating a benefits plan that suits a diverse multi-generational staff is key to keeping staff engaged at every age and in every department. What were once non-traditional benefits are now becoming mainstream. For example, offering student loan repayment plans instead of 401(k) incentives to motivate younger staff, or voluntary benefit choices for employees with specific health issues.

Even the way an office is ergonomically designed can benefit employees. Adding a walking treadmill or offering a standing desk option helps foster productive work, which directly leads to greater employee satisfaction.

This is a complex equation, and getting it right is challenging. We have hard, candid conversations with employers surrounding what enjoyable, relevant work means. From there, we can establish the purpose behind engagement, creating goals and strategies that offer recognition, growth and the opportunity to voice ideas.

Employees want holistic support for their overall health and wellbeing. Employers are expanding their view of employee benefits to include many more aspects of health and wellbeing — from work environment, convenience services and onsite facilities, to attendance and leave policies, flexible work arrangements and organizational discounts.

What do employers gain from these benefits? A healthy, adaptable and engaged workforce prepared for the future of work and ready to drive business success.

What we know works

The key to engaging employees with benefits is to apply a strategic design thinking methodology, a planning method that starts with an understanding of an organization’s specific needs.

One size fits one, not all. In the past, efforts were made to make one program work for everyone, but every staff member in the workforce now expects answers for their individual needs, concerns and health risks. Offering flexible benefits or voluntary coverage is a powerful tool — and can help employers gain a productivity boost with a healthier, more engaged workforce.

Align benefits with the whole person. Benefits should align with all aspects of employees’ lives in order to truly support health, wellbeing and work-life balance. This includes the social systems they are part of, their passions, their work habits and personal life events. Nutrition advice, health literacy training and support for personal interests are all possibilities for boosting engagement, physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

Look at the data. Organizations have access to more health data than ever before — and technology makes it easier to analyze — but few employers are fully leveraging this information to design benefits that engage their employees. By analyzing and correlating demographic, health and employee-provided data from varied sources employers can identify which benefit programs workers truly value — and which deliver value.

Use both new and traditional channels to communicate. Organizations must actively market benefits to employees using engaging, relevant and timely communications. Companies can also communicate through technology.

When staff have access to benefits that best support their individual health and wellbeing, organizations will benefit.

SOURCE: Rider, S. (30 October 2019) "Consider these 4 strategies to boost employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/4-strategies-to-boost-employee-engagement-with-benefits


Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: 3 Steps to Active Listening

How many periods do your sentences end in compared to question marks? A common complaint from employees about HR professionals is that they don’t listen to employees. Read the following blog post from SHRM for three practices of active listening.


When I work with executives and managers, a common complaint I hear about HR professionals is "They don't listen. They just tell."

So when I work with HR professionals, I encourage them to adopt three practices of active listening:

  1. The period-to-question-mark ratio.
  2. The EAAR listening method.
  3. Confront, then question.

The Period-to-Question-Mark Ratio

When you're engaged in a conversation, what's the ratio of your sentences that end with periods to those that end with question marks? If you're like most people, the ratio is overwhelmingly tilted toward sentences that end with periods. This could show that you are telling people what to do more often than you are looking for consensus on how to solve a problem. When you engage in a discussion with an executive, manager or employee, keep the ratio in mind. Strive to correct the imbalance by making yourself ask questions. The fact that you ask matters more than what the question is.

People I've coached have found that keeping the ratio in mind acts as a self-regulating device to ask more questions.

The EAAR Listening Method

E: Explore

A: Acknowledge

A: Apply

R: Response

It's a sequence. Begin the discussion with an exploratory, open-ended question: "Ms. Manager, what are the reasons that led you to conclude Mr. Employee should be fired?" "Tell me more." "Please share some examples." "Help me understand."

Once you've explored the other person's position and reasons for it, move to acknowledgment. Get the person to acknowledge that you understand his or her point. "So, Ms. Manager, if I understand you correctly, you believe Mr. Employee should be terminated because of the following reasons… Is that correct?

Although critical, the acknowledge step is often overlooked. Instead of confirming the understanding, the listener makes an assumption, which often proves erroneous and leads to unnecessary conflict. The EAAR method eliminates this possibility. If the person says, "No, that's not my position," simply go back to the exploration step: "I'm sorry. Please explain what I missed."

In your response, apply portions of what the person said, even actual words the person used. Even if your response isn't substantively what the person originally sought, this approach creates optimal conditions for acceptance.

"Ms. Manager, I agree with you that Mr. Employee's behavior is unacceptable. What you described [list the employee's actions] makes a compelling case. However, because of the following reasons, I think termination now would be premature and present undue legal risk.

"Nevertheless, I'm happy to work with you on an intervention strategy. If Mr. Employee is willing and able to close the gap in your legitimate management expectations, he will do so. If not, we will be in a much stronger position to terminate his employment, and I will support you."

Many HR professionals have told me that when they've used the EAAR method, conversations they feared would turn ugly became positive. Instead of a clash of wills and arguments, the discussion became collaborative and solution-oriented.

Confront, Then Question

What if you are the bearer of bad news? You must deliver a message you know won't make the recipient happy.

The approach here is to confront, then question. Make a short opening statement. State your position succinctly and without elaboration. Next, switch to question mode.

You can think of this approach as beginning the EAAR method with a short opening response to frame the conversation.

"Mr. Executive, based on our investigation, we found that Mr. Employee in your department engaged in actions that violate our anti-harassment policy. Although we understand he has been with the company for a long time and is one of your best performers, given the seriousness of the misconduct, we believe the appropriate action is termination of his employment."

Next, go to question mode: "What do you think?" "What questions do you have?" "How do you see things at this point?"

Assuming the executive doesn't respond by saying "Great idea! Go for it!" and wants to argue his or her point, pivot to exploration and start the EAAR process at that point. "I want to make sure I understand you, so please tell me what you agree with, what you disagree with and your reasons."

After that comes your acknowledgment: "Let me make sure I understand you. You agree that Mr. Employee's behavior was unacceptable and violated policy. However, you disagree that the proper remedy is termination. Instead, you recommend a suspension and written warning for these reasons. [List the reasons.] Is that accurate?"

Now you're ready to apply. From what the executive said, extract what you can use in your response.

"I appreciate the fact that you support our investigation and finding of misconduct. Our only disagreement is the appropriate remedy. Your points about Mr. Employee's long service and stellar performance are valid. Yet for these reasons [list them], I still believe termination is called for. How do you suggest we resolve our differing views? For example, should we present them to the CEO and let her decide?"

These types of conversations can go in all sorts of directions, including ones you don't anticipate. That's OK, so long as you don't lose sight of the value of questions during a dispute.

Avoid cross-examination questions, such as "Isn't it true that … ?" Your questions should not state or imply your view. They should be curiosity-based, as you're genuinely trying to find out what the other person thinks.

The confront-then-question approach allows you to go directly to the heart of the matter. Even if you sense rising tension and hostility, the negative emotions will soon be arrested by your open-ended, exploratory questions.

When HR professionals make a commitment to active listening, executives, managers and employees become their biggest fans instead of being their biggest critics.

SOURCE: Janove, J. (9 October 2019) "Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: 3 Steps to Active Listening" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/putting-humanity-into-hr-compliance-active-listening-.aspx


Addressing Marijuana Usage and Testing in the Workplace

With the legalization of cannabis around the country, many employers find themselves asking how they should address drug testing in the workplace. Read this blog post from UBA for more on addressing cannabis usage and testing in the workplace.


Recreational cannabis legalization is rolling out across the United States, and many employers are faced with a big, hazy question: how should they address drug testing in the workplace? Eleven states have legalized recreational marijuana and 33 others have legalized medical marijuana. It’s safe to say that in the next few months or years this topic will hit nearly every employer nationally.

Your leadership team may have questions as you unpack this issue. How is cannabis influencing safety and productivity on the job? Is your company at risk for a lawsuit if medical marijuana use doesn't align with the organization's zero-tolerance drug policy? How can you develop a defensible policy that is logical and effective?

It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by these questions, but it is important to know that you have options for ways to structure your company’s policy on cannabis usage outside of the work environment. We will weigh the pros and cons of pre-employment testing, random testing, selective testing, and not testing at all.

Pre-Employment Testing

Most corporations that rely on manual labor for profit, such as transportation or advanced manufacturing, require a drug screening prior to hire and then routinely afterward. Historically, testing positive for a drug in any category (amphetamines, opiates, narcotics, hallucinogens) has been grounds for termination or retraction of a job offer.

However, these zero-tolerance policies as a barrier to entry are becoming tricky. With the onset of cannabis legalization, many state and local jurisdictions are implementing anti-discrimination laws that protect employees who might test positive for marijuana in mandatory employer screenings. Under these laws, a person could file a hefty lawsuit resulting in expensive settlements for corporations that deny a job offer to a medicinal or recreational cannabis user. Because of this legal risk, many employers are slashing the upfront drug testing to attract and successfully onboard more people, and avoid lawsuits.

Random Testing

It is common sense that employees shouldn’t be impaired while on the job, especially in manual labor operations. However, it is nearly impossible to determine whether someone is high at work with a drug test, because cannabis can remain in the system for up to 30 days or more following even a single usage. The majority of court cases indicate that employers can’t fire someone for using marijuana when they aren’t on the clock. Because of this, more employers will need to use observation and performance review tactics to make termination decisions, and then be prepared to face any legal repercussions the employee may initiate.

For many employers, the risk of not testing is far greater than the implications of hazardous workplace accidents as a result of cannabis impairment. For example, Uber uses routine, random drug screenings to ensure the safety of its independent drivers and their passengers. It is up to each organization to weigh the risks involved in safety, legal, and productivity loss when determining if a random test initiative is the right fit.

No Testing/Selective Panel Testing

If your business or organization does not use manual labor to produce revenue, an option is to forgo testing entirely. For example, in offices and other professional environments, the risk of workplace accidents due to impairment is much lower.

Due to legalization and shifting cultural perceptions, many employer policies treat cannabis usage in an employee’s personal life as a non-issue, comparing it to alcohol. Many millennials say they prefer to smoke marijuana than to drink alcohol, and as that generation ages into corporate leadership roles, their attitudes will begin driving corporate policy.

If your team shares a relaxed perspective on cannabis, but is not quite ready to forgo drug testing entirely, a great option is a selective panel test. These do not test for THC (the active ingredient in cannabis), but can register other illegal substances. Selective panels are available to an employer in up to 14 criteria. This option can ensure workplace safety and productivity without getting into the stickiness of cannabis use.

SOURCE: Olson, B. (11 September 2019) "Addressing Marijuana Usage and Testing in the Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/addressing-marijuana-usage-and-testing-in-the-workplace


U.S. Jobs Increase by 130,000 in August

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released a report showing that U.S. employers added 130,000 jobs this past August. The report also showed that the unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 3.7 percent for the third month in a row. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


U.S. employers added 130,000 jobs in August, coming in below economists' expectations, and the unemployment rate held at 3.7 percent for the third straight month, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report.

July's employment total was revised down from 164,000 new jobs to 159,000. In the past three months, job gains averaged 156,000 a month after revisions.

"Today's jobs report shows slowing private-sector job growth and slowing wage growth, which—while expected this late in the recovery—is somewhat disappointing after the rapid gains of the past two years," said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at employment marketplace ZipRecruiter.

On Sept. 5, the ADP Research Institute and Moody's Analytics reported private-sector growth of 195,000 new jobs, better than economists' expectations of about 160,000 jobs.

"Despite the slower growth in jobs added, labor force participation did perk up, a sign that the healthy labor market is still drawing in workers from the sidelines," said Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao.

The labor force participation rate—which includes people who are working and those looking for work—ticked up to 63.2 percent, one of its highest readings in years. The proportion of the population currently employed is at 60.9 percent, its highest point since December 2008. And the employment-to-population ratio for workers aged 25-54 reached 80 percent for the first time since January 2008.

Zhao said that the increases signal that the tightness of the labor market is putting upward pressure on labor force participation despite an aging population pulling it down.

Michael Stull, senior vice president at the staffing and recruiting firm Manpower North America, said other positive takeaways from the report are better than expected wage growth and strong hiring in the professional and business, financial and health care sectors.

Job gains in August were led by professional and business services (37,000 new jobs), which includes many technology jobs and the nation's booming health care industry (23,900). Other industries showing gains include finance (15,000) and construction (14,000).

"Health care and professional services have both grown strongly across 2019, carrying the labor market despite weakness in the goods-producing sectors," Zhao said. "Additionally, the increase in temporary help services [15,400 jobs] is a good sign that employers are not cutting back on the most flexible parts of their workforces in the face of recession chatter."

However, Pollak noted that the BLS reported that the private sector only added 96,000 jobs, marking a slowdown from the pace of job growth over the last two years.

Industries like mining and manufacturing are struggling. Mining employment fell by 5,600 jobs and manufacturers have seen a marked slowdown in job creation, with only 3,000 jobs added in August. "In 2018, manufacturing job growth exceeded 10,000 jobs in 11 of 12 months, but this year job growth has been below 10,000 or even negative in six of eight months," Pollak said. "Trade policy uncertainty and a global manufacturing slowdown seem to have brought the 2017-2018 manufacturing boom to a halt."

The retail sector lost 11,000 jobs in August, continuing a trend of month-over-month declines for the seventh consecutive month. "Despite strong consumer spending, increasing labor costs and the rise of e-commerce are keeping retail hiring down even as we begin to enter the holiday hiring season," Zhao said. "We'll be watching the next few reports for signs that the holiday retail hiring season has slowed or that the latest round of tariffs are having a larger effect on the retail industry."

Juiced by Census Hires

U.S. jobs data is now—and will for some time be—inflated by a temporary spike in government hiring for 2020 Census workers. The federal government added 28,000 workers (excluding U.S. Post Office hires) to its payrolls in August. The majority of those—25,000 temporary workers—will go door-to-door over the next several weeks to verify addresses ahead of the 2020 count.

The Census Bureau expects to hire about 40,000 people for this preliminary duty and about 500,000 workers next year for the actual canvassing.

Unemployment Stays Low

The BLS data showed that the national unemployment rate remained below 4 percent for the 18th consecutive month. The number of unemployed people held at 6 million.

"The unemployment rate remains near its lowest level in 50 years, again signaling the strength of the labor market for workers as the number of job openings continues to exceed the number of unemployed workers," Zhao said.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) rose from 1.1 million to 1.2 million in August and accounted for 20.6 percent of the unemployed.

The U-6 unemployment rate—a broader measure capturing both the unemployed, underemployed and those too discouraged to seek work—continued its long decline and held at 7.3 percent for the second month in a row. There were 467,000 discouraged workers in August, about the same as a year ago.

"There are still more discouraged workers than we would expect, given the low unemployment rate," Pollak said. "Discouraged workers are those who are out of work but have not applied for a job in the past four weeks because they think there are none available or none for which they qualify," she explained. "If there were fewer discouraged workers, labor force participation and employment rates would be higher, and more vacancies would be filled."

Wages Inch Up

Average hourly earnings increased 11 cents to $28.11, following 9-cent gains in both June and July. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2 percent.

"At this point in the expansion, we'd expect wage growth to pick up, but it is continuing to stall," said Nick Bunker, a Washington, D.C.-based economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab. "Wage growth continues to be strongest for workers in lower-wage industries."

SOURCE: Maurer, R. (06 September 2019) "US Jobs increase by 130,000 in August" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/bls-hr-jobs-unemployment-august-2019.aspx


Illnesses, Deaths Tied to Vaping

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a health alert warning that severe pulmonary disease is associated with vaping products. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more about vaping and how to address it in the workplace.


The use of electronic cigarettes, also known as vaping, is believed to be responsible for five deaths and 450 severe lung injuries in what appears to be a nationwide epidemic, according to new reports.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated and produce vapor that simulates smoking. They can resemble regular cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pens, USB sticks and other everyday items. They do not burn tobacco, but the device heats a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals.

While most employers ban smoking in the workplace, their policies don't always extend to e-cigarette products. However, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health alert on Aug. 30 warned that severe pulmonary disease is associated with using e-cigarette products. The agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, launched a multistate investigation into the lung illnesses on Aug. 1.

"Although more investigation is needed to determine the vaping agent or agents responsible," wrote Dr. David C. Christiani of the Harvard School of Medicine, "there is clearly an epidemic that begs for an urgent response." He shared his comments in the Sept. 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, along with the preliminary report "Pulmonary Illness Related to E-Cigarette Use in Illinois and Wisconsin."

The CDC is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, states and other public health partners and clinicians to determine what is sickening users, and in some cases resulting in fatalities. On Friday, it suggested that people refrain from using e-cigarette products during its investigation.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles about this topic from its archives and other trusted sources.  

5 Deaths Linked to Vaping. Officials Are Urging Consumers to Stop. (Chicago Tribune)

How Are You Handling Vaping at Work? (SHRM Online)

More States Ban Vaping, E-Cigarette Use in Workplaces (Bloomberg)

Florida Adds Vaping to Regulated Indoor Smoking (SHRM Online)

SOURCE: Gurchiek, K. (6 September 2019) "Illnesses, Deaths Tied to Vaping" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/Pages/Illnesses-Deaths-Tied-to-Vaping-.aspx


Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: Stop Tolerating Toxicity

Toxic workplace relationships impact not only the employee and their well-being but also organizational success and the well-being of employees' family members. HR departments who have a detox mission and address toxic workplace relationships can prove incredibly valuable to their organizations. Read this blog post to learn more.


In my prior career as an employment attorney and in my current one as an organizational consultant and coach, I have encountered numerous toxic workplace relationships. The cost of these relationships—to organizational success, employee well-being and the well-being of employees' family members—is astronomical.

And the greatest tragedy is this: Almost all of this loss, pain and suffering is preventable.

Why are toxic workplace relationships so common? And why are they tolerated?

The answer to the first question is that good people make bad decisions. Typically, employee relationships start out fine. Employees cooperate and collaborate in their relationships with their bosses and peers.

But then something goes awry. A trust gap opens. The employee does not address the problem promptly, directly and constructively, but the employees' avoidance instinct kicks in. Nothing constructive is done to close the trust gap. As a result, the problem festers and grows. Eventually, any remaining trust evaporates, and the relationship degenerates into aggression, passive aggression or both.

Note that I'm not talking about the incorrigible "work jerk," whose behavior should never be tolerated. Rather, I'm talking about people stuck in toxic work relationships producing jerkish and other negative behavior.

Managers and HR practitioners succumb to the avoidance instinct, too. Although aware of the toxicity, they don't intervene and are wary of wading into others' dysfunctional relationships.

What are the costs of tolerating toxicity?

  • Personal suffering. The immediate parties may think they have nothing in common, but they do: They're equally disengaged and miserable.
  • Work loss. Toxic relationships do nothing to improve the quantity or quality of work, customer service or on-the-job innovation. There is increased absenteeism and what Colleen McManus, SHRM-SCP, an HR executive with the state of Arizona, calls "presenteeism," in which people are at work but not focused on work, dwelling on negativity instead of doing their jobs properly.
  • Secondhand anxiety. Co-workers who witness the toxic behavior suffer, as does their contribution to the organization. They are the truly innocent victims.
  • Collateral damage. Employees affected by workplace toxicity typically bring their stress home. This doesn't reduce their stress; rather, it elevates their loved ones' stress. "So true! In the most serious situations," McManus said, "I have seen greater instances of alcoholism and domestic violence due to problems at work."

How HR Can Help

HR departments with a detox mission can prove incredibly valuable to their organizations and the people in them. It's not hard to identify toxic relationships. The challenge is taking action.

I can say with confidence that intervention is always better than tolerating toxicity. You'd be surprised how easily many toxic relationships can be reset when a skilled third party steps in. HR professionals are ideally positioned to help employees stuck in toxic relationships get back on track. Or, if there's too much baggage, HR professionals can facilitate a respectful relocation of the parties to different positions in the organization. This method is a good way to start.

Many times, a toxic relationship is rooted in an unwitting and unaddressed offense one employee gave the other. As a result, the offended party started behaving differently toward the offender, which produced more offensive behavior, and so on. "I'm always surprised," McManus said, "when I ask the parties to the conflict what a resolution looks like. Often, it's simply an opportunity to be heard."

She adds that a sincere apology goes a long way toward rebuilding trust. "They feel validated, which is important to them."

Sometimes there's a structural misfit in the workers' roles that needs to be clarified, or how the jobs interact needs to be modified. HR can help figure out how the jobs can function without recurrent friction. "This is our profession's bread and butter!" McManus said.

There may be a personality conflict, in which case the parties need better understanding of how to interact with people whose styles differ from theirs. If that can't be achieved, though, there can be an agreement to disagree and respectfully move on—whether to a different position inside or outside the organization.

An HR team that makes a commitment to identify and resolve toxic relationships is empowered by the CEO, and is supported by the leadership team will prove to be incredibly valuable to its organization and the people in it. HR team members can directly coach others to resolve conflicts and show managers how to coach their employees who are stuck in toxic relationships.

There's also a risk management, compliance and claim-prevention component. In my employment lawyer days, most of my billable hours arose from conflict caused by toxic workplace relationships. An HR profession with a detox mission will become painfully costly to my former profession.

SOURCE: Janove, J. (Sept 06, 2019) "Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: Stop Tolerating Toxicity" (Web Blog Post) Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/putting-humanity-into-hr-compliance-stop-tolerating-toxicity-.aspx

The answer to the first question is that good people make bad decisions. Typically, employee relationships start out fine. Employees cooperate and collaborate in their relationships with their bosses and peers.

But then something goes awry. A trust gap opens. The employee does not address the problem promptly, directly and constructively, but the employees' avoidance instinct kicks in. Nothing constructive is done to close the trust gap. As a result, the problem festers and grows. Eventually, any remaining trust evaporates, and the relationship degenerates into aggression, passive aggression or both.

Note that I'm not talking about the incorrigible "work jerk," whose behavior should never be tolerated. Rather, I'm talking about people stuck in toxic work relationships producing jerkish and other negative behavior.

Managers and HR practitioners succumb to the avoidance instinct, too. Although aware of the toxicity, they don't intervene and are wary of wading into others' dysfunctional relationships.

What are the costs of tolerating toxicity?

  • Personal suffering. The immediate parties may think they have nothing in common, but they do: They're equally disengaged and miserable.
  • Work loss. Toxic relationships do nothing to improve the quantity or quality of work, customer service or on-the-job innovation. There is increased absenteeism and what Colleen McManus, SHRM-SCP, an HR executive with the state of Arizona, calls "presenteeism," in which people are at work but not focused on work, dwelling on negativity instead of doing their jobs properly.
  • Secondhand anxiety. Co-workers who witness the toxic behavior suffer, as does their contribution to the organization. They are the truly innocent victims.
  • Collateral damage. Employees affected by workplace toxicity typically bring their stress home. This doesn't reduce their stress; rather, it elevates their loved ones' stress. "So true! In the most serious situations," McManus said, "I have seen greater instances of alcoholism and domestic violence due to problems at work."

How HR Can Help

HR departments with a detox mission can prove incredibly valuable to their organizations and the people in them. It's not hard to identify toxic relationships. The challenge is taking action.

I can say with confidence that intervention is always better than tolerating toxicity. You'd be surprised how easily many toxic relationships can be reset when a skilled third party steps in. HR professionals are ideally positioned to help employees stuck in toxic relationships get back on track. Or, if there's too much baggage, HR professionals can facilitate a respectful relocation of the parties to different positions in the organization. This method is a good way to start.

Many times, a toxic relationship is rooted in an unwitting and unaddressed offense one employee gave the other. As a result, the offended party started behaving differently toward the offender, which produced more offensive behavior, and so on. "I'm always surprised," McManus said, "when I ask the parties to the conflict what a resolution looks like. Often, it's simply an opportunity to be heard."

She adds that a sincere apology goes a long way toward rebuilding trust. "They feel validated, which is important to them."

Sometimes there's a structural misfit in the workers' roles that needs to be clarified, or how the jobs interact needs to be modified. HR can help figure out how the jobs can function without recurrent friction. "This is our profession's bread and butter!" McManus said.

There may be a personality conflict, in which case the parties need better understanding of how to interact with people whose styles differ from theirs. If that can't be achieved, though, there can be an agreement to disagree and respectfully move on—whether to a different position inside or outside the organization.

An HR team that makes a commitment to identify and resolve toxic relationships is empowered by the CEO, and is supported by the leadership team will prove to be incredibly valuable to its organization and the people in it. HR team members can directly coach others to resolve conflicts and show managers how to coach their employees who are stuck in toxic relationships.

There's also a risk management, compliance and claim-prevention component. In my employment lawyer days, most of my billable hours arose from conflict caused by toxic workplace relationships. An HR profession with a detox mission will become painfully costly to my former profession.

SOURCE: Janove, J. (Sept 06, 2019) "Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: Stop Tolerating Toxicity" (Web Blog Post) Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/putting-humanity-into-hr-compliance-stop-tolerating-toxicity-.aspx


Tracking Employee Life Cycle

How are you engaging and retaining employees? The HR landscape is constantly changing. With each new generation that enters the workforce, expectations change. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more about tracking the employee life cycle.


We who study Employee Engagement are consistently looking for trends in hiring and the direct effect on retention. The Human Resource landscape is slippery, no other profession is tasked with such a diverse cycle of management skills. The ability to find great talent, train, engage and promote are an unenviable set of tasks. Recruiters mirror salespeople, Total Rewards professionals have to have an acumen for numbers and the disparate technologies that represent the progression from hiring through promotion can make one's head spin.

So, we stare down the inevitable:

How do we create a synchronized strategy from recruitment to retirement.... ????

Let's start with the job market....

As a new generation of talent enter the workforce are expectations changing?

Are those escalated in age better equipped with irreplaceable experience?

Is a recession coming?

Do elite talents have any interest in job-hopping?

Those who are great at what they do are probably not interested in switching jobs and there are others who simply do not have the proper qualifications. So, staffing professionals are tasked with finding people who are qualified, able to engage and humble in their entry-level financial expectations.

Prospective employees have a few simple expectations:

  • A product/service they believe in
  • Leadership that is visionary yet receptive to change
  • A culture of transparency
  • A manager they enjoy serving

Sounds simple enough but the ability to pull together these traits under a common mission is difficult. Companies are often great at producing quality products but lacking in employee development. Again, our staffers are called upon to sell the good qualities of the company while side-stepping what isn't working.

Sustaining Engagement....

Getting them in the door is one thing. Delivering on promises is another.

Once employees are trained, they need to develop the confidence to acclimate to the culture. Our extended HR team has to sustain the attraction of the hiring process with technology that is accessible and intuitive. HR is then called upon to make sure there is a vessel for strong manager/employee communication while keeping leadership abreast of the action in the trenches.

Take inventory:

  • Does training scale to specific functional traits while enhancing soft skills?
  • Is your Human Capital Management technology integrated and engaging?
  • If employees and managers aren't on the same page, how will you know?
  • Does your CEO recognize general employee goals?

Train, Reward, Challenge and Eliminate Silos!

Seeing departures before they happen.....

If exit interviews are part of your engagement strategy, you are a step behind. The popular counter is to have HR integrate "stay interviews". If you need to administer a survey for employees to validate your existence, your workplace relationships might be fractured.

Managers should have an accountability plan for their employees that is more parts celebration of achievement than calling out deficiencies.

Recognize in public, discipline is private.

If in every day you leave people with a firm understanding of what is working and where they need development, there is no guesswork. People know when they haven't performed to their fullest potential, calling them out twice a year doesn't work.

Ask yourself: do our hiring enticements continue through our day-to-day engagement proposition?    

We all just want to represent something we believe in among people we respect and an ever-evolving challenge cycle complete with rewards at every step of progression.

Originally published on Dave's Weekly Thought blog.

SOURCE: Kovacovich, D. (6 August 2019) "Tracking Employee Life Cycle" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/tracking-employee-lifecycle


A 16-Year-Old Explains 10 Things You Need to Know About Generation Z

Generation Z, a cohort that represents one of the most diverse generations in U.S. history, is beginning to graduate and join the workforce. Continue reading this article from SHRM for 10 things the world should know about Gen Z.


Think about what life was like when you were 16. The clothes you wore, the places you shopped. What was most important to you then?

Whenever I speak to an organization eager to learn about Generation Z, I always ask that question. I get responses that include everything from the fleeting fashion trends of the day (bell-bottom jeans, anyone?) to the time-honored tradition of getting a driver’s license.

What I hope to achieve as a 16-year-old in 2018 is probably not all that different from what anyone else wanted when they were my age. It’s the way people go about reaching their goals that evolves over time—and that’s what also forms the basis of most generational clashes.

For the past several years, the world has been focused on understanding and adapting to Millennials, the largest and most-educated generation in history. Born between 1981 and the mid-1990s, this group has inspired important dialogues about generational differences and challenged all industries to evolve to meet their needs. In the workplace, Millennials have helped drive a greater focus on flexibility and collaboration and a rethinking of traditional hierarchies.

Of course, any analysis of generations relies on generalities that can’t possibly describe every person or situation. It’s important to remember that generations exist on a continuum—and that there is a large degree of individual variation within them. The point of this type of research is to identify macro trends among age groups that can help foster workplace harmony. Essentially, it’s a way of attempting to understand people better by getting a sense of their formative life experiences. The generation to which one belongs is among the many factors, such as race, religion and socioeconomic background, that can shape how a person sees the world.

But there’s little doubt that gaps among the U.S. generations have widened dramatically. For example, an 8-year-old boy in the United States who grew up with a tablet will likely have more in common with an 8-year-old in China who used a similar mobile device than he will with his 70-year-old U.S. grandparents.

In thinking about the generations, a key thing to understand is that these groups are typically categorized by events rather than arbitrary dates. Generation Z’s birth years are generally recognized as 1996 to 2009. The start year was chosen so that the cohort would include only those who do not remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The belief is that if you were born in 1996 or later, you simply cannot process what the world was like before those attacks. For Generation Z, the War on Terror has always been the norm.

Like all other generations, mine has been shaped by the circumstances we were born into, such as terrorism, school shootings and the Great Recession. These dark events have had profound effects on the behavioral traits of the members of Generation Z, but they have also inspired us to change the world.

Earlier this year, XYZ University, a generations research and management consulting firm where I act as the director of Gen Z studies, surveyed more than 1,800 members of Generation Z globally and released a study titled “Ready or Not, Here Comes Z.” The results were fascinating.

We discovered key characteristics about Generation Z and what the arrival of my generation will mean for the future of work. At 57 million strong and representing the most diverse generation in U.S. history, we are just starting to graduate from college and will account for 36 percent of the workforce by 2020.

Needless to say, Generation Z matters. And it is more important than ever for HR professionals to become familiar with the following 10 characteristics so that they know how to engage with my generation.

1. Gen Z Always Knows the Score

Members of this generation will put everything on the line to win. We grew up with sports woven into the fabric of our lives and culture. To us, the NFL truly does own a day of the week. But it’s more than just professional, college or even high school teams that have shaped us; it’s the youth sports that we played or watched throughout our childhoods. This is the generation of elite young teams and the stereotypical baseball mom or dad yelling at the umpire from the bleachers.

Our competitive nature applies to almost everything, from robotics to debates that test mental fortitude. We carry the mindset that we are not necessarily at school just to learn but to get good grades that will secure our place in the best colleges. Generation Z has been thrown into perhaps the most competitive educational environment in history. Right or wrong, we sometimes view someone else’s success as our own failure or their failure as our success.

We are also accustomed to getting immediate feedback. A great example is the online grading portals where we can get frequent updates on our academic performance. In the past, students sometimes had to wait weeks or longer to receive a test grade. Now, we get frustrated if we can’t access our scores within hours of finishing an exam—and sometimes our parents do, too.

2. Gen Z Adopted Gen X’s Skepticism and Individuality

Generations are shaped by the behavioral characteristics of their parents, which is why clumping Millennials and Generation Z together is a mistake. In fact, when it comes to each generation’s behavioral traits, Millennials are most similar to their parents—the Baby Boomers. Both are large, idealistic cohorts with influences that will shape consumer and workplace behavior for decades.

Members of Generation Z, on the other hand, are more akin to their parents from Generation X—a smaller group with a skeptical, individualistic focus—than they are to Millennials. That’s why many generational traits are cyclical. Just because Millennials and members of Generation Z are closer in age does not necessarily mean they share the same belief systems.

3. Gen Z Is Financially Focused

Over the past 15 to 20 years, HR professionals have been hyper-focused on employee engagement and figuring out what makes their workers tick. What drives someone to want to get up in the morning and come to work for your organization?

As it turns out, workplace engagement matters less to Generation Z than it did to previous generations. What’s most important to us is compensation and benefits. We are realists and pragmatists who view work primarily as a way to make a living rather than as the main source of meaning and purpose in our lives.

Obviously, we’d prefer to operate in an enjoyable environment, but financial stability takes precedence. XYZ University discovered that 2 in 3 Generation Zers would rather have a job that offers financial stability than one that they enjoy. That’s the opposite of Millennials, who generally prioritize finding a job that is more fulfilling over one that simply pays the bills.

That financial focus likely stems in part from witnessing the struggles our parents faced. According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trust, “Retirement Security Across Generations: Are Americans Prepared for Their Golden Years?,” members of Generation X lost 45 percent of their wealth during the Great Recession of 2008.

“Gen X is the first generation that’s unlikely to exceed the wealth of the group that came before it,” says Erin Currier, former project manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project in Washington, D.C. “They have lower financial net worth than previous groups had at this same age, and they lost nearly half of their wealth in the recession.”

Before Generation Z was decreed the ‘official’ name for my generation, there were a few other candidates, including the ‘Selfie Generation’ and ‘iGen.’

Employers will also need to recognize that members of Generation Z crave structure, goals, challenges and a way to measure their progress. After all, the perceived road to success has been mapped out for us our entire lives.

At the same time, it’s important to be aware of the potential for burnout among young overachievers—and to incorporate fun and breaks into the work environment and provide access to healthy escapes focused on relaxation and stress relief.

4. Gen Z Is Entrepreneurial

Even though they witnessed their parents grapple with financial challenges and felt the impact of the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, members of Generation Z believe there is a lot of money to be made in today’s economy. Shows like “Shark Tank” have inspired us to look favorably on entrepreneurship, and we’ve also seen how technology can be leveraged to create exciting—and lucrative—business opportunities with relatively low overhead. Fifty-eight percent of the members of my generation want to own a business one day and 14 percent of us already do, according to XYZ University.

Organizations that emphasize Generation Z’s desire for entrepreneurship and allow us space to contribute ideas will see higher engagement because we’ll feel a sense of personal ownership. We are motivated to win and determined to make it happen.

5. Gen Z Is Connected

Before Generation Z was decreed the “official” name for my generation, there were a few other candidates, including the “Selfie Generation” and “iGen.”

I find those proposed names both condescending and misleading. While it’s often assumed that Generation Z is focused solely on technology, talking face to face is our preferred method of communication. Sure, social media is important and has undoubtedly affected who we are as a generation, but when we’re communicating about something that matters to us, we seek authenticity and honesty, which are best achieved in person.

“Gen Z has the power of technology in their hands, which allows them to communicate faster, more often and with many colleagues at one time; but it also brings a danger when it’s used as a crutch for messages that are better delivered face to face,” says Jill Katz, CHRO at New York City-based Assemble HR. “As humans in the workplace, they will continue to seek empathy, interest and care, which are always best received face to face.”

XYZ University’s research found that cellphones and other electronic devices are primarily used for the purpose of entertainment and are tapped for communication only when the face-to-face option isn’t available.

However, successfully engaging with Generation Z requires striking a balance between conversing directly and engaging online. Both are important, and we need to feel connected in both ways to be fully satisfied.

6. Gen Z Craves Human Interaction

Given that members of Generation Z gravitate toward in-person interactions, HR leaders should re-evaluate how to best put the “human” aspect back into business. For example, hiring processes should emphasize in-person interviews more than online applications.

A great way to engage us is to hold weekly team meetings that gather everyone together to recap their achievements. Although members of Generation Z don’t necessarily need a pat on the back, it’s human nature to want to feel appreciated. This small gesture will give us something to look forward to and keep us feeling optimistic about our work. In addition, we tend to work best up against a deadline—for example, needing to have a project done by the team meeting—due to our experience facing time-sensitive projects at school.

7. Gen Z Prefers to Work Independently

Millennials generally prefer collaborative work environments, which has posed a challenge to conventional workplace cultures and structures. In fact, many workplaces have eliminated offices and lowered cubicle walls to promote more interaction. Yet recent studies indicate that totally open offices may actually discourage people from working together. The noise and lack of privacy could prompt more people to work at home or tune others out with headphones. Since different types of work require varying levels of collaboration, focus and quiet reflection, ideal workplaces incorporate room for both togetherness and alone time.

It’s important to be aware of the potential for burnout among young overachievers—and to incorporate fun and breaks into the work environment and provide access to healthy escapes focused on relaxation and stress relief.

The emphasis on privacy will likely only intensify under Generation Z. Unlike Millennials, we have been raised to have individualistic and competitive natures. For that reason—along with growing research into optimal office design—we may see the trend shift away from collaborative workplaces toward more individualistic and competitive environments.

8. Gen Z Is So Diverse That We Don’t Even Recognize Diversity

Generation Z marks the last generation in U.S. history where a majority of the population is white. Given the shifting demographics of the country, we don’t focus as much on someone’s color, religion or sexual orientation as some of our older counterparts might. To us, a diverse population is simply the norm. What we care about most in other people is honesty, sincerity and—perhaps most important—competence.

Indeed, we have been shaped by a society that celebrates diversity and openness. A black man occupied the White House for most of our lives, and we view gay marriage as a common and accepted aspect of society.

9. Gen Z Embraces Change

Compared to teenagers of other generations, Generation Z ranks as the most informed. We worry about our future and are much less concerned about typical teen problems, such as dating or cliques, than we are about becoming successful in the world.

The chaos and unrest in our political system have inspired us to want to get involved and make a difference. Regardless of which side of the aisle we are on, most of us are informed and passionate about the issues facing our society today. Witness, for example, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who organized a political movement around gun control in the wake of a mass shooting at their school.

Social media allows us to have a voice in our political system even before we can vote. This opportunity has forced us to develop critical-thinking and reasoning skills as we engage in sophisticated debates about important issues that might not even affect us yet.

“Gen Z has a strong ability to adapt to change,” says Paul Carney, an author and speaker on HR trends and a former HR manager with the Navy Federal Credit Union. “For those of us who have spanned many decades in the workplace, we have seen the rate of change increase and it makes most of us uncomfortable. Gen Z are the people who will help all of us adapt better.”

According to numerous polls, the political views of Generation Z trend fiscally conservative (stemming from our need for financial stability) and socially liberal (fueled by diverse demographics and society).

10. Gen Z Wants a Voice

Given how socially aware and concerned its members are, Generation Z seeks jobs that provide opportunities to contribute, create, lead and learn.

“One of the best ways I have seen leaders engage with Gen Z is to ask them how they would build a product or service or design a process,” Carney says. “Gen Z has some amazing abilities to bring together information, process it and take action. When we do allow them to share ideas, great things happen.”

We’re also an exceptionally creative bunch. Managers will need to give members of this generation the time and freedom to come up with innovative ideas and accept that, despite our young age, we have valuable insights and skills to offer—just like the generations that came before us and those that will follow.

Josh Miller is a speaker, researcher and thought leader on all things Generation Z. He is the director of Gen Z studies at management consulting firm XYZ University and a high school junior in suburban Minneapolis.
Illustration by Tim McDonagh
SOURCE: Miller, J. (30 October 2018) "A 16-Year-Old Explains 10 Things You Need to Know About Generation Z" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/1118/pages/a-16-year-old-explains-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-generation-z.aspx

New tech helps HR pros practice hiring and firing — in virtual reality

Virtual reality technology developer, Talespin, released a new platform that allows employees to practice challenging social situations, like the act of hiring and firing an employee, beforehand. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


What if HR professionals could practice hiring and firing someone before they even set foot in the office? Virtual reality and artificial intelligence may be closer to making that a reality for some employers.

Talespin, a developer of virtual reality technology has released a new platform that allows employees to practice challenging social situations. The platform, called its Virtual Human Technology, is meant to mimic typical conversations that an employee might have at work. The software can simulate anything from performance reviews, to leadership training, sales conversations or even firing.

“We’re thinking holistically about the employee life cycle and how spatial computing is going to affect that,” says Kyle Jackson, CEO of Talespin.

Talespin aims to evoke real human emotions and give employees a sense of the best way to handle a difficult situation, Jackson says. The platform demo, for example, puts users in the shoes of an HR manager and asks them to fire an employee named Barry. Barry is an AI-powered virtual character that displays realistic human responses, like anger, when a user tells him that he has been terminated.

Users can be successful or unsuccessful at terminating Barry and the platform provides feedback on how they can improve these skills over time. The system can be tailored to provide responses based on the specific needs of the employer, Jackson says.

“The system can record all sorts of things: from your sentiment, to what you say, what branches did you activate, what different paths of process did you go down. With all that data it’s a question of what’s the learning objective and what’s the learning outcome that you’re looking for?” he says.

While the platform is best used in virtual reality, users can access it via desktop, mobile or audio only. Jackson says the company is deploying the platform with five employers in the telecommunications, automotive, insurance and consumer packaged goods industries. Farmers Insurance is already using Talespin technology to train new hires. Employers using the software pay per monthly active user plus the cost of the module, Jackson says.

Some employers are investing in AI and virtual reality as a way to attract and retain new talent. Pharmaceutical company Takeda, for instance, combined 360-degree photographs and an interactive map of its Cambridge, Massachusetts campus to create a virtual reality office tour for current and potential employees.

Jackson says they’ve heard from employers that poor treatment from a manager has in some cases, led to employee turnover. A VR platform like Virtual Human Technology can help managers develop their soft skills for interacting with employees and potentially improve retention.

“It’s not a technology problem, it’s not an efficiency problem. It’s really a people problem,” he says. “It’s the one area that’s really hard to fix.”

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (8 March 2019) "New tech helps HR pros practice hiring and firing — in virtual reality" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/hr-tech-helps-practice-hiring-and-firing-in-virtual-reality?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000