What happens when we are really upset about something? Our minds become a swirling tempest and it’s hard to focus on what we are intending to do. We might also get into trouble — saying things that shouldn’t come out of our mouths or taking rash actions that could crash our careers. Because being able to handle our negative emotions is so important, Jean Ramsey and I devoted most of Chapter 3 to it in Reframing Change.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011 was National Lemonade Day, an event designed to teach entrepreneurial skills to children.  A few weeks before, Morgan, age 6, wrote us as her grandparents to ask us to invest $12.00 in her lemonade business.  With the aid of her father, she was going to set up a lemonade stand and sell lemonade on that date.

Her grandfather sent the check immediately.

A couple of weeks before the big day, we drove to her home and Morgan showed us the colored step-by-step workbook that the local entrepreneurial association had put together to guide participants through the business of selling lemonade.  It was impressive:  it included a week by week plan, a resource list, and a budget outline with places for the kids to fill in their own information — and, of course, color the illustrations.

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Assumptions in interpersonal communication

Preface:  In Jean Ramsey’s and my book, Reframing Change, we explain how to test your assumptions at the interpersonal level.  Bill Brenneman, today’s guest blogger, specializes in helping work teams identify and test assumptions that may cause severe, even life-threatening, situations.  In this post, Bill provides an introduction to his rigorous field of work.

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As Jean and Jean point out in Reframing Change, Chapter 2, assumptions can lead us astray without our knowing it is happening. This is a problem–and an opportunity–that come up every time my colleagues and I try to find the cause(s) of complex problems or failures in industrial or organizational settings. This is why:

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In the previous post, we met Tracy who is having a hard time getting along with Sasha. As Tracy complained to her partner, “how am I supposed to work on a charity event with someone who has nothing to say and has such a superior attitude?”

The response today is by Sandra Lopez, a licensed clinical social worker and consultant.

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Tracy’s scenario is just so typical of what any one of us might encounter. Clearly as she shares her feelings with her partner, we can see that Tracy has become frustrated, stressed, and is even experiencing some sense of helplessness in knowing how to make the situation better. Like many of us in these kinds of predicaments, she has formed negative assumptions about her co-worker. Given the current status of her relationship with Sasha, she raises a good question in wondering how she will survive the stress of working on this charity event.

How do we work through these challenging interpersonal conflicts when they happen? Tracy can relieve a great deal of her stress in this working relationship by consciously using herself to more effectively manage the situation.

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Preface:  Workplace Undercover will be a recurring segment of this blog, featuring a workplace scenario and a response by a guest consultant. The scenario below was written by Eillen Bui, our research associate. In the next post, Sandra Lopez, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, will respond.

Tracy walked through the front door of her workplace and passed the desk of her VP’s top assistant. Sasha looked up from her computer but did not even acknowledge Tracy. She just went back to what she was doing earlier.

When Tracy first started working at XYZ Corp., she would always smile and greet Sasha but stopped after a few weeks. Sasha would only acknowledge her with a slight nod of her head and continue working. Tracy didn’t feel as though she should make an effort to keep being friendly to Sasha if Sasha wasn’t even trying to be cordial.

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Chronically stressed or happy at work – Part 3

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the chronic stress experienced by many people in today’s organizations. Much of that stress may be accounted for by tremendous workloads and pressures to produce in today’s organizations.

In Part 2, we talked about one organization, Zappos, an online shoe store, whose CEO seeks to reverse that trend by focusing on employee happiness. In his business model, happy employees provide better service and better service brings and keeps customers.

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Are you experiencing chronic stress at work — Part 2

In the previous blog entry, I asked, is  it is feasible for organizations to pay attention to their employees’ happiness and still produce results considering the tremendous pressures most organizations are under to show growth and cost savings in this economic climate.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, an online shoe store, says he wouldn’t have it any other way. I have long been a fan of Zappos, ordering most of my shoes from them for several years now.

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A recurring conversation among my friends and clients is the staggering amount of work hours that people are now putting into their jobs. I talk with people who arrive at work by 6 or 6:30 a.m. and leave by 7 or 8 that evening. Add challenging workplace dynamics to the equation and they feel burned out at home and at work.

Yet with all this economic uncertainty, most are grateful to even have jobs. Their overwork is an undiscussable they wouldn’t dream of surfacing.

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While our personal troubles may feel very private to us, they may indeed reflect public issues for society as a whole.

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In the previous blog entry, I listed advantages of reaching out to others about our private troubles, despite our fears of exposure and shame. Suppose you know intellectually that reaching out is best for you, but you just can’t muster the willpower to do so. You feel scared of being negative judged or humiliated. As a matter of fact, you feel humiliated just having the problem or thinking you can’t handle it alone.

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When is it okay for people talk about their problems?

Most people say they don’t want to talk about their personal problems because they are too private.  Some people put talking about *any* problem with anyone at any time off limits.  They endure their troubles alone.  Others will talk only with a very few trusted friends and family members, keeping everyone else at bay.

Then there’s the common admonition about not being one’s personal problems to the job, so that talking about difficulties in doing one’s job or even undue stress at home is verboten.  The assumption is that we are supposed to already have the answers or be able to handle our jobs or take care of ourselves without anyone’s help.

Is that true?  Can we handle it all without help? 

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[Notice — this was originally published two weeks ago, but it somehow got deleted in the move to this URL.  I’m reposting it now for those of you who missed it.]

Most people I know–with one or two exceptions–think that multitasking does work for them. In fact, a friend of mine once proudly declared that she was excellent at it, having changed a diaper, baked a cake, and handled a business crisis over the phone, all within the same hour.

What the research says
Now there’s research to say that we are fooling ourselves.

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THANKS FOR JOINING US HERE AT THE NEW WEBPAGE

Thanks to those of you who successfully switched URLs from the old blog to this one.

Welcome to those of you who are here for the first time.

Just to introduce you to what’s here.  You will see that this blog has several new features:

  • A separate Welcome page, for those of you who are here for the first time — or those who may wonder to themselves, “Now what’s the point of this blog anyway?”
  • An “About Jean Latting” page, for those of you who want to know more about me.  This is an expanded version of what you can find at www.leadingconscously.com.
  • A place to sign up (please!) so that we may know who you are and how to reach you.  Once a month, we will have a random drawing of those who signed up during the month.  The winner will be receive a free copy of Reframing Change.  We’ll send you periodic announcements about what is going on with Leading Consciously.
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[Note:  This post was written at our old URL.  We have now moved.  If you are reading this, you have gotten on board and arrived with us.  Welcome!]

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People get ready, there’s a train a-coming.
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board.

Sometime in the next week, this blog is moving to a new URL.

On the recommendation of Aleksandra Harper, our social media expert, I’ve set up the blog in something called WordPress, a different “platform” with more bells and whistles.  One of the features I’m most excited about is that it is easier to format blog entries.

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Preface: Workplace Undercover is a regular feature of this blog. The scenario below was written by Eillen Bui, our research associate. Responding to this scenario is Stephanie Foy, Project Manager for Leading Consciously and Principal of Foy and Associates.

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