Thursday, December 31, 2015

Probiotics for your Cross-“Cultural” Interactions

As technology increases our reach, many of us find a significant part of our daily interaction involves transacting across borders and cultures. Yet we rarely consider the impact of these cross-cultural interactions.  While cultural barriers are not always apparent (i.e. differences in language, script or dress) – they are most certainly felt.  And their “invisibility” often means that we bump (or crash) into them when we least expect it.

Recently, a colleague of mine was emailed a document on “Japanese Business Etiquette” before her meeting with 
executives visiting from Japan. We chuckled over the list that covered a range of topics, including how to present and receive a business card, the appropriate ways to discuss your family, what to wear and personal habits. It was almost offensive to receive such a document as a “normal and respectful professional” because a receipt of such a list suggested otherwise!  Despite the unintended offense, this type of document is a good way to forewarn parties of cultural differences and norms ahead of negotiations. 

However, not all cross-cultural interactions and negotiations come from a business-to-business environment where a prescriptive list is provided.  Some may arise as components of e-Commerce or through our communication on social networks.  People can be offended and transactions, halted.  In fact, cross-generational interactions can involve similar challenges often impacting the workforce. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

We Must Connect – (Let’s make it our New Year’s Resolution)

I am frustrated.  We’re all frustrated.  And sad.  And angry.  And feeling so painfully helpless.  We point our angry, helpless finger at seemingly responsible aspects of our society:  Gun legislation, mental health issues, and violence in the media.  We point a finger and place blame, all the while neglecting to notice the bigger issue, the one in which we are all responsible and can all make an impact – the need to foster and heal our own relationships.

We are losing our ability to make profound and important connections, even with those we love most.   Most concerningly, with the youngest members of our society - children.  Where does this void lead them?  Isolation, depression, acting out?   And in some sad situations, it has the ability to lead to extreme behaviors as well.  This may not mean picking up a gun…but it might mean finding ways to “connect” that involve illicit drugs, or joining fringe groups that fill a missing sense of belonging.  It may mean suicidal behaviors.

We see children of all ages detached from their families – playing on handheld devices of various forms.  Parents, grandparents, and other caregivers do the same as they text and connect with others while their children shout, “Watch me! Watch me!”  And these children get older, having never fully adopted healthy skills of social interaction.  Their fractured ability to connect is evident as they fail to interact with their peers – often texting in lieu of face to face interactions.  I fail to see any upside to this.

Are we – collectively - raising a generation of detached children?  A generation who are profoundly more detached that any previous one due to our behaviors and choices.  “I don’t have kids” you say.  But no doubt you grew up making eye contact with people other than your parents.  You still do this today, though probably not as routinely, because you learned how.  We all need to get back to this.  We all have a stake in the game when we too are at risk of experiencing violent or deadly behaviors.

An FBI study of shooter incidents in the United States from 2000 – 2013 shows an alarming trend of an increased frequency of such incidents.  What else has changed drastically in that time period?  Not gun ownership, not mental health issues.  What has changed is our use of and reliance on social media.  In fact it has grown with exponential force. 

As a society we need to bring change.  None of us can excuse our own behavior when it involves using our smart phone while in the company of others.  Whether we know the people we are with or not.  We must realize that we are a part of the problem and a part of the solution.  Failing to do so is damaging the fabric of our society, and with each new act of violence, we feel our safety compromised, and the rug being ripped out from underneath us a bit more.  We must connect.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What if?

Today, in our latest experience of terrorist threats, I am compelled to ask….

What if the threat is real?
What if we are in danger?
What if we can’t do anything about it?
What if we had a choice?
What if we looked at our options?
What if we looked at each other?
What if we looked to each other?
What if we looked each other in the eyes?
What if we did that for a moment longer?
What if we joined hands?
What if we held hands?
What if we banded together?
What if we could bond together?
What if what’s missing, is connecting? 
What if you could take steps to change that?
What if we could feel safe?
What if it only took making an effort?
What if you did make that effort?
What if we all did?

We feel safe when we are with others.  Even, especially, when we are in danger.  We need to stop isolating.  We need to stop connecting in a superficial way and begin doing it in a meaningful way.  With our children, our parents, our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, the waitress, the store clerk, the stranger we pass in the hall, or on the street.  We need to start.  We need to take control of the life we want to lead.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Workplace Violence - Stop the Wait and See NOW

Yesterday's shooting in San Bernadino, CA - while now known as a terrorist attack, also serves as a horrifying reminder of the potential for workplace violence.  It prompted me to share this (updated) article from three years ago.  This article is a reminder that there are warning signs, and there are things we can do to prevent workplace hostility.  Waiting, and hoping for things to magically get better, isn't an acceptable solution.  Gun legislation won't change the situations that cause someone to want to get a gun.   Something else has to give.
All too often we miss the warning signs...and there are many.  Single incidents of conflict or tension may upset or confuse, but they don’t trigger a drastic response.  Rather, it is the historical repetition of events – be it bullying, intimidation, refusal to cooperate, or other unfair, unkind behaviors – which lead to reactive and explosive measures.  The problem is, if we focus on the violence, we are looking for solutions in the wrong places.
As a conflict resolution and management expert, I frequently see bad workplace behaviors that have gone unchecked.  And while most individuals don't respond with violence - they do respond.  You see it in the form of employee turnover, increased absenteeism, theft, harassment claims, EEOC complaints, etc.  
Most, if not all, of this is preventable.  It begins with staff having a trusted place to bring their concerns.  It continues when they believe that by bringing their concerns forward, they will get help.  It is complete when there is a firm resolution, by leaders and managers, to bring swift, decisive intervention when problems perpetuate. 

Conflict management readiness is, for this reason, vital to all businesses.  Staff must learn skills in conflict communication.  Human Resources, leaders and managers must have skills for addressing workplace problems in a way that empowers, rather than punishes, staff whenever possible.  And formal conflict resolution, such as mediation, must be engaged at the earliest possible time if other efforts fail to yield the desired results.
If you have questions about how to address these issues, or want to discuss the concerns of your workplace, please contact us for a free consultation.