We Ignore Individuality in Workplace Change. That’s Our First Mistake

I’ve been told that I’m not the best role model concerning change. To be brutally candid, I agree with the characterization. I tend to balk at the mere whiff of a change — holding on to hope that it won’t come to pass. (Then adjusting my course will not be necessary.) Honestly, it’s a problem. I do come around. However, I need to go through the paces in my own way.

As you may have read in this post, many of us can struggle with even the smallest of changes — muddling along until the “new normal” finally appears. Until that moment, we might feel annoyed and completely out of sync. I think we all have a ratio of stability vs. change that feels comfortable at that moment. (I feel stability is a vastly under-rated quality in work life).

For better or worse, my “go to” reaction is to keep things frozen, until carefully considering every aspect of the situation.

Unfortunately, holding time at bay usually isn’t an option.

Regardless of my failings, I acknowledge the value of flexing our workplace “change muscles”. However, knowing ourselves is likely the first place to begin when building this skill set. I believe that we all have a leading predisposition when faced with change at work — and this represents both our collected experiences and temperament. Of course, this influences our strategies when reacting to change as well. That’s where things get tricky.

We need to come to an understanding of where we begin and recognize how this affects our responses going forward.

If you manage others, think of what this might mean for your team. When facing a needed change, as individuals we are staggered in our starting posts, so to speak. As a result, we progress at different rates — with varying concerns. Managers are challenged to explore these concerns and pose strategies to help the process move along (ever mindful that resistance could signal issues with a change or how it is introduced).

Overall, the realization that we tend toward one predisposition or another, is a crucial step. We might moderate slightly with the nature of the change — but we all lean one way or another.

Here are some of the predispositions I’ve observed over the years:

  • Piners or Grievers. These individuals lament the coming of change, even when it is inevitable or necessary. They may grieve for the roles, policies, procedures and co-workers of days gone by. They do move on eventually — but often with decreased fulfillment, satisfaction and an obvious measure of sadness.
  • Researchers. An unbridled penchant to gather information is the leading response for this group — as looking at the issue from all angles often helps them move on. Unfortunately, a leading by-product is “analysis paralysis”. Another issue: time may not be a negotiable. (This would be where I fall, although I pine at the very start.)
  • Supporters/Embracers. These individuals are generally open to change and feel excited to contemplate the future. They may not always be the primary driver of change (but could be), yet are happy to see the possibilities and help things move forward.
  • Alarmists. For these individuals an impending change triggers intense feelings of urgency. This could lead to premature or risky career behaviors that negatively affect them longer-term. (Such as quitting on a whim, etc.)
  • Dreamers. This group always manages to see the best in the current situation, even when there is overwhelming evidence to move on and accept some kind of change. (I would add there is a mild level of complacency operating here). Because of this perspective, they might miss opportunities to properly plan a place for themselves in the new “order” of things.
  • Observers. Usually quiet and calm, these individuals take a solid “wait and see” approach. They rarely panic — and prefer to watch things unfold organically. They might superficially support the change, but may eventually exit if the change is perceived as negative.
  • Aggressors or Terminators. These individuals feel anger when they are faced with an unexpected change. They may become a strong “naysayer”, vehemently opposing a change and could exhibit negative behaviors without reflection.

After I drafted these, I searched for other frameworks that might capture how we process change. I happened upon the Kubler-Ross Change Curve which applies the seminal model of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross concerning grief, to change efforts within organizations. (This theory states that we all move through specified phases when dealing with change, rather than identifying a leading emotion that we deal with over time.) I thought it wise to mention it here.

Where do you fall? Have I missed your leading orientation toward change? Share your style in comments.

A version of this was first posted on

You’re Hired And It’s Mutual: 5 Ways Employee Culture Is Great For Leaders

In the world of work, there’s a new type of relationship agreement to be forged — a win-win built on trust between employer and employee that reflects a clear shift in workplace and social media culture. It’s mutually productive, an entirely different way of viewing work, and it should form the core of your new talent strategy. I’ve come to this conclusion based on two disparate poles in talent strategy making news: one encouraging, one discouraging. I’ve been accustomed to this wacky weekly swing lately.

On the plus side is The Alliance, the groundbreaking new book by Reid Hoffman (co-founder and CEO of LinkedIn), Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh, which I like quite a bit, as it maps out this vital talent and culture retooling in a refreshingly clear way. On the minus side: Black Friday, 2014: a day marked not only by bargain frenzy, but a nationwide Walmart workers’ strike. With live Tweets, hashtags and dedicated Facebook pages, the retail giant’s taken it on the chin, and such sustained mobile coverage stains the corporate and employer brand image — from one about value for consumers to one about not valuing its workers. This is bad news for sure.

Wherever you stand, that’s a crystalline example of employer / employee relations at their worst, played out in realtime in the public eye. In this highly mobile, social networked world, such conflicts can wreak a whole new kind of negative on a company’s brand. It underscores just how much the world of work has changed.

Back to the bright side: There’s a new paradigm between leaders and staff, company and talent. With yesterday’s lifetime employee contract overtaken by downsizing and layoffs, employees need to sustain their own careers, shifting loyalty back to themselves and focusing on their own personal brand. I can’t over stress this change in workplace culture. It’s been happening for a few years now. How does a company work build and retain this talent, and continue to get the best of its employees? To borrow from AppleThink Different. For leaders and employees alike – It’s all about recognizing, celebrating, and joining this clear cultural shift. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself – I call this culture.

Here are five steps I want all leaders, employees and all of us to grab a hold of right now:

1) It’s not a hire. It’s an alliance. Shift your vision from ladder to lateral. The companies that will come out ahead in this hyper-mobile, hyper-networked world are those that can build true alliances between leaders and employees. That means open, honest, and mutually beneficial. 

2) Retool the culture into one of trust. Like transparency, trust is a term whose buzz can obscure its clarity, but I’m talking active, tangible trust. Company leaders need to empower employees to build those personal brands and expand their professional networks — in a way that ensures that those activities also benefit the company. Make it clear: you trust them to work on their own career; they trust you to enable them to keep growing and innovating within your company. In our new workplace culture this is the glue that keeps us together.

3) Create a workplace based on cross-empowerment. The new world of work — multigenerational and globally connected — offers infinite ways to mentor. With older and younger generations all in it together, each having their own skills and experience, there are unprecedented opportunities for each to empower the other through mentoring and reverse mentoring.

4) Lead with Open Arms. A critical change in workplace culture is the definition of employee: the company-man is extinct. Free agents fill this fluid, intensely competitive talent market. Strategic advantage will be gained by those who can not only hire, but retain talent — with leadership that recognizes employee sovereignty, and can find a way to capitalize on it.

5) Make a social contract. Hoffman and his coauthors helpfully delineate LinkedIn’s own approach to hiring, which I find to be a promising talent matrix: you’re hired for a period of time — a matter of years — for a “tour of duty” with clearcut missions and goals on both sides. I’d recommend that all facets of the hire, including onboarding, work from this concept. Based on honest conversations, it’s an authentic relationship that can foster not only productivity, but also returns, as employees recall their positive experience and come back for another stint.

What’s happening now is the New World of Work, 3.0: Smart companies are innovating real solutions to attracting, managing and retaining talent that match the new workplace culture, not clash with it. It’s exactly what we need. There’s enough negativity and employee disengagement out there already. Change is good for all of us.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

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10 Challenging Issues Employers Will Face in 2016

In the past year, there have been tremendous workplace changes as court cases, legislation and regulatory actions have called into question the very nature of employee rights and employer obligations. Based on these developments, an employer may need to revisit its workforce policies and practices to minimize employer liability and protect legitimate business interests. Here are the 10 most challenging  employment issues facing employers in 2016 and suggestions on how to prepare:

Same-Sex Marriage

Based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry and are entitled to the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex married couples nationwide. This is a major shift for employers, eliminating differing state laws. An employer should revisit its policies and practices regarding EEO and discrimination, employee benefits, leave, marital status and tax information to lawfully implement this ruling.

LGBT Rights

LGBT rights in the workplace are rapidly expanding as new laws on the state and local level prohibit discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on sexual orientation and gender identity and require employers to provide reasonable accommodations. It is critical for an employer to incorporate LGBT rights into its policies and employee handbooks.

Reasonable Accommodations  

As workplaces become more inclusive and diverse, employers must comply with federal, state and local laws providing workers with reasonable accommodations based on pregnancy, religion, disability and sexual orientation, if doing so would not create an undue hardship. As a result, an employer should implement and enforce reasonable accommodation policies and train supervisors and managers to make a good faith effort to provide such accommodations.

Paid Sick Leave

The trend toward providing paid sick leave and permitting workers time off to care for themselves and their families has grown immensely. Paid sick leave is required for federal contractors and an increased number of states and cities passed paid sick leave legislation. Affected employers should comply.

National Labor Relations Act Compliance 

The National Labor Relations Board continues to vigorously pursue employers maintaining rules prohibiting employees from engaging in protected concerted activities or collective action to improve wages, hours and working conditions under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. An employer should be particularly cautious and ensure that workplace policies on social media, confidentiality, investigations and communications, among other things, are narrowly tailored and do not infringe upon employee rights.

Workplace Wearables

Rapid advancements in technology have led to new uses for wearable devices at work such as improving communications and increasing safety, employee health and wellness. An employer should implement wearable technology policies and outline proper workplace use to minimize employer risks.

Overtime Changes

The Department of Labor’s (DOLs) proposed regulations, likely to be finalized in 2016, would greatly increase the number of employees eligible for overtime by raising the salary for exemption to $50,440. Accordingly, an employer should reassess its workforce and determine if changes are needed such as increasing the salary of currently exempt employees, reclassifying employees or reviewing job descriptions.

Independent Contractors 

Recent federal and state worker misclassification cases as well as DOL guidance suggest most independent contractors are actually employees when viewing the economic realities and evaluating all factors.  A prudent employer should assess all independent contractor relationships and presume most independent contractors are actually employees.

Joint Employers

Both the NLRB in Browning-Ferris Industries of California and the DOL have substantially expanded the joint employment standard and recognized that two entities may be joint employers if they possess, exercise or simply retain the right, directly or indirectly, to control the same worker’s terms and conditions of employment even if control is not actually exercised.  As a result, an employer should closely evaluate its business relationships and contracts to assess whether it has the right to control (directly or indirectly) the terms and conditions of a contracted employee, or another company’s employee, and be careful about amount of control exerted. 


Telecommuting is on the rise as approximately 30-45 percent of the US workforce now telecommutes or engages in some other form of flexible work arrangements. If an employer allows employees to telecommute, it should maintain a firm policy setting forth criteria for selection of employees who may telecommute, expectations and methods for monitoring productivity.

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