Relationships with our coworkers are incredibly important, but we tend to think about them in the wrong way: We categorize them as either good or bad, and we think they will always stay the same. As a result, we don’t try to fix the ones that have soured, and we take those that seem healthy for granted. In reality, most relationships are a mixed bag, and they ebb and flow. And if you look closely, you’ll see that they’re made up of a series of “micromoves” — small actions that seem inconsequential in the moment but affect how we relate to one another. Each new micromove can shift the direction of a relationship. In this article, two professors explain how to use micromoves to build the work relationships you want, instead of just settling for the ones you have.
The world today is full of anxiety and uncertainty. As Covid-19 sickens millions and economies grind to a halt, our work, families, and communities have irreparably changed. Many of us are unsure when we’ll see our colleagues or clients again. We’re across the country or even the globe from our loved ones. Our work lives and home lives are messily colliding. We’re seeing high levels of pressure to work harder and longer — or we’re suddenly without a job. On top of it all, the health of our communities is at risk, with little relief in sight.
To better understand how we’re collectively handling this moment, we reached out to HBR readers in mid-April to learn about the particular ways in which Covid-19 is affecting their anxiety. Specifically, we asked five questions, which were answered by more than 300 people from over 60 countries. More than half of the respondents care for others at home, whether it’s children or an elderly relative. Nearly 30% are or were...
Visionary leadership is widely seen as key to strategic change. That’s because visionary leadership does not just set the strategic direction — it tells a story about why the change is worth pursuing and inspires people to embrace the change. But research finds that the positive impact of visionary leadership breaks down when middle managers aren’t aligned with top management’s strategic vision. This can cause strategic change efforts to slow down or even fail. When middle managers were aligned with top management’s strategic vision, things played out as the widespread view of visionary leadership would suggest: the more these managers engaged in visionary leadership (by communicating their vision for the future and articulating where they wanted their team to be in five years,) the greater the shared understanding of strategy in their team, and the more the team was committed to strategy execution. For managers that were misaligned with the company strategy, however, there...
As the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds, many of us are feeling the strain on our mental health. Some people feel anxiety about getting laid off; others have to continue to work at grocery stores and delivery companies, or perform other essential services, sometimes without the protections they need to stay safe. Families are trying to balance caregiving with remote work. We all worry about someone we love getting sick or about getting sick ourselves. There’s also the sudden instability of it all, as the pandemic upends global systems that many took for granted. Meanwhile, the social distancing measures we are taking to slow the spread of the disease have meant weeks of confinement, which brings its own anxieties.
In our concern for the physical risks of this pandemic, it is easy to overlook the mental health burden many of us feel. We may even be inclined to minimize our anxiety, thinking that, compared with what Covid-19 can do to our bodies, its effect on our minds is a...
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Intense and all-consuming work styles are often celebrated as the only way to get to the top and be a super productive leader. But does it have to be that way? Over the last 20 years, a group of executives has been meeting and sharing innovative ideas for finding time for work, family, and life. For leaders to stand up to status quo pressures and make work-life balance a priority, the group found that they needed to cultivate skills around three relationships: learning to work differently with their teams at work, making a plan with their families to put home and family first, and shifting their own mindsets — to not only believe change is truly possible, but to give themselves permission to try, and speak up about it. The stories of three leaders exemplify how this can be done.
Leaders around the world, in business and government, are facing an enormous challenge: guiding people through a deadly pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and upended the lives of billions more. Amid so much uncertainty about Covid-19, how can they inspire their anxious colleagues and constituents? And how can they manage their own anxieties in the process?
Engineering work demands creativity and innovation in order to solve complex, interdisciplinary problems. But creativity and innovation skills are not emphasized in many traditional engineering courses. So engineers enter the workforce with important analysis skills, but may struggle to “think outside the box” when it comes to creative problem-solving. New research shows that by promoting divergent thinking, mindfulness can help engineers strengthen their ability to generate new ideas, leading to new ways of thinking and better solutions.
Many of those working from home during quarantine are now being asked to return to the office. But how do you talk to your manager if you don’t want to go back in?The pandemic forced physical coworking spaces to temporarily shutter, and for many employees the transition from working in an office to working from home was abrupt. However, many of us have adapted to working from home—and what may have seemed unfamiliar at first now feels more routine. And until a Covid-19 vaccine is widely available, office re-entry carries both measured and unknown risks.Karen Mattison, a flexible working consultant and co-founder of Timewise, offers advice on how to enter a negotiation with your manager for an alternative working arrangement during this crisis.Tips for negotiating flexible work:1. See things from your manager’s perspective. They’re most likely under a lot of stress during this time, so your goal is to make this difficult transition smoother for them as well as for yourself.2....
U.S. unemployment is now the worst it’s been since the Great Depression, and globally, millions more have lost jobs — or worry they’re next in line to be cut in the face of a lingering downturn.
As leadership consultants, we’ve worked with senior and mid-level executives as they faced layoffs — themselves and their teams — during recessionary periods. (One of us, Dorie, has personal experience dealing with a layoff amidst the 9/11 economic crisis.) It’s never easy, but if you’re facing job loss, here are five strategies that should help you handle it gracefully so you can maintain your connections and reputation, and emerge stronger in the end.
Many parents who can execute high-stakes deals, who can persuade their colleagues to take new points of view, and who can handle conversations about raises and promotions with ease struggle when negotiating with their own kids. In their research, the authors have identified three factors that derail negotiations at home: the emotions that parents and our children bring to the conversation, the repetitive and ongoing character of many family negotiations, and lack of careful preparation by of parents. When parents bring their business negotiation skills home — prioritizing their goals, asking good questions, putting offers on the table in ways that inspire creativity and generate possibilities — they’ll reach better outcomes and model effective problem-solving skills.
An entrepreneur ecosystem can make all of its members stronger and more resilient. The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored just how true this can be, as small businesses that are members of ecosystems have been able to pivot quickly and creatively in response to the new business landscape. It’s never too late to start one, however. The authors recommend four steps: Give the ecosystem an identity; set up information-sharing early, and use it often; collaborate in new ways to meet market needs; and connect across ecosystems.
Amid layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s imperative to recognize the feelings and accommodate the needs of employees still in the workforce who are dealing not only with seeing colleagues lose their jobs but also with personal challenges that are often invisible, undefined, and complicated. Leaders must show that they care by communicating transparently about the situation and listening while workers process survivor guilt.
The Covid-19 crisis exposed major cracks in medical supply chains — essentials were hard to come by, and verification that goods were what they were advertised to be was a struggle. One possible solution to these problems is blockchain. The advantage of a blockchain-based system is that competitors can collaborate on a shared platform without sharing sensitive information, allowing them to trace the provenance of supplies, verify their status, and reduce friction throughout the supply chain. There is, of course, a catch: Blockchains are an ecosystem technology and only bring benefit when the technology is not only broadly adopted but when physical systems work with it. To make that happen, broadly adopted standards are necessary.
Visionary bosses can be exciting, fun, and innovative. They can also feel overwhelming when there’s no way that you can keep up with all of their creative ideas. Instead of letting their ideas overwhelm you, take it as an opportunity to manage up. The next time your boss rattles off a slew of new ideas, redirect their attention back to the team’s monthly and quarterly goals and ask them where these ideas would fit in and how they’d like to prioritize them. By explaining the impact the new ideas will have on other priorities, you can help your boss assess them from a strategic perspective. You may also want to remind your boss of the time commitment that their new ideas would require to implement. And don’t automatically assume that when your boss shares an idea that they expect you to do something about it.
Decades of scientific research show that stress and anxiety are prevalent problems at work, contributing to deficits in employee morale, well-being, and productivity. While anxiety is caused by a range of factors, including issues unrelated to people’s jobs, one common and pervasive cause is something specific to the workplace: incompetent leadership.
Managers and leaders have a direct effect on their employees’ stress and anxiety levels. What they say, feel, and do hugely influences their team’s physical and emotional well-being. And the more senior leaders are, the more people they are likely to influence — positively and negatively.
But sadly, far too few leaders are aware that they have this power. And many are overconfident in their leadership skills, creating a gap between their perceived and actual levels of competence. This explains why even well-meaning bosses may inadvertently contribute to high anxiety levels in their employees and have a limited...
When the Titanic collided with an iceberg and sunk, only 705 of its 2,200 passengers and crew, floating in 16 lifeboats, were saved. Imagine how many more might have lived if crew members had thought of the iceberg as not just the cause of the disaster but a lifesaving solution.
The iceberg rose high above the water and stretched nearly 400 feet in length. The lifeboats, or the Titanic itself, might have been able to pull close enough to the iceberg for people to scramble on.
Regardless of whether this could actually have worked, it’s an intriguing idea—yet surprisingly difficult to envision. That’s because a cognitive bias called “functional fixedness” limits people to seeing objects only in the way in which they’re traditionally used. In a nautical context, an iceberg is a hazard to be avoided; it’s very hard to see it any other way.
When it comes to innovation, businesses are constantly hampered by functional fixedness and other cognitive biases that...
Dr. Hendriksen offered advice on addressing heightened anxiety with humanity and compassion and, when the person struggling is a work colleague, discussing it without overstepping. Our conversation, which took place over email, has been edited for clarity.
What are the signs that your anxiety is reaching an unsustainable level?
We know anxiety has escaped its confines and is running wild when it surpasses the thresholds of distress or impairment. Distress means intense stress is overwhelming your usual ways of coping. Maybe you’ve always been able to manage your anxiety with yoga, a sense of humor, or some healthy perspective, but now nothing seems to keep the lid on. Impairment means the anxiety is getting in the way of living your life. For instance, you can’t focus, so you’re behind on your work, are losing sleep, or are so preoccupied that you can’t be present with your kids or partner.
What should you look out for in your boss, colleagues, or...
How should corporate leaders, managers and individual workers shift to remote work in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic? Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School, has spent two decades helping companies learn how to manage dispersed teams. In this edited Q&A, she offers guidance on how to work productively at home, manage virtual meetings, and lead teams from a distance.
DAN MCGINN: Welcome to Dear HBR: from Harvard Business Review. I’m Dan McGinn.
ALISON BEARD: And I’m Alison Beard. Work can be frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be. We don’t need to let the conflicts get us down.
DAN MCGINN: That’s where Dear HBR: comes in. We take your questions, look at the research, talk to the experts, and help you move forward. Today we’re talking about pivoting your career with Monica Higgins. She’s a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Monica, thanks for coming on the show.
MONICA HIGGINS: Thanks for having me.
DAN MCGINN: Now, you spent a bunch of years at the business school. Now you’re at the School of Education. Is it easier to do these pivots today? Are employers more open to people who don’t have a linear career path?
MONICA HIGGINS: Well, today, of course, we’re dealing with this pandemic, and so employers right now are feeling themselves at risk. So that means it’s in some ways more...
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