Releasing Staff from the Prison of their Own Making

Sounds so dramatic doesn’t it?  My staff in a prison?  But sadly that is true for so many people.  Yes, the prison is OK, it is not dangerous and there are some good work colleagues to work with but people can still feel trapped by their job.  And staff who have an underlying sense of being trapped do not bring all of their creativity, commitment and energy to work. The most common trapped explanation at the moment is the recession.  ‘I have to stay here because of the recession, there are no jobs…continue reading →

Are your staff just treading water?

I was thinking about the classic Pareto’s ratio of 80:20.  Could it be true?  Could 20 percent of your workforce be responsible for delivering 80% of the work? I am hoping that for most of you this is NOT true.  If it is call me straight away as something must be done!  But what I do know to be true from working with 100s of organisations is that most people, in most teams, are just treading water.  They are doing the job OK.  They are expending just enough effort to keep you, their…continue reading →

Giving Feedback on Aggressive Communication Styles

Staff get angry with their managers!  This is normal and last week my blog covered what to say if they do.  However, when staff get angry it can be very uncomfortable for you their manager, particularly if they are aggressive in the way in which they have chosen to communicate their frustration. Obviously, when someone is angry the first thing to do is to calm things and handle the situation that has caused the anger but if you felt their method of communication was unprofessional, personally disrespectful to you, or made you feel…continue reading →

Anger and What to Do When it is Directed at You

Last week we learnt what to do with tears.  Today it is anger.  What to do when someone loses it in an appraisal or feedback conversation  -  becomes heated, shouting and maybe even banging tables. First recognize this is normal.  Normal?  Yep, it is normal to first deny and then become angry when you hear news you do not want to hear.  Think for a moment of what your own reactions are when the car breaks down.  First we say ‘No, No, No!’  We might hit the steering wheel whilst thinking ‘Why me?…continue reading →


There you are, in a meeting discussing a staff member’s performance and the worst thing happens.  They start crying! Don’t panic!!  There are many reasons why people cry and some are positive: They feel really passionate and committed about something Relief, a sense that at last someone understands what they are facing or that they can put down an impossible load that they might have been trying to carry Happiness, they have achieved something that was important to them Not so good reasons why people can cry: Tiredness Disappointment, they wanted to do…continue reading →

Fight, Flight or Freeze!

Most people have heard of the Flight or Fight response to stress. Well, there is a third – Freeze. And thinking about how people can respond when given negative feedback in a Difficult Conversation this is absolutely right! Under stress people can; fight, ie get heated and argue back; fly, ie leave the room or try to get the conversation onto another subject; or freeze. The first responses to stress are fight or flight, but if these do not work, or there appears to be no other alternative available, the individual will experience…continue reading →

Believe in Your Staff, Yes Even the Daft!!

Whenever I run a workshop and asked participants ‘What did the best manager you ever worked with do?’ this is always the top answer.  They believed in me. For these managers they accomplished two years’ work in one and seemed to have had great fun whilst doing it.  They were proud of the work they completed, talked about what they learnt by being stretched, and were grateful to these managers even years later. So how do you believe in people?  And do you have to believe in everyone, even the really difficult or…continue reading →

Yes, You will be Blamed

You are a manager.  You will be unfairly blamed by some of your team members.  But why? Brene Brown, the world famous researcher in shame and vulnerability, gave a great insight in one of her talks, ‘Blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort’. Unfortunately, as a manager you can cause people to experience pain and discomfort – particularly when it comes to giving necessary feedback.  Most people are fine – they will take feedback on the chin and with the positive, supportive intent with which it is given. However, some…continue reading →

They are not the Problem – they HAVE a Problem!

I came across this phrase in a blog post about coping with poorly behaved children  -  ‘It is not the child who is the problem  -  it is the child who HAS a problem’ and realized that this distinction was also tremendously valuable when applied to handling difficult people at work. For many of us our natural tendency, when faced with a negative feedback situation, is to go into the conversation with an accusatory tone, making the individual responsible for all that has gone wrong.  However, do this and they will fight back…continue reading →

Back to Work but No Energy?

So Christmas is over and most of us are now back to work after a good rest and recharge. If all is well with your team people will have bounded back into the building full of energy, focus and increased determination to Get Things Done!  Fabulous! However, some people will have had to drag themselves back to work.  You can tell who they are because: they arrive late; they spend all of the day talking about the holidays, what they did and how tough it is to be back to anyone who will…continue reading →