Make Sure Everyone on Your Team Sees Learning as Part of Their Job

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As an executive coach, I speak regularly at corporate leadership development programs. During discussions, participants often confess the real reason they’re in the room, and it’s rarely “to grow and learn.” Time and again, the reasons include: they are checking a box on their development plan, their manager told them to come, or they’ve been told that their participation will increase the chance of a promotion.

The reality is that most people are not set up to take advantage of development opportunities. Many organizations view learning as something extra, something to fit in on top of the regular work. But to create a culture that encourages employee growth, managers need to make learning an expectation — not an option.

Learning helps people keep a broad perspective. When we feel expert at something, sociologists have shown, the earned dogmatism effect sets in, causing us to be more

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Give Your Team the Freedom to Do the Work They Think Matters Most

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Since at least the time of Frederick Taylor, the father of “scientific management,” control has been central to corporate organization: Control of costs, of prices, of investment and—not least—of people.

Control, even a perception of it, can be comforting. Moreover, it feels like what a manager should be doing: Setting targets, monitoring adherence to procedures, directing, shaping the future of the business. Control feels essential—especially if you are the boss.

Except it turns out that far from being vital, top-down control carries serious costs, many of which have been hiding in plain sight. What is more, there is an alternative. And not a pie-in-the-sky fantasy conjured up on a whiteboard, but a real, working alternative. It has been practiced to varying degrees in companies around the world for decades. And in France in particular, it is taking on the character of a movement. Companies as

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Why Bcc-ing the Boss Is a Bad Practice

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Imagine you’re drafting an email about a sensitive project when you realize you need to keep your supervisor in the loop. You decide to Bcc her on the email. Later, the rest of the team finds out. How does this make them feel?

Email continues to be one of the most common ways people communicate at work — and one of the most common ways people miscommunicate at work. The Cc and Bcc functions can corrode trust and cloud intentions. To explore how senders and recipients interpret the use of these tools, we conducted a series of five experimental studies in which a total of 694 working adults participated.

In our first study, we wanted to explore how people perceive the use of Bcc relative to the use of Cc. We invited working adults (75 females and 41 males; average work experience of 10.75 years) via

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Managing Someone Who’s Too Collaborative

Rebecca Shambaugh, a leadership coach, says being too collaborative can actually hold you back at work. Instead of showing how well you build consensus and work with others, it can look like indecision or failure to prioritize. She explains what to do if you over-collaborate, how to manage someone who does, and offers some advice for women — whose bosses are more likely to see them as overly consensus-driven. Shambaugh is the author of the books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor and Make Room For Her.

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How to Earn a Reputation as a Fair Manager

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At some point in your career, you likely encountered a manager you believed was unfair. You probably thought to yourself, “When I’m a manager, I’m never going to be like that!” Now that you’ve been promoted to a management position, you’re probably dedicating significant amounts of time and energy to making unbiased decisions, but no doubt finding that the right balance is elusive. Sadly, there is no objective measure of fairness. Instead, each time you attempt to level the playing field on one dimension, you throw it off balance on another. The best, if imperfect, approach is to understand the different forms of fairness and to be thoughtful about when and how you apply them.

You can start with the most standard measure of fairness, which focuses on the outcomes of your decisions. Did your decision-making process lead to a fair distribution (of inputs and outputs)

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In Collaborative Work Cultures, Women Carry More of the Weight

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In any organization, people apply unspoken rules and understood norms to get collective work done — in other words, they collaborate. Over the past 15 years, my team and I have observed and facilitated thousands of meetings and helped hundreds of teams come together to do work, and we have found that collaboration looks different depending on a variety of factors.

The value people place on relationships is a strong influencing factor on whether and how they collaborate. Relationship-heavy cultures are marked by inclusion, personal connection, and relationship-based decision making. They tend to be friendly, warm places to work. Another factor is how strongly the people in an organization value rapid progress. People in organizations with an execution orientation thrive on urgency and take quick steps toward an end goal, rarely missing a deadline.

In our experience, organizations that have a relationship bias combined with an execution orientation

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The 2 Types of Respect Leaders Must Show

Kristie Rogers, an assistant professor of management at Marquette University, has identified a free and abundant resource most leaders aren’t giving employees enough of: respect. She explains the two types of workplace respect, how to communicate them, and what happens when you don’t foster both. Rogers is the author of the article “Do Your Employees Feel Respected?” in the July–August 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.

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What Not to Do When You’re Trying to Motivate Your Team

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When I speak to large groups about leadership, one question I often ask is, “How many of you have ever received a compliment from your boss that actually offended you?” Without exception, more than two-thirds of the people in the room raise their hands. When I probe further on what people found offensive about their boss’s praise, the most common responses I hear are “It wasn’t sincere” and “They didn’t know what they were talking about.”

When leaders look like they are just applying some “motivational technique” they read about, people see right through the superficial, obligatory effort. It looks like they are checking off the “I motivated someone today” box. Motivation is not something you do to people. People ultimately choose to be motivated — when to give their best, go the extra mile, and offer radical ideas. The only thing leaders can

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Why Do Toxic People Get Promoted? For the Same Reason Humble People Do: Political Skill

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Sometimes the wrong people get promoted. They might be deceitful and unscrupulously manipulative (what psychologists call “Machiavellian”); or impulsive and thrill-seeking without any sense of guilt (psychopathic); or egotistically preoccupied with themselves, having a sense of grandiosity, entitlement, and superiority (narcissistic). Employees with one or more of these three personality traits, known as the “dark triad,” are more likely to cheat, engage in fraudulent or exploitive workplace behavior, and make unethical decisions. It can be frustrating for honest and humble people to watch these employees get ahead. Why, given their toxicity, do they rise through the ranks? How do such people manage to succeed?

In a recent research study published in Personality and Individual Differences, I looked at the influence of political skill among employees. Political skill is defined as a positive social competence that helps people network, influence others, demonstrate social astuteness, and appear sincere in their dealings with others.

I surveyed

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How to Manage an Employee Who’s Having a Personal Crisis

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We all have life events that distract us from work from time to time — an ailing family member, a divorce, the death of a friend. You can’t expect someone to be at their best at such times. But as a manager what can you expect? How can you support the person to take care of themselves emotionally while also making sure they are doing their work (or as much of it as they are able to)?

What the Experts Say
Managing an employee who is going through a stressful period is “one of the real challenges all bosses face,” says Linda Hill, professor at Harvard Business School and author of Being the Boss. Most of us try to keep work and home separate, but “we all have situations in which our personal and professional lives collide,” and how you handle these situations with your employees is often

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Architect Daniel Libeskind on Working Unconventionally

Daniel Libeskind, a former academic turned architect and urban designer, discusses his unorthodox career path and repeat success at high-profile, emotionally charged projects. He also talks about his unusual creative process and shares tips for collaborating and managing emotions and expectations of multiple stakeholders. Libeskind was interviewed for the July-August 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.

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Feeling Ambivalent About Your Boss Hurts Your Performance Even More Than Disliking Them

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Developing good relationships is a crucial aspect of leadership. Research shows that when people have a good relationship with their leaders, they’re more motivated, they perform better, and they’re more likely to go the extra mile to support their team. These positive effects have appeared across a wide range of jobs and cultures. Conversely, we know that when people don’t get along with their leaders, they tend to retaliate against them and the organization.

The majority of this research, however, considers these leader-follower relationships as either good or bad, positive or negative — which creates a false dichotomy. In reality, many relationships are both. Think about your love-hate relationships and your frenemies. Employees also have ambivalent relationships with their leaders, characterized by both positive and negative feelings toward them. For instance, we may think our leaders are both supportive and unsupportive, that they sometimes understand our problems, but at

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How Are You Protecting Your High Performers from Burnout?

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A little over a year ago, a high-performing specialist at one of the largest technologies companies — we’ll call him Santiago — was given an opportunity no high performer could turn down: an opportunity to play a manager role on a project he really cared about. The director told him, “You care about this; you lead it.” So he did, and all seemed to be going well — even though he was planning a significant company-wide event at the same time, a role he had volunteered for.

“We had a really important conference call I had spent a lot of time preparing for. The call went well, but when I finished the call, I realized I was feeling really sick,” Santiago recounts. “It got worse after that. I went to the doctor later that day, and he told me I had pneumonia. I ended up in the ER the next

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3 Biases That Hijack Performance Reviews, and How to Address Them

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When we talk about bias, we often tie it to acts of discrimination or prejudice. But according to cognitive science, everybody, by virtue of having a brain that’s constantly seeking efficiency, is biased in some way — and not all biases make us actively malicious.

The key is how we manage our biases.

While biases can affect any of an organization’s talent decisions, they can be especially harmful when it comes to diversity and inclusion efforts. And there is perhaps no setting that shapes careers, salaries, and lives like annual performance evaluations.

In a recent performance management summit we ran with over 100 large organizations, 57% of them said they weren’t taking any actions to address bias in performance reviews. One reason why may be a lack of shared language: In order to address biases, you first have to be able to label them.

Research has

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Annoying Subordinates

Does your direct report get on your nerves? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Art Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and cohost of the podcast Two Guys on Your Head. They talk through how to manage someone who is unlikable, overly polite, or passive-aggressive.

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Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Send in your questions about workplace dilemmas by emailing Dan and Alison at dearhbr@hbr.org.

From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:

HBR: How to Help an Employee Who Rubs People the Wrong Way by Rebecca Knight — “If you’ve ever cringed in a meeting when your direct report was talking, you know how tough it can be to watch a team

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Why Work Friendships Go Awry, and How to Prevent It

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Chances are that you spend between a third and a half of your waking hours each week at work. As a result, your relationships with people at work can become among the most important relationships in your life. Indeed, having good relationships with colleagues is one of the strongest predictors of people’s happiness at work.

That said, there are potential downsides to having good friends at work.

The most significant thing to watch out for relates to an ethical rule in psychotherapy called the dual relationship principle. This principle states that if someone serves as a therapist for a patient, then they cannot have any other relationship with that patient. They cannot be friends, coworkers, family, or romantic partners.

The reasoning behind the principle is that every relationship has goals associated with it, and when you have more than one relationship, those goals can conflict and cause

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Research: When Managers Are Overworked, They Treat Employees Less Fairly

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Fair managers can reap big dividends. Extensive research finds that employees who feel fairly treated are better performers, helpful to colleagues, more committed to their workgroups and the organization, and less likely to steal or be rude to others.

Yet, all too often, employees find themselves being treated unfairly – their boss makes decisions concerning them without consultation or due process, or their boss is inconsistent in applying rules. They may think that their boss is incompetent or biased, or even worse, just plain mean. Although this may be true of a few bosses, most recognize the importance of fairness and want to act fairly. So why then do some act unfairly, even when they recognize its corrosive effects?

In a recent paper, published at the Academy of Management Journal, we propose that one explanation is that many managers are, simply put, too busy to be

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Is Your Emotional Intelligence Authentic, or Self-Serving?

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It’s possible to fake emotional intelligence. Similar to knockoffs of luxury watches or handbags, there are emotions and actions that look like the real thing but really aren’t. With the best of intentions, I’ve seen smart leaders charge into sensitive interactions armed with what they believed was a combination of deep empathy, attuned listening, and self-awareness but was, in fact, a way to serve their own emotional needs. It’s important to learn to spot these forgeries, especially if you’re the forger.

Plenty of research has documented manipulative misuses of emotional intelligence — the intentionally subtle regulating of one’s emotions to engineer responses from others that might not be in their best interest. Given that most people aren’t sociopaths, in my experience, the more common misuses of emotional intelligence are subconscious. To safeguard against inadvertently falling prey to them, we need deeper levels of self-examination. Here are three

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After a Merger, Don’t Let “Us vs. Them” Thinking Ruin the Company

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More and more companies are relying on mergers & acquisitions (M&A) as a competitive growth strategy. Since 2012, M&A activity has increased dramatically in both number of deals and size of transaction, with the yearly value of global M&A deals tracking above $4.5 trillion for the past four years. These are heady numbers and 2018 is expected to continue apace. Yet when mergers are not done correctly, the end result can be at best uncomfortable, and at worst devastating to both companies.

As part of my consulting work on mergers and acquisitions, I created a playbook that defines the best practices for optimizing the human side of M&A. To uncover the human facets and the consistent challenges of M&A, I interviewed 55 executives from multinational to small- to medium-size companies all over the world. The interviewees, who were in the process of an M&A deal or

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Employees Who Use Social Media for Work Are More Engaged — but Also More Likely to Leave Their Jobs

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Social media can be a powerful communication tool for employees, helping them to collaborate, share ideas and solve problems. Research has shown that 82% of employees think that social media can improve work relationships and 60% believe social media support decision-making processes. These beliefs contribute to a majority of workers connecting with colleagues on social media, even during work hours.

Employers typically worry that social media is a productivity killer; more than half of U.S. employers reportedly block access to social media at work. In my research with 277 employees of a healthcare organization I found these concerns to be misguided. Social media doesn’t reduce productivity nearly as much as it kills employee retention.

In the first part of the study I surveyed the employees about why and how they used platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Respondents were then asked about their work behaviors,

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