Communication - Teamwork - Productivity

Category: Mediating Solutions
Thursday March 13th '14, 8:36 pm

Mediating Solutions

Communication - Teamwork - Productivity



There are a few updates and reminders I feel compelled to share. First, this weekend we begin Daylight Savings - as it always sneaks up on me,  here is your reminder (and mine). Next, I want to share that on 3/19 I will be speaking at the HR Star conference in Los Angeles - Let me know if I should look for you there.  Finally, I want to make you aware that April is Workplace Conflict Awareness month.  With that in mind, I want to encourage you to find time to take note of, and make changes that address issues of workplace conflict.  Perhaps our newsletter will help you get started.   


In this edition you will find pieces on communicating and managing conflict - both for at home and at work. We have other articles, links, and ideas that examine the future of leadership, the (over)use of metrics, and the value of work-life balance. Finally, as always, we have included links to fun activities for you in and around Los Angeles.


We hope you spring forward with energy and enthusiasm, and that our newsletter offers you new ideas for improving your workplace and your life.

Are Metrics Killing Morale?

Metrics.  They’re everywhere.  They’re ubiquitous and overused.  And they’re killing us in the workplace. 

Before entering into private practice, I worked for a non-profit organization that decided to begin a new reporting protocol to track the services used by our client population.  That might sound reasonable, except that a similar program was already in place, and the original reports were not being replaced by this new, more time-consuming one.   Further, there was no clear purpose or benefit for the added information.  Our already over-worked team was shaken at the idea of being asked to duplicate their time-consuming paperwork. 

My husband, an IT professional, has experienced different challenges with metrics.  He has been asked to track and report on the usage of each piece of equipment (information that he notes has never led to change) and each client interaction.  The latter with the unfortunate focus (and reward) being on the number of clients served.  This client-service tracking led some techs to reduce their customer service or take costly short-cuts.  In this case, the metrics incentivized poor service.   

And while working with clients, I have learned of similar challenges and frustrations that were tied to seemingly irrelevant record keeping and tracking.  Some of these situations were at the core of staff member conflicts, taking the form of insubordination, or inter-team conflicts.   

Looking at the above situations, the use of metrics brought about an increase in workplace tensions and conflict, a lowering of productivity and morale, and a reduction in customer service and satisfaction.   How did this happen?  Aren’t metrics supposed to help us improve processes, customer service, and profitability?   As I see it, yes and no. 

Yes, they can (potentially) help us improve these things, but no, they aren’t always the right answer for accomplishing the goal.   

Here’s the limitation - Metrics cannot take the place of good management, careful oversight, or involved, committed employees.  They cannot make necessary inferences and watch for confirmation of the results.  These qualities are why we prefer a person for customer service over an automated system.  And these human elements are at the core of eliminating theft, building productivity, and enhancing customer interaction.  Humans have the ability to ask a question, seek more information when needed, interpret, intuit, and comprehend.  Data limits this – and us.   

If we really want to bring about important change, or track concerns or issues in the workforce, we need to communicate this to our managers and employees.  We must enlist their intelligence, creativity and support in accomplishing the goals intended.  We need to engage them in planning, and conversely, we need to listen to their needs.  To accomplish our goals and build a strong team, we need to bring about change in a cohesive way; One that allows for unguarded information sharing, open communication and reciprocal trust.  Only then can we begin to work collectively to reaching our goals – and only then will the goals actually matter.

You Never Listen to ME!

How do you get your point across when your spouse (or sibling, friend, parent) won’t listen? When it comes to having differences of opinion, it’s often difficult to get those closest to us to listen and really hear what we are trying to say.

When we know others well, we develop a short-hand with them. This feels great when our spouse (sibling, friend, etc.) seems to just “get” us, easily understanding our actions or decisions.  But it feels lousy when we are on opposite sides of an issue - especially if they are jumping to conclusions or won’t hear our perspective on a subject. What can be done?

It’s very important to have ground rules for discussing difficult issues. It provides both sides with a road map that promotes listening and understanding, and it creates opportunity for shared decision making and planning. Here are some basic ground rules to try:

1. Take Turns - One person gets the floor at a time. S/he explains his point of view, rationale, supporting details, etc.  The other person listens.
2. No interruptions – This means no dissenting comments, and whoever has the floor is the only one sharing information or opinions.
3. Clarify - After each person is done speaking, the listener must ask questions to clarify what s/he heard. The purpose here is to assure both sides that the listener understands the perspective of the speaker.  Achieving a full level of understanding is key - and does not require the listener to be in agreement.  Reaching a point of strong clarity may take some time and lead to added discussion.
4. Confirm – Once clarity is believed to have been achieved, the listener needs to sum up what s/he understood to be the point of view or rationale of the other side. If the listener doesn’t have it right, return to step 3 and continue the discussion.

These four ground rules are to be used for hearing each side to a story. While hearing only one side may seem sufficient as it changes the thoughts of the other person, take advantage of the momentum and find out what the other party was upset about or uncomfortable with in the first place. By determining where the initial misunderstanding or disagreement came from, you can prevent future disagreements from arising. You may even create a stronger short-hand with this person as a result.

Candice Gottlieb-Clark

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Veterans' Benefits Are Often "Unknown"

Category: military
Tuesday December 31st '13, 11:35 am

After a long, hard stint in the military, which most likely included multiple deployments, many soldiers look forward to coming home and transitioning into civilian life. In fact, they are so eager to begin the conversion process that they pay very little attention to the explanation of the benefits they have earned through years of valor, commitment, and dedication. The resulting lack of knowledge can create hardships for discharged soldiers and their families.


What information should these veterans acquire to make their journey back into civilian life more welcoming and satisfactory? First, they should become aware of the federal and state entitlement programs that are available to them . . . and learn how to enroll in them. Second, they should understand how to access health care for themselves and their family members through the Veterans Administration and through local veterans’ centers. Third, they should become familiar with the new GI Bill and the educational benefits it makes available to them and their family members. Fourth, they should become aware of their local job market and learn how to accomplish job-related skills, i.e., job search, resume writing, interviewing, et cetera.


The military establishment is not intentionally keeping important transition information from its veterans; even so, it has come to their attention that a growing number of discharged soldiers are unaware of the benefits they have earned through their service. This lack of knowledge creates undue burdens during what is already a challenging time.


Some branches of the military are adding new programs that will help level the playing field for discharged troops. One beneficial change is to offer a class that is focused exclusively on benefits, and to offer it just before the soldiers are ready to leave the military. The timing of the class is important. Veterans are most focused on gathering information about their civilian transition just before they are released from service.


We thank our military members for their service, and we want them to enjoy the benefits they have merited. A civilian transition is difficult enough without unnecessary hardships. Telemental health counseling, via state-of-the-art video technology, can help our troops ease their way into civilian life. They can get the help they need through this safe, private, and convenient approach to therapy.


Nesta Aharoni

Is Moral Injury a Factor in Soldier Suicide?

Category: military
Monday December 23rd '13, 12:39 pm

Military leaders are working hard to reduce troop suicides, but the fact that the suicide rate has recently risen has them scrambling for answers. The success of our military depends on the psychological health of our soldiers, so it is important to all of us that experts discuss and research this issue and discover some lasting answers.

 The rate of suicide in the Marine Corps is higher than that of any other branch of service. The Marine Corps suffers 24 suicides per 100,000, 11 more than they did in 2006. In comparison, the civilian suicide rate is 20 per 100,000.

One interesting theory on the rising suicide rate has come to the fore, and it is called “moral injury.” Soldiers who suffer moral injury have been exposed to or been part of something that goes against their basic belief system. Some killings can be justifiable but unintended, such as civilian killings. Participation in such actions may violate a core belief system, which results in moral injury. Witnessing or taking part in a battlefield indiscretion can also run counter to core beliefs and produce moral injury.

What is the determination that leads a soldier to suffer moral injury and decide to take his or her own life? A feeling that activities they have participated in or witnessed on the battlefield make them unforgiveable. When particular people feel that they do not deserve forgiveness, they experience hopelessness without any expectation that their status will ever change.

Discussion among Marine Corps units is an important step to resolving this distressing trend. Soldiers need to understand what post traumatic stress disorder and moral injury are, and they need to be assured that they can be treated and returned to their units as useful members. In reality, many men and women have been treated for PTSD and gone on to win a variety of promotions and provide valuable services for their country.

Discussion, counseling, and moral guidance are all tools being used to fight the rising suicide rate in the military. Telemental health counseling, via state-of-the-art video technology, can help our soldiers get the help they need wherever they are deployed.

Nesta Aharoni

Combat Medics Struggle with Heartrending Life and Death Decisions

Category: military
Wednesday December 18th '13, 4:32 pm

On May 31, Memorial Day, Jeanne Phillips of “Dear Abby” printed letters from soldiers and combat medics that were touching and riveting. The topic of the day was combat medics and the emotional pain they endure when they are forced to make divine battlefield decisions, such as who gets treated without delay and whose treatment gets postponed.


Apparently, these letters were in response to an earlier correspondence that detailed the alarming anguish a particular combat medic experienced when a critically wounded comrade pushed him away in order to free him to treat other troops who had a better chance of surviving.


We can all concur that what this medic did when he allowed himself to be pushed away was a sensible act because, after all, it permitted him to save the maximum number of soldiers that day. He made a rational decision. But was it emotionally palatable? No. To the contrary, it was a grief- and guilt-inducing choice.


Other combat medics wrote in to say that they, too, suffered psychological repercussions after helplessly watching some of their brave friends die. The nightmares and flashbacks that resulted pressed them to seek help, and the treatment they received allowed them to keep their battlefield images under control.


Combat medics demonstrate courage under grueling conditions. As a group, they triage their buddies and decide which ones are most likely to survive. At all times, their goal is to save the greatest number of soldiers they can. And while they are working tirelessly to save human life, they are also under attack by the enemy. Combat medics have one of the highest per capita casualty rates in the armed forces.


The soldier who pushed the medic away was well aware that he was forfeiting his life for the good of his unit and his country. His unselfish act enabled other warriors to survive. Even so, the combat medic involved is only human, and his sorrow is burdensome to bear.


I salute our heroic combat medics. And I am sorry for the emotional load they carry. I hope they all find the strength to seek professional help that will enable them to carry on with greater ease. Telemental health counseling, via state-of-the-art video technology, can help our combat medics get the help they need; it is a safe, private, and convenient approach to therapy.


Nesta Aharoni

PTSD Book about Cause and Effect

Category: PTSD
Friday December 13th '13, 11:34 am

The mental and emotional wounds of going to war, engaging in multiple deployments, and struggling with separation from family and friends are often unseen. But that doesn’t mean they are any less injurious to our brave and steadfast warriors. Charles W. Hoge, M.D., has written a book titled Once a Warrior Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home, including Combat Stress, PTSD, and mTBI. This book is designed to explain the causes of battlefield reactions like PTSD and the effects they have on soldiers, veterans, and family members.


Dr. Hoge’s work is a practical and useful reference guide that is sensibly written in layman’s terms to ensure that its critical message is comprehended by every soldier, spouse, and family member. It is purposely designed for troops and their families to easily locate pertinent information about PTSD, a condition that has become a signature military injury over the past nine years, and understand the relevant content.


Dr. Hoge wrote this book so that he could reach out and help as many warriors as possible. And he is well qualified to do so. Dr. Hoge has extensive medical experience and 20 years of active duty Army service, including time in Iraq. In Once a Warrior Always a Warrior, Dr. Hoge explains the impact of combat stress and its related mental and emotional wounds. He discusses the effects of multiple deployments, the stressful pace of the battlefield, and the adjustments that are necessary to fight a war that has no clearly defined front lines. He goes on to clarify that PTSD is actually a soldier’s way of coping with his or her impulse to survive and function under stressful conditions.


Dr. Hoge continues by making clear that PTSD symptoms are, in reality, normal reactions to the abnormal situations soldiers confront in demanding battlefield settings. After soldiers have experienced significant levels of anger, adrenaline rushes, and life-saving/defensive actions, it is challenging for them to readjust to the non-threatening living conditions that await them back home. In addition, Dr. Hoge helps veterans negotiate through the medical care services that are set up for them locally and through the Veterans Administration.


Dr. Hoge has written an important book that will help warriors and veterans understand PTSD more clearly and cope with its signs and symptoms more effectively. Hidden battlefield wounds require understanding and long-term support. And that is exactly what Dr. Hoge is offering . . . no-nonsense wisdom that is based on experience and commitment. Dr. Hoge is extending a helping hand to guide troops through the healing process as they transition from combat to home.


Thank you, Dr. Hoge, for your commitment to our military. We hope that our deployed and returning soldiers will find comfort and recovery in the pages of your book. Telemental health counseling, via state-of-the-art video technology, can also help our troops ease their way into civilian life. They can get the counseling help they need through this safe, private, and convenient approach to therapy.


Nesta Aharoni



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