Organizations Work Better With Clear Roles and Responsibilities

healing-stress-healing-traumaIn spite of sometimes disastrous consequences for businesses and organizations, it’s amazing how often they miss creating clear roles and responsibilities for their employees. There are many reasons for this, one big one being that there’s just so much to do merely to stay on track that taking the time to create written, clear job descriptions seems like a waste of time. It’s not, though.

 Organizational Effectiveness

Creating clear roles and responsibilities for every employee, from the CEO on down, usually greatly improves efficiency and effectiveness. You reduce redundancy—two or more people working on parts of the same projects without coordinating. You decrease things falling through the cracks, where people assume someone else is doing something and so fail to do it themselves. You decrease the chance of conflicts, where several people or departments feel they have the power to make certain decisions or allocate certain amounts of manpower or funds to the same areas. You increase the chances that the organization stays on a clear path to fulfilling its vision and mission and doesn’t go on costly side-tracks. You even decrease personality conflicts.

 How to Create Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Here are some requirements to creating clear roles and responsibilities:

  1. Do an analysis of the kinds of roles and responsibilities the organization needs to thrive.
  2. Do an analysis of the kinds of people that would be competent or even talented at fulfilling these roles and responsibilities.
  3. Be aware of who is already employed at the organization, in which positions they are employed, and whether their personalities, skills and/or talents match their positions. If they don’t currently have the skills, think about whether they can reasonably be trained to acquire them, and how many resources would be required. It’s often beneficial to an organization—and to organizational morale—to keep people with a history in the organization instead of hiring new people to fill positions.
  4. Write down very detailed and specific areas of responsibility, limits of power, and tasks to be performed.
  5. Delegate these areas of responsibility to specific departments and, within them, to specific people.
  6. Create a “water-tight” structure to enforce and follow up, to ensure that those departments and specific individuals are given the authority to fully take on their areas of responsibility, that no one can sabotage their work by doing end-runs around them or supersede their authority, and that there is regular oversight to make sure that the individuals tasked with areas of responsibility know how to do their work and are doing it efficiently and effectively.

Wishing you–and your organization–a free and joyous life,

Zoe

Conflict Resolution: What Escalates and De-Escalates Conflict

Conflict Scares Most of Us

Most of us shy away from disagreements or conflicts because we think conflict automatically makes things worse. We think we’ll lose in some way. But often it’s actually better to move into disagreement and air all the different viewpoints on a subject than to try to stay away from them.

It’s like being sick. Often we ignore the symptoms, but it usually ends up better if we find out what’s going on.

Here’s What Most of Us Do When Conflicts Threaten:

  • Avoid them
  • Push out/reject people that act in disturbing ways
  • Pretend to agree or give in
  • Blank out
  • Shut down
  • Cut people off
  • Discount the other person or group

In order to begin to move into conflict and progress toward conflict resolution, it’s useful to know what tends to escalate and de-escalate conflicts.

What escalates conflicts

  • Bringing into the conversation a third person who isn’t present: “Mary said she also has trouble with you being late to meetings.”  “Sam said he’s upset with you.” People do this because, unconsciously, they feel they aren’t strong enough to take the stance they’re taking by themselves and they need support.
  • Not being aware of one’s mixed signals: Saying “I’m not angry with you” in a loud voice. Saying you’re happy to see me while turning away. Saying you’re happy while frowning. The person or people you’re with unconsciously pick up these mixed signals and react to them automatically, also without being aware of what they’re reacting to.
  • Denying accusations: Often, when someone accuses us of something, we automatically assume we’re wrong or bad for being that way or saying that thing. We accuse ourselves at the same time! But accusations often highlight something about us that we need to bring in more—with awareness. (Ex: someone accuses me of wanting to be in on everything.) It helps to notice the little or large part of the accusation that’s true and to own it or stand up for being this way. “Hmm. I do want to be in on things. I specifically like to be in on places where there are problems, because I love to problem-solve. I like to help people find solutions, so that they will understand each other better and work better together.”
  • Stereotyping: “I figured since you are a man/woman/black/gay, you would be open to my feelings.” “I thought all people from the east coast talked fast.” Making assumptions about somebody because of their group identity tends to create tension (understatement of the year).
  • Not reacting when you’re hurt: if someone is attacking you and you stay expressionless or stoic, they won’t become aware of your reaction and will keep attacking. Or they may be looking at your expressionless face and unconsciously feel you don’t care, and attack more. Showing that you’re hurt tends to stop the person. Not always, but often.
  • Not having a feedback loop: when you continue to attack or criticize even after the other person has apologized or has stopped defending themselves escalates arguments.
  • Being indirectly hurtful or revengeful: snickering when someone is hurt, being sarcastic, ironic, pretending to be aloof, gossiping and triangulating. Sarcasm, for example, is an indirect jab that shows you actually have a criticism. Figuring out what your criticism is and being direct about it is way more useful than sarcasm when you’re in an argument.
  • Patronizing or condescending, as if you’re above the conflict: “I can see that I’m triggering your issues.” “You’re projecting onto me.” “You’ve had this kind of problem before, haven’t you?”

What De-Escalates Conflicts

  • Noticing your own mixed signals: Bring them into the conversation with awareness. For example, noticing that your voice is loud and becoming aware: “Am I angry, am I feeling urgent, am I afraid?” Noticing your voice is very soft: “Am I feeling unsure or shy, am I needing to be alone?” Noticing being turned away from the other person when ostensibly wanting to relate: “Do I need a moment to think about something we’re talking about? Do I want to leave?” Noticing that my arms are crossed: “Am I feeling strong and solid about what I’m saying and need to bring in this feeling? Am I protecting myself from the other person?”
  • Having the courage to bring in your feelings: especially fear, neediness, jealousy, anger, hurt.
  • Noticing your desire for revenge after you’ve been hurt and being congruent about it: “What you said hurt me and I’m noticing that now I want to say something hurtful back to you.” Rather than just “acting out,” talk about how the other person’s statements were hurtful and you don’t want them to say things like that again, or that you would like them to really get what they’ve done.
  • Noticing when you’re not feeling like interacting in the moment, and leaving rather than trying to force yourself to stay in the dialogue.
  • Not bringing an absent person into the conversation: Rather, notice that you don’t feel strong enough to speak to the other person alone. Either say that you need a third person there to help with the conversation or wait until you feel stronger to have the conversation.
  • Taking the other person’s side as well as your own, or helping them make their points. Noticing when you’re already starting to take the other person’s side automatically, and do it consciously for a little while before going back to your own side
  • If you find yourself stuck, consider your personal trauma history: Is this conflict greater than with this particular person? Are issues from your past coming up where you were hurt or helpless in some way
  • Noticing your hesitation to escalate: noticing where you’d really like to stand for your side, but you’re thinking it’s not ok to do so. Then really taking your side and standing for it strongly
  • Noticing in the moment your hesitation to de-escalate: maybe you’re feeling sad about arguing, maybe you just noticed you really care for or like the other person, maybe you realize that, right now, you want peace and harmony. But you believe you should keep arguing and standing for your side. Instead, when you notice these things, mention them, too.

 

For a simple and effective model on how to resolve conflicts, see my blog, A Powerful Conflict Resolution Model. There’s also more information on my Organizational Consulting work.

Wishing you a free and joyous life,

Zoe

 

Vicarious Trauma in Organizations Often Goes Viral

Stress and Trauma Can be Contagious in Organizations

In any group, such as organizations and businesses, stress and trauma can act like a virus–spreading very quickly. It is called “vicarious trauma” and can be caused by several kinds of situations.

Just one occurs in organizations whose customers or clients live under a lot of stress or trauma. Employees automatically absorb their clients’ trauma and begin reacting as if they, too, were experiencing first-hand trauma.

 Example at a Large Health Center

I consulted with a large public health center for a time. By definition, their clients are people who are experiencing serious emotional pain, some of them for their whole lives. The people who worked directly with clients heard their stories. They couldn’t help but imagine the scenes and feel what it would be like to go through their clients’ experiences. Inevitably, the trauma permeated into them, and their nervous systems inevitably reacted the same way they would react if the employees, themselves, were literally going through the emotional pain and traumatic stress.

Viral Traumatic Stress

Here is where it becomes even more contagious. First, employees with direct contact to traumatized clients “catch” traumatic stress. They react to their co-workers out of this nervous system state and soon, like a virus, this vicarious painful experience and even behavior spreads throughout the organization, even to top management, which never meets clients directly.

In organizations such as the health center, employees either become overly reactive and it’s like there are constant conflict-fires erupting, or people start becoming overwhelmed, tired, spaced out and numbed out emotionally. If nothing is done to become aware of vicarious trauma and to alleviate it, the organization almost inevitably becomes increasingly dysfunctional.

EFT Helps with Vicarious Trauma

EFT Tapping is amazingly effective in alleviating emotional pain and its symptoms and, of course, vicarious trauma. If an organization has experienced a specific painful or scary event, I can work with whole groups or individuals. Most people respond quite quickly and their emotional pain is alleviated, bringing them back to their normal, productive selves.

Organizational Consulting

Longer-term issues can also be resolved:

  • Fears resulting from lay-offs of colleagues
  • Stress from merging two companies or departments
  • Conflicts among employees or departments
  • Management/employee issues

 

These issues can be resolved through a combination of executive coaching, management coaching, role clarification, coaching for management-employee relations, and group and individual EFT.

For more information on organizational consulting, check out my website pages on Organizational Consulting. There’s also more information on stress and trauma on my Stress and Trauma page.

Wishing you a free and joyful life,

Zoë