Being touchy-feely

Last week I attended a training session on Alternative Dispute Resolution. Actually, I wouldn’t call it just a “training session” – it was an education and an opportunity to learn, which is significantly more meaningful than training.

If I had to list the top 5 things I don’t like to do (with respect to the training and the workplace), it would be:

1. Dealing with conflict
2. Not sharing my opinion when I’m pretty sure I either know the answer or think I’m right
3. Role-playing
4. Small talk
5. Listening to people ask questions which aren’t actually questions, but only a way for them to talk about themselves

So, you can see why it might be both a good and bad thing that I attended this particular session.

Truthfully, there is likely no training or education session out there that will eliminate #4 and #5 of the list – they are part of me – whether it’s flattering or not.

However, I am proud to say that I’ve made progress on the other fronts. Or at least I’ve come to realize the importance of them and why I need to work on developing and accepting these areas.

The session was attended by a people from a range of backgrounds and it was really interesting to see how they approached mediating scenarios, even when given a process and tools. Some were almost paralyzed by the process (too structured) and others decided to wing it. Like they always have. The underlying issue was that dealing with people is hard. It doesn’t matter how black & white the conflict is – once you add people to the mix…it becomes challenging.

I mean negotiating a contract is not the same as mediating a workplace issue between people. Sure there may be procedural issues to blame, but to completely ignore the human element is missing the key element.

As an example, I participated in a scenario in which I and another member were colleagues that were basically sabotaging each other out of frustration and not malice. The “mediator” approach the situation in a very results-oriented manner…probably in the same way that she tackles project planning and timelines…it was efficient, it was direct, it was to the point and it was moving forward. However, in the middle of the discussion and in keeping with my character – I actually admitted fault and apologized to my “colleague”. I wasn’t trying to throw the mediator off, but it seemed very appropriate. My “colleague” acknowledged this and offered his own thoughts. I felt like this was a completely believable and realistic action.

However, the mediator’s reaction completely threw me off. She froze, watched us exchange apologies, and then ignored what just happened and went back to our idea generation list. Even though i was just acting – this completely stunned me. How could you not see what just happened? How could you not just jump all over the progress that was just made…sure we didn’t solve the procedural issue, but the communication lines and respect just opened.

In our debrief I asked the “mediator” about this and she admitted that the situation had completely thrown her off – it seemed very random and she didn’t want to “go there” to the “touchy-feely” area. She wanted to stay on track and focus on the results.

I am not slagging on her. I see this happen often – we forget that we are dealing with people who should be focused on doing their work. But as an employee, it’s really hard to be results-oriented when you have human issues that are getting in the way.

Now I’m far from proposing the cry-on-my shoulder or group hug kind of approach, but ignoring the “touchy-feely” side of issues is a big mistake.

And I’m willing to risk conflict defending that opinion.


Avoiding conflict

I’m heading into a training session for the rest of the week on Alternative Dispute Resolution.  There are a number of people out there laughing their asses of at this because they know how much I loooooove conflict.

I mean right up to this afternoon I wanted to bail on (cancel or postpone) the training.  That’s why I know I should do it.  I have to come to realize that my barometer for “uncomfortableness” is a very good indicator of what I should be doing and not avoiding.

I don’t mean disregarding my gut and putting myself in potential harmful situations.  Like the employer I used to work for that insisted I ride down in the elevator with employees that we had just terminated to make sure they left the building.  If countless suspense/action movies have taught us anything…it’s that you don’t get into an elevator alone with a potentially emotional or pissed off person.

No, I’m talking about the kind of feeling you have when you feel like you will be the only person who doesn’t understand the program or makes that social status ending gaffe.  You know, the school day jitters where you just don’t want to look dumb.

Wouldn’t it be ironic (don’t ya think), if I avoided conflict by…well, avoiding conflict (training).

I think one of the keys to becoming successful member your organization, as well as society as a whole, is recognizing that you really can’t avoid issues – they never seem to go away.  However, it isn’t enough to just “deal with them”…you have to learn to deal with them in away that:

1) you aren’t creating a new issue

2) you can sleep at night with how you dealt with it

3) you actually learned something

For me, that would be the ultimate take-away from the session.  That and ability to successfully negotiate with my 13-year old.

Common denominators

I understand that there's been issues with hair in the sink, but I don't know why you think that's my fault?

I understand that there’s been issues with hair in the sink, but I don’t know why you think that’s my fault?

There’s someone I know who has a lot of trouble with relationships. I don’t mean just romantic relationships, but also with other family members.

I have my own theories and opinions about some of the contributing factors, but ultimately the result is that this person has a tendency to smother and scare people off. It’s kind of sad – I mean the person is just trying to be nice, to do what others want, to be what others want.

It would be easy to say that I feel bad except for one minor thing. This person truly believes that every difficult and failed relationship is the fault of the other person. Every single time.

I would have thought that if no one returns my calls, wants to get together, or has cut off ties with me…I would have sat back and thought, hmmm…what is the common denominator in this situation.

Yeah, that would be me.

But we are living in delusional times people and it’s easy to convince yourself that because you had good intentions and did all the right things that you couldn’t possibly be at fault.


Now I would like to turn the spotlight on me. I’ve talked about how HR was not my first direction and I am still relatively “new” to it.

I’m now on my third role with my third employer and I’m starting to get a bit nervous.
In each of my last roles, I left – started anew, met new people, learned a new organization and then…around the 2 year mark I start to think…huh, is this it?

Job #1: 2.5 years – left for progressive opportunity
Job #2: almost 2 years – left to progressive opportunity to regain my sanity
Current role: just passed the 2 year mark…

Like nesting urges or Spring cleaning, I’m getting antsy. It’s almost laughable how my internal employment clock has started to tick loudly.

Is it boredom? Is it insecurity? Is it restlessness?

I’m not entirely sure, but I have finally stopped to ask myself – what’s the common denominator in all these situations? Oh sure, in part it’s the work, sometimes the people…but I recognize that it’s probably me.

I think that despite the fact that I’m feeling the draw to start looking and considering what’s out there – I really need to get my shit in order and figure out what it is that I feel I’m lacking or what I need to go for before I actually move on and start over.

Failing to do this will leave me doomed to repeat the same thing over and over. Because employment is a relationship and it’s rare that one person is blameless when things go sour.

We all play a role and the best thing we can do is to figure out what that role is and recognize when you are not doing your part.

Risky Business

At some point or another most parents think that maybe they aren’t in the running for the “Parent of the Year” award. I’ve felt this way for oh…about 17 years.

My husband and I rely on a mix of intuition and what I read on blogs to justify our parenting methods. For the record, our intuition tends to be more successful, even when it’s at odds with what others (whether people we know or bloggers) believe.

Like doing dangerous stuff.

Hey, we grew up as kids in the 70-80s and did really stupid things (especially my husband), but we are not only alive today, but we are probably more interesting people for it.

And so despite being the “Strictest parents of all their friends” (so say our kids) – we are probably some of the most permissive when it comes to unconventional things. I was an admitted sleep-nazi when it came to my kids and I fiercely guarded our family time. But as the kids and their interests grew up – I recognized that there were things that they were going to have to learn the hard way.

My son is really the one who is testing all the boundaries that are out there and in response – we have been somewhat elastic with the barriers.

The three things he loves to do: climbing things, blow things up, and watch horror movies.

Generally speaking, not the first three things that I would recommend putting on an application.

One of the hundreds of rocks he climbed.

One of the hundreds of rocks he climbed.

He is sitting down to remove his socks and shoes.

He is sitting down to remove his socks and shoes.

Note the shells - this was his first time trap shooting and he kicked ass.

Note the shells – this was his first time trap shooting and he kicked ass.

What you may notice is that in none of these photos was he wearing a helmet and/or bubble-wrap.

What I can’t show you is the focus and concentration he has when doing these things. The time and effort he puts into researching things like the fire crackers he orders (yes, we allow this), or the excitement of hacking these explosions to do his own thing.

Could he get hurt? Absolutely.

Could he get in trouble? Check.

But can he learn new things? Can he become more confident? Will he take risks?

It is because of the possible “yes” to any or all of the last three things that we allow him to pursue his interests.

I have a hard time relating to parents who bubble-wrap their kids. I don’t judge, but I can’t help thinking…what really is the worst thing that could happen. (And don’t answer “they could die”, because that’s the obvious answer and the reality is that it can happen whether your kid decide to jump off the garage roof or not.)

In fact, if you need further support – watch this <a href="

“>Ted Talks.

If you compare the top 5 things that parents worry will happen to their kids with the top 5 things that actually happen to the kids….there’s a big disconnect.

Risk-taking is important. It leads to discovery and mistakes or as I like to call it: learning.

This is completely relevant to the workplace, which in my opinion is second only to the school playground as the ultimate risk-adverse environment. I’ve seen managers jump in and take over the minute anything appears to remotely be going off path…They don’t trust that their employees will a) recognize the potential risk and/or b) be able to handle the risk appropriately.

And as long as these managers continue to allow their employees to work down the straight and narrow, not experiencing frustration, challenges, and failure – then they will likely be correct.

Seriously, the only use for bubble wrap in the workplace is for shipping breakables.



Some weeks I’m just not myself.

Well I suppose I’m always myself, but not my full self.

This is one of those weeks.

Which means that although this is one of my posts, it’s just not one of my full posts.

Sorry about that.