Team Dysfunctions Blog — Workforce Issues

Bias is alive and well and living in our world

Posted in: Behavior, Diversity, Gender Issues, Select, Women's issues, Workforce Issues  on July 15, 2015

People immediately notice - and react to - gender, race and age.
It was the middle of a sunny afternoon and my ten-year-old daughter and I were walking across a parking lot headed into the grocery store. I noticed a woman sitting in a car we were about to pass, her eyes wide as she looked at us and quickly reached across the passenger seat, locking the door. By the time we passed in front of her car she was sitting bolt upright, staring ahead. It was quite a few years ago, but I think I actually stood and glared at her for a moment. (At least, I wanted to. And probably would today!)Bias is alive and well and living in our world, which is not earth-shattering news to those who experience it every day.If people don’t lock their car doors when you pass (for example) or you think it doesn’t affect you think about these:

  • Who has made your heart beat a little faster when you noticed them approaching your car, or walking down the street toward you?
  • Who caused you to lock your car door or slide your phone onto your lap, holding it in one hand with your thumb on the emergency button?
  • Who has made you think, “Oh, I better be friendly because I don’t want them to think I’m prejudiced.”?
  • In conversation, when have you informed someone, “I have a really good friend who is (black, gay, Muslim, fill in the blank).”
  • Who have you responded positively to simply because they reminded you of somebody you liked, or vice versa?

When we encounter another person we immediately notice three aspects of that person. Most people think it’s their:

  •  Smile or expression
  • Clothes
  • Tone of voice
  • Manner of walking
  • Eye contact or
  • Apparent social status

It’s not.

The first things you notice are their (1) gender, (2) race and (3) age. And, if you’re like the rest of us, you react to that person based on those three characteristics.


A gut reaction, positively or negatively projecting attributes on someone without knowing anything else about them, represents a personal bias. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines bias as “a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.”

NEWSFLASH #1: We all have biases.

NEWSFLASH #2: Biases aren’t good or bad.

They just are; they are a reflection of how we see the world. With no other information they cause us to view some things negatively and some things positively – like interviewing a job applicant JUST because she was from a little town in Canada across the river from where I grew up. (Yes, I really did that!)

It’s how we choose to act on those biases that can be good or bad, especially if we violate laws designed to keep us from discriminating against people. Or, when we unfairly attribute positive (or negative) traits to someone based on our personal bias, and then make decisions based on that. (For the record, the applicant from Canada did not get the job.)

There are proven biases against non-whites and women.Studies abound showing racial and gender bias in hiring and career progression. These are proven biases against people with “ethnic” (as opposed to “white”) sounding names and women: Same resume, different name, different outcome. A study cited in the American Economic Review found that resumes with “white” sounding names were 50% more likely to be called for an interview than those with “African-American” sounding names. (So glad my 17-year-old nephew, DJ, is changing his name from Desquan Jalil to David Joseph.)

Bias isn’t just about race or gender. It’s about age, beliefs, disabilities, education, habits (like smoking), language, money, nationality, physical appearance, politics, religion, salaries, sexual orientation, the neighborhood you came from, weight and anything else that is important to you or is part of your core – usually unconscious – value system. 

FACT: less than 15% of American men are over six feet tall, yet almost 60% of male CEOs in the US are over six feet tall. Do you think those hiring managers consciously considered that? Hardly.

Unconscious – or conscious – biases result in unfounded conclusions which can have detrimental effects, especially in hiring when we overlook a potentially excellent candidate because of a personal bias, or when we quickly move a candidate through to hire just because she reminds us of our favorite aunt, Amelia.

Check out our nine tips to avoid being swayed by a bias!

If you wonder why the woman in the car was so quick to lock her door as my daughter and I were about to walk by – I am white. My daughter is black. It was not the first, the only, or the last time we have had, or will have, a similar experience.

Bias is alive and well and living in our world. Whether you recognize it or not.


To get an entirely UNbiased view of your job applicants and employees use a validated, reliable and objective assessment! Contact us for a free trial! 

Six steps to effective on-boarding

Posted in: Develop, Engage, Retain, Teams, Workforce Issues  on June 23, 2015

The On-boarding from … well, you know!

It was Sarah’s first day in a new job, in a new city. Finding her way, socially and professionally, she felt the insecurity that often accompanies big life changes such as moving across the country and

No on-boarding plan leaves new hires frustrated and de-motivated.

starting a new job. It didn’t help when she introduced herself to the receptionist, who scurried off to find the boss saying, “Oh! I didn’t know we had a new person starting today!”

Ten minutes later the boss arrived, who, in spite of his reassurance that “Today is your first day. Right. I knew that.” appeared just as surprised as the receptionist did that a new employee was there, ready to start.

They didn’t have a computer for her, or an office ready or anything else for that matter. The boss instructed her to use his office and his computer while they got hers ready. He pointed out a few documents to review and he left her, sitting in his office at his computer with no other instructions about what she was supposed to do.

It was an entire week before Sarah had her own office and her own computer, and still no clear direction about exactly what she was supposed to be doing.

Bringing on a new employee can be stressful for both the employer and the employee, regardless of the size of your company.  With no plan and no direction for the new hire you risk losing a potential top performer. With a little bit of planning, though, you can create an environment where even your new hires love going to work and will become fully engaged and committed to doing their best for your company quickly. The Aberdeen Group found in a 2013 study that 91 percent of employees stayed in companies that had a well-structured on-boarding program, in contrast to only 30 percent of employees who stayed in companies with little or no on-boarding program.

Clearly it pays to have a plan.

Six steps to effective on-boarding

1. Welcome your new employees!

This can even start before day one with a hand-written, “Welcome to the team!” card. (What would that say to your new hires – and their families?!) When they do arrive make sure you are ready for them – with the right person to greet them, the tools they need to do their job – including a correctly spelled e-mail address, keys to the restroom, etc – and the structure and instruction about what they can expect.

2. Share your organizational vision, mission and values.

You already shared details of what the job entails when you offered the job (see #3). Now share the vision for your company, what you strive to achieve, what’s most important and how you want to be known in your industry and your community. Let your new hires fully understand how their role fits into this vision and mission and how important it is for success.

3. Review and clarify expectations.

Yes, you’ve already done this. Or at least you should have when you made the job offer. But it doesn’t hurt to review it again, or even to revisit it in the first few weeks. Clarify the tasks, how you expect them to be done, where to go for help and any additional expectations like attire, e-mail protocol and even how to answer the phone. Make sure they are crystal clear – and documented for future reference when they forget, because they will forget. That’s a lot easier for all of you than their having to find somebody to ask and your having to take the time to answer something that could have simply been written down.

4. Get to know each other.

Plan a “welcome on board” coffee or lunch during the first week or so to get to know each other personally. Depending on the size of the team include the people your new hire will work most closely with. The foundation of any cohesive team is vulnerability-based trust and you can’t develop that kind of trust without getting to know someone.

5. Identify the training plan.

That might mean that you first have to create a training plan, outlining exactly what skills are needed or need to be acquired in order to accomplish the expectations of the role and what guidance, training or assistance will be provided so your new hire can confidently fulfill the responsibilities of the role. Depending on your company and the position the training plan should also include spending some time with people in other departments so the new hire can not only see what they do but also how all the components fit together. That’s also a great way for the team members to get to know each other.

6. Clarify markers of success.

The training plan should include very clear, measurable, markers of success. Understanding exactly what they should know and have accomplished at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days and possibly even 120 days and one year leaves little room for either of you to wonder if they’re “getting it” and doing what they’re supposed to. It helps you identify what, if anything, needs to be adjusted. Is it something they need to do, or something you need to help them with?  That also provides you with a foundation to gauge their progress when you meet at 30 days, 60 days, etc. to discuss progress and areas you both need to improve on. Again, these should be documented processes for everything that falls within the employee’s realm of responsibility.

Do we really have to do this??

Of course not! Admittedly, setting up and implementing this process takes time. But whatever you do in the first day, week, month of a new hire lays the groundwork for success of the employee, and, in turn, the success of the business. Effective onboarding incorporates your new hires as a part of the team more quickly, enabling them to start producing the results they were hired for. And, once you’ve got the system, well – you’ve got the system!

So, do you really have to do this? No. But if you want to increase the likelihood that your new hire will be a lasting hire you need to – well, first you need to hire right to start with! – and then you need to have a plan that will get your new hire up and running and contributing in as short a time as possible.


synergize! six steps for effective on-boarding

At synergize! we know that every employee is an investment. synergize! helps you get the most out of your investment by getting the right people in place, developing effective processes to engage your team and set each new hire up for success, overcoming dysfunctions and developing top performers.


The original, written by Sarah Yohe, was originally published in the synergizer! June 2015 edition.



Got stress? Probably. Who Doesn’t at This Time of Year!

Posted in: Mentoring, Overcome, Team Dysfunctions, Workforce Issues  on December 11, 2013

Just about everybody is stressed at this time of year. Maybe the goal isn’t to eliminate the stress, rather to make sure it doesn’t get the best of us.

To that end we are pleased to give you something to think about when it comes to stress. And we’d also love to have you join us at our next Lunch & Learn – Dealing with Holiday (and Everyday!) Stress on Tuesday, December 17, which was rescheduled due to the weather.

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.” ~Eckhart Tolle, author, “The New Earth”

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” -William James

“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”
― David Mamet, Boston Marriage

“My body needs laughter as much as it needs tears. Both are cleansers of stress.”
― Mahogany SilverRain, Ebony Encounters: A Trilogy of Erotic Tales

“If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.” ― Śāntideva

“If you can change your mind, you can change your life.” ~William James

“Is everything as urgent as your stress would imply?” ~Carrie Latet

Work / life balance. Will we ever stop talking about it?

Posted in: Gender Issues, Men's issues, Women's issues, Workforce Issues  on September 26, 2013

It seems work / life balance (WLB) is still a hot topic.  I know this because I talk to a lot of women. But I also know it because I was in a women’s group discussion about it the other day when a workshop on the topic was referred to as “fluff.”

For younger women it’s hot because they’re still trying to figure it out.  In fact a 2011 Pricewaterhouse Coopers study found that WLB is the number one priority for young women entering the workforce. For women who have been, shall we say, around the world of work for a while it’s hot because they’re sick of talking about it and many have a “WHY-CAN’T-WE-TALK-ABOUT-SOMETHING-ELSE??” mindset.  And undoubtedly some women don’t want to talk about it because they think we shouldn’t have to talk about it.  Maybe because men don’t talk about it, so why should women?

Yet we still talk about it.  Even when we talk about not wanting to talk about it.  And we will probably continue to talk about it for a long time because it’s not going to go away.  Because as long as we have home and we have work the issue of balancing our two worlds is here to stay.  In my mind that moves it into “an-issue-that-affects-my-life” and that is not “fluff.”

Perhaps instead of not talking about it altogether, we should think about changing the conversation. Instead of looking at this as a “woman’s” issue, we should realize that it is an issue that affects women as well as men and our work places as well.  Maybe it’s just an “issue.”  In a March 2013 issue of US News fifty percent of men admitted to struggling with WLB, and fifty-six percent of women agreed.  

Doesn’t look like a woman’s issue to me.  But if it’s not an issue at all it sure affects a lot of people.  

Four thoughts about work / life balance that might change the conversation:

  1. We all have to deal with issues of balance.   Gender aside, everyone has to deal with needing to leave work early for doctor’s appointments (our own, our kids’ or our parents’).  All of us would prefer at times to be home when we have to be at work, or prefer to be at work when we have to be at home.  There are times when all of us think we work too many hours and don’t have enough time for ourselves or we don’t have enough time to get the work done. While WLB does not mean equal parts work and equal parts home, it does mean that something, somewhere always has to give.  We just can’t do it all.
  2. Gender stereotypes contribute to misunderstandings regarding WLB.  In our society when a child is sick it is usually the mother who stays home.  We hear more about the moms who turn down promotions or leave work early so they don’t miss their kids’ soccer games.  Does that mean men don’t do it?  Of course not.  Since this behavior is less acceptable for men they don’t necessarily tell people about it.  The stereotype that this is what women do prevents men from being able to deal with the career effects when they decide to forego a promotion or check out early every Thursday for a soccer game.  Heck, the US Census Bureau (quoted in the NY Times blog) even considers the mother as the “designated parent” and refers to it as “childcare” when mom is absent and only the father is there.  A stay-at-home-dad is actually considered to be providing “childcare.”  Apparently that saying, “It’s not babysitting if you’re the dad” is not actually true.
  3. Imbalance in any area of our life creates stress.  And stress contributes to illness.  Eighty-three percent of US employees admit to feeling stressed out.  Stress causes cardiovascular problems.  It kills brain cells, affects our memories, impacts our decision-making abilities and contributes to diabetes.  It is estimated that seventy-five to ninety percent of health care treatments are directly or indirectly related to stress.  Chronic, negative stress is not good for us, and the effects of stress are not for women only.
  4. Stress creates problems at work.  It’s no surprise that stressed out employees are less productive; less focused.   They are more fatigued and distracted, which explains why the risk of injury for stressed out workers is thirty-seven percent higher than it is for non-stressed employees.  They put in the time but don’t get as much done, which likely causes more stress and keeps the WLB cycle of imbalance going.

The work / life balance issue is real.  Even if you have figured it out in your life, a lot of people haven’t and they could probably use your help figuring it out.  The issue is here to stay so we might as well accept that we’re going to keep talking about it.  But let’s try to change the conversation; accept that it is an issue, and that it affects all of us.  Then we can acknowledge how it affects us – women, men, employers, work groups, businesses.  Only then will the conversation of what we can do about it be meaningful for everyone involved.  

Or, at least, everyone who still wants to talk about it.


Networking … Not your thing? Read on!

Posted in: Overcome, Workforce Issues  on September 10, 2013

Networking. Just seeing the word puts that uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Don’t get me wrong. I love to talk. Just ask my sons who often comment on the fact that I’ve been on the phone for over an hour (and not giving them attention). The fact is that I love to talk to someone I know and have things in common with. Talking with someone that I barely know definitely makes me uneasy. If you are the same way, check out these quick tips.

• Use the person’s name in the conversation. People like to hear their names and helps them to feel comfortable and connected to you. It also helps you to remember their name.

• Think of a few questions ahead of time to ask about the other person? People love having a chance to discuss their passions or their subjects of expertise. Consider questions such as: What brought you to your current position? What do you like to do when you aren’t in the office?

• Listen actively to the other person. A conversation will go nowhere if you are too busy thinking of other things, including what you plan to say next. Listen intently so you’ll be able to identify questions to ask based on the other person’s statements.

• Read the current event section of the newspaper beforehand to be able to discuss a recent event if the conversation slows down.

• Make mental notes of the things the person says to pull from for future conversations. For example, remember that they love coffee (you can suggest to meet at a coffee house next time) or that they are preparing to send their youngest child off to college (the next time you see them you can ask if the transition to college went smoothly).

You may never become a social butterfly, but networking gets easier the more often you do it so practice, practice, practice. So, please consider joining us for our Lunch & Learn on September 17. Marilyn will be presenting Networking for Dummies and there will be time to network with other participates afterwards. We’ll even make it easy and give you things to talk about! You can register at our website!

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