WHEN YOU KNOW YOU’RE RIGHT!

“In spinning a robe of your own righteousness, before the sun goes down you will find it all unraveled.” – Curtis Hutson

You know you are right….and yet they ignore you, ridicule you, argue nonsense to you or even try to sabotage you.

Of course, they can’t be “right” too.

John was one of the top engineers on the project.  After doing a bunch of independent research, he came to the conclusion the team was going in the wrong direction.  He had been hinting at his concerns, but it seemed everyone was too overwhelmed with their tasks to listen.

Every Wednesday at 8 AM, the team had an all-hands meeting.  John would be prepared.  He would show them why the current approach was doomed for failure.  It was all he could think about, all night long. He was fitful and had a terrible night’s sleep.

The next morning, John was exhausted but ready to go.  He steeled himself when it came his time to report.  He let it all out.  He was nervous, and his energy was strong. He told the team if they didn’t listen to his concerns, they would regret it later.

John did not get the response he hoped for.  At first, there was dead silence.  Then the questions, disagreements and attacks began.  Many on the team felt as if they were under attack from John, and sought not to listen or understand John, but to defend themselves.

It was a disaster.  The team lead ended the meeting and told John he’d like to meet with him that afternoon.

After the meeting, John was anxious and confused. He couldn’t understand why they didn’t jump on board with his recommendations. Thoughts kept repeating in his head about how he was right.  They must be blind, fools or even worse, reckless.

So where did being “right” get John?

Where does the push to be “right” ever get any of us? On any stage?

As the saying goes, “Are you always the smartest person in the room?”

I know my energy can rise when there is even a potential for conflict… and I know I’m right.

When we are “right” and don’t instantly get our way, it feels unfair.  When something feels unfair, the drama begins.  We can go from feeling like a victim one minute and acting like a villain in the next.

So, what approach do you take when you know you are right, and resistance is sure to follow?  What insights should John’s team leader share with him in their meeting? Let me share a few insights I’ve learned from trial work, sales, and the study of emotions.

  1. Begin by asking yourself the questions that are sure to come your way.  What are the possible objections to your argument?  What fears or concerns of others will you have to overcome? A good salesperson considers possible objections that may be confronted in a sales meeting and practices responses to them.  Even better, take away their potential victimology by addressing their fears and concerns… before they do.
  2. Have a confidant give you honest feedback.  Invite them to cross-examine you. When I was a trial lawyer, we would sometimes pay for a “mock jury” to test out our arguments.  Maybe a mentor,  coach, or old professor can be a good sounding board for you.  Having that sounding board is one reason every executive should have a coach!
  3. Hone your presentation.  Practice, practice, practice. Never wing it.  If it is important, it is important enough to do it with excellence.  Tell a great story, beginning to end.  Identify how everyone benefits from your approach.
  4. R-e-l-a-x.  Go into the meeting, presentation, etc. like the Dalai Lama would, focusing on liking the people you will be with, before you are even with them.  They are dealing with as much, and sometimes more, than you are.  So chill out and be a good human, no matter how excited you are about being right.
  5. I try to keep in mind the quote from David Bohm that “the truth doesn’t emerge from an opinion; it emerges from a dialogue.”  So, don’t be a know it all. Invite feedback.  Engage in a dialogue. Ask what they agree with or not, and why.  Try to learn something from them. That’s good sales.  Then identify what you agree about and narrow down the disagreements. Listen. Without interruption.   Step into their shoes.  Feel where they are coming from.  Even if you face disagreement, you can do so as good people.  Reasonable people can agree to disagree.
  6. Consider how you can mitigate their concerns.  Perhaps adjust your approach.   Be creative. Be flexible, like Gumby.  He…or she… with the most options wins.
  7. If you hit a stalemate, consider a third party to facilitate finding a middle ground.  A mediation if you will. Or call a timeout and agree to reconvene after everyone has had time to sort things out.
  8. If after all of that you still find yourself stuck in what you believe is a disaster waiting to happen, then either let go or get out.  Fighting reality is a game for the insane…or soon to be insane.  You don’t want to “lose it” because you are right. When that happens, everyone loses.

I think most people would say they are more “right” about things than other people.  Odds are, across your life, you are probably little better than 50/50 at being “right.”

Now that’s reality!

Supreme Court Reigns in Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Standard

In the case of DIGITAL REALTY TRUST, INC. v. SOMERS the US Supreme Court put the breaks on the broad whistleblower standard used by the 9th Circuit. Bottom line is the Court said to be protected under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank), internal complaints are not enough, you must have reported to the SEC. The unanimous Court denied the Solicitor General’s contention that Dodd-Frank’s “whistleblower” definition applies only to the statute’s award program and not to its anti-retaliation provision.

Unlike Dodd-Frank, the Court said under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 “An employee qualifies for protection when he or she provides information or assistance either to a federal regulatory or law enforcement agency, Congress, or any “person with supervisory authority over the employee.”

Whistleblower advocates argued that forcing SEC disclosure as a pre-requisite, was not how most whistleblower anti-retaliation statutes are written. They claim this narrow interpretation of the statue would limit protections for attorneys, accountants, executives, and workers, who are retaliated against for reporting internally. The Court had an interesting side debate over whether you can use a single Senate Report as proof of Congressional intent.

Checklist for Consciously Managing a Workplace Problem

Life would be so easy if there weren’t other people …right? And, so boring too. One of the challenges we face is getting out of our heads when facing a “problem.” Here’s how to take a more conscious approach and eliminate the drama in the process.

  1. Recognize and admit that you have a responsibility toward the situation. As Dr. Phil reminds us, there are two sides to every relationship.
  2. Have you expressed your concern appropriately? Speak of how you feel and not about “what they’ve done.” Use “I” and not “you.” Your silence is not golden so don’t wallow in a Culture of Silence.
  3. Drop your desire to be “right.” As the great Sufi poet, Rumi stated, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” The Buddha said “Winning and losing are both the same thing: they are nothing.” If you want to know what a conscious approach is, simply ask yourself what Jesus, Buddha, or similar beings would say or do in the same situation.
  4. Do not identify yourself by your “problem.” That is giving your power away. Understand you are a much greater being than any circumstances you could face at work… or home.
  5. If, after you’ve made a conscious effort to resolve the problem, things don’t work out, prepare to move on. This does not mean that you hire a lawyer or start a fight. In my 17 years of litigation experience representing employees, few, if any, benefited from the litigation experience. Even after I put hundreds of thousands of dollars in their pockets. The only way we benefit from our negative experiences is when we learn our lessons and move on. Do not waste a moment of your energy looking backwards.
  6. If you are feeling stuck give yourself “outs”. Perhaps you prepare your resume and go on job interviews, but continue to do your best job possible. Sure you can gather evidence of their “unfair conduct” but what good will it do you? Better to find an environment where you are respected and feel good about the work you do every day.
  7. Recognize that conduct on the part of others that feels unfair to you is often due to their lack of consciousness. This is true whether it is your spouse, child, subordinate or supervisor. Recognize that no one engages in more unfair conduct towards you than you do to yourself. Focus on the internal and let go of the external. Do what is practical, not what is emotionally satisfying.
  8. Ask yourself these questions: Will this really matter in five years from now? How would my loved ones like to see me approach this challenge? (With a negative or positive attitude?) What example will I be setting for my family, friends and co-workers? Do I have the strength to rise above this nonsense? Can I separate myself from identifying my being with this problem?
  9. As Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now states: “Use your problems and suffering for enlightenment.” Do not give your pain and suffering any time in the past or future. If you are fully present with it, you’ll fully realize that you are just fine right now. Stay in the “now” and you will avoid your own ego-driven consciousness.
  10. Lastly, go have some fun. Exercise, sleep well, and eat right. Focus on what you are grateful for and let everything else go. Forgive, surrender, and love your enemy.

I can guarantee you that any approach other than the above will result in no good to you, your company, your loved ones, or anyone else. I say this without reservation and with good intention.

A Laundry List of Fun Ideas You Can Apply at Your Company

There are plenty of fun ways to make work enjoyable, reinforce your culture and increase retention, engagement, and productivity in the process. Here’s just a few. What fun things has your company done? Please do share!

  1. Bring your _______ to work day (dog, parent, kid, spouse, therapist).
  2. Celebrate change – bury the past in a ceremony.
  3. Assign vision, mission or value “keepers”.
  4. Be a customer for a day.
  5. Bring in a motivational speaker.
  6. Community service – your employees can help in schools, shelters, with the elderly, at rescue centers, support the PBS fund drive, non-profit, create a clothing drive, sponsor a community day, give them a day off for volunteer work.
  7. Customers – Any form of recognition, thank you notes, t-shirts, thank you calls, candy bars, referral bonuses.
  8. Line a wall with pictures drawn by employee’s children or grandchildren, inspirational quotes, personal vision and mission statements.
  9. Send thank you cards home…maybe even with a gift card.
  10. Feed them – potluck lunches, healthy salads, ice cream trucks, popcorn trucks, cookie-baking contest.
  11. Fun – Create a mascot, fun committee, red nose day, poem contest, company rock band, sports teams, pass the trophy, company song or dance, costume day, wig day, hat day, tie day, sweater day, scavenger hunt, fill in the blank joke contest, company crossword puzzle.
  12. Holiday parties – There’s a holiday every month that you can turn into some type of theme party. Let your fun committee put it together!
  13. Create one page “how I make a difference” form where employees show how their work makes a difference on a single sheet of paper. No rules how they do that.
  14. Create some team videos, attain a customer video testimonial.
  15. Miscellaneous – Create a wishes box, time capsule, business cards for everyone, a haiku contest.

Those are just a few of my ideas. What are yours?

Don’t File That Lawsuit!

In 1983, I began my employment law practice, motivated to represent poor victimized employees and help them overthrow their dastardly, villainous bosses. I went all in. Worked 70-hour weeks, out to be the hero. At first, I took on basic cases like sexual harassment and discrimination, and by the end of my career, I was handling more sophisticated dramas like whistle-blower and glass ceiling cases. By the time I turned 30, I was divorced (Daddy wasn’t home enough), and by the time I was 40, I was burnt out of litigation. And I quit.

Over the ensuing 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to re-invent my career by being an entrepreneur, trainer, investigator and executive coach.

Given the experience set forth above, let me get to the title of this article. I now advise people who seek my advice that the preferred approach is to spend their time and energy focusing on finding the right place to work rather than spend another moment looking backward, trying to prove that you were “right” …about the wrong place to work. I have received far more gratifying thank-you notes from people who took the move-forward approach suggested.

Yes, you may have been violated. Wronged. Discriminated against. Bullied. Sabotaged. Did I miss anything? Because of that conduct, you now feel victimized, angry, resentful, revengeful, and determined to bring the dastardly villain(s) to justice!

But…not so fast. If you were my son, or sister, or father, or best-friend, here is the advice I ask you to consider:

1. Let go of the need to be “right.” You know the truth. Does it really matter if anyone else does? Instead, focus all your energy on moving forward and working in the right place, which may be for yourself.

2. If you are being accused of wrongdoing, and as a result, permanent damage can occur, you must defend yourself. Your reputation and livelihood. Even then, all-out war is a no-win scenario.

3. If it’s the other way around and you are accusing somebody of wrongdoing, do you turn the other cheek? Or do you forget those lessons and punish them or tarnish their reputation in return? The answer may be “yes” if it’s to prevent them from doing further damage. That does not mean you need to file a lawsuit. But it would be appropriate to “out” them.

There are rare circumstances where people have been seriously damaged, and it’s difficult to simply dust yourself off. You may need psychiatry sessions not paid for by your insurance. You may have a very niched job where it takes longer to be re-employed. If that’s the case, then work with an attorney to see if they can negotiate a severance, without you having to go through the litigation process. Often, a demand letter and meeting will suffice. Try to get a settlement that will help you move forward. Do not worry about getting a pound of flesh on top if it. And, think twice before you sue to get settlement leverage.

4. Unless you’ve been through the litigation process, you do not understand how crazy it gets. If you thought you were violated in the workplace, wait till those defense counsel get to you. You will not only be questioned by attorneys but perhaps their psychiatrist as well. And, you will wear out your friends and family listening to your story. They will tire of it far sooner than you.

On too many occasions, I have seen plaintiffs put their life on hold waiting for resolution from their lawsuit. They often lose years of career and personal growth in the process. Staying in your victim role is not in the least bit attractive or helpful.

Take into consideration how long these cases drag on for.  I often read appellate reports related to lawsuits filed more than five years ago. Do you want to find yourself dragged through the courts for the next five years? Do you like getting beat up by lawyers? Who ever benefits from that?

Another thing not publicized is that employees win, at the most, 60% of the cases that go to trial. There’s no publicity for the 40%+ of plaintiffs that lose at trial. This figure is consistent with EEOC claims filed, where half of them are dismissed as being without merit. Imagine spending all your time and energy wrapped up in a lawsuit for three years, only to lose in the end. You will be in worse position than the day you filed that lawsuit! In fact, the company (or their insurance company) may chase you down for their legal costs!

If by chance you get a big verdict, you can all but guarantee it will go on appeal for years. Either that or you must settle at a reduced amount. So, while the claimant may have received a $2.5 million jury verdict, an appeal was immediately filed which has been dragging itself through the courts for years, and now you find your attorney wanting to settle for $500,000. Since the case was tried, the attorney gets 40% of that for legal fees. Then there are appellate attorney costs, court costs, fees for experts, depositions and the inevitable IRS. In the end, the most you get to keep is about $200,000 …if you are lucky.

Then, like the vast majority of lottery winners, that money will gone within three years.

So was it worth it?

Trust me; this happens on a regular basis. There’s no press for it. Nobody is bragging about it.

Then there is the stark reality that most harassers and bigots and other people that cause these problems, are seldom punished. Not by the company or the media. There is little press for it. You are not in Hollywood or Silicon Valley and nobody cares about your story. Many of these people don’t even lose their jobs. Often, the company pays a small portion of any settlement you get because they have an insurance company to do that for them. So, while you feel you may be “teaching them a lesson,” it seldom turns out as hoped for.

I say let the bastards rot in their own miserable lives. In the end, they will pay the price. And it won’t be because you sued them.

5. Unless you like repeat scenarios, look for your responsibility in the situation. Were there early warning signs you ignored? Do you wish you had handled certain things differently? Can you see how you may have given people a wrong impression about you? What we can control is our own behavior. We must always examine if we were less than responsible to ourselves in the circumstances. So we don’t do it again.

Growth does not come from finger-pointing but rather awareness. If you have challenges “moving forward,” then hire a coach to support you. Somebody like me can get you back on track. Yes, coaches cost money but you are thinking about your long-term growth. I can tell you this: you’ll pay far less for your coach than for your failures.

That’s 30 plus years of employment law wisdom right there. If you like destructive dramas then, by all means… file that lawsuit!