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The neuroscience of respectful leadership – preventing professional disrespect

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Offices with toxic work environments are harmful to the employees, but where does that toxicity come from? A large percentage is disrespect

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disrespect in the workplace

If you have ever felt yourself being disrespected at work, or at least not getting the respect you feel you deserve, you are not alone. These actions can create a toxic work environment that don’t help anyone, but why does it happen and how can it be curbed? Well Gregg Ward has studied the subject and has an interesting take that we would like to share.

Gregg Ward is the Executive Director of the Center for Respectful Leadership, and the CEO of Gregg Ward Group. Gregg has been helping leaders develop their respectful leadership, emotional intelligence, and executive presence skills for over 25 years; working with Fortune 100 and 500 organizations around the world to inspire respect and leadership, emphasizing the measurable, bottom-line benefits they bring to leaders and their organizations. Gregg is the author of the best-selling, award-winning business book The Respectful Leader, as well as the Human Resources and Management handbook Bad Behavior, People Problems, and Sticky Situations.

By Gregg Ward – Executive Director of The Center for Respectful Leadership

Starting in the late 1990’s and for the next 20 years, researchers at Georgetown University and Arizona State University surveyed American employees to determine the amount of incivility, disrespect and rudeness they were experiencing at work. Shockingly, 98% of those surveyed said they had experienced it, and 99% said they had witnessed it. What’s even more troubling is the lasting impact of disrespect on individuals and organizational cultures.

Most of us assume that respect and disrespect are things we think about rationally. Rational thought occurs in the cognitive areas of our brains, within what scientists refer to as “the neocortex.” But recent findings in neuroscience indicate that our responses to rudeness, incivility and disrespect are much more emotional than rational, and are rooted in the primitive parts of the brain, called the “reptilian brain.”

Imagine you’re in a meeting and your boss continuously interrupts you (a not uncommon experience for many), dismissing your ideas as unworkable. Even though you “think” you shouldn’t be bothered by this behavior, you actually experience it anyway on a basic emotional level, regardless of what you tell yourself. This is because your brain perceives these interruptions and dismissals as threats, and almost instantly sends a threat alert to your Amygdala (the center of the Limbic system) which in turn triggers the release of stress hormones into your system including Adrenaline and Cortisol (aka “the stress hormone”).

These hormones are part of the fight-flight-freeze response that all of us experience to some degree when we’re under threat. Researchers have found that increased levels of these hormones resulting from constant exposure in the workplace to even small micro-threats (like being constantly interrupted) can have significantly negative impacts on our health, well-being, productivity and even our ability to think creatively.

Research also shows that respect and disrespect are contagious. You’ll know this to be true if you’ve ever walked into a meeting after it’s started and immediately felt a sense of energetic enthusiasm or chilly iciness between the participants. You can sense that something’s up even though they haven’t said anything to you about what’s actually going on. This awareness is driven by our unconscious brains constantly seeking information to determine if we’re under threat, or not. This is simply the human condition and has nothing to do with us being too sensitive or politically correct. It is simply how we are.

Organizational leaders ignore our fundamental humanity at their peril. A “toxic” work culture, wherein many are experiencing disrespect, rudeness and incivility on a regular basis, can seriously impact performance, productivity and partnership.

In 2016 researchers published a scholarly paper that clearly highlights the negative impacts that disrespect and incivility can have on entire organizations including increased complaints, absenteeism, turnover, mistakes and bottom line performance metrics. If you’ve ever worked (or currently work) in such a toxic culture, you know how uncomfortable this is, and how much of a detriment it can be to your well being.

What can leaders do to ensure their organizational cultures are respectful and civil? First, leaders can set the tone themselves by consistently treating people with decency and respect. Practicing what is often referred to as “common courtesy” is a great way to start, by saying “please” and “thank you,” regularly; greeting people cordially; using “reflective or active” listening, and never raising a voice in anger or upset.

Another effective “respectful leadership” practice is to quickly “nip disrespect in the bud” whenever it arises; demonstrating to the rest of the team that being disrespectful won’t be allowed. At The Center for Respectful Leadership, we refer to these and other related practices as the “RespectfulDo’s,” and they are part of the global movement we call Embrace Respect.

Recent neuroscience is teaching us valuable lessons about our working selves – especially in regard to the power of respect and civility. The question is, will we listen to the research and deliberately act upon it, or stay unconscious and risk the fallout from a toxic culture?

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business Marketing

Buffer’s four-day workweek experiment: Boost or bust?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) After trying out a four-day workweek last year, Buffer is moving forward with the format going into 2021, citing increase in productivity and work-life balance.

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Man working in office with headphones on, making use of flexible four-day workweek.

The typical five-day workweek is a thing of the past for Buffer, at least for now. The company has decided to implement a four-day workweek for the “foreseeable future.”

Last year, the company surveyed its employees to see how they are dealing with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and the anxiety and stress that came along with it. They soon learned employees didn’t always feel comfortable or like they could take time off.

Employees felt guilty for taking PTO while trying to meet deadlines. Juggling work and suddenly becoming a daycare worker and teacher for their children at the same time was stressful. So, Buffer looked for a solution to help give employees more time and flexibility to get adjusted to their new routines.

Four-Day Workweek Trials

In May, Buffer started the four-day workweek one-month trial to focus on teammates’ well-being. “This four-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first,” said Buffer CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne in a company blog post.

“It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days,” Gascoigne said.

Buffer’s one-month trial proved to be successful. Survey data from before and after the trial showed higher autonomy and lower stress levels. In addition, employee anecdotal stories showed an increase in worker happiness.

With positive results, Buffer turned the trial into a long-term pilot through the end of 2020. This time, the trial would focus on Buffer’s long-term success.

“In order to truly evaluate whether a four-day workweek can be a success long-term, we need to measure productivity as well as individual well-being,” wrote Director of People Courtney Seiter. “Teammate well-being was our end goal for May. Whether that continues, and equally importantly, whether it translates into customer and company results, will be an exciting hypothesis to test.”

Trial Results

Company Productivity
Buffer’s shorter workweek trials showed employees felt they had a better work-life balance without compromising work productivity. According to the company’s survey data, almost 34% of employees felt more productive, about 60% felt equally as productive, and only less than 7% of employees felt less productive.

However, just saying productivity is higher isn’t proof. To make sure the numbers added up, managers were asked about their team’s productivity. Engineering managers reported that a decrease in total coding days didn’t show a decrease in output. Instead, there was a significant output increase for product teams, and Infrastructure and Mobile saw their output double.

The Customer Advocacy team, however, did see a decline in output. Customer service is dependent on customer unpredictability so this makes sense. Still, the survey showed about 85% to 90% of employees felt as productive as they would have been in a five-day workweek. Customers just had to wait slightly longer to receive replies to their inquiries.

Employee Well-Being
With more time and control of their schedules, Buffer’s survey shows an increase in individual autonomy and decreased stress levels reported by employees. And, the general work happiness for the entire company has been consistent throughout 2020.

What’s in store for 2021?

Based on positive employee feedback and promising company results, Buffer decided it will continue the company-wide four-day workweek this year.

“The four-day work week resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These were the exact results we’d hoped to see, and they helped us challenge the notion that we need to work the typical ‘nine-to-five,’ five days a week,” wrote Team Engagement Manager Nicole Miller.

The four-day workweek will continue in 2021, but the company will also be implementing adjustments based on the pilot results.

For most teams, Fridays will be the default day off. For teams that aren’t project-based, their workweek will look slightly different. As an example, the Customer Advocacy team will follow a different schedule to avoid customer reply delays and ticket overflow. Each team member will still have a four-day workweek and need to meet their specific targets. They will just have a more flexible schedule.

Companies who follow this format understand that output expectations will be further defined by area and department level. Employees who aren’t meeting their performance objectives will have the option to choose a five-day workweek or might be asked to do so.

If needed, Fridays will also serve as an overflow workday to finish up a project. Of course, schedules will be evaluated quarterly to make sure productivity is continuing to thrive and employees are still satisfied.

But, Miller says Buffer is “establishing ambitious goals” that might “push the limits” of a four-day work week in 2021. With the world slowly starting to normalize, who knows when a four-day workweek might reach its conclusion.

“We aren’t sure that we’ll continue with the four-day workweeks forever, but for now, we’re going to stick with it as long as we are still able to hit our ambitious goals,” wrote Miller.

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Business Marketing

Should your content management system go headless?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) You may be familiar with your typical content management system, but had you heard of a ‘headless’ model? Let’s dig into it together.

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Person using content management system with hands on keyboard and small bit of desktop visible.

At some point, you have probably worked with a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. If you haven’t already, you at least know that this computer software is used to manage website content.

But, have you ever heard of a headless content management system before? We didn’t. So, we set out to find out what it’s all about and how beneficial, or not, it can be for your company.

What is headless CMS?

Unlike your classic CMS, headless CMS is a back-end only content management system. It decouples where your content is stored and authored (body) from the front-end where your content is displayed (head).

This CMS isn’t tied to a particular output like a web page. Content is transmitted as data over an application programming interface (API). It’s a content repository that delivers content seamlessly to any device.

Benefits of Headless CMS

More versatile
Headless CMS isn’t your classic “monolithic” CMS so you aren’t constrained to an all-in-one system that might work for websites but not mobile devices.

Content is consumed by customers in more than one place now. Headless CMS provides a more versatile way to deliver multi-channel content to websites, Android and iOS apps, and even IoT (internet of things), like a smartwatch or in-store kiosk.

Businesses will benefit from this because only one back-end is needed to manage and publish content for different services and products.

No need for specialized developers
Developers aren’t tied to a specific programming language or framework. A developer can choose between using Javascript, PHP, Ruby, or any language they prefer.

If you already have a talented developer, you don’t have to scramble to find someone else who specializes in a specific system or language you are moving to. Your current developer can do the job for you in the best way they know-how.

Better Security
Security is important. Not being married to the front-end, headless CMS has a security advantage a regular CMS doesn’t. Usually, content provided to a headless CMS is read-only, and the admin portion lives on a different server and domain.

With the back-end detached from the presentation layer, there is a smaller target area to attack. Also, layers of code can be used to hide the content-delivering API making it safer than a traditional CMS.

Real-time collaboration
With two separate systems, content editors and web developers can work concurrently. This shortens a project’s timeline and helps get your product and services to market quicker. Also, content editors don’t have to spend more time creating the same content for each system. Designers and developers can take care of that.
Downsides of Headless CMS

As with anything, headless CMS isn’t perfect and isn’t for everyone. It has its disadvantages.

More technical
Little technical involvement is called for in a traditional CMS. As a result, the tool can be picked up quickly by almost anyone.

A deeper understanding of CMS, coding languages, and front-end technologies is needed when using headless CMS. You must have a developer that can build the web or app just for you.

Increased maintenance
With the body separated from the head, there are two systems to maintain. Implementation and maintenance could potentially become complex.

Bigger price tag
Building a system from scratch costs time and money. With a traditional CMS, there is one account, and, most likely, one payment. With headless CMS, you’ll have multiple payments for the CMS, a developer, and the infrastructure running your website or app.

Your custom CMS also isn’t coming from a pre-built content management system. All that hard work takes time (and patience) to get it done right.

Conclusion

Headless CMS lets you create a unique user experience and allow for cross-platform publishing, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all content management system.

Before you jump ships, take inventory of all your content needs. Does your content need to be published on different platforms? Will a simple stand-alone website work for you? Only you can decide what works best with your business, but we hope this information helps.

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Business Marketing

Spice up your remote team building with a fully virtual escape room

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As part of a remote team, team building has become even more of a groan. But this virtual escape room seeks to make a fun and unique challenge for remote teams.

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Woman waving at laptop in living room, on team building activity.

Team building events aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. While some enjoy getting to know coworkers they don’t normally socialize with, others dread the day before it arrives. Plus, there’s always work that needs to be taken care of, and using some of that time to mingle might seem like a waste of time.

Love it or hate it, working remotely has made team building slightly better, maybe? You don’t have to worry about physically being present in a place you don’t want to be. You’re not awkwardly talking to a co-worker whose name you can’t quite remember.

Nonetheless, it also has its downsides. We don’t see each other anymore so it’s easier to not be on the same page, and this makes learning how to work together much harder.

We’re almost a year into the pandemic and happy hour Zoom calls no longer hold the glamour they once did. So, what else is there to do in this virtual world?

Skyrocket Your Team has just the answer for you. This company provides virtual team building experiences through collaborative online escape rooms. The escape rooms are designed with remote teams in mind and can be tailored to accommodate different sized groups.

“If you’re working remotely, Skyrocket Your Team will help your team feel closer together and improve your internal communication,” wrote Co-Founder Jorge Sánchez Hernández. “Our puzzles are designed for teams by adult educators to trigger a set of emotions, feelings, and situations. Everyone sees a different screen and you need to communicate in order to get through the challenges. There is no way to continue without teamwork!”

From the comfort of your office or couch, each team member joins from their own computer and location. The escape room consists of an immersive story about astronauts trapped in a damaged spaceship. By solving puzzles and challenges, the team must work together to repair the spaceship and return to earth.

After hopefully, safely landing your rocket, there is a debriefing session. During this time, teams can share their experiences and discuss what they learned.

Skyrocket Your Team says their new form of team building will bring your company several benefits like:

  • Bringing your team closer together
  • Fostering collaboration instead of internal competition
  • Improving communication across your company

The end goal of the experience is to learn how to communicate effectively by solving the different sets of problems together. And, I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.

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