In Feb. 7, 2017, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tried to read a 1986 letter from the late Coretta Scott King, expressing her opinion that then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was unfit to serve as a federal judge. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then silenced Warren through the Senate’s Rule XIX, which states that “no Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” Warren persisted, with her response promptly appearing on Facebook Live and across the internet as she read the letter to an audience of millions. If Warren simply read the letter without opposition, some might argue, the event would likely have gone unnoticed.

Shutting down conversations and communications tends to create anxiety rather than tending to create solutions in most cases.”

– Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at Gartner Inc.

This phenomenon of trying to prevent the spread of information, only to have the opposite occur, is called the Streisand Effect, and it isn’t limited to just our government or public figures. Companies that try to keep information secret among their workers might face headaches similar to the ones McConnell likely had in the days after his motion.

While there’s some merit to transparency in business, it’s doubtful that many business leaders would want every employee to know every piece of company information. Areas to keep quiet on might include:

  • New product updates. “In an age where new technologies and ideas can be mimicked so quickly, organizations look to keep their new product updates under wraps to maintain their competitive positioning,” said Jeff Corbin, founder and CEO of Apprise Mobile, a native app company based in New York.
  • Financial metrics, especially if they’re poor, Corbin said. This can be used competitively in business, and they can impact recruiting efforts.
  • Companies the organization is about to acquire, as well as other information that might impact stock prices, said Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at Gartner Inc., a research and advisory firm based in Stamford, Connecticut.

Workers want to know information that will influence their daily work. But the information that executives share can’t be all positive; employees want the good, the bad and the reality, Kropp said. It’s important, he said, to give enough information to workers so they’re successful, without posing risks to the business. But keeping hush is not likely to keep all sensitive information from leaking.

“Employees have always wanted to talk with each other,” Kropp said, and the Streisand Effect in companies likely leads to thoughts of worst-case scenarios, such as layoffs. “Shutting down conversations and communications tends to create anxiety rather than tending to create solutions in most cases,” Kropp said.

To determine what to share, Kropp listed the following questions:

  1. Is the downside of this information getting out to the public more or less than the upside of letting my employees know about it? That gives you a good sense of where to be transparent or not.
  2. When we share this information, if an employee were to ask their manager about it, would that manager be able to provide a good explanation as to what’s going on here? If not, that’s a good reason to share.
  3. If our customers were to find out, would they have a positive, negative or indifferent reaction?
If the business leader decides to share a certain type of information, do so consistently, regardless of if it’s good news or bad news, Apprise Mobile’s Corbin said. “Before sharing information that is good, ask yourself whether you would be sharing the information if it was bad. If the answer is no, you wouldn’t, then [it’s] probably best not to set the precedent of disclosing,” Corbin said.

communication transparency

And when deciding with whom to discuss the information, Corbin advised establishing a network of trusted associates. “By having a defined and trustworthy group, you can sleep well knowing the information is safe. At the same time, if the information leaks, then you will have a better chance of identifying — or at least narrowing down — who was responsible and take the necessary actions to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

To further determine who to share information with, additional questions from Gartner’s Kropp could be helpful:

  1. Who needs to know this to do their job better?
  2. Who, if they were to find this out later, would be upset?
  3. Who are the people who might not be impacted by this but will influence others’ perceptions of it?
  4. Who will have good insights because of previous experiences? Share the information with them for their input.

In the end, Kropp said it’s all about building trust, and executives should add to that trust more than they take away from it. Another way to build trust is through communication, according to “The 10 Laws of Trust,” a book by Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue Airways. “Leaders must be determined to share the facts with everyone, simply, persuasively, and thoroughly,” he wrote in the book. “That means telling it like it is, during good times and bad.”

For instance, at Apprise Mobile, Corbin makes a conscious effort to share both when the company gains new business and when a client leaves. Rather than focusing on the negativity of deals lost, it becomes a teachable moment. “There is a lesson to learn from every good and bad situation,” Corbin said. “Keeping everyone informed of the wins and losses allows us to do self-introspection, so that we learn from our successes and don’t make the same mistake twice.”

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The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the fall on whether federal law prohibits employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity—and Congress is considering a bill that would codify protections based on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) status.

The president’s management agenda includes proposals for human capital management reforms, strategic workforce management, talent acquisition, continuous learning and agile operations.

Natalie Pierce, the co-chair of Littler’s Robotics, AI and Automation Practice Group, and Jeff Burnstein, the President of the Association of Advancing Automation, discuss automation and robotics in the workplace, and their effects on morale. As Natalie and Jeff review how growing businesses institute new technologies, they address how employers can preserve employee morale by proactively explaining the benefits of automation initiatives, such as reduced injuries and better job satisfaction.

More employers are working on community health initiatives with their local business associations and municipal governments to address social factors linked with poor employee health.

Maine recently became the latest state to ban employers from asking job candidates about their current or past earnings—joining seven other states that impose such bans.

How can HR professionals help managers have difficult conversations in a timely, constructive way? And how can HR do so without creating a communication triangle with the three points being HR, management and employees?

Professional short-term projects serve as mutual auditions for employers seeking talent and college students interested in certain roles or industries—all outside of the formal, semester-long internship program structure.

The Wall Street Journal recently asked this simple question:

What’s the Best Way to Fire Someone?

I have some thoughts.

    1. Before you pull the trigger, ask yourself, “Is this employee going to perceive that the decision was fair.” Did the employee have notice of the issues that caused the termination? Had the employee recently complained or otherwise engaged in protected activity? To look at this issue another way, mock-jury your decision. If the employee lawyers up and sues, will a jury think your decision was fair? If jurors feel that the plaintiff was treated the same way the jurors would want to be treated, the jury will be much more likely to find in the employer’s favor.
    2. Do not mistreat the employee at the time of termination. Terminated employees deserve a face-to-face discussion. At all costs, avoid firing by a letter, phone call (or, worse, voice mail), email, text message, Facebook post, Tweet, or any other not-in-person communication. Do not “perp walk” a fired employee. Some employees deserve to be shown the door swiftly and coarsely. They stole, they harassed someone, or they assaulted someone. For most terminations—the “you’re not a good-fit,” the “it just isn’t working out,” the “we’re going in a different direction”—you want to do what you can to avoid litigation, or the employee trashing you on Glassdoor and other review sites. And not perp walking the fired employee is a great first step.
    3. Offer the employee some explanation for your decision, but understand that if sued, you better be able to back that decision up, else a judge or jury might find your decision to be pretext for an unlawful reason. Offering no reason leaves an employee to scratch their head, which takes us right back to point 1 above—”If they don’t have a reason (or won’t tell me the reason, is this decisions fair?” Offering too detailed of a reason could lead to issues of proof in litigation down the road, and could open turn your conversation into a debate (which is the last thing you want). Instead, look for the Goldilocks reason—the “just right” amount of an explanation so that the employee understands the rationale. If you’ve previously communicated to an employee documented performance issues, there is no point in rehashing them at termination. It accomplishes nothing and can be perceived as cruel. Instead, simply remind the employee that you’ve previously discussed the issues, which have not improved. Further, the more detail you provide, the more penned in you will be in later litigation. Your goal is to be honest with the employee, yet, in the event of litigation, provide your counsel with the most flexibility to support the termination.
    4. In all but the most egregious of terminations, offer a soft landing through a severance package … but only in exchange for a release of claims by the employee. Some employees deserve nothing (theft, harassment, etc.). But, most should walk out the door with something. While you are not under any legal obligation to provide severance to any employee (unless you have a plan or policy that says otherwise), there is a lot of value in getting their signature on an agreement in which they promise not to sue you. It’s closure, for both you and the employee, and helps create that little bit of good will at the end of the relationship.

The bottom line? Firing an employee the wrong way — a termination text message, a perp walk, and zero dignity — leads to bad feelings, which leads to expensive and time-consuming lawsuits.

Also read: HR Leaders Reevaluate Termination Policies in Wake of Workplace Shooting

Never forget that losing a job is one of the worst things that can happen to someone. A little compassion goes a long way. 

Also read: How-to HR: Offboarding Employees — Terminations

What are your top tips for the “best” way to fire an employee? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, @ me on twitter with the hashtag #terminationtips, or on LinkedIn by posting a comment in this thread.

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How can a manager become measurably more effective?

To answer this question, scholars, scientists and leaders have studied personality traits; others have tried to understand and categorize management styles. While these studies yield appealing insights, they are difficult to emulate. Evidence is lacking that these approaches to managerial effectiveness have enabled managers to markedly improve their personal influence and results.

In our own efforts to help managers improve effectiveness, we’ve focused our study on crucial moments — those moments where a manager’s communication has a profound and disproportionate effect on results. In moments when the stakes are high, do managers remain calm, collected, candid, curious, direct and willing to listen? Or do their direct reports describe them as the opposite: upset, angry, closed-minded, rejecting, even devious? And how does either style under stress affect results and relationships?

Our latest research confirms, yet again, that the way a manager performs in these crucial moments has a disproportionate effect on their personal influence and their people. The research also shows, however, that a shockingly large majority of managers and leaders buckle under pressure.

We asked more than 1,300 employees to describe their leader’s style under stress and the impact of that behavior. According to respondents, one in three leaders are seen by their direct reports as someone who fails to engage in dialogue when the stakes get high. Specifically:

  • 53 percent of leaders are more closed-minded and controlling than open and curious.
  • 45 percent are more upset and emotional than calm and in control.
  • 45 percent ignore or reject rather than listen or seek to understand.
  • 43 percent are more angry and heated than cool and collected.
  • 37 percent avoid or sidestep rather than be direct and unambiguous.
  • 30 percent are more devious and deceitful than candid and honest.

This is significant because it’s these nonroutine moments that define you as a leader. In difficult, highly charged situations, some managers react emotionally and aggressively while others became silent and withdrawn. These responses damage relationships and undermine the work being done.

One executive we worked with was adamant and deliberate about creating a fun and supportive atmosphere where his team felt safe to try new things. He saw his role as building people. And yet, to his surprise, most of his team labelled him a “jerk.” As we described a situation his team found particularly “jerky,” he said, “You’re probably thinking I’m some sort of hypocrite. But I’m not. Ninety-five percent of the time, I’m the fun, supportive guy I’ve described. It’s only the 5 percent when I lose my temper that I say stupid things. Those statements are not an accurate reflection of who I am.”

And while it was true that his team agreed he was great 95 percent of time, it was also true that this nonroutine behavior was what left a lasting impression. His team felt those few moments when stakes were high and the heat was on revealed the truth about who he really was.

A leader’s unsavory behavior in stressful moments does more than harm his or her personal influence — it also hurts the team. When asked how their leader’s style impacted their results, respondents said that when their leader clams up or blows up under pressure, team members have lower morale; are more likely to miss deadlines, budgets and quality standards; and act in ways that drive customers away. They also described negative impacts on morale and psyche. Specifically, when a leader fails to practice effective dialogue under stress, team members are more likely to consider leaving their job; more likely to shut down and stop participating; less likely to go above and beyond in their responsibilities; and more likely to be frustrated, angry and complain.

Luckily, there are managers who handle themselves under pressure differently from the rest. In high-stakes situations, they remain calm and respectful. They don’t skirt or minimize issues. They are direct, but their behavior invites others to contribute their concerns and ideas. By doing so, they surface the most accurate, complete information; they better understand problems; they formulate with others the best solutions; and they act together with greater unity and conviction. This, in turn, creates better relationships and results.

Another silver lining? A manager’s ability or inability to deal with high-stakes, stressful situations has nothing to do with age or gender. Neither factor correlated with the skills and behaviors of dialogue under pressure. The ability to stay in dialogue when stakes are high is not dependent on genetic or inherent factors. Rather, these are skills anyone can learn and adopt to not only be more personally effective and influential, but to better lead a team to success.

Here are a few tips managers can use to improve their communication style under stress and see better results from the people they lead.

  • Speak up early. When we anticipate stress or pressure, most of us decide whether or not to speak up by considering the risks of doing so. Those who are best at dialogue don’t think first about the risks of speaking up. They think first about the risks of not speaking up. They realize if they don’t speak up early and often, they are choosing to perpetuate and often worsen the situation — and their reaction to the situation — as they begin to work around the problem.
  • Challenge your story. When we feel threatened or stressed, we amplify our negative emotions by telling villain, victim and helpless stories. Villain stories exaggerate others’ negative attributes. Victim stories make us out to be innocent sufferers who have no role in the problem. And helpless stories rationalize our over- or under-reactions because, “There was nothing else I could have done!” Instead, take control of your emotions by challenging your story.
  • Create safety. When communicating while under pressure, your emotions likely hijack your positive intent. As a result, others get defensive to, or retreat from, your tirade. As it turns out, people don’t get defensive because of the content of your message, but because of the intent they perceive behind it. So, when stressed, first share your positive intent. If others feel safe with you, they are far more open to work with you.
  • Start with facts. When the stakes are high, our brains often serve us poorly. To maximize cognitive efficiency, we tend to store feelings and conclusions, but not the facts that created them. Before reacting to stress, gather facts. Think through the basic information that helped you think or feel as you do, and use that information to realign your own feelings and help others understand the intensity of your reaction.

Managers who can effectively hold crucial conversations outperform their peers. As an organization collects a critical mass of these effective managers, it has a profound effect on successful execution of initiatives, financial agility and overall performance.

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