Notebook: June 2020

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include: Bad boss behavior; beyond random acts of wellness; make a new habit stick; Google team study; Banfield launches free suicide-prevention training; actions that set the tone for workplace culture; and how to disagree with someone more powerful than you.

How to Disagree with Someone More Powerful than You

Harvard Business Review contributing editor Amy Gallo is author of the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict. She writes that it’s a natural human reaction to shy away from disagreeing with a superior, and offers a list of dos and don’ts on how to disagree with someone more powerful than you.


Explain that you have a different opinion and ask if you can voice it.

Restate the original point of view or decision so it’s clear you understand it.

Speak slowly—talking in an even tone calms you and the other person down.


✗ Assume that disagreeing is going to damage your relationship or career—the consequences are often less dramatic than we think.

✗ State your opinions as facts; simply express your point of view and be open to dialogue.

Use judgment words, such as hasty, foolish, or wrong, that might upset or incite your counterpart.

Google Team Study

What makes a great team? Many workplaces search for just the right mix of individual traits and skills, but research from Google found surprising results. The company’s HR group conducted a two-year research project with employees, looking at more than 250 attributes of 180-plus active Google teams. Code-named Project Aristotle, as a tribute to Aristotle’s quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” the project found that who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions.

They identified five key dynamics that set successful teams apart from other teams at Google:

  • Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  • Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high-quality work on time?
  • Structure and clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
  • Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  • Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

The company’s re:Work initiative discusses the research in more detail, along with providing other practices, research, and ideas related to the work environment.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” ­


Bad Boss Behavior

In her 2017 book The Future of Leadership: Rise of Automation, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, author Brigette Tasha Hyacinth describes seven “bad boss behaviors” that can lead to poor employee engagement and high turnover. When you have a manager who treats you with respect and has your back, you are more likely to give your best and stay longer in a company, but when you have a bad boss, you’re much more likely to be disengaged, suffer from anxiety, and want to leave.

① Micromanaging

Hyacinth writes that this is the number one killer of creativity and innovation in the workplace. It fosters an environment of distrust, as employees feel suffocated and confined.

② Picking favorites

Bad bosses hire and promote the wrong people, recommend employees in their “inner circle” for assignments or growth opportunities, and surround themselves with “yes” employees.

③ Taking the credit for employees’ work or successes

Bad bosses will do anything to look good, including taking credit for their employees’ work or ideas. This self-promotion causes employee engagement to plummet.

④ Ignoring feedback

Some bosses don’t admit mistakes, and may take negative feedback personally and poorly treat those who give such feedback.

⑤ Not standing up for employees

It’s demotivating to work for a manager who does not stand up for their team or is quick to point fingers at others.

⑥ Overworking employees

Bosses who have unrealistic expectations of employees, focus only on the bottom line, and hesitate to authorize personal or sick days create a demoralizing workplace.

⑦ Overlooking or not recognizing employees’ contributions

Two of the most basic human desires are validation and appreciation. Managers may think that they’ve fulfilled their duty by providing a paycheck, but that’s not enough if you want engaged and productive employees.

Actions That Set the Tone for Workplace Culture

Gallup’s Craig Kamins and Bailey Nelson recently discussed the concept that managers are central to a culture of engagement. They relate that some leaders mistakenly assume that organizational culture is simply a social phenomenon. However, culture is more about employees’ shared values, thoughts, rituals, and behaviors. These factors, the authors say, wield enormous influence over employees’ actions and decisions.

They provide three straightforward daily behaviors that leaders can practice that will set the tone for a healthy workplace culture. The first is being respectful toward employees. Leaders don’t need to become best friends with them, but even with subtle outreach and interaction, leaders can dramatically shape their culture.

Communicating what is happening in the organization is another positive behavior. Many leaders, the authors say, are guarded with their communication. This is problematic because employees tend to fill in the gaps, often with unfavorable assumptions. Employees are more likely to embrace change if they understand the motive and can see how it furthers the organization’s mission and affects individual performance, too.

The final behavior is promoting accountability and fairness. Accountability starts with clear performance standards that apply equally to everyone, including leaders.

There’s no one recipe for engaging employees, the authors say. But leaders who focus on their workplace culture can deepen buy-in at the local level and participation in an engagement initiative. In doing so, they set the stage for world-class engagement.

Banfield Launches Free Suicide-Prevention Training

Banfield has created a suicide-prevention training program designed specifically for veterinary professionals to help curb the industry suicide crisis. The interactive e-learning program, ASK, is an acronym for “assess, support, know.” The training is available at no charge.

The statistics are a call to action: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study that examined 36 years of death records covering 11,620 veterinarians. They concluded that female veterinarians were 3.5 times and male veterinarians 2.1 times as likely to die from suicide as compared with the general population.

Visit for further information and to take the training.


“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” ­

—Theodore Roosevelt

Make a New Habit Stick

It can be a challenge to make a new habit stick, no matter how well intentioned we are at the outset. Now, there may be some help. Researchers Doug Moore and Spencer Greenberg with Clearer Thinking studied more than 500 participants over the course of two years to determine which of 23 techniques best supported behavior change.

They studied methods including planning a reward for yourself if you succeed at your habit and making a plan to carry out your habit at a specific time every day, and found that one technique outshone the other 22 at helping maintain habits; they call it habit reflection. The three-step habit reflection method garnered 140% more success with participants than the next-closest technique. The three steps include:

  • Pick a past situation in which you were able to successfully change your long-term behavior or create a new habit.
  • Write down anything you learned from this past situation about how to successfully form new habits, or any tactics you used to help make this change that could apply to your new habit.
  • Create a brief written plan for applying those lessons to your new habit.

The researchers reported that they were surprised to learn that many tried-and-true habit strategies provided little support for participants in the study. Those include rewarding yourself for practicing the habit, coming up with a strategy for restarting the habit if you lapse, visualizing yourself performing the habit, and using a motivational phrase when energy or motivation flags.

The pair packaged the insights from their research into Daily Ritual: A Habit Formation System—a free tool designed to help build new habits that last. 

Beyond Random Acts of Wellness

Employee wellness was on the agenda at the recent International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Health Benefits Conference and Expo in Clearwater, Florida. There, Ron Loeppke, vice chairman of US Preventive Medicine, a wellness and population health-management company, said, “One of the biggest points of value of employee wellness is [that] it becomes a driver of other business priorities for employers. They get better employee performance, engagement, loyalty, morale, attraction and retention.” He went on to say, “Wellness doesn’t work if it’s not done in the right way. Random acts of wellness ain’t gonna cut it.”

Loeppke cited conditions such as effective communication and implementation, incentives to motivate employees to participate in the program, employee input when developing goals and objectives, multiyear strategic planning, program accessibility, evaluation of effectiveness, a wide variety of program offerings, and executive management support of a culture of health and safety as factors for successful wellness programs.

“You have to have management abide by a culture of health,” he said. “If management isn’t committed to it, it’s not going to work. They have to walk the walk.”

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