How To Manage Workplace Stress

We think we know workplace stress. We avoid it, we are overwhelmed by it, we relish it, we handle it, we thrive from it. But do we really understand it?

According to Cal/OSHA guidelines, harmful workplace stress arises in “jobs that demand a lot from the employees, while allowing them little control over how the job is performed” and “organizational practices that exclude employee participation or input.”

Sexism is Not Extinct: What it Looks Like and How to Respond

“I don’t think women have to deal with overt sexism in the workplace anymore.” My very kind male friend said those words a week prior to my writing this, as I was trying to pick a topic for this column. It occurred to me that many people may share his view that the age of overt sexism is over. Perhaps they believe that the “Mad Men”-esque days of Don Draper-types telling their secretaries to go get the rolling pin ended years ago.

To Build Authentic Brand Equity, You Must First Build the Culture You Want

A few months ago, I attended an expert panel on the topic of crafting the ideal corporate culture. To my surprise, these executives instead spent the entire discussion talking about their brand. The person sitting next to me leaned over and asked: “Are they confused, or ahead of their time?” It was a good question.

While most organizations think of brand and culture as separate ideas supported by separate teams, they are remarkably interconnected and must be aligned for long-term sustainability. Ultimately, if your culture and brand are not aligned, any brand equity is inauthentic. While it might be possible to fool your clients for a period of time, the truth inevitably comes out.

Office Culture Overhaul

Whether due to toxic culture, ineffective leadership, poor results from an employee engagement survey, lack of trust or high levels of attrition, many organizations will find themselves asking how to strategize culture change at some point. But even the most well-crafted strategy is no match for entrenched cultural norms. As the popular saying goes, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

I describe organizational culture as a messy web of systems, processes, roles, communication practices, assumptions, attitudes, goals and personalities. Oh, and there isn’t just one culture. Depending on the size of your organization, there could be thousands across departments (which is perfectly normal). Culture is embedded in every aspect of the organizational system. Every little change within the system has repercussions — some obvious and others less so; some immediate and others long-term. As a result, organizational culture change cannot happen on its own.

How CEO's Can Identify Their Blind Spots

Do CEOs really want to know what their employees say about them? Do they actually want to hear about inefficiencies, overly-complex workarounds or gossip going around the coffee machine? Of course they should — although many don’t.

CEOs need to fully understand the values, beliefs and norms of their organizational culture before they can create any change. But it’s challenging for a CEO to reach this depth of understanding because, unsurprisingly, people have a difficult time giving the person at the top bad news. The CEO controls the purse strings, and the hiring and firing decisions. Giving the leader critical feedback, telling them what they are doing wrong or where their blind spots exist, can be — to put it mildly — a career-limiting move.

How To Leverage Personality Tests For Team Building

There’s a lot of controversy about team-building exercises in the corporate world. Do they really boost morale? Does rappelling down a cliff actually build trust that translates into a more productive accounting office? Is retreating worth the time and expense?

First things first: You have to understand the difference between team building and team socializing. Many leaders who take their employees out for happy hour call it team building. It is not. Other leaders schedule structured activities such as escape rooms or go-karting and call it team building. It is not. Those activities are team socializing. Real team building, on the other hand, is thoughtful, done over time and proactive.

Movers and Shakers

Moving offices is a dangerously stressful time for a business: Employee retention rates, cultural harmony and productivity will suffer. Your relocation might just be the straw that breaks your bottom line.

Today, your employees are continuously being asked to adapt to a stream of new processes, systems and technology, and master new skills and competencies. The list goes on. For your employees, the one constant is their personal office space.

Employees typically have a reassuring home base: the desk where they sit, the chair they lean back in, the coffee shop they visit each mid-morning and the view from their cubicle. During an office relocation, those reassuring baseline constants get ripped away, and employees lose the one anchor that allows them to cope with the never-ending requests to “pivot,” “disrupt the industry,” “get out of the box” and “increase agility.”

Unconscious Bias in Talent Reviews

In his 2005 book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,”Malcolm Gladwell polled Fortune 500 companies and found that 30 percent of CEOs were 6 feet 2 inches or taller. In comparison, only 3.9 percent of the U.S. population are of that height.

Why? Unconscious bias.

Also known as implicit bias, this tendency refers to the mental processes, classifications, stereotyping and decisions that are made in our minds, but outside our mental awareness. These snap judgments lead us to, for example, be more likely to see a tall individual as a leader than a short individual, and are a result of genetically determined processes in which we make quick decisions in order to survive hostile environments. Our brains take shortcuts to judge, classify and act based on limited — and often inaccurate — information.

Debunking Myths about Millennial Stereotypes Globally

Sometime ago, a skit was premiered on Saturday Night Live (SNL), an American late-night show, that showed millennials as new hires in a traditional office. The millennials were shown fussing over their smartphones, bragging about their technical superiority, demanding promotions and time off to “get some perspective”. The fact that this stereotype was placed on a national TV show, showcases how deep this myth is running in our mindsets. 

As a general rule, all stereotypes are exaggeration of insecurity. This stereotype pertaining to millennials, has given birth to a clan of consultants who charge exorbitant fees to help managers in navigating this supposedly ‘tricky’ set of inter-generational workforce issues. But this stereotype vanishes under scrutiny, like all other stereotypes. 

Is your mission statement gathering dust?

Do your eyes roll when you hear the words “mission statement?” You are not alone.

Many of you work at organizations with a mission statement that is now gathering dust on a shelf, framed on a wall or, even worse, carved in stone above your portal. If the following sounds familiar, you’re in trouble: “Our mission is to be the number one (fill-in-the-blank), while driving customer satisfaction, engaging our employees in meaningful relationships and synergizing with our partners and suppliers.” Sounds like a line straight from Alec Baldwin’s character on “30 Rock.”  

Employees and leaders alike are burnt out on mission statements and, frankly, customers don’t believe them. It is time — past time — to rethink the whole mission statement concept.

Listen to Jessica Kriegel on Comstock's Update the State (Worker)

On this episode of Action ItemsDr. Jessica Kriegel, an organizational development consultant at Oracle and author of the book “Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes,” and Angélica Quirarte, a government innovations strategist for the California Government Operations Agency, and join host Tre Borden to discuss how the State — and private organizations — can address an aging workforce and prepare for a younger generation of workers.

Taking stock of a generation: the millennials are all right

“It’s imperative that you get to know the person in front of you and you don’t assign all these stereotypes to them because of this 20-year-wide age bracket that they happen to fall within,” writes Jessica Kriegel, author of Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit From Ditching Generational Stereotypes.

Lumping an entire generation of people together and ascribing them with broad personality traits doesn’t really make a lot of sense, Kriegel writes, issuing a caution about the “generational snake oil” you find in every other magazine and on a growing number of shelves in the business book section.

The malignant myth of the millennial featuring Jessica Kriegel

Despite the fuzzy definition, "our culture is currently obsessed with generational labels and the stereotypes that go with them," said Jessica Kriegel, author of Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit from Ditching Generational Stereotypes. "Although I would say that this trend of thinking differently about the younger people in our world has been prevalent for thousands of years," she added.

Kriegel said her research found most books, articles and consultants focused on Millennials rely on "an oversimplification of human behavior." She also found that they frequently contradict each other.

Those contradictions are inevitable because of the diversity within the demographic group, she said.

We need to stop our obsession with generational differences

y all accounts, Amanda Blackwood is a successful millennial in the corporate world. At age 33, the Sacramento resident is vice president of operations at Kings Casino Management Corporation and a partner in OE Consulting Group, an organizational effectiveness consulting firm. She was previously the chief financial officer for a multi-million dollar real estate development company and has 13 years of experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Yet, she still hears the words “your lack of experience” every couple of months in professional settings.

How can someone so accomplished be perceived as unseasoned? The answer lies in society’s obsession with generational differences.

Comstocks reflects on Jessica's All Male Panel article

Back in mid-January, Jessica Kriegel wrote an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee calling out the Sacramento Business Review’s refusal to diversify the all-male panel presenting the organization’s 2017 economic forecast. The response was swift and brutal: Kriegel’s name and photo were removed from all digital materials for the review — of which she was one of 17 authors — and the organization’s account blocked her on Twitter.

All-male panels lack diverse perspectives, limit quality of message

The words “yield politely” are seared in my mind ever since the director of the Sacramento Business Review responded to my objections to an all-male panel of experts at the annual business forecast scheduled Tuesday at Sacramento State.

Two years ago, I was asked to lead the development of a human resources section for the forecast. The theme was gender diversity in the corporate world. Our findings, which I presented at last year’s event, were not surprising: Women are greatly underrepresented in upper management levels in Sacramento...


Why We Must Challenge Generational Stereotypes

Prior to 1970, California labor laws prevented women from working more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. Why? There was a faulty assumption on the part of lawmakers that the “weaker sex” needed protection from the rigors of overtime work. 

An assumption is a belief based on little or no evidence. Assumptions lead to stereotypes. This stereotype about women was so generally accepted, it took years of feminist consciousness-raising to overcome.

Though of lesser social impact, perhaps, the same thinking is today falsely categorizing a different group of workers. This time, false assumptions are stereotyping generations, most egregiously, the Millennial generation.

Why you should ditch generational stereotypes

Diversity in the workplace has been proven time and again to be a good thing, and countless publications these days devote digital and real ink to how a new generation of workers, the Millennials, are shaking things up at the office—for better or for worse. But assuming that a particular generation will bring certain strengths and weaknesses to the work environment is falling into a dangerous trap, says Jessica Kriegel, whose book Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit from Ditching Generational Stereotypes was published earlier this year.