The conversation about “being furloughed”

Nicola Jones is a Learning & Development professional who specialises in developing a human-centered approach to leadership and management through blended learning and coaching.  This piece is informed by coaching practice and a common-sense approach to business practice.  With those caveats in mind, we offer the following which we hope provides some help at this difficult time.

Organisational response

Define key business messages; what messages do you want people to receive and understand and by what means?  Plan to use all channels of communication i.e. line managers, meeting content, written format, video messaging, to include e.g.

  • People’s hard-work and  the commitment demonstrated to-date is deeply appreciated
  • The dramatic economic impact of Covid-19, combined with ambiguous government advice, has created uncertainty which has been hugely challenging to navigate.  If mistakes have been made, we apologise.
  • Senior leaders have been working flat out to secure the future of the business and will continue to do so
  • The health and well-being of people has been, and will continue to be, the guiding principle
  • The business will endeavour to provide up-to-date information to colleagues in these difficult times

Consider the long-term strategic possibilities.  If you can shift thinking to the longer-term, even now, it will help you respond in a way that sets up future priorities.  Remote working is likely to be a part of that picture.  Taking time now to think about the longer-term will, in turn, resonate in your approach to furloughing people.

Define your people strategy to see you through this stage i.e. a written description of its intent, e.g. “To support people to through the furlough process, to stay in communication with them and to offer what help and support we can on an on-going basis”.  That can shake down into an implementation plan which may include some of the things that follow.

  1. Create a central web-page of resources for staff with all the key information possible e.g.
  • A message from the CEO/MD/MP – appreciation, outline of circumstances, broad intention for the future
  • Links to government advice, ACAS, health advice, the company well-being line.

Getting people to use a central resource straight away will mean the business can use it to communicate key messages over the next few weeks and months.

Put as much information as possible in writing.  People will want as much detailed written information as possible.

Consider what you can communicate about customer/client care.  Is your business actively supporting its customer/client base at this time?  This will show that the business is thinking in long-term ways, which demonstrates an intention to ready to re-develop work in the future.

Team level response

  1. Ensure people have ways to stay in touch with each other e.g. WhatsApp groups etc.  This kind of “social community” is an informal space in which people can share information, ideas and offer each other support.  These come alongside the “formal” channels that the company offers.  Let colleagues set the informal spaces up for themselves, so that they are not “owned” by the business.  Leaders can plant the idea and sensitively check that people are included if need be.
  2. Is it appropriate for the business to facilitate informal peer support get-togethers online?  If so, set expectation about what these sessions will offer – people should expect contact and support – information about employment etc. will come from more formal channels.  Zoom Meeting is free for short group conversations up to 40 mins or you can pay a low subscription to be able to host longer group meetings
  3. Think about learning opportunities/re-training options you can suggest.  These suggestions might be informed by future needs of the business.  There are a lot of courses available free e.g.

https://www.futurelearn.com/

www.edx.org

Individual conversations

  1. Set your intention.  What is it that you want to achieve in this conversation?  E.g.
    • to be clear in what I am saying
    • to be sensitive
    • to keep the conversation on track
    • to listen as well as talk
  2. Prepare for the conversation.
    • What are the key things you need to communicate?
    • How is your colleague likely to react?  What is the worst case scenario?  Think these through and consider sensitive ways to respond
    • Plan to structure the conversation so that you have an opening, some key content and form of words to close the conversation.
  3. Take care of yourself.  Senior leaders will be dealing with super tough situations and need to feel supported.  Plan to have conversations at the end of each day to share experience, de-compress and support each other.  Get these facilitated by an external expert if need be.

Best wishes everyone.

Useful links:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/if-the-employer-needs-to-close-the-workplace

https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/coronavirus-furlough-questions-answered

Processing the impact of Corona Virus – the People Stuff Part 2

Some reflections and thoughts about the impact of Corona Virus immediate and longer-term work practice:

A month ago I might have written about blockers to change.  Now the change has just happened.

It feels as though we have experienced a decade or more of change in the space of a couple of weeks

All the things which a month ago were still in the “nice to have” category – positive working culture, robust relationships, effective team-working – are thrown into relief.  Everyone is working in overload.  Understanding each other, helping each other to navigate responses and make effective decisions is crucial.

If businesses are expecting people simply to replicate in-person working practices in a virtual world they will be wasting their energy

As businesses focus on implementing contingency plans, colleagues are struggling to care for children, find quiet space and time to work and trying to keep themselves together in mind and spirit.  In many two income households both parties are vying for workspace and bandwidth.

We need to accept that we will not work as effectively, and we may not be able to work at all, in this transition phase and give ourselves and our colleagues permission to be human.

As we shift to exclusively digital working, we need to draw on the practices which connect people most

In person, in the office, we can read body language and gauge the tone and energy of events.  The flow of information is constant; we are aware of our own work and how everyone else is getting on.

Online, the context of our work effort changes.  We need to take time to share the human stuff, as well focus on tasks.  Trust people to do their work as best they can.

Colleagues will remember how they are treated at this time for the rest of their lives

As a leader (and we are all leaders right now), acknowledging our own predicament and our own feelings is important, even for a moment.  That will help us to focus our efforts to support others.

Remember, leading with empathy means offering positive help AND listening.  Coaching skills come to the fore here.  Ask open questions which invite people to contribute their responses, such as, “How is X affecting you?”.  If you ask a question like that, make sure you really listen to the answer.

As we come through the initial shock we will establish new ways of working which will shape our working lives for the foreseeable future.  There is a great opportunity here and the challenge is to remain open to that possibility as we process this reality.

Responding to Corona Virus – the People Stuff 1

As we learn what’s needed at this time here are some simple steps which may help :

  1. Be Clear
  2. Communicate
  3. Be Cool

 

Be clear about the state of play.  Everyone is struggling at the moment, so be honest.

Be clear about what communication channels are for e.g.

  • Email is for longer messages that need to be a matter of record
  • MS Teams channel or Slack groups can be project or team-based

Communicate key messages in simple terms using different mediums e.g. video, 1-2-1s, group meetings

  • Agree protocols for communication – e.g. DM someone to ask if they are free to speak, using “Do not disturb” buttons or setting a message saying when you’ll be available again.
  • Use video. Set expectation around the use of video and get senior colleagues to be role-models for this.  Using video greatly increases engagement and allows people to actively demonstrate commitment to the communication.
  • Ask the team what they think will make online communication work e.g. dress codes, accepting interruptions will happen etc. You may have to navigate some competing views AND you will get buy in if people create their own ways of working.
  • Agree specific channels for “blethering” – exchanging the fun stuff and pictures of cats. People need to express themselves AND keeping this conversation in one place prevents work messages from becoming congested with more personal messages.
  • Set up “down time” sessions for breaks and lunch which people can join if they want to. Get the team to suggest things to do in this time – it could be as simple as listening to music together whilst you eat lunch.

Be cool – there is a new “normal”! Imposing traditional structures and behaviours will not work.  In fact, there is a massive opportunity here to re-think how people work.

  • Recognise and acknowledge your own feelings
  • Accept that we are in transition through the immediate crisis and the longer-term impact it will have
  • Remember your colleagues will never forget how you treat them at this time; support them and they will give you their best

 

 

How do we get new services and products embedded? More “Badass Women”!

At the She Breaks the Law (#SBTL) Continuous Learning group meet-up on 6th September at LexisNexis offices in London we had to conclude that the answer to embedding new services and products is “more badass women”!

Following on from an excellent networking and sharing session of the whole group, fifteen of us – some from Legal Tech, some with responsibility for innovation within law firms, some GCs and others – stayed on to tackle the question of how continuous learning can support the introduction of new tools or ways of working.

At a previous meet up, there had been a consensus that both providers and organisations need to work out what supports the up-take and embedding of new services. A lot of attention is paid to the operational effort involved in deployment. Is there anything else that can help initiatives gain traction?

In terms of Continuous Learning practice we were focussing on the relationship between learning needs and the success of engagement with new ways of working.

Outputs

Our plenary could have gone on all day! I’ve summed up our thinking about success factors thus;

  1. Clarity of purpose
    1. User involvement at every stage
    2. Communicating shared objectives
    3. Demonstrating value; answering “what’s in it for me?”
  1. Understanding the role of learning in the change cycle
    1. Taking an iterative approach
    2. Establishing “champions”
    3. Celebrating success
  1. Leadership
    1. Authenticity
    2. Trust
    3. Consistency
  1. Emotional Intelligence
    1. Listening
    2. Offering “dynamic care”
    3. Demonstrating a growth mindset

A Summary of “Us Too?  Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession”

The report is based on survey results from 6980 respondents from 135 countries in six different languages.

Headline points

Sexual harassment and bullying were found to be significant issues for men and women.

“Targets” do not report in 75% of sexual harassment cases and 57% of bullying cases mainly due to the status of the perpetrator and fear of repercussions.

70% rated the response to bullying to be insufficient or negligible.

67% rated the response to sexual harassment to be insufficient or negligible.

 

Bullying Sexual Harassment
1 in 2 women

1 in 3 men

 

1 in 3 women

1 in 14 men

In the workplace In the workplace and at social events, conferences and during travel

 

Most commonly perpetrated by line manager or supervisor

 

Most commonly perpetrated by a non-supervisor senior colleague
Disproportionately affects young workers

 

Disproportionately affects young workers

 

90% bullied more than once

 

84% sexually harassed more than once
Bullying by social media affects young people most Technology-based harassment on the rise
40% always or sometimes reported

 

21% always or sometimes reported
Most reported at large law firms Most reported at small law firms

 

70% felt the response to reporting was insufficient or negligible 66% felt the response to reporting was insufficient or negligible

 

75% of perpetrators not sanctioned 75% of perpetrators not sanctioned

 

Profound negative personal impact including suicidal thoughts reported

 

Profound negative personal impact including suicidal thoughts reported
More than half of targets left or considered leaving the workplace

 

One third left or considered leaving the workplace (50% + of under 35s)

 

One in ten considered leaving the profession

 

 

Methodology

Two-thirds of respondents were women and one third men.  Overall it was assumed that the ratio of women to men in the profession globally is 1:1, although there are clearly regional differences.  Respondents came from different types of legal workplace with most from law firms (73%) and least from the judiciary (3%).  The majority of respondents were under 40 with a total of three-quarters under 50.  Personal characteristics other than gender were not recorded due to data protection restrictions.  The report notes that other characteristics such as, sexual preference, ethnicity, parenting responsibilities and physical ability will have impact on sexual harassment and bullying.

The perception paradox

Jurisdictions in which awareness is likely to be highest also report the highest levels of abuse, not perhaps because abuse is relatively higher in these places, but because it is recognised more readily.  The research addresses this paradox in terms of cultural bias by considering results in the light of known levels of gender equality.  Norway, Australia and Russia rank respectively high, average and low in terms of gender equality index scores.  However, Russian respondents reported similar rates of bullying and lower rates of sexual harassment than to those of Norway.

Bullying (p32 – 49)

There are moral and business imperatives to address bullying.  The impact on individuals and organisations is profound with lives damaged, effectiveness at work impaired and staff turn-over increased.

Bullying is “rampant” and the legal profession has a “chronic” bullying problem.  It is most prevalent in large law firms and government legal departments.  It is rarely reported.  More than half of targets of bullying have left or considered leaving their work.

Half of female respondents reported being bullied and one in three men.

High levels of bullying reported in government workplaces (69%) may be due to the perception paradox, with policy initiatives and training contributing to awareness and thus reporting.    The size of the law firm has impact on reported bullying; firms with more than 100 partners had higher rates of bullying at 45.6% with the lowest being for 11 – 50 partner firms at 35%, so not a huge over-all range.

Oceania and Africa had the highest rates of bullying with women significantly more likely to be bullied in both.

Bullying affects young legal professionals most with 32.8% of respondents under 25s experiencing bullying.  The age profile of targets decreases, suggesting that the older you are the less likely you are to be bullied.  This supports the connection between hierarchy based on seniority and bullying.

Partners are slightly less likely to be bullied than other functions.  This may be because they are protected by seniority.  It is possible that targets tend not to head for the top, so the experience of bullying may be under-represented at that level.

Types of bullying

The types of bullying most reported were:

  • Ridicule or demeaning language (57%)
  • Overbearing supervision including unproductive criticism (55.4%)
  • Being given too much or too little work (47.3%)

(NB.  People could report more than one type of bullying, hence totals over 100%)

Who bullies?  When and where?

Line managers and supervisors were the highest reported group of bullies at 60.5%.  Again, this supports the association of hierarchy and bullying.

90% of respondents had been bullied more than once with the vast majority of bullying happening in the workplace.

Reporting & response

Bullying is rarely reported.  The most common reasons for non-reporting was the profile or status of the perpetrator and fear of repercussions.  57.3% of respondents said that they never reported bullying.  Large firms have higher reporting rates possibly due to the provision of policies and procedures.  87% reported within their organisation with 3% reporting to a regulatory body or the police.

Less than 10% of respondents felt the response to reporting was good or excellent.

70% thought it was insufficient or negligible.

More than half of bullied respondents left their workplace.

Sexual harassment (p49 – 67)

Sexual harassment is “alarmingly common-place” and is having a “considerable negative impact” on the legal profession.  It affects women disproportionately, although men are affected.  The perpetrator is most often a non-supervisor senior colleague.  Abuse happens at work, at social and off-site events.  One third of respondents reported leaving or considering leaving their job; one in ten considered leaving the profession.

Government legal departments have the highest rates of reported sexual harassment (35%) with men twice as likely to report sexual harassment than average.  Law firms have the lowest rate (20%).  The size of the firm had no impact on reported levels of sexual harassment.  There appears to be a correlation between bullying and sexual harassment levels.

Where, who and what?

Oceania, Africa and America had the highest prevalence of sexual harassment at around the mid 40% level in each.  Non-line manager colleagues (54%) and colleagues of the same seniority (36.6%) are the most likely perpetrators, although young people are most often sexually harassed by more senior colleagues.  In North America clients are responsible for relatively more sexual harassment than elsewhere.

Sexual harassment is reported most from young people.  A shocking 16% of women under 25 reported sexual harassment with 35% 25 – 35 year olds being affected.  Prevalence is roughly equal across functions.

Sexual, sexist and suggestive comments were the most likely type of sexual harassment accounting for a stunning 67.9% of reported sexual harassment.

66.8% reported inappropriate physical touching and sexual propositions.

Incidents were reported to be rarely isolated, although it was less likely to be a concerted course of action than bullying. 84% reported sexual harassment happened more than once.  The workplace is the most likely place for abuse to happen.

Reporting

“Sexual harassment is chronically underreported”

75% of respondents did not report sexual harassment

Reporting rates are highest at small firms, in contrast to bullying in which most reporting is at large firms.  Reporting is through internal channels.  It is noted that the severity of the sexual harassment reported did affect the likelihood that it be reported.

The reasons most often given for non-reporting were status and seniority of the perpetrator and fear of repercussions.  This last was most prevalent in the judiciary.

Qualitative responses indicated that targets were concerned about the punishment for perpetrators being disproportionate.

Response

25% felt the response to reporting was sufficient or better

66% felt it was insufficient or negligible

75% of perpetrators were not sanctioned.  In more than half of cases the situation was unchanged or deteriorated after reporting.

Impact

One third of sexually harassed respondents have left or are considering leaving their workplace; 1 in 10 have left or are considering leaving the profession.  Young women are most likely to leave or consider leaving the profession (50% of women 25 – 29 years old).

You can download the full report here:

https://www.ibanet.org/bullying-and-sexual-harassment.aspx

Navigating the darkness with Ariadne’s thread

I have been reading Sarah-Jane Menato’s take on the story of Ariadne, who used her intuition and compassion to help Theseus slay the minotaur and escape the labyrinth by providing him with a thread with which to navigate his way through the darkness.

But Ariadne was not only driven by compassion; she was seeking her own escape; this was a act of collaboration.  She sailed away with Theseus, spending the night with him on a distant island.  When she woke she saw Theseus’ ship on the horizon.  The story goes that she was abandoned.  Fortunately, Dionysus, son of Zeus, arrived in his chariot to scoop up our heroine, carrying her off to be his wife.  A happy ending?

 

In her re-framing of the story Menato rejects the idea that Ariadne was abandoned by Theseus, preferring to see the story as one of mutual resourcefulness and choice.  She describes Ariadne’s actions in terms of “feminine energy”; she has come of age and realised that to be safe and autonomous she must use her strengths to create her own future.  Theseus has used his “masculine energy” to fight and adventure, and is now off doing his own thing.  They have enjoyed their collaboration and both are courageous in different ways.

It is interesting to consider “masculine” and “feminine” energy in the context of 21st century discussions about gender.  Menato is clear that they are not about being male or female.  However, she acknowledges that the dominant energy of the patriarchal world we live in is “masculine”; we value the driven, adventurous souls.  Many women (and I’m one of them) have dialed up behaviours which have enabled them to succeed in a world defined in this way. And yet, as we navigate an age of phenomenal change and uncertainty, the capacity to connect ideas, perceive need and collaborate to find ways forward are at a premium.  Are we entering into an age of “feminine” energy?

Late in 2018 the Dalai Lama called for women “…to be the mothers of the Compassionate Revolution that this century so desperately needs”.  His hope was that women can rein-in the violence and destruction wrought by mankind.  To my mind, that still defines women as “other” and different, even if the hope is that they can be a parallel force with men.  I’m not so sure my feminist destiny is to contain male power.  Like Ariadne, my feminine energy is not only driven by compassion, though it is undoubtedly present.

My sense is that this is time when feminine energy can and will come into its own, because this moment in history demands it.  If we come to respect and value our feminine energy as much as we do the masculine energy within us all well then there is hope, a thread perhaps, which we can follow to navigate through challenging times.

Nicola Jones

April 2019

  1. Athena was the goddess of war, compassion and reason, hence “Athena Professional”.

 

 

Legal Geek 2018

The word I found at the front of my mind walking to the tube after LegalGeek 2018 was “connection”. The tone was set by George Biggar connected us to our human experience of work and Life by talking about mental health and the work of the charity Mind. I connected with upteen people; re-connections and new connections*. And with each conversation, each talk I connected ideas, experience and possibilities for myself. There was some nicely subversive stuff; Joanna Goodman said something so obvious and so rarely heard, “if you want to see more women in any profession, promote them!”; Denise Nurse, “the elephant in the room is that firms have done well without diversity… but real diversity serves clients better”; Richard Tromans gets the prize for most quietly radical statement of the day for talking about using tech to “change the means of legal production”… I could go on – check out my Twitter feed for much more @NooJones Many thanks to Jimmy Vestbirk and all at LegalGeek

Johari Window

The Johari window was created by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955.  It can be a really useful way of understanding relationships with others and with the organisation enabling:

  • Increased self-awareness
  • Identifying areas for personal development
  • Improving communications and interpersonal relationships
  • Managing group dynamics
  • Developing the team and improving inter group relationships

It has a clear  focus on  behaviour, empathy, co-operation, inter group development and interpersonal development, the soft skills often overlooked.  It is a simple model that can be applied in a variety of situations and environments.

 

There are two factors at work within the Johari window. The first factor is what you know about yourself. The second factor relates to what other people know about you.

The model works using four area quadrants. Anything you know about yourself and are willing to share is part of your open area.  Individuals can build trust between themselves by disclosing information to others and learning about others from the information they in turn disclose about themselves.

Any aspect that you do not know about yourself, but others within the group have become aware of, is in your blind area. With the help of feedback from others you can become aware of some of your positive and negative traits as perceived by others and overcome some of the personal issues that may be inhibiting your personal or group dynamics within the team.

There are also aspects about yourself that you are aware of but might not want others to know, this quadrant is known as your hidden area. This leaves just one area and is the area that is unknown to you or anyone else – the unknown area.

The balance between the four quadrants can change. You might want to tell someone an aspect of your life that you had previously kept hidden. For example, maybe you are not comfortable contributing ideas in large groups. This would increase your open area and decrease your hidden area.

It is also possible to increase your open area by asking for feedback from people. When feedback is given honestly to you it can reduce the size of your blind area. Maybe you interrupt people before they have finished making their point which can cause frustration. Alternatively people may always want to talk to you because you are a good listener. Sometimes you don’t realise these aspects of your character until it is pointed out.

By working with others it is possible for you to discover aspects that neither of you may never have appreciated before.

Some examples of unknown factors can be as follows:

  • an ability that is under-estimated or un-tried through lack of opportunity, encouragement, confidence or training
  • a natural ability or aptitude that a person doesn’t realise they possess
  • a fear or aversion that a person does not know they have
  • an unknown illness
  • repressed or subconscious feeling
  • conditioned behaviour or attitudes from childhood

From a practical point of view in implementing the Johari window you need to look at two steps.

Step one:

The place to start in the Johari window is in the open area. Make some notes about yourself.  What are your strengths and your weaknesses? What are you comfortable with and willing to share with others? Try and be honest and clear about what you know about yourself already.

Step two:

Involve other people and ask for feedback about yourself. Be prepared to seriously consider it. That doesn’t mean that you have to do everything that’s suggested, but you should at least listen and think about it. Then give the person who provided the feedback some acknowledgement or thanks for making the effort.  Depending on how confident you are you might prefer to do this as either a group exercise or on a one to one basis. Remember that giving effective feedback is a skill and some people may be better at it than others. When receiving feedback, be respectful, listen and reflect on what has been said. It may be on receiving feedback you may want to explore it further that can lead to discovery about yourself.

The Johari window as a tool does have its drawbacks:

  • Some things are perhaps better not communicated with others.
  • People may pass on the information they received further than you desire or use it in a negative way.
  • Some people or cultures have a very open and accepting approach to feedback and some do not. People can take personal feedback offensively so it’s important when facilitating to exercise caution and start gradually.

There are many ways to use the Johari model in learning and development. It very much depends on what you want to achieve in your training or development activities? What are your intended outputs and how will you measure that they have been achieved? How can the Johari Window theory and principles are used to assist this.

Johari is a very elegant and potent model, and as with other powerful ideas, simply helping people to understand is the most effective way to optimise the value to people.  When people really understand it in their own terms, it empowers them to use the thinking in their own way, and to incorporate the underlying principles into their future thinking and behaviour.

The Self Awareness Diagnostic is a great accompaniment to the Johari window model. It helps people to explore the qualities that make them who they are. The simple online questionnaire provides instant feedback to the participant that they can positively use in understanding their personal strengths and weaknesses, what belongs in their open space. It can also objectively help the participant to start to process some of those attributes that reside in their blind spot and can encourage discussion amongst the group without being confrontational or causing contention.

What is unique about the Self Awareness Diagnostic is it explores not only an individual’s ‘soft skills’ and working style preferences but also how participants like to learn; their learning styles.  In an education or business environment this can be a great enabler for a teacher or trainer to ensure all the members of the group are motivated and able to achieve their full potential