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Reframe stressful talks in fun terms

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Staff meetings can degenerate into negative free-for-alls if leaders let participants complain at will. Instead of seeking solutions, employees may find fault in each other and even trade insults.

Don’t let problem-solving discussions dissolve into gripe sessions. Create a positive environment where everyone feels like they’re engaging in something productive that will produce a useful outcome.

Janice Wharton manages nurses at Group Health, a Seattle-based healthcare provider. She cites her team’s approach in handling stressful situations in busy outpatient clinics. Conflict can erupt in such a harried environment, especially when staffing shortages or access issues create bottlenecks.

To gird for the most difficult challenges, Wharton’s employees adopt a “game day” mentality. Her team replaces thoughts such as “Today’s going to be a really bad day, what do we do about it?” with a “Put on your game day” mindset in which they commit to work harder and faster. Wharton finds that employees “have mutual respect and good communication on those days.”

Another technique to lower the stress level involves reframing potentially divisive staff meetings. Wharton’s team holds what it calls “hot-tub meetings.” The idea came about when an employee mentioned that she conducts her most difficult conversations with her husband in their hot tub at home.

Similarly, Wharton’s crew now prepares for highly charged discussions by saying, “Let’s have a hot-tub talk.”

— Adapted from Transforming Relationships For High Performance, Jody Hoffer Gittell, Stanford Business Books.

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