Kendall Barndollar
Kendall Barndollar

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Articles
10
Fri 17 May 2024
The state of California has proposed new legislation that will discourage managers and supervisors from contacting their employees outside of contract work hours. If enacted, this legislation could significantly impact modern work expectations in California and potentially across the country. 

Setting work boundaries is crucial for individuals to avoid burn-out and keep a healthy work-life balance. However, it is challenging for professionals to set these boundaries with their supervisors and bosses when each party has a different understanding of the expectations. A legal obligation to honor contract hours as the only available hours for an individual will set a clear boundary, beneficial to promoting balance for both direct reports and executives. 

When managers stay past normal work hours and email, chat, or contact others on their team they send implicit communication that those receiving the communication should be working as well. Even if a superior says they do not expect overtime, their sending of emails or messages implies to others that they should be working as well. Getting a late-night email from a boss can be stressful and lead to overworking and burnout of professionals across all levels. Limiting these communications will enable individuals to truly log off at the end of the day and step away from work. 

The California law is based on a concept called “right to disconnect.” Right to disconnect means that once an employee is outside of explicitly stated contract hours, they have no obligation to respond to any communication unless related to an emergency or schedule change within the next 24 hours. Several countries around the world have adopted this mentality working to promote work-life balance and mental health, France, Canada, Portugal and others work to support their citizens (CNBC).

Nevertheless, monitoring employee contact outside of contract hours is a challenging task and will likely take weeks or months for the turnaround in the government to report a complaint to eventually charge a fine to the individual in violation. To better promote work-life balance in this sphere, managers and leaders should consider new ways to limit work to work hours. For example, managers should set clear, explicit team expectations for work and communication habits. Additionally, managers and leaders should be considerate in utilizing their team's preferences and experiences to create a team norm. 

To further promote work-life balance, managers should consider “transition time” to and from work that will optimize efficiency and energy within a team. Transition time is a short amount of time in between different parts of a person's day that allows a small break to reflect and prepare to move forward while leaving the stress from the previous focus behind. Transition time helps mitigate stress and burnout and aids in creating feelings of control and preparedness. Many individuals may have transition time on a train or in a car during a commute. Through the COVID-19 pandemic transition to online work, many individuals lost their transition time between work and home life changing professionals' ability to recharge and prepare for the next phase of their day. 

Although it is sometimes challenging for managers to limit work contact, managers should be deliberate in promoting transition time. When a team member has adequate time to mentally prepare for their day, they will have higher energy and show increased efficiency while at work. On the other hand, without transition time, individuals may come into work feeling disorganized or unprepared, leading to a disheveled and inefficient work day. Once managers have set clear expectations with their team, they may focus on promoting autonomy for their team's growth and learning. 

Moving forward, promoting transition time for remote or hybrid employees is a great tool for improving focus and preparedness in the workplace along with prioritizing mental health and work-life balance. Transition time is a critical component of a person's day that encourages well-being and productivity. Here are 3 tips for individuals trying to find transition time to cultivate healthy habits and optimize performance. 

  1. Make Lists
Transition time can appear in all different mediums. For example, some individuals may like to sit and listen to music or meditate. To be effective in using transition time, individuals should consider making lists to prioritize what items need to be handled in a day in which order. For example, an individual may get to work and create their work to-do list for the day and after work, they could do the same thing for their home life. Or, an individual could use transition time every day after work to create their to-do list for the next day. Either way, lists are a great tool for transition time to focus on activities and priorities. Knowing the order of tasks, time constraints and priorities allows for increased productivity and efficiencies throughout the day. 

2. Recap Activities
Transition time could be a moment of reflection or a recap of big events. For example, if an individual is nervous about a meeting, they may take time before to prepare their resources and a moment after to reflect and recap the meeting. Using transition time in between different focuses enables individuals to leave the stress from the first task behind and move into the next task energized and prepared. 

3. Set Boundaries
As discussed above, after-hours communication and messages from bosses can be a significant stressor in an individual's personal life. Using communication boundaries and set expectations can add to the impact of transition time. If an individual logs off for the work day at the end of contract hours and takes a moment to reflect and prepare for the next day but is later contacted by their boss, the value of their transition time is lost. Transition time works best when individuals are shifting from one focus to another, but if after-hours communication is occurring, this deteriorates the benefit of transition time for the direct report who is now asked to shift back to work mode. 

In working to prioritize mental health, work-life balance, and boundaries in the workplace, it is crucial for direct reports and their superiors to fully understand the mental impact of burnout and its causes. Managers who promote balance and well-being for their employees will see increased productivity and focus within their teams. 


Mon 29 April 2024
Although sometimes intimidating, it is crucial that individuals are able to advocate for themselves in the workplace. Facing the undue challenge of sexism in the workplace is a delicate and daunting subject. 

Making sure each member's voice is heard and valued should be at the forefront of each manager's priorities. However, many individuals are subject to unconscious or subconscious bias against others, meaning that they do not realize the inappropriate nature of their behavior, tone, actions, or attitude so, bringing it to their attention is a sensitive subject. The subconscious or unconscious intent of sexist behavior does not make it permissible but, it does create a learning opportunity.  How can individuals address these concerns with their superiors without jeopardizing their relationship and impression or creating a workplace adversary? 

Consider Tom, who is the Chief Marketing Officer of a small consulting firm. Tom is in his early 40s and has three young children at home. Tom's colleague, Jennifer is the Chief Technology Officer of this firm, also in her early 40’s with young children. In a recent meeting, executive leaders of the firm were discussing how to streamline some processes within the office using new technology. Jennifer suggests implementing Microsoft Teams within the office rather than strictly using email. Tom responds by sharing that most people would rather “stick to what they know” and use email. The conversation continues, and several other executive members agree with Tom. Eventually, Christopher, the company's Chief Information Officer chimes in sharing that Teams is a good idea because “it will make communication faster.” Other members begin to agree with Christopher and the meeting concludes with all members in favor of implementing Microsoft Teams, crediting Christopher for the great idea. Jennifer is left feeling unvalued by the team for her contributions because when she suggested implementing Teams, her idea was shot down, despite her industry knowledge, years of experience, and background data. 

How can Jennifer approach Tom and other executives regarding the sexism she is facing in the workplace? How can leaders curb unconscious or subconscious biases that may affect them?

Jennifer is now tasked with approaching board leaders to express the discrimination she has been facing and find a remedy. However, Jennifer is concerned that approaching Tom or other executives may affect her reputation and relationships around the office. Jennifer needs to find a method of advocating for herself without negatively impacting her office status or alienating herself from her colleagues. Jennifer has a couple of approaches she could consider:

Point Out Sexist Behaviors In Meetings
Jennifer could stop the meeting at the point of inappropriate behavior and call out the group as a whole. In this situation, Jennifer does not assign blame to any one individual but to the group as a whole for undesirable practices. This is a good strategy because Jennifer does not single out one person but points out poor group norms for the whole team. 

Confront Tom in the Meeting
Alternatively, Jennifer could first call out Tom for his poor behavior, accusing him of shooting down her idea without proper consideration. This strategy is a risky approach because Jennifer would be singling out Tom in front of others, likely making him upset and defensive. This strategy could be detrimental to Jennifers' reputation and professionalism in the office. 

Speak Privately to Tom 
Jennifer could speak directly to the instigator of this conversation, Tom, and point out his inappropriate behavior. In this meeting, Jennifer has to be direct and confront Tom in order to advocate for herself. Jennifer must carefully prepare for Tom’s reaction and be ready to continue a conversation if Tom is dismissive, defensive, or rude. 

Speak Directly to Company HR
Jennifer could avoid confrontation with any specific individual and instead bring the topic to the company's Human Resources department. A representative from HR will be a great listener and could help guide Jennifer moving forward to navigate these challenges. HR may be able to speak to the other executives on Jennifers' behalf but, there is little follow-up or enforcement when a reprimanding comes from an “anonymous” source. 

While these are some options for Jennifer, there is not always a “right answer” to approaching situations like this. Role dynamics, personality types, and workplace norms heavily impact the best route for dealing with discriminatory or offensive colleagues. In any situation relating to these concerns, it is crucial to remember these 4 tips:

  1. Plan Ahead
In entering a “crucial conversation,” it is important to be prepared to be clear and collected during a meeting. When discussing a threatening or upsetting scenario, many individuals may be taken aback by emotions or feelings clouding their communication methods. If individuals prepare in advance with written points, feelings, and experiences, they are better able to stay on track and remember the points they were considering when the scenario took place. Additionally, in planning ahead individuals should prepare for the different outcomes possible in a confrontation. For example, individuals may become defensive or disagreeable and derail the important conversation. 

2. Choose the Right Time and Place
In protecting an individual's own professional impressions and relationships, it is crucial to select the correct time and place. In private, many individuals will be more calm and willing to discuss because their reputation is not at risk in front of others. Individuals are more willing to apologize and accept their faults without public embarrassment or accusations. 

3. Be Specific
Clearly explain the comment, attitude, or actions and why they were inappropriate. Individuals suffering from subconscious or unconscious bias are generally unaware that their actions may be negatively impacting others. Explaining why behaviors are offensive clears miscommunication and misunderstanding on the topic and provides individuals with a learning experience of why what they said or did was wrong. 

4. Know Available Resources
In working for self-advocacy, it is most crucial for individuals to know all available resources. These resources are great tools for planning and learning to navigate while balancing different factors in a new situation. 

Overall, it is important for individuals to practice self-advocacy in calculated measures. Weighing impacts of group impressions, professionalism and relationship building heavily impacts the approach individuals should take. Although a delicate subject, there are no improvements in individuals' behavior if they are not corrected. Self-advocacy is a crucial tool to promote self-independence, growth, empowerment, and fair-treatment. 


Fri 5 April 2024
It is crucial for managers to advocate for their team in a deliberate and intentional manner to promote a positive work environment. In meeting with executive leaders, managers should prioritize the needs of their team as a whole in order to be optimally productive. 

However, sometimes executive leaders can be a bit out-of touch on the day to day details of teams activities. Unrealistic expectations can lead to burnout, turnover and massive inefficiencies, producing problem areas for all levels of an organizational hierarchy. 

How can managers advocate for the needs of their team without compromising their own ability? How can direct reports voice their needs to their manager without affecting their work ethic or commitment?

To better analyze the impacts of this situation, consider Alex who is a manager of a mid-size team at a large accounting firm. Alex’s superior is Sophia, a director, who is responsible for eight groups similar to Alex’s across the office. In meeting with his team, Alex realizes that his team has been asked to work significantly more hours this past month compared to previous months. In continuing the conversation, Alex is stunned to hear that many members of the team have felt overworked and exhausted over the past month. Individuals on the team voice their concerns and request for a reduction in work, lowered expectations, a clear plan to help them achieve some semblance of balance, or a combination of these outcomes. 

Now, Alex must meet with Sophia and explain the circumstance, while trying to demonstrate that this is not a representation of ability or willingness to work, but a result of the psychological safety and productivity expectations set for Alex’s team. 

When Alex has his meeting with Sophia, there are a couple of important factors he should keep in mind in order to find the best results for his teams productivity and contributions to the company. Rather than beginning the meeting with an accusation of overworking employees or assigning too heavy of a workload, Alex should explain this situation to help Sophia better understand the effect on the team. 

When Sophia begins to discuss the new work assignments for this month, Alex could ask a question like “Where should this be on the priority list?” This question respectfully points out that his team is working on several assignments and puts the responsibility on Sophia to recognize the tasks the team is already working on. Additionally, this gives Sophia an opportunity to explicitly state what the main focuses are, enabling Alex to prioritize these goals across his team. In any circumstance, it is crucial for managers to advocate for their teams while still prioritizing the needs of the business. 

Here are 5 tips for managers to be better advocates for their direct reports: 
  1. Encourage Communication
Encouraging communication enables managers to better understand their direct reports. Through increased communication, managers should be able to find fixes and suggestions to improve the experience, lives, and workload of their direct reports. For example, in the scenario above, Alex’s team could have previously shared their feelings of burnout and exhaustion, allowing Alex to discuss with Sophia in advance and better plan the workload for his team. Communication between managers and their direct reports will optimize productivity and quality of work throughout a team. 
2. Collect Feedback
As always, a crucial part of success in a leadership role is collecting feedback. If managers work to collect constant feedback, they will better understand the lives of their direct reports. Managers could consider utilizing software such as AIM Insights to collect continuous feedback on performance measures and goal attainment. With a tool like this, managers can view the work put in by their direct reports and alter expectations to meet the needs of the team and business. 
3. Set Goals
Setting goals sets an expected standard for a team. With these goals, members of the team can have a better understanding of the work they should be inputting. In the case of Alex and his team, if he had set an hours-based goal for the team, these members may not be experiencing such burnout. Setting goals is a great method of communication for managers to set clear forecasts for direct reports. In practicing SMART goal setting, managers could consider using software such as AIM Goals to help set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals. 
4. Use Quantitative and Qualitative Data
In serving as an advocate for their team, managers' use of employee data and feedback is an extremely impactful tool for guiding a discussion. In the case of Alex and Sophia, Alex should bring the monthly productivity or hours worked reports as a demonstration of the work that his team has been inputting. With this quantitative data, Sophia will better understand the pressure and workload put upon these individuals. 
5. Prioritize Work-Life Balance & Psychological Safety
In working as an advocate to create an ideal team environment, it is crucial for managers to put work-life balance and psychological safety at the forefront of their focus for teams. Psychological safety focuses on ensuring a compatible and inclusive environment in the workplace and throughout teams. With psychological safety prioritized, individuals will feel encouraged and valued to share their opinions and thoughts, even if they oppose those of the group. In focusing on promoting work-life balance and psychological safety, managers should work to lead a team that values learning from mistakes, innovation, sharing ideas, and setting transparent goals for growth.

Serving as an advocate is not easy. It is challenging for individuals to represent and speak on behalf of others but, working in the best interests of their team, advocacy is a crucial component of leadership. In learning to advocate for other individuals, it is essential for professionals to prioritize transparency and accountability along the process. Additionally, if managers feel they need additional assistance, they should consider joining an executive mastermind group. Joining an executive mastermind group allows individuals to discuss scenarios with leaders with similar experiences in the workplace. As always, managers need to remember that change may not happen immediately and will take time to see the effects across a team. However, when individuals feel valued within a team, they are more likely to demonstrate increased job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Serving as a representative for a team is an integral component of leadership and allows great opportunities for managers to grow as well.
Fri 15 March 2024
Nearly every individual will at some point in their career face an ethical dilemma. Whether that question comes from a superior or direct report, these decisions take a significant toll on mental health, psychological safety, and burnout in the workplace. 

Ethical concerns can take place in a variety of ways. Every ethical question is not as extreme as fraud or lying on financial statements but, ethical dilemmas can be seen in everyday workplace experiences. For example, consider Kelly, who is a senior manager at a large sales firm. Executives of the firm are expecting to be acquired by a much larger company and thus, are pushing for increased sales and revenue from Kelly’s sales team. Because of this, Kelly’s team members are pressured into making one-time sales so the acquirer notes better results for the firm rather than the more accurate, transparency of the expected revenue. How do these decisions affect the health and psychological safety of these parties?

To begin, these employees are now subject to immense stress to make sales, which will likely negatively impact psychological safety and contribute to burnout. Additionally, these individuals' psychological safety and mental health may be negatively impacted if they have to confront their manager or miss a sales goal. If there are pay differences due to falling short of a sales goal during this time, these individuals may become significantly dissatisfied leading to impacts on mental health, psychological safety, or even turnover. On the other hand, Kelly is now stressed and concerned that her team will not meet these sales goals and, she is concerned about what the acquirer will find once they are bought out and the sales decrease. 

Once the firm is bought, many parties may see an adverse effect from the inauthenticity of the sales revenues. For example, the purchasing company may move forward with laying off or letting go of employees because the sales projections based on the perceived recurring revenues right before the sale of the company (which turn out not to be recurring and therefore shouldn’t be in the projections) are not met. Additionally, the purchasing company may potentially alter the compensation structure of the employees, negatively impacting their motivation to work if compensation is based on inaccurate data, these sales goals may be challenging or unachievable for these employees. For example, sales and performance quotas based on projections that aren’t based in consistent results.

Now, how should Kelly address her concerns with her current boss, Michael? 

If Kelly approaches Michael with this ethical concern, she may see unfavorable effects, especially moving into a merger or acquisition with the firm. In discussing this sensitive matter, it is crucial for professionals to be extremely cognizant of the surrounding environment to find the right time and manner to discuss a concern without becoming accusational or placing blame on superiors. Here are 5 tips for discussing an ethical concern with a superior:
  1. Be Objective
In bringing up concerns about a sensitive topic, it is crucial for individuals to maintain objectivity and avoid placing blame on the superior. For example, in the aforementioned situation, Kelly may ask to schedule a meeting and begin by saying she is concerned about how sustainable the sales are. This statement does not place blame on Michael or suggest that he is acting unethically. Rather, this statement brings up a sincere concern. Additionally, this statement does not bring up the variety of negative effects that may be possible in the situation but just focuses on the one main concern to be addressed. Kelly may also not realize the pressure Michael is under and that he might not have been the person that decided to fluff up the sales numbers but was instead following orders.
2. Propose Solutions
Continuing in the meeting with a superior, leaders should be cognizant of their attitude and propose potential solutions to move forward with. These solutions should be constructive and should directly address ethical concerns. For example, Kelly should consider offering solutions to the situation of sales data representation. Perhaps Kelly can head a new and sustainable marketing campaign for current clients or, suggest a different way to encourage sustainable sales in this situation. 
3. Highlight Possible Consequences
If Michael needs additional convincing to approach this ethical concern, Kelly should consider bringing up possible negative consequences, backed by data. For example, Kelly could share that if sales are to drop after the acquisition, her team may be downsized or, brand reputation or morale may have negative effects for the team moving forward. In this area of the conversation, individuals need to bring concerns that are sincere possibilities with adverse effects and, avoid blame placing. Being empathetic to the superior will always help both parties better understand the other and how to best move forward. Kelly could also acknowledge who benefits from having inaccurately boosted sales numbers, their proximity to everyone else at the company, and who may face consequences after the sale is completed.
4. Encourage Open Dialogue
In these discussions with a superior, managers should be considerate in finding a comparable solution for the superior's objectives to be met in a more ethically sound manner. In Kelly's case, suggesting possible solutions and then asking for feedback or other ideas to find a compromise of the way the problem is approached and the objective solution that is best for the company. Managers in this situation should also listen carefully to the superior to find any other information or data that could help find an ideal solution to move forward with. 
5. Seek Guidance
Finally, managers should consider seeking guidance in moving forward with an ethical concern. To find help, managers can consider a variety of methods. First, the manager could reach out to the firm's human resources. But, leaders should be conscious that these individuals may be required to report potential problems or concerns within the company. If an individual is seeking some mentorship outside of the firm, they should find a horizontal mentorship program or an executive mastermind group. These programs focus on building relationships with peers in other organizations at similar levels or, with more experience. Being able to privately discuss concerns with other professionals is a fantastic resource for effectively approaching sensitive topics. For example, Kelly may benefit from a horizontal mentorship by speaking with a sales manager at a different firm and learning more about how to best approach the situation from an outside perspective. This method also works to reinforce psychological safety that promotes open discussion and conversation. 

Although challenging, voicing concerns about ethical topics is crucial for companies to maintain their cultures and positive work environments. And, as leaders, managers have a responsibility to represent their direct reports and work in their, and the company's best interest. In this pivotal role, individuals can become stressed and overworked so, it is necessary for leaders to maintain clarity and thought processes in decision-making processes that will affect a whole team. 


Thu 22 February 2024
The onus is on leaders to establish trust within a team and foster the best-fit culture. But, building a company culture with a foundation of trust requires commitment and constant communication from leadership. When expectations are met, trust is built. Although seemingly simple, many leaders may struggle with clear communication expectations and setting realistic goals for their direct reports, thus diminishing the trust being built and detrimenting the growth of their team. To set realistic goals, leaders must focus on honesty in expectations and, work to limit unrealistic optimism about the outcome of projects or goals. While setting high goals can be a great motivator, unrealistic expectations discourage direct reports from working towards high standards.

Finding the balance of achievable expectations is extraordinarily challenging for leaders. In working towards direct reports meeting expectations, here are 10 tips for leaders and executives to improve their team culture and build trust:

  1. Lead By Example
Managers and team leaders' indirect actions are key communicators to their direct reports. Managers' commitment to meeting expectations and holding up their end of responsibilities creates a culture that values accountability and builds trust based on past experiences. Leaders set the tone for the whole team, if leaders put trust in their direct reports, their team may autonomously flourish and grow. Leaders' practice of trust will create a ripple effect throughout the entire organization allowing for tremendous growth and innovation in teams. 

2. Set Goals
The best way to encourage direct reports to meet expectations is to set clear, SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. When setting these goals, teams, and leaders must collaborate and follow each letter of the acronym for maximized motivation and ability to meet the expectations. In setting goals, consider the use of software such as AIM Insights that will provide continuous feedback for growth. The best tool for establishing these goals is a collaboration between executives and their direct reports to find a realistically attainable goal without jeopardizing the work-life balance of any team member. 

3. Encourage Open Communication
Open communication is essential for the development of trust. Leaders must be deliberate in effectively communicating with their teams promptly. With open communication, direct reports are better equipt to meet and exceed goals. Managers should consider sharing decision-making practices and promote open discussions that will encourage a community feeling. Trust in a team where individuals know that the managers value their contributions and work in the best interest of the team will see tremendous growth. 

4. Set Accountability Standards
Accountability is a key aspect of establishing trust within a work culture. Over time, direct reports meeting expectations build trust in company culture. Holding individuals accountable for mistakes and errors along the way, without scrutinizing them will work to build a company culture foundation of trust. Open discussion of errors or shortcomings will allow individuals to learn from their mistakes, build trust, and, allow executives to learn how to better their team. Trust cannot only be built on exceeding and meeting expectations but in honesty through shortcomings and errors along the way as well. 

5. Practice Consistency
An important factor in establishing trust is consistency and predictability. With executives in decision-making processes, leaders must practice a process of consistency to build trust with direct reports. Inconsistencies in leadership build a culture of uncertainty and fear within direct reports. With a lack of reliability, direct reports will not be meeting their fullest potential and may be negatively impacted by fear or uncertainty within their team. 

6. Emphasize Team Building
Team building, in and out of the office is imperative to build a culture with trust. Team building enables individuals to see their co-workers as friends, and builds a community with camaraderie and morale that will encourage collaboration and success. Getting to know peers allows individuals to build connections and trust with their teammates. These connections will not only improve trust but, will improve accountability and collaboration amongst direct reports. 

7. Establish Recognition Norms
Regularly recognizing individuals who have met or exceeded their goals builds a system of appreciation and will further encourage success within a team. With a regular practice of acknowledging individuals, management can express the value of hard work and determination. Sharing team members' success will greatly improve trust and morale within a team's culture. Additionally, recognition can serve as a great motivator for direct reports to meet their goals and expectations of managers. When a company creates a culture that communicates how valued each employee is, turnover will decrease and a team community will be built. 

8. Promote Psychological Safety
As always, managers must consider the psychological safety of their team environment in working to establish a productive culture. Psychological safety builds an environment centered around valuing individuals and building trust. Any individual on a team may detriment to the psychological safety that is built, from managers to direct reports. In this instance, managers should focus on building an environment that values individuals and their contributions which will build mutual trust for both management and direct reports. 

9. Limit Jargon
A crucial factor in building trust in a team environment is to be clear and honest in all communications, including limiting jargon and phrases that are intentionally indirect. To establish expectations and build trust, leaders must be transparent with their direct reports. The same holds for recruiting practices. In recruiting, leaders should be clear in their communication of the expectations and culture of the team, avoiding phrases such as “work hard, play hard” that create a confusing expectation of the work environment. 

10. Empower Team Members
Members in teams with trust should feel empowered to succeed and excel with the support of their peers. Managers working to build trust should focus on empowering direct reports to meet expectations independently. Direct reports sense of belonging and support from teammates will enable individuals to meet and exceed expectations with the help of their peers. Building a culture that values inclusion will create a safe space for members to productively fail and find great success.

In establishing a culture of trust, leaders need to recognize that the results may not be noticeable overnight. Building trust takes time. To build trust, leaders need to provide ample opportunities for direct reports to meet and exceed set expectations while still maintaining a productive team culture. In creating attainable expectations, trust within a team will unlock growth and collaboration, leading to great success.