Six Workplace Trends to Watch in 2017

With the arrival of 2017, we’ve been spending time sizing up some of the many important developments, issues and trends in the workplace. And let us tell you: from tools, to employee experience, to team dynamics, workplace habits are a-changing. Teams are on the rise, the next generation of leaders are reshaping their work environments as I write, and the employer-employee contract continues to actively evolve.

Our analysis included published research findings, our own experience consulting to client companies, and ongoing monitoring of corporate commitments and published policies….With a bit of clairvoyance mixed in!

Color us *unsurprised* that Business Chemistry’s value had rarely been clearer. Continue reading “Six Workplace Trends to Watch in 2017”

Creating a psychological safety net for your team

“Can you describe a time when you were on a team that was really successful?”

That’s more than just a leading question in a job interview. Answering that prompt can begin to give us clues into why some team experiences–and outcomes–are just better.

I bet you could probably list some of the characteristics that define the highest performing teams—things like goal focus, dependability, and complementary skills.

But what if the key to high team performance is something far more basic and subtle?

Newer research1 suggests that what distinguishes top teams is actually “psychological safety.” Said another way, we do our best work when we feel safe enough to take risks and contribute without holding back. And in a truly psychologically safe work climate, people aren’t just comfortable expressing themselves, they’re comfortable being themselves—complete with quirks and peccadillos. It’s also important to consider what we’re *not* doing on a team we deem safe. Harvard business professor Amy Edmondson describes psychologically safe teams as ones where “people are less likely to focus on self-protection.”

When we’re not constantly calculating whether we’ll lose face by taking a risk, we can more easily lean into our desire to engage with others and to learn. Research1 supports that a psychologically safe team leads to better overall engagement and an openness to learning. Indeed, the safer team members feel with one another, the more likely they are to admit mistakes, to partner, and to take on new roles3.

So how could your team start to build more safety, interpersonally speaking?

Continue reading “Creating a psychological safety net for your team”

When You’ve Got Tough Feedback to Give, Flex Your Style


An old maxim cautions: “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.” We live in a world where feedback is unavoidable. And for most of us who deliver feedback to others, our default tendency is to give praise or constructive criticism in the way we like to hear it.

The trouble is, taking a universal approach to communicating with others works to our detriment. When we use a “standard template” for conveying praise or corrective advice, we’re practically inviting misunderstandings and broken trust. Just imagine the aftermath of giving hard-hitting feedback–with little context–to your most sensitive but reliable worker. More than just hurt feelings, we can actually distract a person from our main message with an ill-chosen delivery!

Continue reading “When You’ve Got Tough Feedback to Give, Flex Your Style”

Project stalled? Practice perspective-taking

How to Encourage Perspective-Taking Skills

Unclear objectives. Scope creep. Cost overruns. Many of the reasons that projects fail seem painfully obvious. And yet there’s a less noticeable offender that can lead teams to take rash shortcuts, ignore the facts, or worse, mistake their overconfidence for boldness.

I’m talking about our failure to actively seek out and consider perspectives different from our own.

You might have guessed that perspective-taking is something we promote enthusiastically in Business Chemistry. After all, minimal variation of thought can lead to groupthink…which can steer a team right into a place of dysfunctional conformity. And we’re not only talking about encouraging people to exchange perspectives; but about using targeted strategies to do so. Academic research supports this recommendation: perspective-taking has been shown to simultaneously improve creativity1 and reduce favoritism within a team2. And beyond fostering more cooperative workplace behaviors3, taking others’ perspectives into account has been linked to better team coordination4 and improved conflict management5.

Continue reading “Project stalled? Practice perspective-taking”