"Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and
underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up."
James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo (1994)
Some people thrive on change. But most frankly recoil from it. People tend to like
routine and predictability, things we can count on. This may not even be in our best
interests, but it’s what we know so it’s comfortable.
In organizations, people’s initial response to change ranges from “well, it’s about
time” to “over my dead body.” Whether it’s a shift in a purchasing process that
impacts daily routine or a complete overhaul of leadership, change rocks the boat
and has reverberating effects throughout all layers of an organization. So when I
address change in any organization I think about how to manage people’s reactions
and feelings towards change itself.
In organizations going through leadership or large-scale change, I first examine
the predominant culture of the organization. Is it a culture that is accustomed to
change? Or conversely, is it a culture that takes pride in doing the same as they
always have, but doing it very well? Understanding the culture is crucial because
it leads to very different change management strategies. I coach leaders how to
influence change in a manner that is not only digestible, but creates buy-in and
enthusiasm for new and even uncharted territory.
Not only is conflict in the workplace unavoidable, it is crucial for any business to
thrive. I am not referring to the conflict that comes from destructive fighting and
personal attacks. What I am referring to is spirited, vigorous, heatlhy debate over
concepts and ideas. Individuals who avoid engaging in healthy conflict waste a
lot of time and energy because unresolved issues inevitably re-surface over and
over again. I teach people and teams how to engage in dialogue about sensitive or
controversial issues that are so critical to organizational success.
Healthy conflict has to be defined and normalized. This occurs through discussions
as well as the use of tools to help people understand their own and others’
natural inclinations regarding conflict. This increases empathy and decreases the
likelihood of misattributions and misperceptions of others. Once safety and trust
are established through increased understanding, I work to shed light on critical
or “buried” topics by naming issues and providing a structure for a safe but spirited
dialogue. This isn’t just a one-time experience, but something that must happen
repeatedly so that people develop the confidence and trust to raise issues, disagree,
and solve problems collaboratively.
I am often brought in to remediate discord between individuals or groups. Rather
than teach a cookie cutter approach to conflict resolution, I engage in a thorough
analysis of the problem at hand. If you don’t understand the true nature of the
problem, you can’t resolve it. Once the conflict is understood and I have established
trust with the parties involved, I then engage in a conflict resolution process that
addresses issues like interpersonal, stylistic, and philosophical differences. This is
often sensitive work that requires a deep understanding of human cognition and
emotion. As a trained and experienced psychologist, I possess the skills necessary
to effectively address even the most sensitive and difficult situations within your
Meetings…can’t live with them, can’t live without them. We really do have a love/
hate relationship with meetings. Unproductive meetings tend to be the bane of
organizational life yet they flourish like bacteria in a Petri dish. That’s because it
actually requires more energy to have fewer and shorter meetings, but make them
dynamic, productive, and solution focused.
As an experienced facilitator, I help keep meetings on track by keeping people
focused on content (the agenda), establishing a safe and structured meeting process,
and ensuring participation. It is not easy to gain full, active participation during
meetings because individuals are often silent in the face of sensitive or controversial
topics. Some are scared to voice their opinions, while others feel as though their
ideas or feelings will be ignored. I facilitate dialogues that would otherwise go
unspoken or unresolved. Once people feel safe and the real issues are on the table,
resolution and interest-based solutions are possible.
What others are saying...
Rita has been an invaluable resource to me and my organization in addressing
various employee relation issues. She has a very comforting and engaging demeanor
to defuse potentially volatile discussions. Rita understands people and is able to
offer effective recommendations for resolving workplace conflicts.
Cheryl Rhodes Alexander,
Human Resources Manager
Delta Diablo Sanitation District