Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: April 2016

Become more persuasive by applying the action story-telling technique

DramaTriangleI often write in the blog about what it takes to become more persuasive in the workplace (including this column I wrote last year for Profit Magazine).  A few weeks ago, one of my professional colleagues offered me a perspective I’ve never considered before, one that caught my attention enough that I want to share it with you.  She said that when you seek to influence others, you can make your message more persuasive simply by adapting the classic villain-victim-hero action story-telling technique.  Let me explain.

The customary formula for writing an action story requires that you have at least one villain, one victim and one hero.  And you can do the same for the business world.  But when you adapt this formula for the workplace, Continue reading

Build employee morale by consistently celebrating accomplishments

Celebration3As leaders, we don’t celebrate enough!  I’m talking of course about celebrating accomplishments – applauding ourselves and each other for a job well done.  Now, it’s not because we don’t care (we do!); it’s because we’re busy and once we’ve gotten something done, we barely have time to check it off the to-do list, let alone find time to praise and commend for it.  But if we want to create positive and productive workplaces, then celebrating accomplishments is important.  And lord knows, I too am guilty of not doing it as much as we should!  Let’s face it, the truth is that leaders today are busy – we have things to do, people to see, places to go – we don’t have time to pause in the present to celebrate accomplishments.  But we should.  Celebration of achievement is so important to both employee morale as well as future success.  So here is one idea to institutionalize celebration, one way to make sure that we periodically pause to acknowledge our staff and ourselves.

Implement a regular “round table brag moment” into your usual team meetings.  Continue reading

Apparently ageism is more prevalent than you may have realized

One week ago I blogged about ageism in the workplace and whether we have an unconscious age bias, without even realizing it (see Is age discrimination alive and well in organizations?).  In response to this post, a client forwarded this video link to me, with a short comment that he has seen many examples of “upward ageism” in his organization.  Published by AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), this video at four minutes is a little longer than the usual YouTube video, but watch it through to the end, I think you’ll find it interesting; I certainly did.

My favourite two parts come near the end (at the 3:30 mark) when 70-year old Parvati says “As long as I’m growing and learning, then age doesn’t matter”, and when 75-year old George says Continue reading

Deal with performance problems sooner rather than later

BrokenWindowA recent conversation with a manager in a client organization about dealing with an employee performance problem reminded me of a Mega Minute I wrote back in October 2004 titled Broken Windows and Leadership.  In it, I referred to the Broken Windows theory put forward by authors James Wilson and George Kelli in 1982 to explain the epidemic element of crime.  The ultimate premise of the Broken Windows theory is that small things matter, often more than the big things.  The hypothesis is that if a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.  Soon, more windows will be broken.  That leads to more petty crime, then serious crime, and finally urban decay.  The point: if you’ve got broken windows, it’s important to fix them right away, before they turn into bigger problems.

I was reminded of this because this manager and I were talking about the importance of dealing with an employee performance problem promptly.  Continue reading

Is age discrimination alive and well in organizations?

Ageism Gets OldRecently, I came across an article written by Dan Lyons (author of a new book, “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble“), in which he shares his personal experience with age discrimination.  Here’s a link to his article – When It Comes to Age Bias, Tech Companies Don’t Even Bother to Lie.  It’s not very long, but if you don’t want to read it for yourself, here’s a quick summary.

Lyon’s article opens with – Imagine you’re African-American and working at a 500-person technology company where everyone else is white, and one day the CEO declares in a national newspaper interview that his company’s lack of diversity isn’t an accident. In fact he prefers to hire white people because when it comes to technology white people simply make better employees. That statement would be unthinkable. But what if a tech CEO made the same comment about age?   Lyon goes on to explain that about nine months after he joined a software company called HubSpot (where the average employee age was 26; he was 52), Brian Halligan, the CEO and co-founder, explained to the New York Times that this age imbalance was not something he wanted to remedy, but in fact something he had actively cultivated.  HubSpot was “trying to build a culture specifically to attract and retain Gen Y’ers,” because, “in the tech world, gray hair and experience are really overrated”.  Ironically, no one (not the CEO, nor the media, nor company employees) saw anything wrong in this publicly-made statement. Continue reading

Polarized opinions? Use constructive controversy for problem-solving

you way or my high way different opinion,opposite disagreement oCollaborative problem-solving is a great way to arrive at better solutions, so I always encourage team members to work on issues in small groups rather than individually.  In the past, I have offered up problem-solving tools on the blog (How many hats? and The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese).  But in today’s post, I want to focus on what happens if you find yourself with staff members who clearly fall into opposing sides on a single issue.  In such a situation, is a collaborative solution impossible?  Not necessarily.  I utilize a problem-solving tool known as constructive controversy.

Constructive controversy forces team members to look at the situation in terms of both the pros and the cons.  Here’s how it works.  Continue reading

How to reduce the effect of destructive criticism

Back in February, my professional colleague Patricia Morgan wrote a guest post on workplace resiliency, specifically on how resilient people have an attitude of gratitude, even during tough times.   Her post was received so well that I asked her to join us again, and today she writes about another aspect of resiliency – responding positively to destructive criticism.

PatMorganReduce the Destructive Effect of Criticism

“I have some constructive criticism for you.”

Stop! Before criticizing it would be best to consider the results of doing so.

People with high resilience manage unwelcome criticism. They censor the criticism they both give and receive.

There are those who are totally against using any form of criticism and then there are the critical hardliners who say “A real friend will tell you the naked truth.” Then there are people who have a critical mind and perspective. Their gift is a logical critique that forewarns of problems. They could save us potential angst and trouble.  But where is the balance?

Here are reasons not to criticize: Continue reading

High employee turnover? It’s not usually about compensation

Often in my practice, I come across managers struggling with high employee turnover who believe that the most effective way to stop their top employees from walking out the door (and going to the competition) is to increase their salaries.  Now don’t get me wrong, you can’t underpay people (you have to give them what is considered reasonable for that specific job in your geography), but once they’re paid a salary that they consider fair, throwing more money at them is not going to keep them.  In fact, the research shows that money is not the driver for why people quit their jobs.  The two top reasons people resign – because they are tired of dealing with what they perceive to be a high level of bureaucracy and/or because their immediate manager is a lousy leader.  And for the record, money doesn’t even make the top three (salary makes the list at #5).

So what does this mean for a leader who’s facing high employee turnover and is concerned about losing his/her best people?  Continue reading

The 5 most common new leader mistakes

My latest column for is about the most common new leader mistakes, and it’s now up in cyberspace.  This will apply to you both if you work in an organization for someone else, as well as if you’re an entrepreneur running your own business.  No matter your current role, at some point in your career, you’ve likely come across managers who were indecisive, uncommunicative, demotivating, and just plain old horrible to work with.  I make the case that it’s perhaps not their fault, because chances were that they just never learned how to be good leaders.  In this column – The 5 Rookie Mistakes New Leaders Often Make – I lay out the five most common gaffes made by leaders, and how you can steer clear of them.



So what else can you add to my list of the top five?  What have you experienced or observed.  Please share by commenting below.


P.S. I am delighted to be in my second year as a regular contributor to’s panel of business experts. You can find links to my previous columns on their site. For your information, Profit Magazine is a sister publication to Canadian business magazine giants Canadian Business, MoneySense and Macleans, and their list of columnists reads like the Who’s Who of Canadian business, so I am proud to be in such distinguished company.