Monthly Archives: February 2021

28. The Vanishing Workplace

When the pandemic finally gets under control—soon we hope—work for many people will not go back to the way it was before.

Some people may go back to their offices but not necessarily every day. Others, who’ve moved to places where housing is cheaper and life less hectic, will engage with colleagues only remotely, just as they’re doing today. What will that mean for those people—and for their companies?

Our guest this episode is our own colleague, Ethan Bernstein, who teaches Organizational Behavior at Harvard Business School. Starting in March 2020 he’s been on a team of researchers tracking the experience of a group 600 U.S-based white-collar employees. Every two weeks, the team has been polling these people about how they’re feeling on multiple levels.

In our conversation, Ethan shared news with us that was both good and bad. On the positive side, the results showed that the stress of working from home quickly abated for many people. (That’s not been the case, of course, for those with children to care for.) People quickly became more confident about their Zoom skills. Many expressed the feeling that “we’re all in it together.”

Over time, however, the researchers have seen workplace networks shrink. Connections among people working closely with one another have remained strong. What’s been lost, though, are random connections with others, the ones we used to have bumping into co-workers at the proverbial water cooler. That’s a loss on a personal level and, as Ethan notes, it can also constrain organizational creativity.

27. The Art—and Importance—of Telling Stories When You Negotiate

Our friend and colleague Josh Weiss is our guest in this episode. He’s the author of Real World Negotiation: Successful Strategy from Business, Government, and Daily Life.

As you’ll hear, Josh’s book draws important general lessons from seemingly very different kinds of cases (most of them far from our own experience). But Josh knows that real stories often offer more useful and powerful lessons than does abstract theory, no matter how elegantly crafted. Real world examples are far more engaging, credible, and memorable.

And as fate would have it, early in our conversation Josh proved that point when he told us a story that appears in his book. It’s about an emotionally disturbed man, carrying a rope, who climbed high in a tree. He was threatening to hang himself. A patient policeman talked him down by helping the man save face.

“Interesting,” you might say, “but what does that have to do with the kind of negotiation that I do?”

“Plenty,” would be Josh’s answer. In his artful telling, the story is about many things: staying centered in a stressful situation, listening deeply, and at the heart of it, building rapport—all of which are essential qualities in many negotiations.

And here’s what’s great! As Josh relates how the policeman talked the man down, note how the two of us (Kim and Mike) got drawn in the tale and shared our own impressions of what it meant.

It was a wheel within a wheel. His story prompted us in real time to think anew about story telling in negotiation. As you listen, be mindful of how it sparks your own thinking about moving conversations forward.