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‘If I’ve Told You Once, I’ve Told You A Billion Times… Cybersecurity Matters!” -Hackers Say To Lawyers

If a billion kids made a human tower, they would stand up past the moon. If you sat down to count from one to one billion, you would be counting for 95 years. If you found a goldfish bowl large enough hold a billion goldfish, it would be as big as a stadium. A billion seconds ago it was 1959. A few seconds ago, a billion passwords were stolen from Russian criminals leaving your firm, its clients and employees, at risk.

An exaggeration, you think? Hardly.

“A lot of firms have been hacked, and like most entities that are hacked, they don’t know that for some period of time,” says Vincent I. Polley, lawyer and co-author of recent book for the American Bar Association on cybersecurity.

“Sometimes, it may not be discovered for a minute or months and even years.”

Unfortunately, when it’s late and you still have a few hours work to do, it’s easier to pack up your laptop, save some client information on a portable flash drive, and then head home. Nobody wants to prioritize cybersecurity over work-life balance.

The problem is, hackers these days have become more and more sophisticated. And your efforts to make working from home more efficient have, instead, made stealing confidential and private information more prevalent.

In fact, cybersecurity concerns within law firms has become so important to high-profile, high-profit clients, like big banks, have started to withdraw business from firms that demonstrate relaxed regard for security measures.

“Wall Street banks are pressing outside law firms to demonstrate that their computer systems are employing top-tier technologies to detect and deter attacks from hackers bent on getting their hands on corporate secrets either for their own use or sale to others, said people briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.”

“Some financial institutions are asking law firms to fill out lengthy 60-page questionnaires detailing their cybersecurity measures, while others are doing on-site inspections,” writes Matthew Goldstein for the New York Times online.

Other corporate clients, the same article reports, are requesting that law firms stop putting files on portable drives altogether, emailing them on non-secure devises, such as smartphones or tablets, and sharing servers with offices in notoriously cyber-insecure countries, such as China and Russia.

Today, we realize how important these measures may be in securing your future as CNN reports that Russian criminals stole 1.2 billion passwords.

Hold Security founder Alex Holden told CNNMoney that the treasure trove includes credentials gathered from over 420,000 websites, both smaller sites as well as “household names.”

Thus, chances are high that your firms assets—or those of its employees—are among the exploited.

Some think that pressure from clients will help law firms get with the digital times and clean up their cybersecurity act. Daniel B. Garrie, executive managing partner with Law & Forensics, a computer security consulting firm that specializes in working with law firms. He thinks, “When people say, ‘We won’t pay you money because your security stinks,’ that carries weight.”

Law firms, however, are notoriously slow in upgrading their technological tools.

Do you agree with Garrie, are law firms finally paying attention?

One last lesson in one billion: If we wanted to make a book with a billion dollar signs, printed 1000 per page and with pages printed on both sides, the book would be 500,000 pages long. How many billions of dollars are you willing to risk (after being told a billion times) before your firm upgrades its cybersercurity systems?

To learn more, get C4CM’s webinar “Mitigating Cyber Risk: Strategies for Legal Counsel to Reduce Exposure and Avoid a Data Breach Devastation,” available on CD.

This comprehensive webinar will help you to mitigate risk by fine tuning or putting into place key procedures and policies for cyber protection. You will also learn what to do once a data breach is revealed.

  • Data breach response tactics and notification obligations
  • Practical and essential first steps to take if a breach occurs
  • What to include in your Incident Response Plan
  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosure obligations related to cyber risks and data breaches
  • How cyber-insurance coverage acts a risk mitigation tool, and what to look for in your policy
  • Key individuals that your organization should be developing relationships with and why
  • Practical protocols for reviewing and including cyber clauses in vendor and client contracts
  • Much more…

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The Dirty Little Secret Only BigLaw Knows: How To Create Mobile Apps To Attract Clients

Millennials or just the “recession generation” use apps for everything, Uber for taxis, Tinder for dating, Washio for laundry, and WhatsApp for texting. It’s a wonder that tools and utilities not connected to an app ever get used anymore.

That’s why BigLaw has caught on to this trend.

It’s even a good way for small firms to get big notice. How? Hop on the digital app train.

Let’s take a few examples. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has a global sourcing app that helps users calculate costs in outsourcing contracts.

Baker & McKenzie has an app summarizing legal and tax issues for public companies granting employee stock options overseas.

O’Melveny & Myers provides an introduction to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in its app. The app also reports on related enforcement actions and settlements.

Above the Law, who reported on the app trend, also has an app—for both iPhone and Android.

Latham and Watkins is the most dedicated Biglaw app developer, with an entire library of “The Book of Jargon” to explain legalese to clients who are—well, justifiably—confused. Now they have an app that helps clients learn more about overseas anti-bribery laws.

In fact, of the 2013 AmLaw 200, approximately 36 firms (18%) produced a total of 53 mobile apps. This amounts to an increase of 63 percent in firms having apps than last year [22 firms], according to The Law Firm Mobile (LFM) blog’s third annual research report.

Of the 2013 Global 100, 28 firms (28%) produced a total of 50 mobile apps. This amounts to an increase of 22 percent in firms having apps than last year [23 firms], according to the same research.

So basically, BigLaw is producing a lot of apps. But who is using them? It turns out, the days of the BlackBerry are officially over. Of the lawyers or clients making use of this new technology, the vast majority are iPhone users.

Of the total apps produced by Biglaw firms, 96 percent are offered on the iPhone, 6 percent are offered on the BlackBerry, and 29 percent on Android (35%). Last year, only 17 percent of apps were on the Android platform.

Finally, you may be thinking that these BigLaw firms are just creating apps for employee recruitment or human resources. That’s not true at all.

On the contrary, only three apps of the 68 (4%) were focused on recruitment, eight (12%) were produced for events (internal or external), 15 (22%) presented general firm information (similar to a website), and a whopping 42 (62%) provided legal resources of various types. Law firms have figured out that providing useful information gets your app trending among techy legal services types. And, once your app is popular, so becomes your firm.

A full list of BigLaw mobile apps can be found here.

So the last question you should be asking is, does my firm have an app?

In size or caseload, a small firm may not be able to compete with a large one. But in cyber space, everybody is equal. There are only app developers and audiences. So once you’ve identified yours, your firm—boutique or BigLaw—stands on equally footing.

Your app could be the “next big thing” to beat out BigLaw in wooing and winning over clients.

In addition, developing an app does not have to break the bank. Brainstorm with younger associates and your IT Department about what services your new app could provide clients or other lawyers. Think about what needs are not yet met online in the legal services industry. Carve your niche by making an app for that skill or service your firm (or its lawyers) truly excel at.

Because in a world where everything is an app—transportation, talking, dating, and more—there’s only room for an avatar lawyer to match.

Not yet convinced that apps are the way of the future? Learn more with The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s training course: Mobile Discovery: Emerging Challenges of Texts, Tweets, Apps and Emails, in the Realm of BYOD.

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“Dear Lawyers, I’m Here To Stay.” -Technology

The fight against drones, Google Glass, or other new technology has gotten violent this month, with a woman attacking a 17-year old boy for flying a drone on a Connecticut beach, reports Forbes.

It’s one of the first time criminal charges were filed, as opposed to just name-calling or social criticism.

“It’s easy to call these people Luddites, after the British workers who set about destroying machines—and in some cases killing the people who owned them—in the late 1700s and early 1800s in a futile attempt to turn back the tide of mechanization. It led Britain to pass a law making machine-wrecking punishable by death,” writes Jeff Bercovici for Forbes.

“But the new machine destroyers’ motivations are different. The original Luddites were worried machines would take their jobs; the Neo-Luddites fear machines will steal their privacy.”

Except, we no longer live in a world where technology is a choice.

There’s no way to turn off or opt-out of the video surveillance cameras in your city or from Internet searches of your name by others. In law, lawyers are fond of calling their practice “traditional” and eschewing modern tools. But even they can’t stop courts from taking e-filings only.

The Above The Law (ATL) Legal Tech Terms Survey sought to learn about its readers’ familiarity with the following concepts: Information Governance, Predictive Coding, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, and Dark Data. Its results were shocking:

In follow-up questions, over a quarter of respondents who self-identified as litigators—the cohort presumably most versed in e-discovery—characterized predictive coding as irrelevant to their career or had “no idea” whether or not it was relevant, reports ATL.

And, less than 50 percent of respondents believe that cybersecurity is an “essential” aspect of their career, reports the same survey by ATL.

#yikes

Amid controversies like ExamSoft’s giant debacle regarding bar exam uploading, it’s clear that the legal profession needs to rapidly update its way-of-thinking and its way of working with technology.

In a recent ATL blog post, Alex Rich describes five reasons why lawyers should embrace technology or be left in another firm’s dust. Here are some highlights:

First, technology is here to stay. Unlike crop tops or ripped jeans, technology is neither a fad nor cyclical. So, it’s time to learn the review platform your case is using or even the software available to you via the IT department. Mostly you don’t want to embarrass yourself, as Rich says, “when you ask why the 3 terabytes of data cannot be reviewed in Concordance.”

Second, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. There’s no way you will convince colleagues that physical document review (as in, files) is more efficient than reviewing e-discovery scanned into the computer. So, don’t try. Leave the yellow note pad at your desk and pick up an iPad on your way home.

Third, increase your family time. Ok, Rich—perhaps a more realistic attorney—actually wrote that technology increases the illusion of family time by allowing you to take the office mobile. So, you may not be paying full attention to your daughter’s softball game when you’re answering Re: Urgent, urgent, urgent! e-mails on your smartphone. But, hey, you’re there, right?

Fourth, get excited about high-quality distractions. This can be anywhere from streaming sports games or listening to e-books during document review. Rich writes, “Document review (as well as a whole host of other legal tasks) is frequently so boring that you need a distraction to occupy part of your brain while you go through the mundane chore of selecting the appropriate issue tag. And when it comes to quality distractions, well, technology’s got your back.” Just be careful that you’re not violating your firm’s internal policies by browsing Facebook instead of giving face time to firm clients.

Fifth, low-tech has its own problems. You may get annoyed when technology fails, but isn’t human error worse? Also, Rich doesn’t fondly remember the days of lugging around heavy boxes full of documents for discovery, getting paper cuts as you go through them, and getting ill from breathing in dust everyday for months at a time.

Technology might be that proverbial double-edged sword, but wouldn’t you rather be the person wielding it than the one behind it?

Start with the basics: Learn tips and tricks for using Excel, PowerPoint, and MS Word to improve productivity at your firm here.

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Famous Movie Quotes To Make You A Better Boss

When you’re having a rough day, it’s fun to imagine how you’d quit your job. In fact, you may even fantasize about using a famous movie quote on your boss after you storm out of the office during one such disgruntled occasion:

  • “If I’m not back in five minutes, just wait longer” –Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
  • “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” –Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in Dirty Harry (1971)
  • “Do you like apples? Well, how do you like them apples?” –Matt Damon as Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting (1997)
  • “Hasta la vista, baby.” –Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator in The Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

An alarming fact for managers is that despite high rates of unemployment, people are still quitting their jobs in droves. More than 2 million Americans are voluntarily leaving their jobs every month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, which refers to them as “Quits.”

It seems there are a few things employees just won’t tolerate—with or without an economic recession. A recent study by Accenture (via Forbes) reports the following reasons people leave their job, and it may surprise you:

  • Dislike boss (31%)
  • Lack of empowerment (31%)
  • Internal politics (35%)
  • Lack of recognition (43%)

So what can law firm managers learn from this survey? First, leadership is not just commanding, sometimes it’s also camaraderie. Second, employees need to feel empowered. Third, leave gossiping and favoritism at the door. And finally, reward your employees for a job well done when deserved.

Here are four ways to retain your law firm professionals and the movie quotes that will help you remember them:

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” –Strother Martin as The Captain in Cool Hand Luke (1967)

One of the most cited reasons that employees leave their jobs is because they dislike their boss. In a profession like legal services, where positions are extremely hierarchical, it can be easy to fall into ranks. First years get all the dirty work, partners get all the recognition from clients. In order to keep your associates from quitting in a fit of rage (and maybe even starting their own competing firm) be a boss that listens.

Keep tabs on all your associates. Do they seem stressed? Overworked? Do they complain a lot? Make sure your subordinates feel comfortable voicing their concerns or asking questions.

If you feel out of touch, take one or two younger associates to lunch. Ask them about their work satisfaction. Really take note of their responses with two-way communication.

Make an open-door policy. If you need expert advice on handling difficult conversations with your employees, read C4CM’s guide here. If you don’t know how to write formal or informal policies on boss-subordinate communication, or want to know how to create an open-door policy, find guidance for managers here.

If your employees don’t like you as a boss, it likely means you’re failing as one.

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” –Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing (1987)

Another reason employees quit their job is a lack of feeling empowered. Employees will work harder and longer if you give them ownership over their work.

People don’t want to be micromanaged. Associates like coming up with case strategy—even if you don’t take it, make sure all ideas are welcome.

You can also empower employees by giving them trust. Allow flexible schedules. Alan Hall for Forbes comments, “In essence, corporate leadership can still achieve productivity and happily engaged employees by offering them more latitude in how employees accomplish company and personal goals.”

“For example, must every employee’s workday start at 8 and end at 5? Could a working parent start their workday later or accomplish a portion of their workday or workweek from home?”

Also, don’t assume that an associate isn’t working just because they’re not at their desk. Give associates a task, a deadline, and trust them to complete it. If you’re stopping by a subordinate’s office too often, you’re stopping them from doing their job efficiently and from achieving their full potential.

For more advice on how to transform your firm into a flexible workplace, take C4CM’s online course here.

“This isn’t personal, Kay. This is business.” –Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972)

Office politics (like regular politics!) are the worst. Nobody likes to tip-toe around an issue because a certain team member can’t be criticized. Nobody wants to join a team where certain people are favored over others. Office politics are disheartening and counterproductive. Lead by example. Don’t gossip in the workplace and do encourage people to voice their opinion, even if it’s dissenting.

Having a hard time tempering toxic talk? Learn about minimizing office politics and gossip with C4CM’s course here. Also, take the smart woman’s guide to office polics here.

“You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody.” –Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954)

Finally, employees quit because of a lack of recognition for their hard work. No, not every job well done needs a pat on the back or year-end bonus. But, it can be easy for managers to focus on mistakes rather than to reward achievements.

Law firms work as a team, from the receptionist who greets the client to the paralegal conducting docket research to the associate on doc-review. Some of these employees may not have been a part of the flashiest and most recognizable parts of the case—they may even have been absent from the courtroom or off the official record—but their commitment and work is real. It deserves recognition.

Write letters of thanks to your employees after a big project. A simple, handwritten letter goes a long way in recognizing somebody’s effort in a very personal way. Law firm managers and leaders, in general, hold a lot of responsibility. Wield it wisely, widely, and graciously.

Still uncertain about what your employees need? Become a better listener and better leader by attending C4CM’s audio course on improving employee engagement and enhancing your influence here.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much these days for an employee to reach his or her breaking point. Boosting morale may be a manager’s most important task of the day. Otherwise your best talent may be Gone With The Wind, mimicking Clark Gable as Rhett Butler when they say to you at their wit’s end: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

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Are You David Or Goliath? Why Small Law Firms Will Dominate In The Future

Is the death of BigLaw on the horizon?

Society loves a good David and Goliath story, where the underdog transforms a perceived weakness into his advantage. We feel better knowing that size isn’t always the only thing to matter in life or in business.

BigLaw has long been the legal services industry’s Goliath. Small firms have struggled to keep pace and survive.

All the best talent graduating from law school are quickly scooped up by the biggest cities’ best names.

However, for a long time, clients have demanded more than just power and influence. They want innovative practices, diversity, and mostly they want discounted rates that large firms don’t offer. With an oversupply of capable lawyers, clients can finally afford to demand services tailored exactly to their needs, which is why we’re seeing more and more small firms face off and take down behemoth opponents.

In turn, doe-eyed associates are no longer looking for long hours typical of BigLaw firms. Young associates want an even work-life balance, flexibility, and a job that gives them a sense of purpose.

“What I observe every day as the CEO of Priori, a curated marketplace that connects business owners with vetted lawyers at transparent prices, is that mid-tier firms are shedding associates something serious,” writes Basha Rubin in her articleBig Law, Big Problems: The Bright Future For Small Firms,” for Forbes.

“These lawyers want flexibility and independence—to service the clients that inspire them, at prices and pricing models that don’t cause potential business to blanch, at a rhythm and schedule that is sustainable.”

Luckily for both clients and lawyers, technology has provided a means for flexible workplaces, at-home offices, and more efficient work practices.

As a result, individuals are starting to form their own firms, servicing clients that they admire, that they choose. “These lawyers are entrepreneurial, gung ho, and ready to compete,” continues Rubin.

“Technology is the catalyst for their coming dominance.”

BigLaw is tied to tradition, fixed costs, and fixed mindsets. It’s much harder to convince a dozen veteran partners to try something new than it is at a smaller firm. Training associates and coordinating tasks at BigLaw firms with thousands of employees is much more challenging.

BigLaw is slower to adopt new technology or ideas. On the other hand, small firms, although lacking in manpower or pure numbers, are proving surprisingly efficient.

“Previously disaggregated and fragmented, they can use technology to improve their efficiency with new tools that automate document production and assembly, workflow management research, and contract review. (PlainLegal, LawPal, Diligence Engine, Ebrevia, Ravel Law, Judicata) With this arsenal, they can maintain high-quality work at lower prices,” boldly purports Rubin in her article for Forbes.

And lower prices have become the number one selling point to attract clients.

Not all legal professionals are convinced, however, than small firms are in slingshot range of BigLaw. An post on 3 Geeks and a Law Blogreacted to Rubin’s article, stating:

“BigLaw may suffer on the edges (ala Patton Boggs), but clients still need their services. Small Law can’t or won’t step into the breach (except in certain circumstances). And LPO’s will continue to nibble at the edges, but are not apparently taking away large portions of legal work from large firms. So the Big Disruption seems unlikely any time soon.”

According to 3 Geeks, legal services remain too complex for small firms to completely take over. Who is best to settle complexity? An equally complex system of services offered by BigLaw.

Whatever your opinion on the rise of small firms or fall of BigLaw, one things all parties agree on? Legal technology is arming the best combatants.

Regardless of size, if you want to be successful, your firm must be competent in today’s cutting-edge technical skills.

Malcolm Gladwell thinks Goliath was the victim, the real underdog who never stood a chance with his oafish sword against the skillful David and his quick and deadly slingshot.

Because, in the end, you never want to be the one who brings a knife to a gunfight.

Think your firm already has the technical skills necessary to compete in this fast-paced, tech world? Take C4CM’s course: Suffolk/Flaherty Technology Audit: Is Your Firm Ready?

D. Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel at Kia Motors America, developed this technology audit and tested nine large firms. All nine firms failed! Of the associates approached the assignments in ways that would have required five to 15 times longer than necessary. At $200 to $400 per associate hour, from the client’s perspective this equals inefficiency and wasted billable time.

Taking his tech audit to the next level, Flaherty is now working with Professor Andrew M. Perlman at Suffolk University to formalize the outside counsel tech audit as a FREE tool for other inside counsel. What does this free audit mean for your firm?

Will your lawyers pass the tech test?

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Millennial Employees Not Lazy After All? New Study Suggests Firms Should Give More Vacation To Employees

They say millennial employees are lazy—is it true?

As much as forty percent of millennial employees reported feeling guilty for using their vacation time, as opposed to just 18 percent of baby boomers, according to a recent study by Randstad (via Forbes).

So, does this mean baby boomers are lollygagging on the beach? Not really.

In fact, both baby boomer and millennial employees seem to be glued to their phones for work even on vacation. Almost half (42%) of employees reported feeling obligated to check their email during vacation, reports the same study by Randstad.

It seems millennial employees are, actually, concerned about their careers. Unfortunately, all this concern—both in the office and on the beach—is affecting productivity. By not taking a stress-free, work-free vacation, employees do not return to work “refreshed,” implies the Randstad study.

Returning to work “refreshed” is exactly why employers promote time off in the first place. What’s to be done?

“Studies about millennials always say there are four Fs this generation places before all else: fun, family, freedom, and friends,” said Jim Link, Randstad chief HR officer to Forbes.

“But then you look at this information that says these folks are on board more than any other generation, and don’t feel the need to delineate between work and life.”

At least one study seems to imply that millennials do prioritize their work life; in fact, they can’t seem to separate it from their recreational life. With all this talk of a work-life balance, for millennials, at least, this term can be modified to just “balance.”

Should employers, then, help their employees compartmentalize their life? Should managers encourage employees to turn their phones off after work and remain technology-free on vacation?

“Historically, up until the last 10 or 15 years, [work and home life] was much easier to separate. That’s just no longer the case. It’s become harder, technologically speaking, to really build that separation in,” said Link.

One way to return to the “good ole days” is to consider building work-life separation into workplace policies.

For example, lawyers notoriously take little vacation. And, many female attorneys feel pressure to return to work as soon as possible after giving birth.

Firms, as a result, should encourage lengthy maternal and paternal leave. Stress and fatigue are not just dangerous to a person’s health, they’re dangerous to the firm as they affect productivity and increase the likelihood of making mistakes.

Just like falling asleep at the wheel, exhaustion can be equally deadly to your firm’s most important cases.

Consider implementing an “on-call” system not unlike the medical profession. Make a few younger associates “on-call” for certain evenings. Circulate lists of who is available on which nights to senior managers and partners.

The system doesn’t have to be complicated, and maybe instead of “on-call”, your system would give associates just one night a week to be “off-call”.

However you decide to implement such a program, the relief an employee feels at knowing they do not have to answer calls or emails—even for one night alone—can become more relaxing than a week spent listening to ocean waves.

Also, don’t make your employees feel guilty for taking time off.  In this economic climate, reassure your staff that taking vacation time is not a downward spiral toward being laid off with policies that make a certain amount of annual leave mandatory.

Firms with creative and flexible policies regarding mental and physical helath, as well as time off, have happier, more productive, and loyal employees. In the end, that’s the kind of firm that attracts star talent and the most clients.

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Does Your Office Feel Like A War-zone? How To Successfully End Inter-Office Conflict

Nobody likes inter-office conflict—whether it’s disagreement between two employees or disagreement with a manager. Without resolving conflicts quickly, however, they can fester. Before you know it, the office feels like a war-zone and you’re looking for a cease-fire.

There are three major types of inter-office conflict, according to Ben Rabon in an article for weLEAD online magazine: (1) disputes over task responsibility; (2) disputes over how something should be done; and (3) disputes related to personality and work styles.

Because conflicts can lead to lower productivity, firms should work quickly to resolve disputes.

Your firm should have informal preferences and formal policies regarding employee reporting of workplace disputes.

First, it may sound counter-intuitive, but communicate your preferences, as a manager, for internal conflict management. For example, if two of your employees are in disagreement over task responsibility or how a task should be done, tell all of your employees that you prefer they work it out amongst themselves first.

In the event these two employees cannot reach an agreement, invite them to send you a joint e-mail, for example, explaining the situation. By expressing your preference for a joint e-mail, you are tacitly discouraging your employees from writing you numerous e-mails regarding the same topic or complaining about their peer.

In addition, by writing a joint e-mail, you are also encouraging these two employees to collaborate and cooperate—if only on a two-line memo—which is, after all, the root of their initial problem.

If this process breaks down, and these two employees are at such odds in terms of personality or working style that they cannot craft a simple e-mail, then it may be time for formal intervention. This is where formal policies regarding employee disagreement should be circulated.

These policies are generally straightforward in terms of written notice, formal meeting with a manager, and a note placed in personnel files. At this point you may need to make use of some conflict resolution skills. Rabon suggests the following five mediation steps:

  1. Air all viewpoints from both sides
  2. Clarify the problem and the interests involved
  3. Brainstorm solutions with both parties
  4. Help both sides reach agreements
  5. Be aware of your own bias and do not let it affect your ability to remain impartial

In many conflict resolution situations, the parties simply want to be heard. So, it’s important to be a good listener. Once all opinions are voiced, you are able—as a manager—to implement a solution and assign tasks how you see fit.

Don’t forget to explain your logic behind the decisionmaking.

Paradoxically, a recent study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that showing people extreme versions of their own ideas that confirmed (not contradicted) their opinions on a divisive subject actually led them to reconsider their stance. Simply put, by showing somebody that you agree with their opinion, it may actually make them more receptive of opposite points of view.

In this study, led by Eran Halperin, a psychologist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, researchers recruited over 150 Israelis and exposed half of them to video clips that related the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to viewpoints that the Israelis valued. Instead of trying to persuade the Israelis to change their opinion, they showed the study participants video clips consistent with their already established viewpoint.

“For example, the fact that they are the most moral society in the world is one of the most basic beliefs of Israeli society,” Halperin said to the Los Angeles Times. But, when researchers showed participants a video that claimed Israel should continue the conflict so that its citizens could continue to feel moral, people reacted angrily.

“You take people’s most basic beliefs and turn them into something that is absurd.”

The participants did not enjoy watching the clips, but, after numerous rounds of exposure over a period of months, participants’ attitudes on common political narratives, like the idea that Palestinians bear responsibility for continuing the conflict, softened considerably.

In the months leading up to the 2013 Israeli elections, participants reported almost a 30 percent increase in their willingness to reevaluate their position compared with participants in the control group. This shift persisted even a year after the study concluded, reports the L.A. Times.

In conflict, when you tell a person he or she is wrong, or try to convince them of your divergent point of view, you are often met with resistance. People become defensive when their ideas are questioned and can even become more extreme in their views of the same subject once challenged.

Although inter-office conflicts are far from being as divisive as Israeli-Palestinian politics, some of the same conflict resolution ideas may apply. When you disagree with one of your employees, try adopting their point of view first. See if you can’t get them to be more flexible on their own before you dictate your opposite personal agenda.

People just want to feel heard. And, most people are open to compromise. What they lack, however, is direction, management, and even a little compassion in this mediation process.

Interested in knowing more strategies to end inter-office conflict? Take The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course: Conflict, Criticism & Sensitive Subjects: How to Successfully Address Tough Topics at Work.

In this “how-to” webinar, you will learn specific strategies for:

  • Complaining to your boss (or about your boss)
  • Giving constructive feedback to colleagues
  • Bringing up those “sensitive” issues that people are afraid to mention
  • Why you need different “road maps” for bosses, coworkers, & employees
  • Seven questions you must answer to prepare for a difficult conversation
  • How to avoid surprises by “getting inside the head” of the other person

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