Behavioral Contracting

July 18, 2012

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So you’re building a team in the workplace — or at least trying to improve the relations of your staff members. You, as the manager, or the staff as a whole, have identified some areas in which various staff members could use some help in becoming better team players. For example, maybe a staff person feels everyone is out to get them or maybe someone has a tendency to be pessimistic about new ideas. If you can’t quite put your finger on the problem area, this month’s Management Matters may help.

How do you go about beginning to work on (and getting the staff members to work on) building a team? One technique is called behavioral contracting. Behavioral contracting is essentially a forum designed to open communication lines between individuals by focusing on clear expression. Before your team can progress, you may need to go back to this level first. Some basic behavioral contracting guidelines are as follows:

Behavioral contracting sessions. These sessions should be scheduled so that each staff member has a one-on-one meeting with every other staff member. The sessions also should be scheduled at a time and in a place where the two staff members will not be interrupted. You may begin with half-hour meetings. Be sure to schedule everyone involved on the staff or team; this way, no one will feel left out or singled out. The manager also should schedule a session with each staff member.

Format. The format of the sessions will look something like the following: The staff members will sit facing each other, without a table between them. Each of the two is free to bring up anything about the other’s behavior or work performance that annoys them. Taking turns, with each person covering one issue at a time, is a good way to start. They are also encouraged to bring up behaviors and actions that they appreciate about the other person. Each person will then share their expectations of the other person. For example, one expectation of a staff member may be to refill paperwork bins when they’ve taken the last form or to deal with a conflict immediately, rather than allowing it to escalate to a blowout. Keep in mind that most sources of conflict are unmet or unknown expectations. It may be helpful to have a mediator, such as the manager or department head, to get the ball rolling and keep the session focused on the problem at hand.

Content. The content of the sessions may vary. The manager may address more serious issues such as paranoia and negativity with the staff members, while the staff members may address lighter issues initially, such as taking the last membership form at the front desk without refilling the bin or stealing someone’s ego food. For example, someone says, “I’ve really had a busy day,” and the other person says, “You’ve been busy! You should see all the work piled up in my area, and I can’t even get to it.” Or someone says, “I finally finished that project that I have been working on for the last eight months.” Instead of the other person saying, “Congratulations, you must really feel good,” they reply, “Yeah, Carol also finished the project she has been working on as well.” This style of communication takes away the food that people need for their ego.

Expectations. Expectations of the sessions may vary. So, expect that it may take some time for staff members to become accustomed to these sessions, open up and get some meaningful work done.

However, remember to reward the small achievements. Keeping a written account of progress made and referring to it often is a good way of ensuring that progress gets noticed.

Future sessions. Future sessions should be scheduled monthly in the beginning and less frequently as more progress is made.

The Fall Guys

April 11, 2012

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Chris Hassett

As the early pioneer of push technology, PointCast quickly rose as one of the “It” startups for the Internet, along with sister media darling, Marimba. But after passing on a $450 million acquisition offer in 1997 from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., canceling plans for its IPO, failing to land a partnership with a major telco, and watching two CEOs come and go inside two years, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based PointCast has literally gone back to the drawing board.

Who’s To Pay?

January 18, 2012

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The big media companies are at the forefront of the wireless revolution, and the first to try to pull profits out of thin air.

What’s a more user-friendly medium for distributing news: a papyrus scroll or a desktop computer? One is handheld, portable, easy to scan. The other you boot up, log onto an ISP, type in a URL, wait for it to download… There’s a reason why scrolls dominated for nearly 3,000 years.

Global geeks bet on open source

December 5, 2011

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A number of people were taken aback when a variety of Microsoft Web sites, including the main site, temporarily disappeared last week.

After all, here is a company trying to convince the corporate sector that it has what it takes to support mission-critical business applications on the Web.

Banking Business

November 11, 2011

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Since Federal Reserve Board interest rate cuts have failed to revive the US economy, rumors persist that Board chariman, Alan Greenspan may soon up the ante. Insiders report that Greenspan is considering a proposed, “borrow one dollar, get a second dollar free” incentive for banks.

Ignore E-business at your peril

November 7, 2011

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The most recent gem about the Internet comes from the folks at who inform us that three-quarters of quaffers worldwide have taken steps to prepare for any bad effects of Y2K on their beloved beverage.

HTC – HiTech Career Journal

August 22, 2011

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Life beyond geekism

I am in awe of geeks.

And I use that phrase with a tremendous amount of respect.

I’m not a technological neophyte – I’ve got my head deep into Linux, assemble my own PCs, and understand firewalls to the level of packet filtering. I hang out on, and probably understand 95% of what I read.

Build customer loyalty with Internet-based support

June 21, 2011

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It’s estimated to cost upward of five times more to win a new customer than to retain an existing one. That means ompanies need to build client relationships based on continuing loyalty in order to be successful.

One of the best ways to build such loyalty is to establish excellence in customer service as one of your key goals — and that’s where the Internet can help.