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March 20, 2012

Get a TO (Time Out), Baby!

Filed under: Communication,EEO,Management Practices9:36 am

Last week, I wrote a blog about March Madness at work.   Because my team is headed off to St. Louis Friday for the Sweet Sixteen, I thought it appropriate to continue the March Madness theme.  Today, we’re going to talk about time-outs.

Plato and Aristotle both believed that reasoning could be the arbiter in making a decision.  When a team is faced with a choice between one play or another, they take a few minutes to plan their next move.  When my two-year-old pulls her big sister’s hair, she sits down next to the wall for 2 minutes.  When I’m trying to tackle a particularly difficult question, I lean my head back and close my eyes for a minute.  Every once in a while, everyone needs to take a time-out and gather our thoughts.

Sometimes it seems we’re all being asked to make split-second decisions.  Some of these decisions are what we could classify as “right-wrong,” meaning that one answer is ethically right, and one is ethically wrong.  In the February issue of Academy of Management Journal, the result of a study was published titled “Contemplation and Conversation: Subtle Influences on Moral Decision Making.”  Among the study participants, researchers found that individuals who were asked to contemplate a decision were five times more likely to make an ethical choice than those who were asked to make an immediate decision.

We’ve also been talking a lot lately about the EEOC’s increase in enforcement: in 2011, retaliation claims reached an all-time high at 37,334.  When an employee makes a seemingly false claim about discrimination, an immediate supervisor’s initial reaction may be to strike back.  As we well know, this can open the organization up for a retaliation claim.

  • Make sure you have a strong anti-retaliation policy, and train supervisors to effectively handle tense situations.
  • In your policy, mandate a “cooling-off” period.
  • Consider including a multiple-level structure of approval for making significant decisions.

Love him or not, Dick Vitale often gives this good piece of advice: “Get a TO, baby!”  Every once in a while, everyone needs to take a time-out and gather our thoughts.

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!


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