Category Archives: Workplace Essentials

How to Identify and Resolve Workplace Harassment?

Allowing workplace harassment to continue will cause legal problems while destroying company morale. Many people are uncertain about what constitutes harassment, and they are confused when their actions are pointed out as demeaning. Legally, harassment is any word, gesture, or action that offends people or makes them feel uncomfortable or intimidated. You never know how sensitive people are, so never say or do anything if you are not sure how it will be received.

How to Identify

There are many ways to harass co-workers or employees. The rights of all citizens are legally protected, regardless of sex, age, health, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, or beliefs. Harassment occurs when someone from a one group feels discriminated against by another. Be careful, and remember that you never know what people are feeling or thinking. It is possible to accidentally offend those who work with you.

  • Physical Harassment: This includes gestures, actions, and contact that can be sexual or threatening. Even well meant gestures like a hug constitute harassment if they make a person uncomfortable. Do not touch people at work or invade their personal space.
  • Emotional Harassment: Threats, comments, degrading tones, and jokes are all workplace harassment. Avoid volatile subjects, and consider the ramifications of different jokes.

Costs to Your Business

Harassment costs businesses millions every year. Many laws allow people to sue their companies for workplace harassment. Failing to protect employees can result in a high price to pay. Not only are there litigation fees, but psychological ramifications cost businesses as well. The cost to your business is not always monetary, it can cost reputation. A company losing its reputation can have an effect on many aspects of business. The company may lose customers, valuable employees, and not attract prospective new hires.


Legal fees are a costly factor for businesses that face harassment charges. Companies are responsible for protecting their employees from managers, co-workers, vendors, and clients. Sexual harassment is the responsibility of the company when it is quid pro quo, which means that the sexual favors are exchanged for jobs, promotions, or raises. Businesses are also responsible if they are known to promote a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment occurs when management does nothing to prevent harassment. In a legal battle, employers must prove that they used “reasonable care” to prevent and address harassment issues.


Harassment and bullying take a psychological toll on everyone in the workplace. A survey from the American Psychological Association revealed that 74 percent of Americans believe that work causes most of their stress. The stress from harassment can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and sleeplessness. Harassment, particularly sexual harassment, is linked to post traumatic stress disorder. Companies lose money in sick days, poor commitment, low productivity, and turnover when workplace harassment is not prevented and addressed immediately.

How to Identify your Bully

Bullying is not limited to the playground, and ignoring bullies will not make them leave you alone. Bullies are a growing problem in the workplace. Those who bully others do so with malicious intent. Unlike other harassment issues, bullies know that they are being cruel. Only 20 percent of bullying is considered illegal harassment because 80 percent of bullies do not harass people in other groups. In fact, 71 percent of bullies are women who target other women.

Abusive Workplace Behaviors

Bullies often target high performing employees and attempt to destroy them out of fear or jealousy. They manipulate using fear, and will often turn other employees against their target. Bullying has the same results as other harassment practices. Managers are often guilty of bullying their employees.

Bullying Behavior:

  • Continually changing job parameters
  • Spreading gossip and rumors
  • Creating impossible standards or deadlines
  • Isolating an individual
  • Threats of job loss
  • Spying on or stalking a target
  • Yelling at a target who is not permitted to yell back
  • Belittling or disregarding opinions and feelings
  • Preventing promotions and transfers
  • Intruding in a person’s workspace or belongings
  • Misinforming the target.

Bullying and Personality Disorders

Many bullies have personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder and narcissism. Having a personality disorder is not an excuse to behave badly. Some bullies with personality disorders are not aware of their actions, but others choose to manipulate the people around them. Serial bullies were often bullies in school, and they usually have fake personas to hide their cruelty from the people they want to manipulate.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder are over 18 and have shown conduct disorders before they were 15.


  • Not conforming to social customs or laws
  • Consistently being deceitful (may use more than one identity)
  • Impulsive and irresponsible (will usually have credit problems)
  • Irritable and unable to empathize.
  • Disregards personal safety and the safety of others


Many bullies show the characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. This is more common than other personality disorders. They overcompensate for their lack of confidence with a grandiose, self-important view. Narcissists think highly of themselves, need attention, and lack empathy. There are nine indicators of narcissism. A diagnosis requires five of the nine criteria.

  • Arrogance
  • Fantasies that revolve around power, success, beauty, or love
  • Are sure that only a few elite can understand them
  • Need to be appreciated and admired
  • Feels entitled and demands that people comply with their whims
  • Exploit people around them
  • Cannot empathize with others
  • Are jealous of others and believe others are jealous of them
  • Have a self-important attitude

How to Handle Workplace Violence

Violence accounts for roughly one quarter of work related deaths in the United States. In order to prevent workplace violence, it is essential that managers and employees are able to identify individuals who could become violent and understand how to diffuse dangerous situations. Violent behavior does not appear out of nowhere. There are different behaviors that indicate possible violence over time.

Types of Behavior

There are several different behaviors that can lead to violence if left to escalate. It is the responsibility of every manager to know employees and how they behave in order to identify possible problems. Customers and vendors can also be the cause of workplace violence.

Behavior Problems:

  • Acting Out: Employees express anger in inappropriate ways such as yelling, slamming, etc.
  • Irresponsible Behavior: Employees do not take responsibility for their actions.
  • Selfish Behavior: Employees do not care how their actions affect those around them.
  • Mixed Behavior: Employees verbally agree to follow rules, but do not.
  • Rigid Behavior: Employees are unwilling to try new things and take direction.
  • Avoidance: Employees lie, drink, or take drugs.
  • Extreme Behavior: Employees completely alter the way they act.
  • Odd Behavior: Employees have poor social skill or obsess about ideas or people.

Target the Behavior, Not the Person

When an employee exhibits questionable behavior, it is essential that the behavior is addressed before it escalates. Employers need to document behavior and discuss it with the employee. Talk to the employee about how the negative behavior affects work. It is important not to attack the employee on a personal level. Remember not to assume everyone who has a bad day is going to become violent.

If you are aware of any problems that your employee is facing, help by offering training, counseling, or both. Monitor behavior. If things do not improve, it may be necessary for a problem employee to leave. Security needs to be aware of any troubled employees who leave an organization. Employees who are paranoid, antisocial, or preoccupied with weapons, should be watched carefully.

Implement an Action Plan

Employers need to implement workplace violence action plans. It is important to train employees how to recognize and prevent violence. An action plan should reflect certain elements.

Action Plan

  • Screening: Use background checks and reference checks to hire stable individuals.
  • Security: Implement a security protocol.
  • Mediation:  Help employees find ways to resolve disputes.
  • Balance: Create programs that will promote work and life balance.
  • Assess: Hire a threat assessment team to watch for potential violence.
  • Responsibilities: Outline employer and employee responsibilities.
  • Situation Management: Have a plan in place for the worst-case scenario.

Post Situation Management: Have a plan

The Benefits of Team Building for Managers

Team building has many benefits, to both the organization and the individual employees that make up the tam. Team building helps to create a sense of cohesion, reinforce shared goals and values, and greater camaraderie. Team building also helps teams be more effective, as they communicate more openly and are more motivated to pursue shared goals. An investment in team building activities is an investment in success.

Better Communication and Conflict Resolution
One of the greatest benefits of team building is better communication. People who have a sense that they are on a team, with shared values and goals, are more likely to be personally invested in one another. This facilitates communication because people want to reach shared goals, and have a shared sense of purpose or vision. Team building helps team members develop strong communication skills, and also helps the team establish communication systems. Improved conflict resolution is another benefit of team building. Clearer communication in and of itself helps to facilitate better conflict resolution. The shared goals and values of a team, along with the increased personal investment and stronger personal relationships that form in a team, also helps to foster an environment in which conflicts are addressed openly and productively.

Team building helps to create more effective teams. Team building activities create a sense that team members are pulling together toward a common goal or set of goals. This sense of shared purpose tends to foster effectiveness and productivity. Team building also helps the team find greater effectiveness through developing skills in delegating tasks, collaborating, communicating, and creating processes that leverage each team member’s skills. A team that has a sense that they are working together, and in which the team members trust each other to honor their commitments, works more efficiently and effectively.

Team building activities can be a powerful source of motivation. Spending time together as a team is a chance to reinforce shared goals, set new shared goals, and strengthen relationships with team members. A sense of shared goals and values serves as valuable motivation. When infused with a spirit of healthy competition and camaraderie, team building activities also motivate team members because there is a sense of not just working for one’s self but for the good of the entire team. Team building activities help remind your team what they’re working for and why, which can be a valuable boost to motivation.

One of the most powerful benefits of team building is a sense of camaraderie. The reinforcement of shared values and shared goals which goes along with team building helps create a sense of camaraderie and collegiality. Team building activities help to strengthen the interpersonal relationships between team members. Team building gives team members a chance to get to know each other beyond just their work functions, and helps to foster a sense of shared identity. Taking the time to create relationships that go beyond simply interacting over work responsibilities helps team members to invest more in each other emotionally and personally. This creates a sense that team members aren’t just pieces of a process, but people with feelings and needs. When team members have a sense of camaraderie, they are more likely to want to collaborate, help each other, and support each other.

Types of Team Building Activities
There is a wide variety of team building activities that you can use in developing your team. Using a mix of games, activities, and social events helps keep your team building plan interesting and engaging. Each team will respond to different activities, so be open to switching up the type of team building you do. Also seek input from your team about which activities they enjoy and find valuable.

Studies show that fostering a sense of play is a great way to foster camaraderie and team work. Using games also infuses a sense of fun and, depending on the game, a sense of friendly competition that can help people open up and form strong relationships. There are a variety of types of games you can use in team building, including:
• Icebreakers or “get to know you” games
• Shared task games
• Problem-solving games
• Interaction games
No matter what type of game or games you chose for a team building session, there are several key components to any effective team building game:
• Focus on learning and remembering names
• Focus on the game itself
• Focus on strengthening relationships
• Cheers and pats on the back

Group activities can also be a great way to build a team. Activities that are created specifically for team building are one option. Your training department can be a great source of information for team building activities, and there are a variety of excellent books and workbooks to draw from. Activities which are not specifically “team building” activities, but which encourage your team to interact with each other, are also valuable for building your team. Simply engaging in an activity together, whether a recreational activity or a community service activity, can give your team members a chance to take the focus off of work and instead focus on getting to know each other.

Training, development, and education also offer opportunities for team building. When your team builds a new skill together, learns a new technology or process, or otherwise engages in professional development as a group, this reinforces shared goals. Include some education in your training plan about team building specifically as well. Engaging in education about how to function better as a team has clear benefits, as team members build a set of skills together that they can then apply to working with each other. However, any shared learning experience has the potential to create a stronger team. When people learn together, they support each other’s development and can find a shared sense of purpose in learning something new or building a new skill. Take time to ask your team what they’d like to learn. You can also focus on the team’s strengths and development areas in planning education.

Social Gatherings
Don’t underestimate the power of social gatherings to build your team. While it’s always important to recognize that family and other commitments can make it difficult for some team members to engage in social time outside of work, gatherings can still be a valuable tool in your team building kit. Whether you have regular team lunches where the topic of conversation is anything but work, an annual holiday gathering, or period get together after work for dinner, drinks, or other fun, social gatherings help to take your team out of their work environment so they can focus on each other. Ask your team what type of gatherings they would enjoy. Be wary of gatherings that center on alcohol, both for liability reasons and because it excludes those team members who do not drink. Vary the type of social gatherings so that those who may not enjoy one type of gathering have other options. Encouraging your team to spend time together as colleagues helps to further foster camaraderie and relationships.
Source: Team Building for Managers workshop

Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Thinking

River Street Consultant

Before someone can begin to utilize appreciative inquiry, they must first know what it is and what it means. There are many techniques and practices that can be used with appreciative inquiry that anyone can use in their lives. Learning about appreciative inquiry not only benefits the employee, but the entire company. It helps address ways to encourage positive ways of thinking instead of using negativity or even criticism.
What is Appreciative Inquiry?
The definition of appreciative inquiry is the ability to recognize the best in people and utilizing those strengths to discover new possibilities and results. Appreciative inquiry focuses on positive thinking and expresses ideas and opinions to reach an end result. What does that mean for you or your business? Appreciative inquiry in the workplace encourages employees to think positively, which in turn helps them to overcome their own negative thoughts to work harder and reach their own goals for better productivity.

Generating a Better Future
Appreciative inquiry helps build a vision for a better future by using questions to turn the person’s attention to their past, present and future successes. These questions generally focus on what the person enjoys about their surroundings and their current situations. Once these ideas have been identified, the individual can take these positive thoughts to turn toward the future and build a path to success. Since we, as people, learn from our past mistakes and choices, we can use questions and insights to decide what we can use to make the right choices later. The key is identifying what works for you, and how you can use them to your advantage to create a better future.
Ways to create your future today:
• Determine your goals
• Make a plan for them
• Identify how appreciative inquiry can affect these goals and plans

Engaging People in Positive Thought
One of the age-old ways of determining how a person views a situation is asking them if the glass is half full or half empty. Many pessimists will reply that the glass is half empty while opportunists will see the glass as half full. Even one pessimist in the group can hinder everyone else’s positive attitude, so it is important to engage every employee in positive thinking. When everyone avoids criticism and implements the ‘can do attitude’, it not only creates a pleasant work environment for everyone, but employees begin to feel better about themselves and take pride to finish any job with ease.
Engaging others to think positive:
• Encourage group discussions
• Invite others to share their ideas and opinions
• Make them focus on the positive side of things and avoid negative phrasings

Change the Person, Change the Organization
When employees take pride in themselves, they also take pride in their company. But if they have negative feelings about where they work, it can show in their productivity. When you change how a person views or thinks about the company and their roles in it, you in turn change how the company is perceived as a whole. This is why it is always important to meet with employees and listen to what they have to say; value their ideas and opinions.
If the employee feels as though they are making a contribution to the company and are a part of the master plan, they will feel more inclined to think positively and alter the overall view of the organization. With positive and reflective employees the organization should then become a positive entity and provide a better environment for everyone.

Changing the Way You Think
One of the simplest ways to relieve stress and feel better about ourselves is to change the way we think about things in our lives. Having a positive attitude allows a person to change their own lives because it shows that they have an understanding of their surroundings and feel confident enough to use them to their advantage. But if we hide behind negative thoughts and allow our environment to make us sad or depressed, we may never have the drive to reach for our goals and ambitions.

Shifting from “What’s Wrong?” to “What’s Right?”
One of the first things that can ruin a positive attitude is looking at a situation and only noticing the negative aspects, or the “What’s Wrong” side. Since the main focus of appreciative inquiry is being positive and aiming towards goals, a pessimistic attitude won’t get anyone very far. When presented with a problem, take a few minutes and look at both sides of the problem. Make a mental list of everything that is positive about the situation before touching on the negative aspects. You’ll find that any situation won’t appear as bad as we think when we notice the positive first.
Keys to shifting our thoughts:
• Avoid the “all or nothing” thinking – deciding a situation only has two sides.
• Realize the difference between being right and being happy.
• Avoid over-generalizing a situation – focus on details.

It’s Not Eliminating Mistakes-It’s Holding up Successes
A common misconception that people make is that being positive or progressive means they cannot make mistakes nor have faults. This, of course, is untrue. Mistakes happen all the time, and although they can sometimes be prevented, they cannot be stopped altogether. The key is to learn from your mistakes and then focus on the successes that follow them.
When a child falls off their bike before learning to ride, we do not focus on how many times they fell, but celebrate when they ride down the sidewalk on their own. Being positive doesn’t mean we eliminate mistakes or problems, we just learn to focus on the achievements we reach. Success leads to more success when we are focused on the positive.

Positive Language Will Affect People’s Thinking
From a young age we have learned that positive language has more effect on us than negativity. When we tell ourselves “I can’t do that” or “I’ll never finish this”, we normally find ourselves to be right. But if we use more positive and influential phrases and language, we find ourselves feeling more confident and ready to handle any situation. Positive words encourage positive thinking, so add some “I can…” and “I’m great” phrases to your vocabulary! Positivity is contagious, so don’t be afraid to share it with others and encourage them to think positive too.
Using positive language:
• Avoid negatives, such as “can’t” or “won’t”
• Reassure yourself and remind yourself of your abilities
• Compliment yourself – “Good job” and “Well done”

Limit or Remove Negative Phrasing
As we’ve said before, positive words encourage positive thinking. The same goes for negative phrasing – when we allow ourselves to use negative language, our thoughts become negative. Studies have shown that there are five key phrases that any person should remove from their vocabulary in order to ban negative language.
• Just – This word limits our accomplishments and devalues our skills. By saying phrases such as “I’m just an accountant” or “I just work in customer service” can make anyone feel happy in their job.
• Try – This word can often give us an excuse to fail. We will ‘try’ to accomplish something, but if we don’t succeed then it’s not our fault. We either do something or we don’t.
• Can’t – This word is often used when a person does not want to take the effort to reach a goal or accomplishment. Replace this word with a mental action plan on how you can act on your goals.
• Impossible – This word is normally used when we are faced with something big and overwhelming. However, anything can seem possible if broken down into smaller, more attainable jobs. Anything can be accomplished when we take things one step at a time.
• Someday- This word can have the same problem as ‘try’ – it sets us up to allow failure. When we plan to reach our goals “someday”, we are giving ourselves permission to procrastinate. Set a timeline for your goals and stick to them.

Source: Appreciative Inquiry Workshop

River Street Consultant

Networking Principles and Network Building


Networking requires you to build relationships. You need to listen to the people in your network, offer value, and build trust. As you master the basic principles of networking, you will begin to see your network develop.


Networking requires building true relationships. Like any other relationship, networking requires time and energy. If you are not willing to put the effort into building new relationships, there is not point in networking. We will delve deeper into relationship building later, but here are some common sense methods to building relationships.

  • Communicate with your contacts – Communication is necessary for any relationship.
  • Avoid constantly asking for help – While your contacts are resources, being needy is very off-putting.
  • Personalize conversation – Get to know your contacts and take interest in their lives.


It is easy to underestimate the importance of listening when networking. While networking requires selling yourself, it is more than a sales pitch. You need to listen in order to build relationships and network effectively. Do not just allow the other person to talk, actively listening will ensure that you truly understand what the other person is saying.

Tips for Listening:

  • Keep eye contact.
  • Avoid fidgeting or checking your phone.
  • Ask pertinent questions, but do not interrupt
  • Pay attention.
  • Rephrase what is said.


Offer Value

As we have already stated, networking is a two-way street. You cannot simply expect your contacts to support you and share their knowledge if there is no value in it for them. You must show new contacts that you are an asset. Offering value requires you to understand your networks.

How to Offer Value:

  • Identify the needs of others.
  • Determine how your expertise meets these needs.
  • Offer to help.

Do not over complicate offering value. It can be something as simple as helping a coworker install a new program or sharing notes from a missed meeting.

Build Trust

Trust is needed for every functional relationship, and networking is no different. Your contacts need to feel that you can be trusted. Building trust with new people takes time, but it is not that difficult to accomplish if you pay attention to your behavior.


Steps to Building Trust:

  • Be honest – Trust is easier to build when people are honest.
  • Act with consistency – Be a mindful employee every day, not just when the boss is around.
  • Be helpful – Do not be seen as a self-serving coworker who is willing to do anything to succeed.

How to Build Networks

Now that you understand the principles of networking, it is time to address building your network. The guidelines to building networks require using basic common sense. They may seem too simplistic at first glance, but they are essential and must not be overlooked.

Meet New People

Telling you that you need to meet new people to build a network may seem like pointing out the obvious, but this step is often over looked. If you are passive about meeting people, you will never be able to build you network. Meeting people requires action; do not simply wait for people to come to you. Here are a few tips to help you expand your social circle in the workplace:

  • Introduce yourself to people – This may be difficult for shy personalities, but it is unlikely that you will be introduced to everyone, particularly in larger organizations, so you must do it yourself.
  • Invite people to join you for lunch – This extends to other events.
  • Attend groups and functions – These groups and functions may be official or unofficial. Just take the time to meet new people.

Be Polite

It is easy to forget manners in our fast-paced society. Being polite, however, will help you stand out and improve the way that other people view you. It makes you appear more personable and trustworthy. You do not need to be Miss Manners to be polite. Simply exercise common courtesy. Here are a few steps that you can take to being polite.

  • Make a good impression: Dress appropriately and address people respectfully at work.
  • Pay attention to people: Do not pay attention to your phone or anything else while people are talking to you at work.
  • Be considerate: Help other people when you can.
  • Think before acting or speaking: Consider the implications of your words or actions, and avoid the workplace dramas.

No matter how hard you try to be polite, you will accidentally offend someone. It is unavoidable. The only way to move past it is to apologize promptly.

Follow up

After meeting new people, it is important to follow up with them. This part of the networking experience can be awkward, so it must be approached carefully. There are different ways you can follow up with people: email, phone, face-to-face, etc. It is possible that you will have to briefly remind your contact of your last encounter, so be prepared to give a few details, Do not, however, spend too much time on this. It is important that you move forward, show the value in your relationship, and prepare the next step. There are different ways to accomplish this early on in the process.

  • Suggest an article or book based on the previous meeting.
  • Continue your conversation if possible.
  • Extend an invitation.

Once you have followed up with your contact, it is up to the other person to respond.


Allow Relationships to Develop Naturally

All relationships have a natural development that should not be rushed. While it is important to follow-up with people, you must avoid appearing desperate or clingy. You will not be able to develop a relationship with everyone, and it is important that you are able to take no for an answer. As a general rule of thumb, you should only contact people three times before they return communication. If they do not contact you, it is best to leave them alone.

Even if your contact has followed up with you, it is important that you do not become an overbearing stalker. This requires common sense. Consider the frequency that you would be comfortable with new people contacting you. Allow this to guide you in developing new relationships.

Source:  Networking within the Company workshop

River Street Consultant

Risk Management

The risk management technique will vary according to the severity of the risk and the current stability of the organization. You will choose between reducing the risk, transferring the risk, avoiding the risk, and accepting the risk when determining which technique to use.

Reduce the Risk

Risk reduction is a common technique used in business. It is necessary when there is no possibility of removing the risk such as in using machines. When you reduce the risk, you limit the severity of the risk and the likelihood of the risk occurring. When determining how to best reduce the risk, it is necessary to establish which method of reduction will be the most effective. For example, one risk reduction technique may reduce the risk of loss more than others, but it could also be more expensive to implement.

Examples of Risk Reduction:

  • Retrofit a building to for severe weather
  • Sprinkler systems with fire alarms
  • Training programs
  • Security system
  • Machine maintenance


Transfer the Risk

The act of transferring a risk is also called risk sharing. This is often done in business relationships. For example, working with contracting labor or vendors may require a transfer of risk. The transfer of risk does not remove all risk from you, but it does offer some protection. The most common method used to transfer the risk is insurance. The insurance company takes on the risk from the policyholder.

When working with other parties, insurance is not enough to cover the liability. It is necessary to review contractual obligations. You do not want to take all of the risk in a contractual relationship. There are different ways to transfer the risk:

  • Indemnification: Place the legal responsibilities on an established party.
  • Certificates of insurance: Require specific levels insurance. Certificates are proof of specific coverage.
  • Additional insurance status: A business is added on to another company’s policy. It offers protection if indemnification is lost and prevents subrogating.


Avoid the Risk

Avoiding risks is not always possible. When avoiding risks, however, the purpose is to eliminate the risk or simply not engage it. Risk avoidance occurs regularly. It occurs when you decide against a business proposition or refuse to expand the company. Eliminating risk by avoiding may seem like the safe route, but it is not always practical. If you avoid every risk that comes along, you will also avoid great business opportunities.

Always consider both the risks and rewards that a new situation brings. For example, expanding the business may be costly. There is always the chance, however, that the expansion will pay for itself and increase profits. Before avoiding a risk, make sure that you are not overlooking and opportunity. The severity of the risk will help you determine if it is something that you truly need to avoid.

Accept the Risk

There are times when it is necessary to accept risks. When you accept risks, it is necessary to choose small risks that will not have a large impact on the organization, and they can include reduced risks. The cost of the risk should be smaller than insuring or avoiding the risk. A common act of risk acceptance is refusing insurance. When accepting a risk, you are accepting full responsibility if something goes wrong. This includes legal and financial responsibility.

There are two different types of acceptance. Active acceptance occurs when a risk is identified and a plan is established should you need to face the consequences of the risk. Creating a plan of action helps you determine the best plan of action without the emotional impact that comes with facing the consequences. Passive acceptance occurs when there is no plan in place for an accepted risk. Passive risk occurs when the risk is so small that it is not worth the time and energy to plan a course of action.

Source:  Risk Assessment and Management Workshop

River Street Consultant

Using Appreciative Inquiry in the Change Management Process

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a model for change management developed by David L. Cooperrider, Ph.D., a professor at Case Western University.  The name combines two definitions:

  • Appreciate: to look for the best in something, and to increase something in value.
  • Inquiry means to seek understanding using a process based on provocative questions.

Based on the meanings of the two words, AI theorizes that organizations are not problems to be solved. Rather, each organization has been created as a solution, designed in its own time, to meet a challenge, or to satisfy a need within society.

A guiding principle in appreciative inquiry is the concept of the positive core, or what gives life to an organization. Below is a list of elements that make up a positive core.

Achievements, strategic opportunities, cooperative moments, technical assets, innovations, elevated thoughts, community assets, positive emotions, financial assets, community wisdom,  core competencies, visions of possibility, vital traditions and values, positive macro trends, social capital, and embedded knowledge.


The Four Stages

The four stages in the Appreciative Inquiry model are known as the 4-D cycle. They are:

  1. Discovery: Mobilizing the whole system by engaging all stakeholders in the articulation of strengths and best practices. Identifying “The best of what has been and what is.”
  2. Dream: Creating a clear results-oriented vision in relation to discovered potential and in relation to questions of higher purpose, such as “What does the world call us to become?”
  3. Design: Creating possibility propositions of the idea organization, articulating an organization design that is capable of drawing upon and magnifying the positive core to realize the newly expressed dream.
  4. Destiny: Strengthening the affirmative capability of the whole system, enabling it to build hope and sustain momentum for ongoing positive change and high performance.


Various types of questions help elicit feedback and ideas during the process:

  • What’s the biggest problem here?
  • Why do we still have those problems?
  • What possibilities exist that we have not yet considered?
  • What’s the smallest change that could make the biggest impact?
  • What solutions would have us both win?

Topics emerge from interviews with people throughout the organization in several ways.

  • Preliminary interviews are held within the organization at its best levels
  • A cross-section of people throughout the organization are engaged in inquiry
  • People are challenged to shift deficit (negative) issues into affirmative (positive) topics for inquiry.


The Purposes of Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative inquiry is conducted in organizations for several reasons.

  • It allows the performance of people from across the whole system to participate in an inquiry; all stakeholders (employees, customers, vendors, and interested community members) are involved in the process.
  • It leads to the design of appreciative organizations that can support stakeholders fostering a triple bottom line; people, profits, and planet.
  • It serves as a catalyst for the transformation of an organizational culture.

The River Street Consultant

Source: Change Management workshop