Be Smart, Not Sorry: Who Are You Listening To?

by
JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator, Mediation Coach, Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

If you are going through a divorce, you may have noticed that everyone you talk with has an opinion about your situation. It can be comforting to listen to the well-meaning comments of friends, family, and neighbors and easy to take their advice to heart. Unfortunately, making decisions based on the casual comments of friends and family can lead to missteps and poor judgment as you navigate through the complexities of the divorce process.

As you gather divorce information, here are some points to keep in mind:

Selective Sharing. When people talk about their own divorce experiences or relate what they know about the experiences of others, it’s common for them to have selective memory. They typically recall only parts of a story, sharing details that support their own point of view. These lapses distort what might have been helpful information had the account been more objective and factual. When people talk, listen for kernels that resonate for you, but beware that you may not be getting the full story.

Your Case is Unique. While most divorcing couples can expect to face similar issues such as the equitable division of assets and liabilities and co-parenting responsibilities, each divorce has elements that are unique to the couple’s specific situation. What worked for your co-worker or your neighbor may sound good, but it may be inappropriate and counterproductive for you. It can be difficult for a divorcing individual to make this distinction. Many spouses, in fact, approach a negotiation armed with steadfast ideas that are based on how much alimony their best friend got or how much child support their golf buddy paid. These rigid ideas, usually based on skewed and incomplete “facts” about the other person’s case, serve only to sabotage the negotiation between the couple, distorting perceptions and expectations about what is fair and reasonable in their particular situation.

Accepting Advice. Not only are divorcing individuals offered a steady stream of advice from well-meaning friends, they are also presented with extensive and frequently complex information from divorce professionals. It should be obvious that opinions from non-professionals should be weighed carefully so that misinformation doesn’t cloud your thinking and distort your decision-making. But it is also necessary to give some thought to the advice given to you by lawyers and financial experts. Are there things you have been told that you don’t understand or that instinctively don’t make sense to you? Protect yourself by speaking up: ask the professional for an explanation in layman’s terms so that you understand the rationale behind the advice, how it will be beneficial to you, and/or how it will affect your case.

Internet Information. Google is a wonder and an endless source of information. The caveat emptor, however, is to never assume that web content is totally accurate or appropriate for the specifics of your case. The Internet is a great starting place for fundamental information and terminology, but always check with a divorce professional about how your research applies to your particular set of circumstances.

As you move through the divorce process, one of your primary goals should be to protect yourself. With that in mind, it is smart to proceed with caution when talking about divorce with friends and family. It is also wise to ensure that you clearly understand the advice being given to you by divorce professionals. A successful divorce outcome depends on clarity and factual information, not confusion and hearsay.

This article is the second in the “Be Smart, Not Sorry” series about successfully dealing with divorce. “Be Smart, Not Sorry” articles are available at www.mediationandcoachingllc.com. Please feel free to direct comments and/or questions to JoAnne Donner at 770-842-9400 or at jdonner@donner.com.

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Be Smart, Not Sorry: Are You Lost In Your Story?

by
JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator, Mediation Coach, Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

Divorce is about the business of making financial and family decisions. It is also about emotions: stabbing insecurities that sneak up in the middle of the night, recurring regrets that haunt you during the day and, for many, crushing anguish and anger that deflate your spirit.

Many people relieve this emotional onslaught by repeatedly telling the story of their troubled marriage to whoever will listen.   Let’s face it: fifty percent of us have been through the turmoil of divorce and know firsthand that talking to someone can be comforting. The red flags, however, are not being selective in who you talk to and how often you repeat the same marital details. It is also a point of concern if, rather than making a decision about your future, you, instead, tell the same tired story year in and year out to friends, family, neighbors, and divorce professionals. As a divorce coach, I have met with clients who tell me they have been sharing the story of their deep unhappiness and resentment for years and, sometimes, decades.

But what is so bad about “just talking?” How is it self-defeating? If you are in the midst of divorce proceedings, getting lost in endless conversation about the dramatic details of your marital discord robs you of the energy and focus you need to make wise decisions – decisions that can create security for yourself and your children.   If you are weighing the pros and cons of seeking divorce, it emphasizes the nagging frustrations and disappointments rather than the practical information you need to make an informed decision about your future.

There are also other landmines in “getting lost in your story.” Randomly revealing pertinent details about your troubled marriage, such as sexual or financial infidelity or issues with addiction and/or abuse, may unexpectedly backfire, shifting you from a position of strength to one of weakness. This includes conversations with people who are not highly-trusted confidantes as well as to careless posts on social media.

Getting lost in your story is also counterproductive when dealing with divorce professionals.   Visions Anew Institute, an Atlanta-based non-profit that supports individuals going through divorce, stresses the team approach to dealing with divorce, pointing to the importance of legal and financial experts, as well as the contributions of therapists and coaches. Telling your story to a therapist and/or a divorce coach makes sense; sharing the drama of your situation repeatedly with a lawyer or a CPA is expensive and unproductive. It drains your coffers and cuts into valuable time that could and should be spent on legal and financial details and a strategy for creating a successful outcome and secure future.

If you are going through a divorce or contemplating one, choose your listeners wisely and self-monitor the content and repetitive nature of your conversation. Your goal should be to bolster, not drain, your ability to focus on the pragmatic, business decisions that can determine your future. Getting lost in your story is easy to do; the smart thing, however, is to step back and determine if you are stuck on that dead-end path. If so, reach out and create a team that supports you – the professionals you need to understand the legal and financial aspects of your situation and therapeutic and coaching assistance to help you shift from emotional overwhelm to emotional balance. It’s in your power to stop the chatter and begin building a satisfying and fulfilling future.

This article is the first in the Be Smart, Not Sorry series about successfully dealing with divorce. Be Smart, Not Sorry articles are available at www.mediationandcoachingllc.com. Please feel free to direct comments and/or questions to JoAnne Donner at 770-842-9400 or at jdonner@donner.com.

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Conflict as Opportunity: Three Myths that Give Conflict a Bad Name

by
JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator/Mediation Coach/Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

The workplace can be a hotbed of disagreement, interpersonal tension, and opposing opinion. Yet, as prevalent as conflict is, few people are adept at managing it. In fact, avoiding conflict at all costs is a common strategy.

Often overlooked is the fact that conflict can be an opportunity for growth and progress, opening doors to increased self-awareness, innovative ideas, creative solutions, and new, more effective ways to interact with co-workers, supervisors, and subordinates.

Why does the hint of conflict motivate so many people to run for cover behind a closed door or schedule a strategic day out of the office to escape confrontation? How did conflict get such a bad rap when it can hold the promise of so much potential?

One reason may be that even those who face conflict head-on frequently encounter dead-ends including frustrating, failed attempts at conciliatory communication and interactions that escalate the conflict rather than resolve it. Contributing to these roadblocks are three common myths that sabotage well-meaning attempts at conflict resolution:

  • Single Solution Syndrom It’s not a unique thought that there’s more than one way to solve a problem, yet people typically approach conflict conversations with one, clear answer to the issue at hand – their answer. It’s the classic “either or” ultimatum – my way or no way at all. Conflict is most constructive, however, when those engaged respect the power of multiple options and the necessity for flexibility and compromise. Successful conflict resolution is a dance between two motivated parties who realize that the key to a satisfactory conclusion is the willingness to bend their positions and give in to some old-fashioned give-and-take. “I Did It My Way” is gratifying for some, but for those who value productivity, profits, and peace in the workplace, stepping back and strategizing more than one successful outcome is the smart move.
  • Skilled Communication Conquers All. You can have the gift of gab or be considered a cracker-jack communicator, but if you’re talking about the wrong things, you’re missing the target and wasting time. The secret of conflict resolution is not picture-perfect dialogue; it is uncovering needs and interests. Yet, as Dr. Rick Voyles points out in his book “Understanding Conflict,” the importance of needs exploration is commonly overlooked, misunderstood, and misused.   The key to discovery depends on one, three-letter word: why. Identifying why someone wants something or thinks something points the way to what is motivating that person’s behavior and perspective. That knowledge can propel a conflict conversation from the realm of one-sided, entrenched positions to authentic, meaningful inquiry that can influence even the most resistant negotiator.

For instance, conflict frequently emerges during office renovations. Imagine that in one company, two highly-valued executives, Jim and Ellen, are demanding the same corner office. Identifying why that office is important to each of them can be the key to derailing a potentially divisive clash over competing needs and interests. Do they relish the view? Do they seek the prestige? Or is it close to the support staff office and they think it will be more convenient? Upon inquiry, it was discovered that a view of the woods surrounding the building was important to Ellen and that a larger office down the hall with a more picturesque view actually met her needs more successfully. Whether an issue is simple or complex, understanding motivation is critical to combatting the erosive effects of poorly-managed conflict.

  • No Conflict = No Problem. A no-conflict zone is generally not a positive indicator. It suggests a climate of complacency, apathy, and even fear – a negative, energy-draining environment rather than a workplace where personnel are involved and passionate about what they do. The price? A suppressed work setting where bitterness is allowed to fester and cookie-cutter thinking stifles creativity and innovative problem-solving. Squashing differences and opposing opinions may keep things quiet, but consider the cost: a lost opportunity to create a positive workplace energized by fresh ideas, mutual respect, and a renewed sense of purpose.

JoAnne Donner MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC, is president of Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC. She has a Master’s Degree in Conflict Management and addresses conflict in the workplace as both a mediator and a conflict coach. www.mediationandcoachingllc.com.

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Gray Divorce: Special Financial Considerations for Baby Boomers Facing Divorce

By Lisa C. Decker, CDFA

According to research from the last two decades, the overall divorce rate in America is declining, except for those among the baby-boomers generation. Drs. Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin, two sociologists from Bowling Green State University, conducted a study on divorce among older couples and released their findings in a 2009 proposition titled “The Gray Divorce Revolution.” Their findings show that the divorce rate for age-50-and-older couples has doubled in the last twenty years.

Dr. Brown is the co-director of the BGSU’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research. She was recently interviewed by John Donvon on National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation about their findings. This audio interview, as well as a text-only transcript, can be found on NPR’s website (i).

Their research points to several factors for this phenomenon:

  • “The Marital Biography” – Because baby-boomers came of age during the 1970’s and early 1980’s, they may have experienced or witnessed divorce among their family and friends. Many who have gone through divorce once have since remarried, which statistically makes them more likely to divorce again (ii).
  • Change in Societal Mores – Divorce has become more accepted in today’s social arena and is considered a much more plausible option in troubled unions heading down that path.
  • Personal Idealisms – Marriage as a lifelong institution has weakened in the midst of individuals looking for self-fulfillment and personal happiness. Many are unwilling to settle for less than what they truly desire in their mate or in their marriage.

The American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, also conducted a study called, “The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond (iii).” Their research team interviewed over 1,100 men and women who divorced between the ages of 40-60 years old.

According to this study, one of the biggest reasons that they wait so long to file for divorce is the possible emotional and financial impact the divorce will have on their children, regardless of age. Respondents also cited abuse – verbal, physical and emotional – as the leading cause of their divorce followed by cheating, substance-abuse, and differences of lifestyle and values.

I find that the majority of my clients fall into this “Gray Divorce” category, often with other contributing factors. One that often comes up is known as “Financial Infidelity,” or irresponsible financial spending habits on the part of one spouse without the knowledge of the other. Sometimes, it’s a job-loss or illness that starts them down that path; other times, it’s trying to maintain a lifestyle they can no longer afford. However, no matter the reason, if one spouse is trying to keep the other in the dark about the family finances, it’s a sure-fire way for the marriage to start down a slippery slope toward divorce.

Divorce at any age can be fraught with financial problems, but Gray Divorces have special financial concerns. Here are a few examples:

  • There are generally two subsets of women when it comes to gray divorce: professional career women who may potentially be faced with paying alimony to a lesser-earning spouse and stay-at-home wives and mothers who have handled the home front and helped push their husbands up their career ladders. These subsets will encounter very different financial needs.
  • Retirement is a big consideration. Gray divorcing couple’s face fewer years left to earn and recover from divorce, as well as to save for retirement.
  • Baby-boomers tend to have larger, more expensive homes, which can be a challenge to sell or to keep and maintain on one income. For the “in spouse” who will keep the house, special care needs to be taken to make sure pre-qualification for refinance can occur. This piece is critical to remove the “out spouses” name, and therefore liability on the note, prior to the divorce to avoid potential problems down the road.
  • Older people tend to have more health issues, making health and long-term care insurance hot issues in divorce. Filling the gap between the time of the divorce and the qualifying age for Medicare is vital.
  • Backing up any promise to pay, such as alimony, is very important. The most common way is to carry life and disability insurance on the paying spouse. Unfortunately, he/she may have health issues and won’t qualify. In this case, looking at other assets to collateralize or getting a larger share of the assets upfront instead (the bird in the hand approach) are options that can be looked into during negotiations.
  • In all cases, gray divorce or not, making sure that tax issues are reviewed prior to the divorce is important. This ensures that neither spouse ends up owing a tax bill that could have been reduced, or perhaps avoided altogether, in the first place.

i. http://www.npr.org/2012/03/08/148235385/gray-divorce-over-50-and-splitting-up
ii. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201202/the-high-failure-rate-second-and-third-marriages
iii. http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/divorce.pdf

Lisa C. Decker is an expert in divorce financial matters. As a discreet problem-solver and trusted advisor she utilizes cutting edge tools and industry insight to guide her clients to “Divorce Your Spouse, Not Your Money®.” Further information can be found at www.DivorceMoneyMatters.com.

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Facing Mediation? Five Key Strategies You Need to Know to Get the Results You Want

by
JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator/Mediation Coach/Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

As a mediation coach, my mantra is “Mediation can be one of the most important days of your life.  The decisions made that day can affect you and your family for the rest of your lives.”

I like to remind people of the importance and far-reaching effects of mediation because time after time disputing parties tell me that they went into mediation not knowing what to expect, they got overwhelmed during the session and had trouble making sound decisions, or they just got worn down and did whatever it took to get it over with.

A mediation session characterized by anxiety, confusion and disappointment can be avoided with the proper knowledge and proper preparation.   Indeed, one secret to achieving success at the mediation table is to be prepared.  Don’t fall into the all-too-familiar  trap of walking into a mediation room woefully unaware of the ins and outs of the mediation process and the basic communication strategies you should employ during a conflict-related encounter.

Here are five points to keep in mind to help you deal with the pressures, pitfalls and possibilities of mediation:

(1)  Spend some quiet, high-quality time thinking about what you want and what you need.
Write your thoughts down on paper and read it aloud.  This process helps you organize   your thoughts, identify your priorities and set realistic expectations.  Take a colored highlighter and identify your key points.  Take this paper with you to mediation.  If you are represented by legal counsel, give your attorney a copy.  Many people have told me sharing this written presentation with their lawyer has helped clarify issues and has improved the attorney/client relationship.

(2)  Analyze strengths and weakness on both sides of the table.  In other words, identify the  strengths and weaknesses of the person on the other side of the table, but don’t forget to think about your own.  What are your soft spots that might make you vulnerable during the negotiations?

(3)  Keep in mind that your reactions do not need to be your responses.  It is very easy for emotions to get triggered during a mediation session.   Monitoring and controlling your emotions can be difficult, challenging task, but doing so can help you reach your goal – arriving at a  successful outcome that gives you what you want and what you need.

(4)  Remember that it’s only a first offer.  Many times a party to mediation will react strongly to a first offer.  Reactions might include comments like “That’s outrageous.  We’re never going to agree on anything,” or “That’s an insult.  I’m out of here.”  A first offer is a starting point and should elicit a thoughtful, strategic response rather than an emotional outburst that derails the potential of a mediation session.

(5)  Don’t say “Yes” when you should say “No.”  Many people in mediation feel pressured to accept an agreement that really does not serve their best interests.  Or they give in because they are tired and overwhelmed.  If you are not confident that the offer being presented serves you well, don’t agree to it.  Ask for a break or ask for the mediation to be continued another day.  Give yourself time to think over the consequences of your decision.

The increasing popularity of mediation to resolve disputes is evident in settling divorce cases, civil matters and workplace conflicts.  One reason it is being used more and more frequently in a variety of settings is that it works; it is a cost-effective, time-efficient and less stressful way to manage and resolve conflict.  If you find yourself facing mediation, make it work for you:  take the time to get the preparation you need to succeed and reach a favorable settlement.   Your future can depend on it.

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When Does Mediation Really Start?

by
JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator/Mediation Coach/Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

People usually believe that mediation begins when all concerned parties meet in the mediation room and take their places at the mediation table. The truth is that mediation begins when disputing parties agree to participate in a private mediation or when they are notified by the Court to appear in a mandated mediation session.

This pre-mediation phase is frequently overlooked and underestimated for the potential power it has over the outcome of a mediation session.

Would you perform in a stage play without holding a dress rehearsal? The answer is obviously, “No.” Yet, people go into mediation everyday with very little or no preparation for what could be one of the most important days of their lives. This is even more significant when you consider that decisions made during mediation can have critical, life-changing effects for not only the disputants, but for their families as well.

Why is the lack of thorough preparation for mediation so prevalent?

One reason is that while we all have seen frequent television and film portrayals of litigation and courtroom trials, mediation is a relatively unfamiliar form of dispute resolution to most people. The need for prepping witnesses and clients for trial and depositions is widely expected and accepted, while detailed pre-mediation preparation and coaching receives little attention and has much less importance attached to it. The result is that people attend mediation sessions unprepared to deal with the dynamics of mediation and the decisions that will dramatically affect their future and their well-being.

Another reason is that professionals who assist disputing parties with mediation are typically very familiar with the mediation process. Understandably, it’s easy for them to overlook the fact that mediating parties, unfamiliar with the process, can become overwhelmed by the many challenges inherent in a mediation session. This is especially true when emotions kick in and tensions run high. Thinking clearly in a charged atmosphere is difficult. Successfully handling the potential for emotional fall-out is a key area that professional mediation coaching is designed to address.

Other landmines that await disputants include the lack of pertinent paperwork, unorganized paperwork, not understanding the significance of important documents, losing focus during the session, and not being prepared to “tell your side of the story” in a clear, concise and persuasive manner. These are all issues that can be addressed in pre-mediation preparation.

Experience shows that when asked about their mediation experience, people frequently respond that they wish they had been better prepared. And, they report, if they had received more in-depth coaching, they feel they would have realized better results at the mediation table. In fact, a common post-mediation response is, “I just wanted to get it over with. I felt pressured and I felt overwhelmed.”

If you are a disputing party heading into mediation, “just wanting to get it over with,” is selling yourself short. Mediation is your chance to be heard and to take an active part in creating a resolution that works for you and meets your needs. Increase your chances for mediation success by ensuring that you receive the detailed, in-depth preparation you deserve. Professional mediation coaching can prepare you to help steer your mediation to the win-win proposition it can be.

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Mediation’s Most Common Mistake

by
JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator/Mediation Coach/Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

One of the most common comments I hear when talking to people about their experience in mediation is, “I just wanted to get it over with.” I hear that with both sadness and concern.

When someone participates in a mediation session, that day is one of the most important days of their life. The decisions made that day affect their and their family’s financial well-being, emotional health, and overall lifestyle. The day of your mediation session is not the time to be vulnerable to the pressures of a fast-moving and potentially overwhelming process. It is the time to be prepared, focused and informed.

If you are going into mediation represented by counsel, make sure your attorney takes the time to prepare you in detail for the mediation process. If you are going into mediation pro se, or without counsel, make sure you enlist the services of a mediation coach who will meet with you several days before your mediation session to familiarize you with the traps, tactics and techniques of mediation. A professional mediation coach will listen to you talk about “your side of the story” from a neutral, impartial perspective and help you prepare, practice and polish the presentation of your story. What you say in your mediation session should serve you well and strategically move you along to your targeted outcome.

Maintaining focus throughout the mediation session is a key to reaching a desirable resolution and something your coach can help you with. There are techniques you can use to re-focus your attention if you find yourself tiring and heading for a sinking spell. There are also strategies you can use if the session, itself, loses focus and begins heading down side paths that are counterproductive. One of these tactics is to consider asking for a break. A break at the right time can revitalize you. It can also break the momentum of a discussion that is overwhelming you or not heading your way.

Being prepared for mediation and being knowledgeable about the dynamics of the process can make the difference between a mediation outcome you are pleased with or a mediation outcome that sadly misses the mark in meeting your financial and emotional needs. Get the preparation you deserve. Your future could depend on it.

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Video Interview

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Creating a Conflict-Conscious Workplace

by
JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator/Mediation Coach/Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

Conflict comes in all sizes and shapes. It can be both constructive and destructive, productive and unproductive. But one thing is certain: where there are people, there is the potential for disagreements, disputes and interpersonal flare-ups that can undermine the health and well-being of any environment.

Being aware of the different types of conflict and knowing how to manage them are quickly becoming core competencies in today’s workplace. Whether encouraging healthy conflict by fostering the exchange of opinions and viewpoints or mediating an escalating dispute between co-workers, mastering the language and nuances of conflict is critical to success.

Constructive Conflict

Conflict of any kind makes most people uncomfortable. The majority of us want to get along and have things go smoothly. The hidden danger in conflict-avoidance is that an open exchange of dissenting opinions can uncover valuable insights that inform decision-making and cast a new, bright light on problem-solving. A team of “yes-men” can rob a company of an effective check and balance system and stifle innovative thought and idea-generation.

Organizational experts Lyn and Bob Turknett of Atlanta-based Turknett Leadership Group point out that one of the signs of maturity in individuals and in organizations is the willingness to speak up and disagree constructively. They stress that the best leadership teams feel free to debate behind closed doors, but present a united front once a decision is made. And the best leaders encourage dissenting ideas throughout the company. Leaders who see disagreement as a challenge to their leadership can seriously stifle a company’s growth and competitiveness in the marketplace.

Blips, Clashes and Crises

When interpersonal tensions are allowed to fester, undesirable consequences can result. What starts out as a garden-variety disagreement between two people who basically like and respect each other can twist and turn into something big, bad and ugly if not addressed early on. Early intervention, in fact, is a fundamental tool in the art and science of conflict management.

One way to ensure that early intervention is practiced in your workplace is to train employees and managers in mediation techniques that address low-to-mid level conflict. Low-level conflict, or a blip, can be described as a disagreement between two people where some emotion has been triggered but the people involved have a history of trust and compatibility. A clash is more serious than a blip, but the dispute has not reached the crisis level. In a conflict crisis, repercussions can be significant and the stakes are high. An unaddressed conflict at the crisis level can lead to theft, vandalism and even violence. All forms of destructive conflict can carry the cost of poor decision-making, absenteeism, lack of cooperation and poor job performance.

Research and experience show that employees, when properly trained, can deal successfully with interpersonal conflict on their own without the intervention or time investment of managers. This employee-level training is called self-mediation and involves a four-step process that empowers people to recognize and handle simple interpersonal disagreements and disputes. Managerial training, as the name implies, is taught to managers and prepares them to intercede when necessary in a dispute between subordinates. Employee and managerial mediation training can each be completed in one day. The result is a conflict-conscious workplace where people know how to recognize conflict behavior and are able to handle it before it escalates.

The Power of Being Pro-Active

Tension and employee dissatisfaction can erode profits and productivity. Promoting pro-active conflict management fosters workplace cooperation, improved communication and financial well-being.

Lyn and Bob Turknett point out that companies that get caught up in unresolved relationship conflicts waste tremendous resources. They’ve seen conflicts between departmental leaders explode into interdepartmental warfare, severely damaging their companies’ ability to compete and succeed. They’ve also seen conflict between team members sap the energy of an entire team, sabotaging efforts to produce good results and meet deadlines. Giving people the skills to solve conflicts can prevent this type of destructive escalation and help a company create a healthy, dynamic workplace with a solid bottom line.

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Impact of Divorce on the Workplace

by
JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator/Mediation Coach/Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

Article compiled for Visions Anew Institute

Research has shown that employers pay a steep price when employees face serious personal problems. Divorce is at the top of the list. The significant emotional and financial challenges faced by those going through divorce cause a myriad of workplace issues: absenteeism, poor performance, low productivity and a condition known as presenteeism, when employees are physically present, but emotionally, mentally, creatively and professionally not there.

The Harvard Business Review has been quoted as estimating that presenteeism costs American business $150 billion annually in direct and indirect costs. This state of overwhelming distraction represents a significant drain on a business being able to reach its goals, make wise, well-informed decisions, and create profits instead of losses.

One way to combat these serious employee management problems is for companies to offer workplace programs that educate and support employees while they are facing distressing personal challenges. Offering preventive programs that familiarize employees with effective communication techniques and preventive measures that can divorce-proof their marriages is one way companies can not only assist their employees, but safeguard the health and welfare of their businesses as well.

While numbers vary greatly as to the actual costs that businesses suffer when employees divorce, various findings include the following estimates and reports:

    • A report from the Minneapolis-based Life Innovations Study titled “Marriage and Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business?” calculated that stress from relationship-related issues costs companies $300 billion a year.

 

    • This study also found that employees lose more than 168 hours of work time in the year following a divorce, which is reported to be more than 8% of their actual time at work. Other studies report that divorce disrupts an employee’s productivity for three years or longer.

 

    • The Wall Street Journal reported that a study from the Grief Recovery Institute points out that workplace costs from serious emotional distress is $75 billion a year due to:
      • – lost productivity
      • – absenteeism
      • – increased errors and accidents

 

    • The Institute also has been quoted as saying that the the negative impact of the divorce process on work ranges from a minimum of two years to frequently four to five years. The Institute cites workplace problems such as:
      • – reduced concentration
      • – poor decision-making
      • – distraction
      • – lost work time

 

  • Other reports point out that workplace costs of divorce include higher health costs since increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression resulting from failing relationships lead to low levels of physical health and increased risk for substance abuse problems. These health issues lead to higher costs for companies in more expensive insurance premiums and healthcare expenditures.

Experts agree that it is essential that employers connect the dots between the serious emotional and financial stress of divorce and lost productivity. It is clear, they say, that the need to educate and support employees during distressful times should not be considered a luxury, but should be regarded as a high-priority necessity. As the Grief Recovery Institute says, “When your heart is broken, your head doesn’t work.”

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