Caring Costs

Caring costs.

It costs to be empathetic to your employees’ emotional needs.

It costs to be mindful of the non-verbal messages you’re role modeling.

It costs to be engaged all the time in the active act of actively listening.

It costs to develop connections that gain you nothing in the short-term.

It costs to care when that caring may not be “enough” for the other party when what was really desired by the other party was a transactional act, not a relational one.

Caring costs.

But what else are you going to invest your emotional energy in?

[Strategy] Why So Few Self-Aware Organizations?

Organizations, founders, managers, and employees who are self-aware do better than those who aren’t.

This should come as no surprise, but in an economic, social, and even political climate where “knowing thyself” is as mysterious as “knowing thy customers,” it becomes incumbent upon an organization–and the people employed by it–to be self-aware.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What does our organization do here in the world?
    • Why are we doing it?
    • Is what we’re doing useful, not to the market or to our customers, but also to the overall economy?
  • Does our company care?
  • Are we just here to satisfy our shareholders?
  • If our employees don’t care (or do care) why do they care and how do we grow what they care about?
  • What do other people (i.e. the market (fans, customers, clients, shareholders)) think that we do?
    • If there’s a chasm between those two perceptions, how do we cross it, if we want to, or how do we live with it, if we don’t?
  • Are we recruiting, interviewing, and hiring people that are self-aware about why they want to be here?
    • And if we aren’t, how do we get them to leave in a way that honors them and makes space for the kind of people we want to be here?

Answering all (or any) of these questions honestly and clearly, requires the courage to speak up, be in the room, stay engaged, and be open to self-critique.

And in case you’re wondering if this all actually works, well here’s a little something to watch

[Opinion] The Bigots Among Us

It is easy to dismiss ideas that we don’t agree with, that we find to be repulsive, or that downright offend us.

It is easy to dismiss ideas that we believe are damaging, could lead to cycles of violence, or that we believe are fearful.

It is easy to dismiss ideas that we think are regressive, oppressive, or not progressive enough for us to engage with based on our worldview.

And increasingly, and even more disturbingly, it is easier for us to dismiss the existence of people in the culture who hold these ideas.

But, as it turns out, the people holding ideas that make us afraid and angry, or that we think are stupid or retrograde, are the ones that work next to us sweeping floors, washing dishes, taking out the trash, and sometimes even counting our change back to us at the grocery store.

This is a real problem, because there’s no way to eliminate all the people who think differently than we do. There’s no real way to completely and categorically scrub every idea that we find offensive from the public square. The only option really, is to socially sanction the people with the ideas enough so that they shut up…and go away.


Those people are still going to have children.

Those people are still going to have houses.

Those people are still going to have to pay the bills.

Those people are still going to want to contribute to society and culture.

Those people are still going to work.

And when a culture links holding a preferred set of ideas to advancing economically, socially, and culturally in that culture; and, when there are some people who just think differently, that culture is not long for freedom, and is approaching a soft form of tyranny.

Which has always hardened in the not-so-distant historical past.

[Opinion] Doing More Work with Fewer People

There are now computer programs and algorithms that can render daily, rote, assembly line decisions faster at scale than human beings can.

There are experiments beginning with artificial intelligence programming, that promises to make decisions faster, cheaper, and more rationally and accurately than human beings, without getting clogged up with all that mushy “emotional” content humans bring to such decisions.

There are discussions about the disintermediation of low wage, low motivated, human workers with automation and robotics in places where such technology has never been seen.

There are even more discussions about paying people a pittance for a lifetime to do less of rote work, so that they can do the creative work resulting in outcomes and products that currently many of those same people want for free—or low cost—via a connection to the Internet.

Talk of all of these advances—algorithms, A.I., automation, robotics, basic income—are often made in certain media outlets, with breathless enthusiasm; while quietly, where many people live, we still go to restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and other establishments where human beings are laboring for a wage that is minimum, trying genuinely hard to do meaningless work that is truly the last vestiges of a system showing signs of collapsing all around us.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, in certain media outlets the much talked about “winners” in society are still lauded via social media, television, and viral videos. Much of the news cycle focuses on the comings and goings of the mythical “1%”, while many of the people that act as a buffer between those “1%” and “the 99%” (you know…the middle class…) are working in jobs which appear to offer less and less financial reward, for doing more and more unrewarded work. Places where the corporate mandate to “do more with less” is not really about doing more work to produce outcomes that matter with fewer people; it’s really about doing more busywork that doesn’t matter, with fewer engaged people, while watching salaries remain stagnant.

The technological advances that are gradually seeping into our society are going to reshape the work landscape. The distortions of reward versus effort will be rebalanced in favor of effort. But neither of these events are going to happen in the way that they did in the past: There are no more third party advocates for workers (unions) at scale; and there is little empathy for those organizations and individuals expending effort to actually do work that means something (emotional labor) for little pay.

This is a conflict, no matter how many ways you slice it.

Policies and regulatory changes by governments would help to ameliorate much of this tension. Heart changes in the “1%” and “the 99%” would do a lot to reduce the social friction such changes are creating.

It appears that neither of those changes are on the horizon.

But there is a way out: It requires individual efforts, and individual leadership, in order to work though. And there’s no immediate, tangible, reward or recognition for being successful at it, which is why many individuals refuse to take it on.

Do more work that matters with fewer people.

The myth of scale that we were all sold in the Industrial Revolution was clear that, in order to “get rich” an organization (or individual) had to grow past just doing work by themselves. The myth of scale also reinforced the ego-driven, industrialist idea that, if a small group of dedicated people are doing hard, emotional labor and leading a small tribe of equally dedicated people, with no immediate, tangible benefits, then that work can’t possibly make a dent in the universe.

Well, like most myths, that one is no longer true. And while navigating the communications revolution of the Internet seems daunting to many people, and organizations, there are other revolutions coming, in the Internet-of-Things, and in the development of block chain programming.

The greatest revolution however, has yet to happen. And that is the one in the human mind, and the human heart, that unites with other humans to lead them into doing the only work that can’t be done by a robot, an algorithm, a computer program, or even intelligence—no matter how artificial.

And that’s the work of connecting, collaborating, and relieving the hearts of human beings embroiled in loneliness, disconnection, and conflict. And in doing that work, human beings will come to realize that the tools aren’t what makes the profit; it’s the people connecting with other people in a meaningful way, that makes the stock price tick up a tenth of a point every quarter.

Imagine if the global financial, spiritual, and emotional economy was based on fulfilling those principles…

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Advice] Work + Job = Labor

68.5% of employees in American workplaces are either actively disengaged or not engaged with the work that they are doing at all.

This is due to many issues and factors, including the absence of support from other people in doing the labor that matters most. Managers, supervisors, and business leaders, don’t often think that emotional labor has much value because it’s not easily measureable, quantifiable, or knowable.

The other factor that causes employees to either actively disengage or just not engage, is a lack of understanding about the difference between work, a job, and labor. For far too long we have confused those three terms. So let’s get some clarity:

Work is passion. It’s the thing that lights up an engaged employee in the morning. Some employees are engaged by tracking numbers on spread sheets, and some employees are engaged by dealing with difficult people. The vast majority of employees are disengaged with work that they didn’t start being passionate about in the morning, and will forget the second they get home.

A job is series of tasks for which employees get paid. But then again, maybe not. Employee’s jobs are often confused with the term work. However, tasks rarely get employees engaged in the workplace due to gaming of the internal organizational reward and promotion system, strong at the workplace social sanctioning, and continual conflicts between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations for accomplishing tasks.

Labor is the combination of work (passion) plus a series of tasks (job) that spool out across the overall life of an employee. The term “labor” is often only used in the economic sense to describe a series of discreet outputs. But, for the not engaged or actively disengaged employee, labor is a continual drudgery, full of disappointment, stress, conflict, and confusion. Labor is something to be abandoned as soon as the workday ends, and dreaded as soon as the weekend closes, to be put down with relief at retirement.

Managers, supervisors, and business leaders, as well as organizations on the whole, have a social responsibility that goes beyond sharing profits, engaging in wage transparency, or working collaboratively within a local, national, or international context. They have the responsibility to their current and future employees, to create opportunities for engaging in work that will dovetail with individual passions, in the pursuit of a lifetime of long-term emotional labor.

Otherwise, social conflict, organizational collapses, and fewer and fewer outsized rewards accruing to an ever shrinking pool of employees, is one of many possible, conflict-filled futures.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[ICYMI] On Being CRaaS in the Workplace

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the newest thing in the modern workplace.

But, in spite of cloud storage and web based computing, people remain sticky and unreasonable.

Conflict resolution skills are still considered soft skills, even in a workplace that requires deeply intellectually technical skills.

HSCT offers workshops, training and coaching sessions that can be purchased one-time (workshops), paid for via subscription (the HSCT Communication Blog) or offered as needed (coaching sessions).

We offer conflict resolution skills training in a variety of areas for our clients, including:

  • Active Listening
  • De-escalation Tactics
  • Anger/Frustration Control
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Effective Negotiation
  • …and many more.

Now, none of these skills will ever be offered via the cloud, automated, or robotized via nanotechnology.

HSCT is always face-to-face (F2F), always in person and always on.

Conflict resolution-as-a-Service.

Be CRaaS in the workplace with HSCT.

Originally published on June 23, 2014.

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‘All right. All right. All right.’

We laugh at movies featuring the 35 or 40 year old who won’t leave the parents’ house and get a life.


We believe that the current Best Actor recipient once starred in a movie centering around such an animating theme.

But failing to launch (or even failing to recognize the oncoming signs of failing to launch) is not just the provenance of Hollywood scriptwriters and actors, it is a real occurrence in the real world of corporate boardrooms and small business back rooms.

Typically, this failure coalesces around an idea, an innovation or a project that doesn’t get enough organizational political support, organizational money or organizational time. This most obvious failure to launch shows up on the cover of the industry magazine, or as a hit piece on a blog or social media.

But failure to launch also happens quietly, under the radar, lurking like a submarine beneath the conflicts between people in the workplace. And it’s a moment that is so fleeting—so ephemeral—that it’s missed almost all the time.

The failure goes something like this:

Sharon and Bill have a disagreement about a project in which they are both invested. Sharon can’t see Bill’s point of view. Bill thinks Sharon is being obstructionist on purpose. But before Sharon and Bill can really get into it, they both pause—maybe at the water cooler in a conversation with another person, maybe in traffic on the way home—and they have a moment where the thought “Maybe I’m wrong here,” flits across their minds.

Like gossamer.

And just like that, it’s gone. Along with the twinge of regret and disappointment—as well as an oncoming sigh—accompanied by each parties’ resolve, hardening to “Do what is right. For the company.”

The question that makes consultants uncomfortable to ask—and employees and employers uncomfortable to ponder—is the question that on the face seems confrontational and too direct, but underneath is probing. Aiming at the dark heart of what happens in—and out—of the cubicle:

“Have you ever failed personally at resolving a business conflict?”

Or put another way, “When was the last time you failed to launch?”

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

Conflict Engagement Systems Design: Real Innovation for Your Organization

Innovation is the “hot” word among all the business thought leaders as we kick off 2015…

Authenticity is the new Credibility

There’s “dark-side” innovation, “game changing” innovation and even “shark jumping” innovation, as a recent search of LinkedIn thought influencer posts recently revealed.

But there’s very little talk about organizational innovation focused on the greatest—and most taken for granted resource—that and organization has: its people.

Now, as companies are emerging from the trance of Frederick Wilson Taylor, they are still continuing to treat employees and others as disposable widgets.  The current pressure on Marissa Mayer and Yahoo is just a recent high profile example of this.

But, organizations are more than short term ROI and their daily stock ticker price.

Something has to give, if innovation is the key to moving forward in a business environment that is increasingly unstable and unpredictable.

It’s time to hack at the organizational culture that underlies preconceived notions of productivity, innovation and even people.

Conflicts are part of the innovation process and disputes are the result of that process.

Conflict also brings change and can serve as a driver for innovation in even the most entrenched organizational culture.

It’s time to hack a new system. It’s time for conflict engagement systems design for the 21st century.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

“I’m Worried About My Bottom Line.”



Well, let’s be honest:

Bottom line concerns tend to only appear when “getting by” and making the quarterly numbers, no longer works and when competitive pressure, employee choice and other market conditions begin to appear.

Employers will not always be blessed with an “employer’s market” and ignoring, or minimizing,  the training and educating, of those demoralized, traumatized employees who have been long-term unemployed, could cost in the billions in lost revenues, time and profits.

Worried about the “bottom line” around conflicts in your workplace?

You should be.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA

Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant

Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:
HSCT’s website:

The Reason for Workplace Pathologies

There are conflicts everywhere, but the ones at work leave some of the deepest marks, because we spend, on average 40 to 60 hours a week with people we did not choose.


The common response to most work conflicts—from uninvolved employees to supervisors—sometimes ranges from “It’s not my problem,” to “I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me.”

There’s also a version of the Bystander Effect—where everyone stands around waiting for someone else to take a stand against a situation rather than themselves doing anything.

When conflict occurs between co-workers, apathy and fear of reprisal or negative consequences resulting from taking an action, paralyze fellow coworkers in the escalation cycle of conflict.

In contrast, when conflict occurs between supervisors and employees, grumbling, gossip, and other expressions of powerlessness become evident.

The escalation cycle continues, but is slows down, sometimes allowing the conflict to fester for years and transform into other cultural workplace pathologies.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA

Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:
HSCT’s website: