What Are Words For: 6 Writing Tips from the Masters

If you only remember one lesson from The Elements of Style—affectionately known as Strunk & White—it’s probably Rule 17 in the “Principles of Composition” chapter.

Editors hear William Strunk’s curmudgeonly admonition “Omit needless words” every time they strike out a“very” or superfluous “that.” Or—as I like to put it—“Omit needless words.” Once you adopt this mantra, formerly invisible words pulse red as you read. You may even be seeing red now.

While our last post explored how your diction affects others’ sense of your power when speaking, this article focuses on the written word—although the lessons apply equally to speech.

Below are six writing tips from the masters.

1) 1+1 = ½

Sol Stein spins Strunk’s famous edict another way in his formula 1+1 = ½. In Stein on Writing, the master editor reveals this secret to powerful writing: redundant language weakens.

If you’re using two words to say the same thing, you’re diluting the effect. Axe the less precise word or find a single term that captures the meaning of both, and you’ll strengthen your sentence.

2) Beware of Modifiers

Sol Stein’s Reference Book for Writers warns us adjectives and adverbs “weaken nouns and verbs, and therefore weaken your writing.” If you can swap out an adverb for a more telling verb, do so.

Trade “ran quickly” for “scampered,” and the sentence jumps from report to story. The reader visualizes the subject scampering away, learning something about the subject’s motives and character in the process.

3) Conquer Clichés

Watch any reality TV show, and you’ll realize it’s a pastiche of clichés, from “I’m not here to make friends” to “It would mean the world to me.” We breathe them in like smog, scarcely noticing how polluted our language has become.

4) Jettison Jargon

Bullshit Bingo players racking up the points during a staff meeting know the workplace is riddled with jargon.

Orwell predicted as much in “Politics and the English Language”, where his fifth rule of writing cautions, “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”

5) Use Active Voice

Out of Orwell’s six writing rules, we’ve already covered four (banish clichés, embrace brevity, trim fat and ditch jargon). His number-one rule tops nearly every editor’s list, too: “Never use the passive where you can use the active.”

The classic example of cowardly passive voice (which misdirects the audience by omitting the subject responsible for the action) is, “Mistakes were made.” No, you made a mistake. Muster some moxie and admit, “I made a mistake.” That’s how passive becomes active.

6) Remain Civil

What’s Orwell’s final mandate to writers? “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.” That’s right—civility outclasses dogma. Value dignity, respect for others, ethics and graciousness over nitpicky rules. In other words, don’t let your newfound linguistic powers turn you into a grammar Nazi.

Dangerous Diction: 6 Types of Words That Sap Your Power—and How to Take It Back

Whether or not you realize it, you convey hidden messages about yourself through your diction.

Your word choices reveal your level of confidence in yourself and your statements—and subsequently influence how others perceive and treat you.

Words to Power

A recent Forbes article by Avery Blank outlines six types of words that undermine your power when you use them:

  1. Fluff. If you want people to question your intelligence and authority, talk like a Valley girl. Otherwise, eschew like, whatever, so on, kind of, sort of, um and other pause words that put the brakes on meaning.
  2. Defensive phrases. Terms like just, I think, arguably and in my opinion make your listeners question your conviction and message.
  3. Aptitude terms. When you say, “I’ll try,” you betray an insecurity that spreads to your audience. Overconfidence is equally disquieting. Telling a coworker, “Don’t worry about it” is not only dismissive but shuts down opportunities for collaboration.
  4. Condescending words. Terms such as actually, obviously and clearly suggest you think your audience is ignorant, and that’s a good way to make them tune out.
  5. Mea culpa. We’re not saying you should never apologize—accepting responsibility for the consequences of your actions is the mature response. Just don’t say “sorry” when something goes awry due to circumstances outside your control.
  6. Hyperbole. Very, absolutely, totally, tremendously, incredibly and similar emphasis words achieve the opposite of their intended effect. Your message is stronger without them.

The 6 Rungs of Speaking Power

In my Working with Emotional Intelligence class, I share a handout titled “Escaping Victim Mud—The Power of Your Words” from Falling Awake: Creating the Life of Your Dreams.

We discuss how to climb Dave Ellissix rungs of powerful speaking from least to most powerful:

  1. Obligation. If you use terms like should, must, have to and ought, you’re speaking at the bottom rung of Ellis’ ladder. This tells others you are acting not out of desire but duty.
  2. Possibility. People at this level choose words like consider, maybe, might, could and hope. The attitude is more positive, but these words tell listeners you don’t feel in control of the outcome.
  3. Preference. Bartleby fans know the power of prefer, as in, “I would prefer not to.” Moving from should to might to want shows a progression of control. Those who prefer and want are expressing their goals in a way that impacts the audience more deeply.
  4. Passion. When you speak with enthusiasm (excited, can’t wait and love), you capture listeners through your energetic expressiveness. There is a difference between gushing and acting, however, and your words will feel hollow if you don’t have the evidence to back them up.
  5. Plan. When you present a plan to achieve specific goals, you demonstrate your control over the situation and your strategy for achieving the desired results. This is when the abstract becomes concrete for your listeners.
  6. Promise. At the apex of Ellis’ ladder is promise (will, do, promise), and that’s where dream transforms into reality. At the most powerful rung, you will captivate your audience and engage them in your commitment to action.

Different situations call for different rungs in the communication ladder. Perpetually balancing on the top rung is unrealistic and even inappropriate in certain contexts.

What Are You Telling People?

As a co-active coach, I can help you assess how your language influences others’ perceptions of you and how you can achieve a more positive reception, whether speaking, leading or collaborating. Call me at 541.601.0114 or email me to start climbing the ladder toward a more powerful you.

Trickle-up Theory: 10 Ways Organizations Can Create Stronger Leaders

When a ship founders, blame rarely lies at the feet of the crew. True, a seaman may fail to properly secure a mooring line or spot a collision risk on the horizon, but ultimately it is the captain who is liable for keeping the vessel afloat and on course.

Just as managers are responsible for the poor performance of their team, a company is culpable for any weaknesses present in its leadership. Responsibility flows upward, and senior administrators need to employ smart strategies to keep their organizations from capsizing.

Here are 10 ways organizations can create stronger leaders:

  1. Avoid just-because promotions to management. Before transplanting employees from positions they are flourishing in, make sure they have the appropriate skills—and desire—to succeed in a leadership role. You can still reward employees for good work with a pay raise or more challenging job description—just make sure it’s well-suited to their strengths.
  2. Encourage managers to seek advice. Don’t cultivate a culture of fear, shame and ego but rather nurturing, humility and collegiality. Make sure managers feel comfortable approaching senior leaders about questions or problems.
  3. Invite a fresh perspective. Sometimes a pair of unfamiliar eyes combined with professional expertise can reshape a flabby company into a high-performance athlete. Consider bringing in an organizational consultant to gain clarity on your culture; develop your leadership; and assess and address barriers to performance. You can boost employee happiness, engagement and productivity by creating a positive organization.
  4. Provide training opportunities. Companies should offer ongoing training and professional development opportunities for leaders and staff alike. Creating an atmosphere of learning is a key way to enhance engagement while honing and deepening your team’s competencies.
  5. Strive for professional and personal growth. Senior administrators should not only be seeking to become their best selves through leadership coaching, but they should be encouraging their managers to do the same.
  6. Challenge folks. When people feel stuck in a routine, they quickly grow bored. Our brains thrive on stimulation, and that means constantly pushing at the edges of our existing skill sets and forging new neural pathways. Even those who fear change need a sense of challenge to propel them forward.
  7. Understand the difference between managing and leading. In the post Managing Stuff, Leading People, Senior Manager of Sales and Leadership Development Steve Keating articulates the difference between managing and leading: “When you’re talking to a manager you get the feeling that they are important; when you’re talking to a leader you get the feeling that you are important.” Leaders are acutely aware of their team members’ abilities, they care for them as individuals and they possess a grander vision, which they can communicate to others in ways that stir enthusiastic engagement.
  8. Mentor each other. Instead of assuming an autocratic demeanor, handing down performance targets like kingly decrees, senior leaders should take new managers under their wings, offering wisdom from the trenches as they rear up the next generation of trailblazers.
  9. Seek out strengths. Don’t focus on people’s weaknesses but rather their strengths. If some employees are faltering, figure out why and redefine their roles to capitalize on their talents. Take advantage of Strengths Finder and other resources such as an organizational development consultant to pinpoint and polish the gifts in each team member.
  10. Lead by inspiration. Great leaders model the leadership skills they would like their managers to exhibit. There is nothing less motivating than a hypocritical boss or more inspiring than a leader who authentically embodies the best that leaders can be.

Ready to Make Your Leadership Shine?

Contact Chris Cook at chris@capiche.us or 541.601.0114 to discuss how she can cultivate the gems at your company through organizational development consulting and leadership coaching.

The Dangers of Disengagement—and Its Likely Cause

Have you ever felt yourself slipping into an apathetic haze at work, too bored, uninspired or beaten down to bother?

According to Gallup, nearly a quarter of employees around the globe are actively disengaged. That translates to bottom-line losses in the trillions. Not only are companies paying for sagging productivity by disengaged employees, but they’re also missing out on the benefits of having highly engaged powerhouses on their team.

What Causes Employee Disengagement?

What is one of the top causes of employee disengagement? You can probably guess. Whether you call them incompetent, narcissistic, psychopathic or straight-up evil, bad bosses shoulder much of the blame.

A recent Gallup article titled The Damage Inflicted by Poor Managers explores the consequences of lousy leadership—a subject we have examined in past articles (see sidebar).

Coauthors Marco Nink and Jennifer Robison note that in comparison with disengaged teams, engaged teams are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable; suffer 41% less absenteeism and 70% fewer accidents; and experience up to 59% less turnover, 28% less waste and 10% higher scores from customers.

At 24%, disengaged employees practically double the number of engaged employees (13%). That’s like having a bunch of anchors attached to a handful of balloons. It’s tough for an organization to achieve performance goals with that kind of ballast weighing it down.

The answer isn’t axing the disengaged employees, though. If the cause is bad leadership, the replacement hires will simply become the next crop of disengaged employees, creating a perpetual and costly cycle of turnover.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Bad Leaders?

When the problem starts at the top, that’s where we need to focus our attention. In another Gallup article, Nink and Robison ask, Can Bad Managers Be Saved?

Falling into a management role without proper preparation can transform decent folks into petty tyrants as they attempt to compensate for insecurity about their lack of leadership skills. Or they may be perfectly nice individuals engaging in poor management habits without realizing it. They might even have untapped leadership talents that simply haven’t been identified or developed.

As Steve Keating discusses in his piece Managing Stuff, Leading People, people often get promoted to management positions because they excelled in their previous roles—often having nothing to do with leadership. Just because a software engineer is brilliant at designing algorithms doesn’t mean she’s strong at leading a software development team—in fact, it’s frequently the opposite.

Not all bad bosses are beyond redemption. It takes astute judgment to determine which managers have the potential for growth and which ones will continue to flail. In our next article, we’ll examine some strategies companies can adopt to ensure their leaders are motivating engagement rather than provoking disengagement.

Need Some Advice?

Whether your organization is struggling with disengagement, ineffectual leadership or low performance, Chris Cook can help. Email her at chris@capiche.us or call 541.601.0114 to find out how.

From the “Worst Year Ever” to … the Best Year Ever?

Many people around the world were relieved to bid adieu to 2016, so widely detested it prompted publications ranging from The New York Times to The Telegraph, the Smithsonian to The New Yorker, Slate to BuzzFeed to question whether it was the worst year ever.

An exhausting presidential election, the controversial Brexit vote, the deadliest mass shooting in US history, numerous international terrorist attacks, earthquakes galore, the hottest year on record and a string of beloved celebrity deaths—many would say 2016 was a pretty dreadful year, indeed.

Putting all this behind me, I choose to remain hopeful that 2017 will be a better year—a great year. I will do my best—and I encourage you as well—to do everything possible to spread positivity and love.

I will do my best—and I encourage you as well—to do everything possible to spread positivity. Click To Tweet

Many thanks to a dear friend and colleague who shared the following quote. It speaks to me. I hope it speaks to you as well. Here’s to 2017!


“Make sure, therefore, that to the extent you can, always act from the deepest, widest, highest source in you that you can find; let every word out of your mouth come from the Highest Self you can discern; let every action spring from the deepest Source you can possibly summon. You are laying down Forms that will be stored in that great storage bin in the Cosmos, whence they will one day reach down and mold the future with their own special insistence. Make sure these Forms will be something you can be deeply proud of. You do realize that you are directly co-creating the future World, don’t you? Please, never, never forget that.”
Ken WilberIntegral Meditation, 2016, p. 130

Top 5 Reasons to Hire Women—and 5 Ways to Entice Them

When you’re sizing up a potential employer, what are some of the factors that go in your Pros column? For men and women alike, a lot of those priorities will look similar, but there are certain items women tend to value more highly than men according to Gallup’s Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived.

What Motivates Women to Work?

For 84% of the 323,500 US women Gallup surveyed, the satisfaction of earning their own money provided a compelling reason for working. Three-quarters report that they work because they enjoy the work itself, and two-thirds are drawn to the relationships formed in the workplace.

What Makes a Workplace Attractive to Women?

Our last article outlined some of the organizational shortcomings causing women to leave the workplace, but what are some of the positive characteristics that draw female employees to a company?

  1. Good Match. Two-thirds (66%) of women—11% more than men—place the greatest emphasis on whether the position matches their strengths and talents. For most women, having a job that allows them to flourish and achieve their potential is more important than a boost in pay, which only 39% ranked “very important” when evaluating a potential job.
  2. Balance. For 60% of female respondents (vs. 48% of men), the ability to balance professional and personal responsibilities is the second most-important factor in considering a new job.
  3. Dependability. For both women (52%) and men (50%), workplace stability ranks relatively high.
  4. Standing. As many as 39% of female respondents (compared with 33% of men) ranked a company’s brand, or reputation, as “very important” when weighing whether to join the organization.
  5. Purpose. Ten percent more women (32% versus 22%) consider an organization’s cause “very important.” For female millennials, however, the opportunity to do meaningful work (38%) outranks reputation (34%). Purpose-driven work holds a higher appeal for this new generation of women, who have had the greatest access to education.

What Do Women Bring to the Table?

Political correctness aside, why should a company make efforts to recruit female employees? In what ways do women have the statistical edge over men?

  1. Engagement. Female employees have higher rates of engagement than men: 35% versus 29%. That 6% differential is echoed in management roles, with 41% of female leaders being engaged versus 35% of male leaders. As we’ve repeatedly stressed in past articles (Blue Ocean Leadership: 4 Steps to Boosting Employee Engagement, Millennial Mindset: What Gen Y Wants out of Work and Life, Naughty or Nice: Which Makes for a More Effective Leader? and The Top 4 Employee Needs to Fulfill for Greater Happiness and Productivity), research shows that higher employee engagement leads to yields in productivity and profits.
  2. Stronger Teams. Female managers are not only more engaged than their male counterparts, but their team members are more engaged, too. Whether it’s due to higher emotional intelligence, better relationship-building skills, a more intuitive approach or an emphasis on cooperation over competition, female leaders garner 6% more engagement from their employees.
  3. Satisfaction. According to Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement data, more women report that their companies are meeting their needs than men do. This is surprising given the failure of many organizations to offer a flexible workplace and accommodate women’s unique needs as we’ve discussed previously. Still, in 11 out of the 12 items on the Gallup Q12 engagement survey, female employees score higher, which is in line with the findings that female employees are more engaged in general.
  4. Potential. Female leaders often hone in on the strengths of their team members and are more likely to encourage the development of their employees’ potential. They tend to play a more nurturing role, coaching rather than dictating. Women generally practice more collaborative, democratic forms of leadership, whereas traditional patriarchal models follow a more authoritarian hierarchy.
  5. Bottom Line. Gallup notes, “Gender diversity strengthens a company’s financial performance.” While it is difficult to pinpoint the precise causes, organizations with more female employees and managers tend to fare better financially—perhaps from a combination of deeper engagement, increased productivity, stronger performance and greater workplace satisfaction.

How Can You Create a More Female-Friendly Workplace?

If you’d like to reap the rewards of gender diversity at your company, call me at 541.601.0114 or email to find out how Capiche can help improve your organizational culture; articulate your branding; and boost employee engagement, productivity, performance and profit.

Why Are Women Leaving the Workforce?

What’s different about the twenty-first century American woman? Why did the United States go from having one of the highest rates of female participation in the workforce to one of the lowest in a comparative study conducted in 2015?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 60% of women 15 and older were employed in 2000. By 2015, that figure had dropped to 56.7%. While the difference seems small, it represents a trajectory toward fewer women in the workplace, and companies are losing out on the unique strengths women bring to the table.

As discussed in our last post, societal barriers no longer prevent women from pursuing careers, but that doesn’t automatically mean all of them want to. Increasingly, women are choosing a different path—particularly mothers of young children.

In its Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived report, Gallup found that more than half (54%) of working mothers expressed a preference to stay at home, while a mere 40% indicated a desire to work outside home.

Women feel the pull of family more strongly than men. Seventy percent of working fathers express a preference to work outside the home (interestingly, the same percentage as working women without children)—10% lower than those who don’t have children. While men’s desire to work outside the home is lessened if they have children, 70% is still far higher than the 40% of working mothers who wish to do so.

It’s not so much that women want to opt out of work but rather out of the workplace, finding the culture less accommodating to their needs and broader work-life aspirations. So what can organizations do differently to draw in and support women?

Where Are Companies Failing Women?

  1. Work-at-home policies. While a third of the women surveyed indicated their employers were doing “very well” when it came to permitting them to work at home, another third said their employers were doing “very poorly.” Obviously, some jobs require a physical presence, but most office work can be conducted remotely these days. This is more of a cultural shift since the technology already exists to implement a more malleable work-at-home policy.
  2. Health insurance. Companies also scored relatively low when it came to providing adequate health insurance coverage—of special concern to women raising families. Sixteen percent reported their companies did “very poorly” in this area, and 12% said “somewhat poorly.”
  3. Wage gap. Most think women have achieved equality in the workplace, but as recently as 2015, women still suffered a 20-percent wage gap, making just “80 cents for every dollar earned by men” according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Lower wages paired with higher health insurance premiums and childcare costs make employment a greater challenge for mothers.
  4. Flexible schedules. For many women, pay is less important than flexible hours, whether it be working an earlier or later shift or simply being able to pop out during the afternoon to pick up their kids from school. As employers adapt to these growing demands, they will be able to attract more female candidates.
  5. Sick and vacation leave. Companies seem to be doing better in this regard, with 58% of women stating their employers provided adequate sick and vacation time. That response, however, did not indicate whether the women felt free to take said leave. Some companies may make it difficult or impossible for women to take advantage of leave policies due to scheduling demands and a high-pressure workplace culture.
  6. Opportunity for advancement. While 38% of women reported their employers are doing well in this area, 10% and 14% said their organizations were doing “very poorly” and “somewhat poorly.”

Both mothers and women without children ranked their employers similarly on all six of these factors, suggesting these organizational shortcomings affect all women equally.

How does your organization rank in these areas? Do you consider the workplace hostile or welcoming to women, particularly working mothers, and why? If you’re not sure, let Capiche help you assess the situation. Give Chris a call at 541.601.0114 or email her to explore options.

In our next post, we’ll delve into what motivates women to enter the workforce along with the benefits companies reap by employing women.

Women in the Workplace—How Far Have We Really Come?

These days, women are told they can have it all—career, family, personal growth. For many, this is true, but that’s not to say it’s an easy juggling act—particularly with the escalating demands of an increasingly competitive workplace. Forty years ago, women had to choose: either work or family, not both. A few decades before that, there wasn’t even a choice. The answer was a given: family.

Women’s roles in the workplace and home have changed radically in the last century. We tend to forget it was only 1920 when women gained the right to vote through the 19th Amendment. Gallup explores the topic of women in the workplace in a new 94-page report titled Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived.

For this study, Gallup surveyed approximately 323,500 US women and has plans to issue a follow-up report on women worldwide in collaboration with the International Labour Organization in 2017.

With more than 73.5 million women working today and more millennial females holding higher education degrees than their male counterparts, women of the twenty-first century clearly have more options than their grandmothers did.

While women experienced a temporary burst of freedom when they were welcomed into the workforce during World War II, they were immediately ushered back into the kitchen as soon as soldiers began returning home and seeking work.

It was perhaps this cruel juxtaposition of empowerment followed by oppression that set the stage for the second-wave feminism that was to emerge in the early 1960s along with landmark works like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.

Nearly half (47%) the US labor force comprised women by 1990. The previous decades’ movement toward greater equality and diversification had transformed the workplace, and women were beginning to crack the glass ceiling.

Surprisingly, this trend of more women in the workforce started reversing after it peaked in 1999. The United States went from having one of the highest rates of women workers to one of the lowest in comparison with eight other developed countries analyzed in a study conducted by Maximiliano Dvorkin and Hannah Shell.

Dvorkin and Shell also discovered a recent drop in workforce participation by women between 25 and 54. Those who remain seem less tied to work than their 1990s predecessors. Gallup found that almost half (48%) the women surveyed said they were on the job hunt, suggesting dissatisfaction with their current positions.

What accounts for this dramatic decline in female laborers and their growing discontentment?

For one large subset of women, a single factor makes all the difference in whether they decide to remain in—or leave—the workplace. That subset is mothers, and the influential factor—not surprisingly—is whether they have children under 18.

While 70% of women who do not have younger children at home express the desire to work outside the home, that number falls to 40% for employed women who have under-18 kids.

Even in this age of more progressive gender roles such as stay-at-home dads, Gallup shows that mothers still feel compelled to devote more time to nurturing their growing children. Trying to achieve balance between work and family is one of modern woman’s greatest challenges.

We will explore other potential causes for the twenty-first-century exodus of women from the workplace in our next post, followed by tips for employers on how to attract, engage and retain female employees. In the meantime, let us know what your greatest challenges are related to women in the workplace.

How Do You Retain and Grow Your Best Performers?

With the economy growing and the job market tightening, you have two choices as a manager: either bring high potentials along to succeed in higher-level positions or hire from outside. Many leaders like to bring tried and true employees into higher-level positions in the organization. They like to grow their own.

People are motivated when you let them know you want them to be successful. You can boost your stars and star-potential employees with a highly focused workshop coming up in December.

I’m slated to lead a workshop called Success Factors for Emerging Leaders through the Southern Oregon University Professional Development Series in December. (Yes, this is shameless self-promotion. Please forgive me.)

Scheduled on December 14 in Medford, OR, the half-day workshop is for new managers, emerging leaders and high-potential employees ready to move up in the organization.

We will cover topics such as:

  • How do you make a successful transition into management and avoid tripping over common first-time mistakes?
  • How do you develop as a new leader, making sure you have the right roadmap and directions for success?

This hands-on workshop will explain and demonstrate essential competencies for leading effectively with social and emotional intelligence. Attendees will acquire and put into practice the necessary tools to better understand how others perceive them while being increasingly attuned to the needs of their team, the management team and the organization. With this heightened understanding, participants will be equipped to develop the confidence, relationships and authority required to successfully transition into a new leadership role.

I’m curious—do you have any success (or horror) stories about transitioning to a new role within your organization? What and who helped you? Please share so I can use in the workshop and others can benefit from your experiences.


“Growing other leaders from the ranks isn’t just the duty of the leader, it’s an obligation.”
Warren Bennis


Keep Drama on the Stage—and out of the Workplace

In the requisite Stein on Writing, publisher, writer and master editor Sol Stein reveals this secret to successful plotting: create a crucible.

If you’ve ever seen Mike NicholsWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, you know how compelling a crucible can be. When you pit two forces of nature like Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) and George (Richard Burton) against one another, the results are explosive.

As Stein writes, “Characters caught in a crucible won’t declare a truce and quit.… the motivation of the characters to continue opposing each other is greater than their motivation to run away.”

While such a formula makes for gripping drama, that’s the last thing you want in the workplace.

Good leaders know how to navigate conflicts, dissipate tension and redirect negative energies into positive, productive outlets. Most importantly, they themselves are not the source of drama.

Unfortunately, those leaders are rare. A recent Australian study suggests there are more villains at the top than we realize—1 in 5 CEOs may be psychopaths (versus 1 in 100 in the general population).

“Typically psychopaths create a lot of chaos and generally tend to play people off against each other,” says Nathan Brooks, the forensic psychologist who conducted the study.

A profit-driven corporate culture often propels sociopaths—who unabashedly violate ethics in pursuit of the bottom line—to positions of power, even though such behavior collectively costs companies hundreds of billions annually due to employee turnover and disengagement.

Just as the recent Wells Fargo scandal teaches us, myopic thinking may yield short-term profits but reaps incalculable damage. Sure, there are the obvious costs like $185 million in fines, $5 million in customer refunds and the potential billions in class action lawsuits from customers and the 5,300 terminated employees.

At a deeper level, however, the damage done to the Wells Fargo brand is incalculable. A bank losing the trust of its customers is tantamount to drinking Jonestown Flavor Aid.

Let’s play a word game. What do you think of when you hear Enron, Exxon and Monsanto? It’s probably fraud, Valdez and mass farmer suicides. Even when they change their names and attempt to reinvent themselves, corporations can never escape the toxic taint of corruption.

This is why it is so crucial to carefully define, protect and live your brand. From the epic to the everyday, how companies and leaders behave has lasting ramifications.

While we may not be in a position to shape the epic dimensions of our organization, all of us play a role in the everyday, and reducing drama in the workplace has widespread benefits—including boosting happiness and health, which subsequently reduces turnover, increases engagement and heightens productivity.

In this SmartBrief article, Dr. Nate Regier offers three tips for quashing office drama:

  • Practice transparency. In times of conflict, honesty is indeed the best policy. Instead of passive-aggressively venting your frustration, explain why a certain behavior is bothering you. Sidestep blame in favor of expressing your feelings. This is a common tactic in couples counseling for a reason—it reframes the concern as an expression of feeling rather than an attack and helps each understand the other’s perspective.
  • Offer your expertise. This doesn’t mean going around handing out uninvited advice. Rather, it means genuinely assessing the problem and offering to share relevant knowledge if desired—the last part being key.
  • Set realistic limits. In a conflict, identify your non-negotiables in a non-threatening manner. Once both parties have a clear understanding of the stated goals and obstacles, it’s easier to chart a path to resolution.

This kind of “compassionate accountability is key to productive relationships and communication,” writes Regier.

What are your workplace drama stories? Do you have any tips on how to cope with psychopathic bosses and smooth out tensions in the workplace?