Culture, collaboration, honest feedback, and communication strategies in the virtual office

Looking for some tips on disappointment and anxiety management, conflict resolution, and navigating the virtual world? On the latest Walker Webcast, Walker & Dunlop's CEO, Willy Walker, spoke with Wharton Professor Sigal Barsade and Harvard Business Review Editor Amy Gallo about emotional contagion, loneliness, conflict resolution, how to keep connections strong in a virtual environment, and more.

A bit about each speaker:

Willy Walker
Willy Walker

Willy Walker is chairman and chief executive officer of Walker & Dunlop. Under Mr. Walker’s leadership, Walker & Dunlop has grown from a small, family-owned business to become one of the largest commercial real estate finance companies in the United States. Walker & Dunlop is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and in its first seven years as a public company has seen its shares appreciate 547%.

Amy Gallo

Amy Gallo is the author of the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict, co-host of the Women at Work podcast, and a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, where she writes about workplace dynamics.

Dr. Sigal Barsade

Dr. Sigal Barsade has been on the faculty since 2003, and prior to that was a faculty member at Yale University for 10 years. Dr. Barsade has been engaged as a speaker or consultant to numerous large corporations across myriad industries such as Cisco, Coca Cola, Coldwell Banker, Comcast, Deloitte, Del Monte, Estee Lauder, Google, Hertz, Hitachi, IBM, KPMG, Lincoln Financial, Magna PowerTrain, Merrill Lynch, the NBA, the NFL, Office Depot, Penske, State Farm Insurance, Sunoco, US Trust, and Wyndham Worldwide; health care and biopharma organizations such as GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Penn Medicine; public and not for profit corporations such as the OECD, World Economic Forum and the United Nations; as well as to small entrepreneurial organizations. The focus of her research expertise, speaking and consulting practice is organizational culture, emotional intelligence, unconscious bias, organizational change, teamwork and leadership.

If you have any comments or questions about the evolving economic landscape and how it is impacting the CRE space, our experts are available and fully operational to help. Additionally, if you have topics you would like covered during one of our future webcasts, we would be happy to take your suggestions.

Webcast Transcript

Willy Walker: Thanks, Susan, and good morning and welcome to the Walker Webcast. A couple notes and comments before I dive into my discussion with today's wonderful guests. 

First is, we announced last week, we've launched a podcast to allow people to listen to the Walker Webcast on replay if they happen to miss the live webcast. The new podcast is called Driven by Insight and you can listen to it on all major podcast platforms. I re-listened to my discussion with Ivy Zelman on the podcast this week and must say that Ivy's insights into single-family, single-family rental and multifamily is exceptional and well worth a listen. 

Second, we have the CEOs of Boston Properties and Equity Residential joining me next week to discuss how their properties in major U.S. cities are holding up during the pandemic and what they see ahead in 2021 as the vaccine gets distributed and people will return to the office and urban living. I know that will be a wonderful conversation with my friends Owen Thomas and Mark Parrell.

Third, there are a number of announcements last week from the Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that I'd like to comment on. First, FHFA announced the 2021 multifamily lending caps at $60 billion each for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We see this as a positive announcement that should give both GSEs plenty of capital for the multifamily lending in 2021. Second, FHFA established their new capital rule for the GSEs, we view the capital levels required under FHFA’s rulemaking to be excessive. And believe that due to these capital levels being so high that FHFA has hindered their ability to attract private capital to the GSEs and therefore slowed down their stated goal of ending conservatorship.

Third, there were a number of executive departures from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced last week. While the two executives at Fannie Mae are both on the single-family side we have worked with Andrew Bon Salle for many years and appreciate his long career at Fannie Mae. The announced departure of David Brickman, CEO of Freddie Mac, is disappointing as David is an exceptional leader and built Freddie Mac's multifamily business into the largest provider of capital to the multifamily industry prior to assuming his role as CEO. We have no doubt that Freddie Mac's board will find a fantastic new CEO and have great faith in Debbie Jenkins and Freddie Mac's multifamily team to continue being the leader they are in the multifamily lending arena. I would like to thank David personally for all he has done for Freddie Mac and our industry over his many years at Freddie. David is an exceptional professional leader and friend, and we wish him well in the next chapter of his prolific career. 

Finally, let me turn to the macro economy for a second and then we'll dive into our discussion. With the Dow right around 30,000 and the 10-year around 86 basis points, those are welcome, if not surprising price points. Spreads continue to be extremely tight in pricing on agency paper. We've seen a significant number of debt capital market participants returned to the lending markets after exiting in Q2 and Q3. And we're seeing multifamily investment sales activity pick up dramatically with deep bidder lists and exceptionally high pricing and low cap rates on the properties we are selling. Multifamily and industrial, the two commercial real estate asset classes that provide investors with attractive returns and predictable cash flows today. And as a result, equity capital is chasing supply and driving cap rates down, and until there is clarity around rents and supply for hospitality, retail, and office properties, it will continue to be a seller's market for owners of multifamily and industrial.

Let me now transition to my two guests. As I wrote to all of my colleagues at Walker & Dunlop yesterday, when we have billionaire investors like Barry Sternlicht on the Walker Webcast thousands of people listen in thinking they might hear a tip or a comment that will turn them on to the investment of a lifetime. But as we all know that rarely happens, albeit various insights on the markets are always fascinating. 

But my two guests today are experts in human interaction, emotional Intelligence, conflict management, and other soft skills that make all the difference in establishing and maintaining corporate culture. And as Amy and Sigal will tell us, it is those companies that have professionals who know how to communicate, how to deal with conflict, and have high emotional intelligence that succeed in the long term. So it's actually this discussion that determines where the money is made. So thanks for joining us. And let's dive in. 

Quick bios on my two guests, and then we'll go. Amy Gallo is an expert in conflict communication and workplace dynamics. She's the author of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) guide to dealing with conflict. And as a contributing editor at the Harvard Business Review. Amy is currently co-host of HBR Women at Work podcast. She has taught at Brown University and has degrees from both Brown and Yale University. 

Sigal Barsade is the Joseph Frank Bernstein Professor of Management at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Barsade is an expert in emotional intelligence, organizational culture, and team dynamics. She received a BA from UCLA and her PhD from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. 

So, there is so much territory to cover with the two of you and I am deeply appreciative having both of you with me. I want to start with disappointment management. Throughout the Covid pandemic beyond the very real pain that is hit families across the country that have either lost a loved one or dealt with the physical challenges of the virus, along with the financial impact on businesses and individuals, we have all been disappointed by a postponed vacation, a canceled graduation, or a loss by one of our candidates in the November 3rd elections. 

Amy, you recently wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review on disappointment management. I guess I want to start with what's been your greatest personal disappointment during Covid and how did you deal with it? And then we'll get to the theoretical. But what's been the biggest disappointment for you?

Amy Gallo: Oh, there is a list for sure and my mind, of course, immediately goes to the professional disappointments as someone who speaks in front of live audiences, you know, my entire work for 2020 evaporated in a week in mid-March, and that was terrifying. I was very fortunate that a lot of it came back. But when you ask me the biggest disappointment, I have to say it's been, it was this summer. Each summer, my mom is retired and lives by the beach and each summer my family of three goes and relocates and we live with her, which is just a wonderful multi-generational experience, where my daughter gets spent tons of time with her. I get to spend tons of time with my mom, and we weren't able to do that this year. So that's been --it was a real point of sadness for everyone. My mom, my daughter, me and you know really what I tried to focus on was the fact that it was temporary; that this was not going to be permanent. This was not a threat to our relationship or to, you know, our sense of fun or, you know, to my daughter's childhood. This was just a disappointment and even using that word to frame it has been really, really helpful for me.

Willy Walker: Sigal I'll turn you with the same question biggest disappointment during Covid and how'd you deal with it. 

Dr. Sigal Barsade: So you know, it's funny, it must be a parent theme. Because for a variety of reasons we haven't seen them longer than usual, and so because of Covid we're now at like a year and a half without seeing my parents. And not being able to see my husband's mom who lives alone, and you know like those are definitely the disappointments. But you know, it's interesting about disappointment because one of the things, and I'm sure Amy's going to get into this too, that the research literature talks about disappointments. When you're disappointed the primary feeling you have is of powerlessness. The feeling the cognition of missing out and then the behavior that people normally respond to disappointment with is actually turning away from the disappointment and trying to find other things. 

What's happened and I think that this is part of what's leading to in the States, at minimum, this possible health crisis we're about to have tomorrow, if not today, is that in our desire to turn away, and to not miss out, not everybody does what Amy says, which is like, okay, it's temporary they kind of cognitively reframe. Instead, what they're doing is they're turning away, but by saying, you know what, I'm just not going to think about the disappointment of Covid and I'm going to try to carry on which can then lead to kind of risky behavior.

And one thing I would want to say about that Willy, is that absolutely disappointment management is huge, but much of what I've been looking at this time period, both personally and professionally, is anxiety management. Because I think one of the biggest things that happened now in this pandemic is, we've all been thrown into this situation of anxiety. We don't know the right things to do. And normal decisions like, you know, when I go to the supermarket, am I safe? Do I let my kids do a sleep over? Do you go to the optometrist? I mean very normal life events, each one now is an explicit cognitive calculus to something that used to just be natural. And I think the anxiety management is one of the biggest issues in this time period.

Willy Walker: And Amy along those lines, when you think about the news of the vaccine that came out two weeks ago, how much does the dynamic shift? Because I'm going back to comments that both you and Sigal made as it relates to missed family events, sort of the summertime, where we didn't know If this was going to be a year or five years or ever for that matter. And now all of a sudden, we know we have a vaccine that's come in. What can we take from that as it relates to the next time we're all confronted with a disappointing situation as it relates to trying to look beyond the here and now and look to the future?

Amy Gallo: Yeah. Well, there's two sides to this. One, knowing that there is an end in sight. However, we want to define the end of this, of this virus. I think we don't all know what that will look like, but with the vaccine on the horizon, that reappraisal I was talking about of, well, this is temporary. I'll be able to do this next summer. Or next Thanksgiving is going to look entirely different, is much easier, right, because it feels much more of a certainty. The challenges, the benefit of negative emotions, whether it's disappointment, anxiety, anger is they actually point out what the difference between what we want and what we're getting which motivates us to take action. So that's when those emotions can be good right. Guilt isn't a useful emotion, unless it causes you do something differently about the current situation or about a future situation. Right. Same with disappointment. 

Like if you're bracing for a disappointment, if either something in your control as Sigal was alluding to, that you can do differently, that's great. Stay home, wear a mask, whatever it is that can help you prevent the disappointment from coming is good. The problem with the vaccine on the horizon is I think some people think, well, it's almost here. I can let down my guard. I don't have to be disappointed because it's almost here. Some of us can get sick. And then the vaccine will be okay. So I think there's two sides to it. You know, these negative emotions brought about by the pandemic can be focused on us taking action on things that we can control. But if we don't feel motivated to take those actions, we end up either wallowing in negative emotion or we, you know, or we let our let our guard down which can be really dangerous.

Dr. Sigal Barsade: I'd love to actually add to that because the problem is people are sick of being disappointed. And that the actions that you're going to take, the actions to deal with disappointment are different than the actions, you're going to take for anxiety. And ultimately, the best action that most people can take right now is inaction. I don't know if you guys have seen it, but the German Government, not always known for its amazing sense of humor, but in this case, put out this incredible video where they had this guy in a, like many years from now saying, I remember the winter of 2020. And it was, you know, it was so hard, and you know they have the crescendo music in the back and almost like war like scenes and we were called on for action. And we did. And then what we did was, and there's this big crescendo was like absolutely nothing, we laid on our couches. We drank beer. We didn't move. And the thing is, that was so challenging in this time period right now, is that the best action for a while, is not doing the things that were disappointed about not doing. And that's such a complex psychological dynamic. And I think that that's why, frankly, we're seeing airports at the bursting today in the worst of the pandemic that we have seen since the beginning. I think it helps to make the inexplicable explicable but, you know, but people have to per what Amy said, this is not the time to let your guard down

Willy Walker: Yep. As someone said to me, don't be the person who gets the virus two weeks before you get the vaccine. In other words, you know, it's almost here. Hang on. 

Amy behind disappointment is typically some type of conflict. Your fiancé wanted to hold a small wedding last summer and you wanted to wait till next summer to do the full monty. You don't really think the virus is a major threat to your kids, yet your school keeps getting the kids school keeps getting shut down and you feel like zapping off an email to the headmaster saying, why do you keep shutting this thing down. You wrote the HBR guide to dealing with conflict. Let's start with this question: Is conflict, always a bad thing?

Amy Gallo: Absolutely not. I mean, those conflicts that you're describing Willy are so interesting because I remember April and May as these like lovely time periods where we're all at home. There was no question about what you would do and what you wouldn't do. Who would make what call because it was clear; we were supposed to stay home. And so there wasn't that social friction of is it okay to travel for Thanksgiving. Is it okay to wear my mask, right. So, we are at this really interesting time period where the rules aren't clear, and we are constantly having conflict, not only with, you know, people we might run into at the grocery store, but with our very closest family members and friends. 

Now the good thing is conflicts can be very positive if they are geared toward, you know, especially in the work context, for example, getting better work outcomes. Have innovation, right. There's lots of things that if you and another person. don't see eye to eye and you have to hash it out. You have to share your assumptions that you've made. You know you can produce better work as a result. I mean, if you think about it, teams that in which there is zero conflict are probably not creating the best work, right. They're not creating new ideas. You know, things are probably just going along smoothly and fine. But often what we see is what Patrick Lencioni wrote The Five Dysfunctions of a Team calls artificial harmony, where we act as if we're getting along but there's all this underlying resentment or disagreement or people use gossip or back channels to actually express those disagreements. So there are a lot of benefits. And one of the things when you think about the personal conflicts, like the wedding conflict, you mentioned, is it allows us to clarify and articulate our values. One of the things that you handle conflict productively is that you're going to have to get to the underlying assumptions that you are thinking and are making as the other person is going to have to too, and that can be really clarifying for a relationship or for you personally, you know, as an individual.

Willy Walker: Sigal will you comment on what Amy just said, as it relates to conflict, creating creativity, if you will, in the work environment and that friction is actually very productive to, if you will, driving and pushing at a point to try and figure out where you are at and without that we in the corporate world are missing sort of a very important element to creativity and moving organizations forward.

Dr. Sigal Barsade: Yeah so. So basically what the research literature shows about conflict is that we tend to think of conflict very monolithically but that actually there are different types of conflict. And normally when we talk about conflict, the type of conflict we’re thinking about is something called Relationship Conflict which its personal, it has to do with each other. There's also Status Conflict when we're jockeying for status. There's Process Conflict, how we're going to do stuff. And then there's Task Conflict. And what the work primarily done by Eddie Jenner [sic] and colleagues has shown is that the conflict that is really useful for example for creativity and innovation, and actually, she has a wonderful article on innovative project teams. And what they actually show there is that teams that had greater task conflict... So that's like, should we do this this design? Should we do that design? Those are actually the teams that were more effective and productive and the teams that had high relationship conflict really tanked. But, there's a problem. And this comes out of my work on emotions which is pretty reliably meta analyses, which means like studies of studies will show that one of the strongest findings is that actually positive emotions lead to the greatest creativity. And in fact, I have a study with Teresa Amabile actually at Harvard, that we and our other colleagues showed, that over time on innovative project teams, day one positive affect predicted day two, and day three creativity and innovation. So this is the rub. If you're doing Task Conflict, then it's wonderful. And actually good Task Conflict, in a safe team, can actually lead to positive emotions. But the other thing we know is that Task Conflict very often slips into Relationship Conflict. And then you get negative emotions and they absolutely kill productivity. So as managers and leaders, you have this really challenging task of you want to keep the task conflict up. You don't want with Amy talked about, you know, the artificial niceness, you want the task conflict. But you gotta keep it from going into relationship conflict. Because otherwise it will kill the team and it will kill your creativity.

Willy Walker: So Amy, if I say, okay, I'm not going to avoid the conflict because as you just said, you know, conflict not only is it needed, it's also in many instances beneficial. So I haven't just sort of said, you know, I'm just not going to deal with that. And I'm going to let whatever issue that's been bugging me or that isn't making us productive sit out there and I'm going to go do it.  if someone decides to address the conflict directly, can you outline a couple steps that we all ought to take as we kind of approach that conversation with somebody? First of all, I know personally, I you know I hate it when I know that I've got a sticky conversation coming up with somebody and I want to do everything I can to sort of get myself mentally prepared to deal with however, he or she is going to react to the feedback I give them, or the issue that's bothering me. So how do, how does somebody walk through the steps to get yourself prepared for that conversation?

Amy Gallo: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the one of the biggest things is, you know, Willy you mentioned, is like I'm dreading this conversation. When you're dreading a conversation and you show up to that conversation, the other person usually picks up on the fact that you do not want to be having the conversation. So you're immediately sending signals of this is uncomfortable, or oftentimes that even gets interpreted as I don't like you. Right. And so one of the best things you can do is to really check your mindset before going into the conversation. And rather than dread or you know discomfort is there something you're actually curious about? Is there something you want to learn from this conversation that you don't know? And it can't be, I'm curious why this person is acting like a jerk. Like that's not again, you're going to bring that negative energy in to the conversation. What don't you know about the situation? What assumptions have you made that might be wrong? I mean, I think, one of the best frameworks to go into or frame of mind rather to go into the conversation is where might I be wrong, right. Because that that immediately assumes you have something to learn from the other person. 

I also find it personally helpful to try to get myself unhooked from the story that I've been telling myself about the conflict. Because we often interpret the conflict as a threat, a threat to our resources, a threat to our identity, a threat to our ego, or to the project we're working on. And when we have that sense of threat, we try to make a story that that makes sense of that. And the story is often biased toward you and your interpretation of the events and not very generous to the other person. Or might be really detrimental to you, right, you might be beating yourself up over this when you don't need to. So not only try to think of through what's going on here for me what's going on for the other person. What might their goal be. What are they trying to achieve here? But ask yourself, what else could be a reasonable explanation for this potential conflict. Why else might this be happening. And I think coming up with several different stories that are rational, logical is a good way to get you sort of unhooked or unwedded to your interpretation of the events, because chances are you're not seeing it absolutely clearly, and there are multiple perspectives. 

You also want to think through, how are you going to have the conversation. What are the messages you want to make sure the other person hears? What questions do you want to ask the other person? And you also want to make sure, because we're sort of projecting a lot of discomfort about this, we also want to make sure we choose the right time in the right place to have it. And you know, oftentimes we think, well, I'll just tack this on to that end of that other meeting we have. It will just go quickly that way and then it will be over. But oftentimes, we need to leave more space and time because these things can get tricky and you want to make sure that you're navigating it. You know with space. With the ability to hear what the other person has to say. Make sure your message has been heard. The other thing, that space sometimes is several conversations. So don't think this is going to be one and done right, that you're going to just have a quick 15-minute conversation going to resolve it. Great, if that works. But be open to the fact that you might have an initial conversation. It might not go that well or it might go in a different direction than you expected. And then you're going to need to come back to it. And sometimes you have to come back to it multiple times and talk about disappointment. When I'm dreading a difficult conversation and it's not done in the hour I set aside, it really makes me makes me upset. So knowing the expectation that this could take several times for us to get through it. And you know, we may need to bring in other people or other information. Just going in with as few sort of wedded expectations as possible, I think is really the right mindset.

Willy Walker: Sigal, Amy talks about sort of checking your own mindset and then also thinking about the situation from your counter party’s perspective. And trying to understand why he or she is acting the way that they are. That sounds a lot to me like emotional intelligence. You're an expert in emotional intelligence. Of all the things that Amy just talked through, how do we get ourselves from an EQ standpoint. I think about getting ready for a presentation. I'm going to go do all the homework I can on my client, I'm gonna have all my numbers right that's IQ. I'm going into that meeting, trying to say I'm as smart as you're going to find on this issue. Now we're talking about EQ. What are some of the things that we can do to enhance our EQ before we head into one of those kinds of types of conversations?

Dr. Sigal Barsade: Well actually it's so funny. As Amy was speaking, I was like, wow, this is like, just like a lot of the big meta emotional intelligence, you know, primer. Because it hits on so many, so many pieces, and actually Willy, your example about prepping for the meeting, it's actually identically the example I give when I teach emotional intelligence. I'm like look, you would never go into a meeting with your PowerPoints, you know, I'm going to wing the numbers. I mean, I really experienced I can answer questions in real time really well. But that'd be crazy right. But we do it all the time as it relates to the interpersonal aspects of the interactions we're having. 

And so I think that, I mean, almost every step of what Amy outlined; but one thing I would pick up on in terms of perspective taking for example, is so emotional intelligence has three components to it. The first is your ability to read other people's emotions and express yours effectively. So like Amy's point, and I think it's so interesting because it's about, like, well, how are you coming across. Because if you're coming across like tense, that's already going to set the stage and we'll talk later also why physiologically, it's going to set the stage. But also, your ability to read other people's emotions is going to help you get their perspective, because you can tell like which direction the conversation is going in. 

The second step of emotional intelligence is your ability to understand other people's emotions. Your ability to understand, if I'm unfair, they're going to get angry or, you know, or if I seem distant, they're going to be distant. And perspective taking is probably the very best way we have in to understand other people's emotions. And Amy outlined, she outlined beautifully the kind of things that you would do to help you really get other people's perspective Because what we tend to do is, we tend to climb something called the ladder of inference which is when we see a behavior, let's say, and this has been such a challenge in the virtual time, you know, we're on Zoom, you're looking away, and I assume that you're looking away because you're actually uninterested and then I'm like, oh, he's uninterested and then I make a belief about that. He's not a good team player. And then I make a conclusion about that. Well, he's not somebody I want to work with. And then, you know, you kind of fly up that ladder without going back to the data and talking about the data. People have conflict at the conclusion level. But they should be having conflict at the data level. 

And then finally there's emotional regulation, which is your ability to change your own emotion. But then you get mad at something that's going on. You need to be able to regulate yourself so you can keep that conversation going and also regulate the emotion of the other people. But probably the most practical tip I can give everybody listening right now, whatever you do, do not do this over email or text. There is absolutely no way you can handle the subtlety and the information and it's like it's like driving with a blindfold. It's very dangerous and not recommended. So, you know that that is probably the most practical thing and people want to do it. They want to do it by email and text. Because and you know when you do this right, you shoot this email, you're like, well, maybe they won't do it as conflictual that I'm asking them to work another 20 hours, pay them nothing more, and do it over the holidays. But you know, it's still, it doesn't work.

Amy Gallo: When I hear people say, well, I'm better at articulating myself in writing so it's going to be -- but articulating yourself is not a conversation, right. I think we know from lots of reasons that the new you cannot convey emotional nuance in an email the same way you can with voice or with body language. And you know I like to say, you can use all the emojis in the world, but you are not going to say the same thing you would say with your facial expressions.

Willy Walker: So Amy, one of the things that you advise people to do is to look for patterns. And I, I went and did something called The Process at the Hoffman Institute out in California a number of years ago, which basically trains you to think back on your own patterns and patterns that you developed as a kid and trying to what they call find negative love from your parents. But you build up these habits that in many instances are very good, they make you who you are. And they're also in some instances, bad that you picked up some habit that got you that negative love from your parent by playing into either being passive aggressive or by trying to keep up with the Joneses or whatever that kind of piece to your personality that might strike someone wrong in the office. And one of the keys that you talk about is identifying patterns in others, as you're dealing with conflict. Can you give some tips on pattern identification and how to keep those in mind as you as you run through these issues?

Amy Gallo: Yeah, I mean, one of the patterns. I think you really want to identify for yourself before even thinking about the other person is how do you typically handle conflict. So when you are in a stressful situation and what we call the stress response or what is your default reaction. And I'll tell you there's a chapter in my book about this and it was the chapter I was most hesitant about because I do realize it's an oversimplification of what we know in terms of how people react. But it's the chapter people most often talk to me about, which is that the distinction is your default reaction to avoid. So when something comes are you really quickly focused on the relationship and whether, you know, whether you're going to lose that relationship. Whether there's going to be a disruption of the harmony in your relationship and you therefore want to, you know, in the fight or flight model, do you want to flee, right. Or are you someone who leans in, are you someone who really actively wants to engage in that conflict and maybe even stirs up conflict because that feels comfortable to you, that's what you're used to. And that’s the fight in the fight or flight and I think you want to know how it is that you tend to react when you are under that stress of a conflict. Now of course it's not... it's a spectrum. It's not going to be the same in every interaction. But knowing what your default is helps you understand, well, you know, the idea that I just want to send an email and get out of this, is part of my default reaction to avoid conflict. So maybe I should think more closely about what's the right response here because neither of those responses are good or bad, necessarily, depending on the conflict and depending on the situation. You know, at the same time you want to look for those patterns in others to. Is this someone -- you know if someone hasn't responded to your email, who generally is pretty responsive, like what's going on there. Is this a separation from what they typically do, an anomaly, or is this something that you've seen happens when conflicts, you know, this person is usually responsive. But then when conflict comes up, they just disappear, right. And that can help you so you're not building stories. But you have to again be careful. The pattern recognition is helpful if you use it in a productive way. But if you tell yourself, you know, Lou is a passive aggressive jerk every time you're like, that's not going to help you. Right, so you really want to look for patterns that help you approach it in a positive way of how can I sort of solve this problem. How can we, together, solve this problem that we're facing.

Willy Walker: Sigal, anything you want to add to Amy's comments there as it relates to identifying patterns and sort of EQ as you as you deal with sticky situations.

Dr. Sigal Barsade: Well, the, you know, it got me thinking a lot about something called Attribution Theory, which is that we are continuously trying to make sense of our name through the attribution that we made. And that that part of Attribution Theory, the pattern part, is saying, okay, well, that person was a jerk to me but, you know, they're a jerk to everybody. Or, you know, they're never a jerk to anybody or me another big jerk, something must be really wrong. And I think, though, the problem with these attributions is that we have something called the cynical attribution error which is we tend unfortunately to attribute negative motives and intent to people, more than we should. I have a study that showed that when somebody does something like that turns out bad for you, you are more likely to blame them, then when somebody does something nice for you, then you are to give them credit for it. When somebody says something nice for you you're more likely say, oh, they want something back or you know that it was easy for them. But when something turns out badly, it's like they are a terrible person. And so again, these are almost like our cognitive biases that the best way is to do what the folks who are listening now is you hear about them, you learn about them, and you try to avoid them.

Amy Gallo: Well, the same thing with the attribution when you are interpreting something, a mistake someone else has made, it's usually because of them, right. You believe they made the mistake. When you make a mistake, you think about the circumstances, right. It's the intention. versus you assign them a lot of intention, whereas for you, it's, you know, the intention, you're much more generous in your interpretation of your own intentions.

Dr. Sigal Barsade: And if we would just be as generous with other people as we are with ourselves, in terms of the interpretation, all of our lives would be a lot more pleasant actually.

Willy Walker: Yeah, and Amy when dealing with conflict and then I want to move on to a bunch of the work that Sigal is done as it relates to corporate culture and how to spread positive corporate culture, but on the conflict side of things.  You mentioned sort of the four drivers of conflict in the work environment. And, you know, one of them is on task. So if I disagree with you on how we get to a certain task accomplished. That drives conflict. There's process. Where if I don't think getting that task done that way is the right way to do it, I'm going to argue with you over process. Then their status. Where you might be telling me what the process is supposed to be, but I don't think that you have the right to tell me how to do it.  Those three things seem to be a) in some instances, their petty, but we know they always happen, and b) you can kind of get through them But your fourth one is personality. It's just relationships. It's, I just don't like Amy. How do we deal with I just don't like Amy?

Amy Gallo: Yeah. Well, and this is what Sigal was talking about earlier about the different types. The task process can be really productive. Relationship conflicts rarely have any positive benefits because as Sigal said they generate these negative emotions. And I can tell you for me, what I noticed, and these are some of the hardest conflicts that in my experience to resolve because they do feel, for a lot of people, they feel innate, right. Like I just, we have a personality difference. Or we just will never get along, right. Like they just feel so personal and so, unmovable. And a couple things I try to tell myself when I'm dealing with someone who is, you know, with whom I have a personality conflict, one of which is that I can only control what I can control. So, I can't change the fact that this person behaves that way. Or reacts negatively every time we bring this topic up. But what I can control is my reaction to that. And my reaction to that is often feeding the negative dynamic between us. 

So, there's actually some really great work done by a woman named Jen Goldman-Wetzler that looks at, can you take a pattern breaking action that will actually change the dynamic between you? So, if you have an ongoing relationship conflict with someone where you do one thing, they do the other, it goes back and forth, back and forth, right. Think for example if you propose a new idea, and that other person says, well, we've already tried that. Like, that's a classic what feels like a relationship conflict. That person’s just a pessimist, and I'm an optimist. I'm innovative they're stuck in their ways. It just, it feels very personal. So is there a way you can take an action that would change that dynamic. So could you be the one who says no, this would never work. Like, would that help take you out of that polarization so that person actually, is forced to take a different perspective. I think one of the mistakes we make is that we, if we just pointed out to people all their negative attributes obviously, they would want to change. And that's just not true. I can tell you that from lots of personal relationships. Showing someone's their faults does not necessarily motivate them to change. 

So really, again, trying to change your, your reaction to it and truthfully one of the things that really helps me at the end of the day, is saying to myself is that this person's punishment for this negative action you know behavior or this personality trait that's really irritating bothering or hindering to our work is that they have to wake up as themselves every single day and I get to wake up as me. And that's great and really trying to sort of separate yourself from trying to solve them. And rather just focus on, you know what, what I can bring to the situation is my positive attitude, my distance from them because I may have to work with them, but I don't have to get along with them necessarily. And really some reappraisal, this does not have to define my work experience. This does not have to define our team's experience. I can still continue to live my values and live what I believe in these interactions, even if this person is behaving the way they are.

Willy Walker: So, let me take it out of the work context for a second and take it down to the family context that many of us will face tomorrow. It was one of the things that we put on the invite to this discussion, which is that Aunt Sally voted for Biden and Uncle Joe voted for Donald Trump. You're either with Aunt Sally or Uncle Joe and you're sitting around the table. You're not going to change them, and someone might make a comment and go to whichever side of the extreme you want. How do we deal with that? I honestly last -- in 2017 and 2018 I would constantly hear anecdotes of family members who sort of moved from one side of the table to the other side of the table now. Somebody who'd been a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party who now is supporting Donald Trump. And somebody who was a card-carrying member of the Republican Party now saying I can't believe what Trump's doing. All of this sort of changing seats. How do you deal with this because it's not like you leave -- it's not like going into the office dealing with someone from a conflict standpoint and then saying, okay, it's all good and great. These are issues that a) run very deep and b) as you just said, we're not going to change that person and their belief. So how do you deal with that?

Amy Gallo: Yeah. I think you have to ask yourself, what is your goal here. Because is this, you know, are you seeing Aunt Sally once a year at Thanksgiving and you just need to get through the dinner and move on with your life. Or is this someone who you need to see regularly, who is influencing other people in your family with their viewpoint, like what is it you actually want to achieve, and that will really determine how you choose to interact. I mean changing the subject is a really great tactic. There's no reason you have to talk about politics, especially if you know it's going to result in a fight. And you can say, you know, we've talked about this before, we don't see eye to eye, let's talk about the kids. Let's talk about your work. Let's talk about anything. You know, it's fine to not -- you don't have to engage in that conversation if your goal isn't to have an ongoing relationship without telling. 

And I'll tell you I have people in my life, with whom I have relationships with, I know we don't see eye to eye.  The challenge really becomes, and where I get concerned, is that some of these political perspectives for certain people feel really dehumanizing and so to tell someone to empathize or to engage in a conversation in which their sense of self is threatened, I think about you know, my sister in law, who married a black Muslim man and has you know black Muslim children. She has an aunt on her side of the family who's, who's incredibly anti Muslim and she says, you know, for my mom to tell me to be empathetic to this Aunt, it feels dehumanizing to me. And I have to say, I see that perspective. 

So again, it's sort of deciding what is it you want to achieve. Being realistic about that. I don't know if you're going to change Aunt Sally’s perspective, as you said Willy, being realistic about what is it you want. What can you engage in in a way that feels true to your values, true to your sense of self. Also, you know, one of your values may be spending time with family. So maybe you need to prioritize that value in that moment, rather than your, your value around fairness and equity which someone else might not feel is as important. And so it's really deciding for that specific situation. And remember, letting people say things that you don't agree with is not -- that doesn't have to be the end of the world. I think sometimes we think, well, if someone says something I have to speak up, and certainly if someone is feeling threatened or someone is unsafe absolutely, you need you need to speak up. And oftentimes in the work context, you have an obligation. But sometimes you can just let Uncle Joe or whoever go on about their politics and just say, interesting. Okay, can you pass the gravy.

Willy Walker: Yeah, I was gonna say they are family after all, we have to say something. Right? We’ve been around them our entire lives we can't let them get away with saying that I've been listening to that my entire life.

Amy Gallo: Yeah, I will say, I do want to point out that there is, you know, people often when people do change their mind, it is often because of something that happened to them with someone close to them. So there is, if you believe, like there is an opportunity to change people's perspective and very likely, they might do that because of an experience they have with you, if you are a close family member. So, I wouldn't say avoid politics altogether. But if the history is these political discussions cause huge ruptures in your family and that's not what you want. You know, yeah, change the subject. 

Willy Walker: Sigal we're talking a little bit here about to some degree emotional norms. You know, we are talking about an emotional norm around a Thanksgiving table tomorrow. But there's also emotional norms inside the corporate environment. And we're all now in this virtual corporate environment and virtual personal environment in the sense that many of us aren't going to be seeing family members tomorrow we're going to be doing a Zoom call for our Thanksgiving conversation. Are there emotional norms in the virtual world and are they any different from emotional norms in the physical office?

Dr. Sigal Barsade: Yeah, so, when we talk about organizational culture, you know, if I was to say to you, organizational culture, you know, most people know what that is. And usually what they focus on for organizational culture is what I call cognitive culture which are norms and values around how you should think at work, and when the boss isn't around. But what my colleagues and I have been doing a lot of research about in the in the past 10 years or so is emotional culture. These emotional norms which are norms and values around what emotions should you be expressing. And what are those that you're better off not expressing. And again, Amy's example around the dinner table, show some of that, right. Because you might be in a family that actually has the norm of, we do not show strong emotions ever. And so you're gonna, you know, you're gonna have a very different conversation than a family that's like, yes, and we hash everything out and we don't just allow anger, we have a culture of anger. And that's considered more acceptable. 

And the reason that this winds up being so important is that we are finding that this emotional culture predicts as well and sometimes even better than these cognitive norms, we spend so much time with. And so, um, but what has happened in the virtual setting is that one of the downsides of the virtual setting is that we really get our shared affective experiences dampened because again video is, you know, it's better than email and it's better than phone but it doesn't allow for as much of the processes that happen in shared emotion. And one of the biggest processes that happens in shared emotion is actually the process of emotional contagion; that we literally catch emotions from one another, automatically, it's a largely automatic process and it's due to behavioral mimicry. And then we actually start to feel the emotions. The problem with these cameras that we're dealing with is that much of that happens in the nonverbal. And in the virtual environment as we talked about before, there can be a lot of misunderstanding about what's going on. It's harder to read people. And the automaticity, is also really, really a problem. 

And so actually, you know, a lot of the things I'm advising companies right now is that they have to become much more explicit about these norms.  They have to talk about how are we going to engage? How are we going to argue? If I go back to your first topic about conflict. You know, how are we going to, what kind of emotions do we want to show? And the thing about this, and I'd be curious with your listeners, is that, you know, we're moving more and more to understanding. That one of my biggest things is you get nothing else out of it is that emotions are not noise in our interactions. They are data. And they are data about not only how people feel, but how they think and how they're going to behave. And if you're not paying attention to people's emotions, you're playing with one hand tied behind your back. I mean I'm not saying don't prep for that meeting cognitively, but you got to prep for it emotionally as well. 

And so, virtually, you've got to be even clearer about that, even if that might make some people uncomfortable. I mean, I'm sure there's some people listening to this thing. Are you kidding? I barely talked about emotions to my family. I'm not going to talk about the work, you know. I'm not saying you have to like over share, but you have to get this collective regulation, what kind of team are we? Are we a team that's enthusiastic, positive, hopeful, you know, whatever you think is going to make you most effective in your environment. And then what kind of emotions are we going to try to avoid but if they happen let's pay attention to what they're telling us.

Willy Walker: So how, how can we do that? Your comment there about emotions not being noise but being data is a fascinating and fantastic frame. It's something that, quite honestly, I think many business leaders would sit there – you, in one of your previous webcast that I listened to talk about a regional bank CEO that you interviewed and you sort of said, tell me about the emotional culture inside your bank and he sort of looked at you with this blank stare, and said there's no place for emotions inside of our bank.  Which I thought was hysterical. But so many managers and leaders if you said emotions are data and not noise all of a sudden, say, well, I know I need to be good on data. Like data is what drives my business. Everyone's headed towards data, everyone's saying, can I get machine learning and AI to run my business. How can we create emotional databases as managers and leaders that make us successful at running our organizations?

Dr. Sigal Barsade: So the first thing is you gotta acknowledge that that's what they are. And that it makes -- because it's happening both individually and collectively. But employees tend to pay attention to what their managers are paying attention to and what their leaders are paying attention to. And so, so much of the emotions as data side it starts with the leader. And it starts with the leaders like view that oh wait, this matters; and I'm going to show people that this matter through my behavior. So they role model it. They, they say, wow, you know, hey, you know, Willy you you're looking a little distracted. Or, you know, or they or they share for example, in this time period -- one of the things to really help people feel more connected in the virtual world is it leaders are becoming a little bit more vulnerable about saying how they feel about what's going on. And in fact, in that vein Willy, I have to say I was left with the question from the beginning, which is you asked us about what our biggest disappointment was I was curious about what your biggest disappointment was.

Willy Walker: Yeah, so I think on both sides of it, it was sort of a disappointment and an anxiety piece -- and that just went to -- after the election was over I was perfectly fine with the legal process taking place to make sure that the vote count was done well. But when we move beyond that into where I really sensed that we could be headed towards some type of civil unrest. I got very anxious about that and I got very upset and disappointed about our society getting to a point where civil unrest might start to crop up. And so, it was kind of that combination of, I wasn't disappointed the legal process took its time and it needed to. But once the legal process had sort of done its thing the idea of kind of challenging the results on nothing other than just, I don't like them seem to be pushing us in an area that caused, at least for me, this latent anxiety and sort of everything that I was doing because I was really afraid that we might start to see civil unrest across the country that would obviously cause further problems.

Dr. Sigal Barsade: Yeah, and again, you know, you have to think about the boundary of the lines between you and your employees. But I think being open and being able to share more of that is something that really helps to role model it. And then what I would say, and you know, we're seeing this so much more now is companies need to recognize it emotional intelligence matters. And you know I do a ton of work and training for companies around emotional intelligence. And when I started this work, many years ago, there was, there was less of it and now companies are like, oh yeah, our people need to know what emotional intelligence is. And then you teach the skill sets, you know, I know a lot of things that Amy's been talking about, and the funniest thing is that the hardest part about change. We know people can change their emotional intelligence. But the most important part of it is not the training, the training is pretty easy. We're not trying to turn everybody into Gandhi. All right, this is just to kind of get better. What actually, the hard part is, is the motivation. You're only going to get better if you want to. And that's where the culture also comes in. Because I've seen cultures that say yes, we care about emotional intelligence and this matters to us. And then, who gets promoted the people who are exercising none of it. Who are stomping on everyone else and bringing those resources into the organization. Now that's a choice of decision makers, but don't say that you're about emotional intelligence. So you want to reward the people who are behaving in these ways that make everybody more effective.

Amy Gallo: And I think you and really, I see this the same thing Sigal my work, where people will want and they'll say, you know, after training or afterwards that this is so helpful. I'm not sure I'm going to do any of it. Because, as you said, there's no, there's no motivation. And I think, you know, anytime you send a notice about someone being promoted. Or you make a decision to highlight a team's work, don't just highlight the results, highlight the behaviors, the emotions everything they used to do that and really call out emotional intelligence skills as a reason that they were able to have that success. And there's a reason they're being recognized. Because that is going to, as Sigal said, give people the motivation to follow through on many of these things which we instinctively know are helpful to ourselves and to others, but oftentimes we just because of that myth that emotions are noise and not data. We just dismiss.

Dr. Sigal Barsade: Just one last thing on the strongest things I do with groups is I actually have them, and this is something that any of you can do with your people back in the office, is I actually have them think about the most emotionally intelligent thing they've ever seen at work and what was the business outcome in the least and what was the business outcome... And when you start sharing those stories you see that EI is not a nice to have, it is an absolute must have for successful performance. And so if you can call that out that's very helpful.

Willy Walker: They're just two quick things that I would add from the Walker & Dunlop perspective that kind of pulled together a lot of what you've both talked about. We've been wildly productive during Covid as it relates to processing loans and as a result of just producing a lot of business, we haven't had a whole lot of conflict, if you will. We get the loans done, we underwrite them and sure there's their little conflicts that happened on the side, but as far as an organization, there hasn't been a lot of that. And then we got to discussing, debating and putting together a five-year strategic plan. And all of a sudden on Zoom calls we had real conflict. And we had people saying, no, we ought to go left. We ought to go right. And that's where the creativity happens, it also was somewhat of a challenge to try and manage that conflict that was appearing online. So I can clearly see what both of you talk about as it relates to, you know, the processing is fine, but unless you have the conflict to figure out from a creativity in a growth standpoint, you're not going to get there. 

The one other thing, though, that I think is really interesting Sigal to your point is that we had an all company meeting last week and we had 950 people on a big Zoom call and you'd think that that was static and that people couldn't get a sense from an emotional standpoint. But because we had a chat room going up the entire time where when someone won an award people would dive in and say congratulations, Donna. And when somebody was talked about some new thing saying you crushed your presentation. And by having that ongoing dialogue rather than having 950 people sitting in a big conference room in Dallas, Texas, like we did last year, where you're presenting and yes, you might get an applause afterwards, and people might talk afterwards. We got kind of real time emotional interaction amongst our team, which was a wildly valuable thing as far as people kind of diving in and making their comments about what they were seeing and feeling.

Dr. Sigal Barsade: And this is -- one of the one of the benefits of Zoom -- I mean, chat and one of the best things ever. Because it gives you what's in everybody's head Immediately. And people can feed off of it and so I see that as a silver lining. I will still bet you if I had to run the emotion numbers on it that if you get 950 people in that room with the emotional contagion, you've got to seed it a little bit. Right. Like, I mean if everybody's yeah if everybody's like this, no that could be really deadly. But if you seed it a little bit, music is very helpful, the energy that will come out of those 950 people rooting for it and it should not be just a little polite clap. I mean, it should be is going to make people collectively feel more emotion, even as wonderful as the chat function. 

Willy Walker: Believe me, believe me when and if we can get back together, we will, we're not going virtual forever. We are right at the bottom of the hour. And so, I told you we'd start on time and we'd finish on time. The insights from both of you are just so appreciated it and so exceptional. Amy and Sigal thank you both so much. Happy Thanksgiving to you both and your families and to everybody who joined us today on a very quiet day Pre-Thanksgiving. Thanks for taking the time wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving, and we'll see everyone on the webcast next week. Thanks very much.

Amy Gallo: Thank you. 

Sigal Barsade: Thank you.

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