Workplace Restoration Case Study

Besenhausen1 DSC0074.JPG
Besenhausen1 DSC0074” by WistulaOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Problem

I was on the phone with Jane, the managing director of a creative firm. She was clearly frustrated. Relations between the account services team and the head of production (“Bob”) were at an all-time low.  People felt anxious about talking to him and would avoid him if possible.  A few had even threatened to quit. The “drama” was a distraction from business.  Jane wanted people to be able to work together collaboratively as a team.  She was tired of responding to complaints about Bob and wasn’t sure what to do.  And she wanted a quick solution before key staff members left for vacation.

Preparing for an Intervention

Pam and I met with Bob.  While he knew there was a problem, he didn’t seem to understand the effect that his behavior was having on the others.  As far as he was concerned, he wanted to do a good job and make sure the company put out a good product.  He understood that he could sometimes get impatient, but he thought that things were being blown out of proportion and that the people in account services were simply too sensitive.  He was willing to work with us because he knew that things could not continue as they had been, and because he was frustrated that the efforts he had already made to modify his behavior seemed to be unrecognized. He was unhappy being seen as the “problem.”

Next we met with the four project managers in account services. Of the four, one got along well with Bob and had no issues with him. Another had a number of ongoing issues with Bob, and there seemed to be a mutual lack of respect between them.  The other two had each experienced a serious incident with Bob in the past. These incidents continued to effect workplace dynamics because they had become the “lens” through which all of Bob’s actions were viewed. The project managers willing to work with us, and willing to sit down with Bob to try to resolve things.

Once we had buy-in from everyone we needed to decide on the right intervention for this group.  Both of us have seen the harm that can come from the wrong intervention or from an intervention done in the wrong way, so we were cautious.  We felt that Bob genuinely wanted to have better relations with the others, and we wanted to make sure that he would not be “shamed” by whatever we did.   We didn’t want the account services team to gang up on him as this would have damaged relations further.  We wanted the intervention to be as positive as possible, yet still make it clear to Bob that he needed to change aspects of his behavior.  And we wanted the account services team to understand how they may have been contributing to the tension.

A Workplace Circle

After some reflection Pam and I decided to use a circle process with this group.  This kind of process has a long history and appears in many cultures throughout the world.  Participants sit in a circle and take turns speaking.  The “circle keeper” directs the conversation by asking questions. All participation is voluntary and participants may choose to remain silent if they wish.

As the circle keeper, I slowly brought the conversation around to issues of respect and particularly respect in the workplace.  With caution, members of the account services team moved away from generalities about respect and about working together and began to talk about their own workplace.  The two team members who had “incidents” with Bob talked about them.  It wasn’t easy, as talking about the past brought back the same emotions as the incidents themselves did. But ultimately, this release of emotion allowed everyone to move on.

As Pam and I had suspected, Bob really hadn’t grasped the effect he was having on others, or the lasting impact of the previous incidents on the current situation.  When he realized that his behavior had been hurtful, he apologized.

One of the advantages of the circle process is that people end up really listening to one another.  Bob heard from the others, and they also listened to him.  The account services team learned that they had made some incorrect assumptions about Bob, and that some of their practices had been making it harder for him to do his job.  Everyone committed to find ways of working together more effectively from then on.

Lasting Results

I called Jane a few days after the circle meeting.  I couldn’t share the specifics of what was said, as we had promised the participants that the circle would be confidential.  But I was able to tell Jane that everyone had participated fully and that Pam and I appreciated the trust they had all put in us.  Jane told me that things definitely had improved.  People seemed less tense and better able to put their energy into work.  I followed up again after a couple of months.  She told me that things had continued to hold and that her job was a bit easier:  “I feel like I can make other changes within the organization that will help us move in a positive direction. I can also focus my energy on other things.”

Names and details have been changed to preserve client confidentiality.

Condo Law Digest – October 2014

Owl Family Portrait by travelwayoflife (Flickr: Owl Family Portrait) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Van Sickle v. Conlon, 2014 ONSC 5437
Decision Date: September 18, 2014
http://canlii.ca/t/g914j

In 2011 the plaintiff and the defendant were Directors on the Board of a Housing Co-op. After a meeting to discuss a possible eviction, Ms Van Sickle took with her a copy of the confidential report discussing the matter. Mr. Conlon sent an email message to the Board members with the subject line, “Verna’s theft of the document from the meeting on Thursday night.” Ms. Van Sickle sued Mr. Conlon for defamation; she won and was awarded $7500. In this appeal, Mr. Conlon challenges the Deputy Judge’s treatment of his defense in the original trial. Mr. Conlon’s defenses were 1) that it was in fact true that Ms Van Sickle had stolen documents; and 2) qualified privilege (that is, he had the right to criticize her to protect the dignity of the Co-op). Deputy Judge Richardson rejected both defenses. Mr. Conlon had a “total and reckless disregard for the truth” and his conduct was found to be “malicious” (hence the defense of qualified privilege was rejected.) Justice Perell, the appeal judge, found no reviewable error and dismissed the appeal. Costs were fixed at $12, 000.

Comment: Although this case involved the Directors of a Housing Co-op (rather than a condominium), all Board Members should take note.

See also: Preventing Conflict on a Condo Board, Strategies for Getting Your Board Un-stuck, and Think Before You Type (about the dangers of e-mail communication).

“How Did We Get to This Point?” (Managing Conflict)

Photo by Jonathan Billinger

The client who asked me this question was an intelligent and caring manager. She sounded genuinely bewildered, and she wanted to know how things had deteriorated between her division and the other team. She was disconcerted that things had “gone off the rails” in such a short time.

And so I reviewed the history with her. There was an incident – angry words from one staff member to another. (The details are unimportant. I’ll call the perpetrator “Bob” and the person on the receiving end “Sally.”) The result was that Sally felt disrespected and hurt. Others in the company either witnessed the incident or heard about it from witnesses. Sally discussed the matter with the company’s HR person, but as far as she knew, no action was taken.

What was the result? What messages did the company send? Bob got the message that his angry outburst was acceptable workplace behavior. Sally got the message that it was OK that she was disrespected, and that even if she stood up for herself and raised a concern, nothing would happen. Others in the company who knew about the incident got the message that disrespectful behavior was tolerated, and that there was no point in going to HR.

What happened next was easy to predict. People who liked Sally (and there were many) felt indignation on her behalf and resentment both towards Bob and towards management for their failure to respond. People who liked Bob felt conflicted because they couldn’t approve of how he had behaved. Everyone was uncomfortable. Nobody wanted to discuss the incident so it became the “elephant in the room.” Bob and Sally had to work together on a regular basis, and the tension between them never went away. Soon that tension had infected others in both departments, and small incidents – the sorts of things that would have been brushed aside in the past – took on outsize importance.

Of course, while my client had been in the middle of the conflict between her division and Bob’s division, she couldn’t see its causal history. She could only see the tension and the effect it was having on workplace relations and on productivity. Once we had gone through the history together, she could easily see where she could have acted differently. Things got to a point she regretted, but I don’t think she will let things get out of hand again.

Condo Law Digest – September 2014

Trees in a Field by Martin Cathrae

Boily v. Carleton Condominium Corporation 145, 2014 ONCA 574
Decision Date: August 6, 2014
http://canlii.ca/t/g8gcz

I first wrote about this case in the post “Bad Faith and What it Means for Condo Board Members.” In a ruling in March 2013, Justice Beaudoin found that the Board had acted in bad faith in managing some post-repair landscaping. He ordered that Board members be held personally responsible both for the cost of enforcing the order they had violated, and for the cost of restoring the property to its previous state. In this action, the Board members appeal the finding of contempt of court and the penalties ordered by Justice Beaudoin (particularly the order that they pay the cost of restoration.) Here the judges of the appeal court uphold the finding of contempt, but set aside the sanction that the Board members pay the cost of restoration. Instead Board members were each ordered to pay a fine of $7500 to the Corporation. While any contempt of court is serious, the judges took into consideration that the Board members were not motivated by personal gain or vengeance, but by the conviction that “they knew best.” However their failure to seek legal advice was seen as an aggravating factor. The appeal court reasoned that Justice Beaudoin had made an error in principle by basing the penalty on the cost of restoration, rather than on the desirability of deterring violations of court orders. One justice dissented and would have set aside the finding of contempt.

Comment: Justice Epstein, writing for the majority, said that this case was “particularly unfortunate” because if the Board members had sought legal advice, the parties would have saved time, money and avoided needless acrimony.

York Region Standard Condominium Corp. No. 1113 v. Antonelli, 2014 ONSC 4844
Decision Date: August 14, 2014
http://canlii.ca/t/g8r77

In May 2014 the Corporation obtained a judgment against Mr. Antonelli to immediately and permanently remove two dogs from his unit. Mr. Antonelli was not present when the motion was heard. In this action, the Corporation seeks an order of contempt against him, and an order permitting them to engage a contractor to remove the animals.  Mr. Antonelli brings a motion to set aside the original decision and to return to the court in February 2015.  Justice Emery declined to grant Mr. Antonelli’s request and found for the Corporation.  The dogs must be removed, and he must pay the costs of the motion (fixed at $10 000).

Comment:  I don’t know the sequence of events that brought the parties to this point.  Often the preliminary step in such a dispute is a letter to an owner from the condo board.  As I have written before, owners should never ignore such letters and are advised to consult a condominium lawyer.  Better pay for good advice now, than pay much more later in the absence of such advice.

Condo Law Digest – August 2014

Dewy spider web.jpg

Simcoe Condominium Corp. No. 12 v. Walker, 2014 ONSC 4109
Decision Date: July 7, 2014
http://canlii.ca/t/g80bl

This is an endorsement on costs; the parties and their lawyers resolved all other matters.  Ms. Walker, owner of a unit in the condominium corporation, persistently refused to abide by the Rules, Bylaws and Declaration of the corporation, including refusing to control her dog, making unauthorized renovations, and renting out parts of her unit without permission.  The judge called this case a “sorry saga of one person’s refusal to live peaceably and cooperatively.”   The applicants asked for costs of just over $59 000 on the basis of full indemnity.  The judge fixed costs on the full indemnity scale at about $48 700.  Unpaid costs will be added to the common expense charges for Ms. Walker’s unit.

Comment:  Condo owners tempted to flout the rules, take note.

 

Gordon v. York Region Condominium Corporation No. 818, 2014 ONCA 549
Decision Date: July 15, 2014
http://canlii.ca/t/g83w9

This is an appeal of Justice McCarthy’s decision that the Condominium’s by-law permitting the Board to remove a Director who violated the Director’s Code of Ethics was not invalid.  (A summary of that decision can be found in the December 2013 Condo Law Digest.) Gordon argues that the by-law is not reasonable because such a determination should be made by an independent third party, rather than fellow Board members; that such by-laws are inconsistent with the Condominium Act as a whole; and that the judge erred in not re-instating him.  The panel dismissed the appeal and noted that Mr. Gordon is at liberty to stand for re-election to the Board.

Comment: Have we seen the end of this case?

Robinson v. York Condominium Corporation No. 365, 2015 HRTO 1059
Decision Date:  July 18, 2014
http://canlii.ca/t/g84p9

Ms. Robinson suffers from electro-magnetic frequency sensitivity (“EMS”), a complex and disabling condition.  She charges that this condition has been made worse by the adoption of a new security system at her condominium complex, and that the Corporation and the Property Management Company have not accommodated.   The adjudicator found that EMS is indeed a disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code.  However he did not find that the evidence provided supported the claim that the new security system was at the root of the applicant’s worsened condition.  The application was dismissed.

Dewy spider web“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Condo Law Digest – July 2014

Hymettus after the Storm By Ioannis Stampoulis

York Condominium Corporation No. 301 v. James, 2014 ONSC 2638
Decision Date: May 5, 2014
http://canlii.ca/t/g6tps

Carleton Condominium Corporation No. 348 v. Chevalier, 2014 ONSC 3859
Decision Date: June 25, 2014
http://canlii.ca/t/g7mrr

These are two recent cases in which a judge has ordered the sale of a unit and the eviction of its mentally ill owner. In both cases, the owners failed to comply with several previous orders and their actions presented numerous health and safety issues for other residents, staff, contractors and visitors. In both cases, the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee was called in to safeguard the interests of the respondents. And in both cases, the condominium corporations incurred extra costs for enhanced security because of the respondents.

Comment: These are sad and difficult cases for everyone involved.

A warning about investment fraud and identity theft:

This past month also brought the dismissal of the appeal in the convictions of Andrei Khatchatourov and Natalya Reznik (R. v. Khatchatourov, 2014 ONCA 464, http://canlii.ca/t/g7g1h). Khatchatourov and Reznik (a paralegal) were found guilty of multiple mortgage financing frauds. Their strategy was to gain the trust of recent immigrants from Russia and Ukraine, involve them in condominium “investment” schemes, then use their identities to obtain mortgage financing, take title to properties and obtain mortgage advances from banks. The individuals who were targeted lost money and in one case, lost their home and were driven to bankruptcy. The financial institutions involved lost over one million dollars, ultimately reimbursed by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

So a friendly word of caution: If an investment opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Seek independent legal advice before signing contracts, and never sign something you haven’t read or don’t understand. A consultation with a lawyer might seem expensive, but failing to get good advice might cost you much more in the end.

Moving On after Conflict

By BrokenSphere (Own Work)

While conflict can end a relationship, sometimes people have no choice but to continue their relationship after a conflict. Management and labour must work together after a strike, separating couples share decisions about their children and feuding neighbours may go on living side-by-side. Even opposing sides in a civil war must find ways to co-exist in the aftermath. How a conflict is managed makes a big difference in whether or not an ongoing relationship is tolerable.

Mediation is an excellent choice for resolving many kinds of disputes because it can preserve and even strengthen relationships. A mediation is basically a structured conversation. Mediators facilitate negotiation and help parties communicate with one another effectively so that they can craft their own resolutions. Mediation does not create “winners” and “losers.” Everyone can walk out of a mediation with dignity intact. Unlike judges or arbitrators, mediators do not impose solutions or make judgments. Instead parties in a dispute have control over the outcome of their conflict. This is important, because research indicates that people are more likely to respect a settlement if they have had a hand in shaping it.

Yet mediation is not always possible or advisable and sometimes a friendly resolution is out of reach. There are still things parties in a dispute can do to minimize the harm done by conflict.

Pick your battles. Think carefully before initiating or joining in a conflict. Is the issue really important to you? If it is, then deal with it as soon as you can. Confrontation may be uncomfortable, but letting things fester almost always makes them worse.

Is the conflict structural? Are the conditions that led to the present conflict likely to recur? If so, see what can be done to change those conditions. For example, have misunderstandings arisen because people have not had the same access to information? If the conflict is in a workplace, has weak or ineffective managment failed to intervene in the early stages of a potential problem?

Recognize your own part in what has gone on. It might be comforting to believe that one “bad apple” is responsible for the conflict. This is rarely the case. While one-sided conflicts exist, it is much more common that a conflict between two or more competent adults has been fed by contributions from all sides.  This does not mean, of course, that the contributions are necessarily equal.  Avoiding a conflict can prolong it, just as surely as can angry words. Recognizing one’s own share in a conflict is part of ensuring that it will not flare up again. At the same time, be aware that disruptive behavior may be a consequence of mental illness or addiction. Seek professional advice if you suspect this is the case.

Acknowledge hurt feelings and apologize if appropriate. Nearly everyone finds conflict stressful. A sincere apology or an acknowledgement of the other party’s feelings can be a powerful first step in helping everyone move on. Remember that feelings are legitimate, even if the reasons for the feelings may not be. Yet don’t apologize if you can’t be sincere. Most people are good at detecting insincerity, and an insincere apology usually makes things worse. (And whatever you do, don’t say, “I’m sorry but….”)

Want to know more about apologies? Try Apologies 101, Apologies 201 (Advanced Course), Asking for an Apology and Asking for an Apology (Part 2).

Don’t gossip. Even if your conflict has ended without formal confidentiality provisions, resist the urge to discuss it with others who may have been involved. Gossip is prohibited by the ancient moral codes of many cultures, from Judaism to Buddhism to Confucianism, because our ancestors recognized that although we may have an urge to engage in idle talk about others, to do so can damage social relations. If you need to discuss the conflict, find someone who is not involved.

Focus on what you can control – your own actions and responses. You cannot make another person apologize, take responsibility for their actions, or do the right thing. Yet you can control your own actions. You can choose to put the conflict behind you and behave with grace. You can choose to treat others with respect. And you can resist the impulse to define yourself and others through the lens of the conflict.

Finally, begin with the end in mind. When Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, identified this as Habit No. 2, he had in mind the simple idea that we need to set a goal before taking action. This rule applies equally well to conflict situations. What kinds of relationships do you envision post-conflict? How do you want to see yourself when you think back over your actions? A clear sense of your own values and priorities should guide your behavior in the conflict and help you make decisions that you can be proud of later.

This post first appeared in a slightly different form in the May 2014 issue of Condo Business.

What is it to “own” an artwork?

By Jeff the quiet (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Many artworks fall into the category of what the philosopher J.L. Austen called “medium sized dry goods.” They are physical objects that we can have and hold, display, give away, sell, and so on. So the ownership of an artwork should be no more problematic or puzzling than the ownership of any physical object.

But within our practices and within the law, we do in fact treat artworks differently than other kinds of objects. I think that is a part of what makes disputes over the ownership of artworks so compelling. (And each week seems to bring another story in the media about the recovery or restitution of artworks: Ancient statutes returned to Cambodia, the horde of Nazi-looted artworks found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, the Banksy mural removed from a wall in Bristol and confiscated by the local government.) These disputes challenge some of our intuitions in fundamental ways. They force us to think about our usual notions of “ownership” and what it means for an individual or an institution to possess something.

We usually think of ownership as meaning that we have some basic rights over objects that we own. First among these is the “right to exclude.” If I own land, then ordinarily I have the right to stop others from trespassing onto that land. If I own a shovel, I might lend it to you if you ask, but I also have the right to refuse. If I own a painting, I am also within my rights to hide it away and refuse to allow anyone else to see it. However the right to exclude has limits. I don’t have the right to exclude the police from my land if they have a search warrant. And while I have the right to deny access to the artworks I possess, the reality is that dealers for the most sought-after artists may decline to sell to a collector whom they believe will refuse to lend the work out for exhibitions. Ensuring that the works go to the “right” kinds of “cooperative” buyers is often more important than making a sale.

Another right that ownership confers is the right to use or alter something as I wish. I can paint my shovel any colour I want, I can replace the blade if it becomes damaged, I can even shorten the handle to make it easier to use. But in many jurisdictions I would not have similar rights over an artwork, even if I owned it. Artists retain “moral rights” over their creations even when they no longer have physical possession. In areas where moral rights are protected, no one may alter or destroy a work without the artist’s permission.

Moral rights typically expire at some point after an artist’s death. Yet the right to destroy an artwork that one owns is not an obvious entitlement, even if the artist’s moral rights no longer apply. Collector Ryoei Saito caused a scandal in 1990 when he “joked” that two paintings he had bought at auction – one by Van Gogh and one by Renoir – were to be cremated and buried along with him when he died. Perhaps even more strange (from a legal point of view) are cases when someone else, other than an artwork’s owner or creator, claims the right to destroy it. The Chagall Committee, an organization run by the artist’s grandchildren to protect the late painter’s reputation, authenticates works and also claims the right to destroy forgeries so that they never appear on the open market. Imagine the shock of British collector Martin Lang who was told, not only that the painting which he had bought for the equivalent of nearly $200, 000 Cdn. was a likely forgery, but that it was slated for destruction.

Finally, we ordinarily have the right to transfer the ownership of things we own. I am free to give away, trade or sell my shovel. Again, the situation is more complicated with artworks. Many countries have laws forbidding the export of significant works. Bequests of art may come with prohibitions against transfer, and it is not always straight-forward whether a museum has the right to de-access works.

There are restrictions on the transfer of artworks may not come as a surprise. In fact, the whole area of what counts as a “valid” transfer – of an artwork or of anything else – is fraught. I’ll have more to say about it in a later post.

Condo Law Digest – June 2014

Advertisement for cigars from Havana. Lithograph, 1868

Advertisement for cigars from Havana. Lithograph, 1868

MacKay & Cheney v. Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corp., 2014 ONSC 2863
Decision Date:  May 12, 2014
http://canlii.ca/t/g6v95

In late June 2013 the applicants noticed a strong smell of cigar smoke in their unit. They reported this to the concierge on duty and made a formal complaint to the building’s manager.  About 2 weeks later, as the smell of smoke continued, they contacted their insurance company.  An adjustor investigated and concluded that the contents were smoke-damaged and that the unit was uninhabitable.  The applicants moved to a hotel at the insurance company’s expense.  The owner of the upstairs unit was asked to refrain from smoking cigars in his unit pending an investigation.  (Will it surprise anyone reading this to hear that he did not?) Then followed several months of delays due to vacations (the manager, then the President of the Board), visits by consultants and engineers (one of whom identified the smoke migration between the units as a fire safety risk and violation of the Ontario Fire Code), letters from the Board’s lawyer to the applicants, letters from the applicants’ lawyer to the Board, “dueling correspondence” between the lawyers, differences of opinion among various engineering consultants as to whether the problem of smoke transfer had been definitively solved, and further delays due to inaction.

After five months of living in a hotel and not having their concerns addressed, McKay and Cheney commenced an application, seeking a declaration that the corporation had breached its duty to maintain the common elements and to repair the common elements after damage, and that the members of the Board (named as individual defendants) had breached their duty to act in good faith and exercise reasonable care, diligence and skill.  The present two-day trial, held on an urgent basis, dealt only with the question of repair and maintenance of the common elements.  Justice Mew found that there was evidence that the problem was now solved, although he advised that it may be prudent for the corporation to take additional steps.  In particular, there is an arguable case for further testing between the two units.  He ordered partial costs in favor of the applicants.

Comment: The question of the directors’ personal liability has not yet been addressed.  Justice Mew noted that a “negative attitude” on the part of the Board towards the applicants coloured their decision making.  The applicants were “quickly branded as complainers who had far too quickly ran off to their own lawyers.”  Managers and Boards must remember that judges and arbitrators may not necessarily endorse their views, and that even seemingly “difficult” owners have rights.

Conflict in Start-ups

Mongolia Naadam 16

Young jockeys sprint from the starting line of a Naadam horse race. Ugtaal Soum, Mongolia. By Taylor Weidman/The Vanishing Cultures Project

One-size-fits-all advice has its uses, but also limitations. Anyone who wants to lose weight must consume fewer calories than he or she expends in energy. Yet the person who is responsible for feeding a family, the person who travels extensively and often eats out, and the very active person will each have different challenges in maintaining a healthy weight.

From one perspective, conflict in a start-up should not be different from conflict in any other similarly sized organization. And to be sure, some of the same factors that cause conflict in any organization – whether it is a family business or a partnership or a non-profit – can contribute to conflict in a start-up. Yet start-ups also have some unique challenges, and I’ve seen some rather bad advice targeted to them.

Here are some reasons why conflict in a start-up might be different from conflict in a more established organization.

Start-up founders frequently have to make a lot of decisions about a wide variety of things in a short time. They tend not to have established practices and routines to fall back on because, well, they’re just starting up. So decisions about personnel, about purchasing, about corporate culture, about priorities and about the product itself may have to be made in a relatively short time, often without a clear understanding of who should be making these decisions and on what basis.

Start-ups tend to have limited Human Resources support and may not have any. This might be understandable, as HR is a cost center and start-ups with a small staff may not see it as a priority. Yet no or limited HR support might mean that no one in the company has the skills necessary for dealing with difficult employees. Without an HR specialist on hand, founders may not understand their legal responsibilities to employees or the legal liabilities that employee behavior can subject them to. It can also mean that founders spend an inordinate amount of time managing conflict, as employees who are in dispute with one another have nowhere else to turn.

A culture of accepting inappropriate behavior at the top. In the tech world, there are far too many stories about “demanding” bosses like Steve Jobs who inspired employees to do great things and made wild profits. Yet a reluctance to confront abusive behavior can have far-reaching consequences. For every successful abrasive leader we hear about there must be a dozen who demoralized everyone around them, caused high-value employees to leave, became the target of expensive lawsuits, and generally spread misery. We just don’t get to hear about them. If the founders or key members of the management team can only motivate employees by intimidation or do not know how to give constructive feedback, then there are likely to be problem down the road. Everyone charged with managing the work of others – especially highly skilled or creative employees – should be trained to do this effectively and respectfully.

Take all of these factors and throw in a reluctance to ask for help. It takes intelligence and grit to launch a successful start-up. Unfortunately, there can be a tendency among people who are smart in one or several areas of their life to believe that they are smart in all areas and to falsely assume that they do not need to ask for help. This is unfortunate. It is a sign of strength, not weakness, to call for outside help when you recognize that you need it.

Finally, the costs of conflict can be greater for start-ups than for more established organizations. Conflict among founding partners has caused promising start-ups to fold before it was clear whether they could be successful businesses or not. Investors are leery of putting their money into dysfunctional organizations. No one wants to invest in a relationship that is already broken.