Shame & Blame in the Workplace

Kids

I’ve written about the Corporate Bully, the Four Fatal Fears, and Feedback; this blog is about what Dr. Brené Brown refers to as “creativity scars.” These scars stem from shame and blame. Brown’s research uncovered that approximately half of her research participants could specify a particular childhood incident at school when they were told how they were “not good” at something creative. What is even more alarming is that the vast majority of her subjects considered the incident as influential enough to shape how they viewed themselves as learners.

This is not to suggest that every child should be given a trophy and be led into false impressions that they are the next Picasso, Streisand, Hemmingway, or Slash. This is about smashing the marble that child-aged Michelangelo claimed contained an angel. Here is a case in point:

When my younger son was in 1st grade, his teacher set out to teach the students how to create a holiday house. It was the first time I had opted to make an appearance as a parental assistant. The teacher was explicit and clear in her instructions for each step of piecing the Hanukkah or Gingerbread home together. As I peered over the shoulder of my son, I noticed that the little girl next to him did not place the door and window according to how the teacher instructed. When the teacher came along to check on this “joyous” seasonal work, she stopped at the girl in front of me, furrowed her brows and loudly voiced in a tone that sounded like condemnation, “You put the window and door on WRONG! I TOLD you HOW to do it! How could you MESS that up?!” As the girl cowed her head, the room became perfectly still. It was a bully moment. Already close to the contemptuous source, I leaned in, looked her straight in the eye, and measuredly responded with steely resolve, “I did it.” (It was my succinct way of communicating: Pick on someone your own size). The teacher winced, seemingly aware that I was just a cover for the girl’s “artistic deviance,” and turned away without a word.

How does yelling at a child during a holiday project help that child learn to love learning? Creativity? School? Who will stand up for her or with her when she is publicly shamed?

Here is how a leader can deal effectively with these “strays” from instruction:

  • 1:1. Counsel the individual privately.
  • Seek to understand. Ask: What led you to place the door there?
  • Do a leadership check. Ask yourself: What more could I do that would ensure all are following?
  • Be like bamboo. Remain flexible in your instruction and consider some room for bending.
  • Encourage collaboration. Buddy system learning goes farther than going alone.

Workplace Scenario

Oftentimes, those who lead departments are so fixated on results, like the abovementioned teacher, that they fail to see how their own experience with shame has led them to re-create a system and culture of fear involving shame and blame.

These divisional heads push themselves, and consequently others, hard because someone in their past led them to feel that they were not “good enough.” It is their unfinished business. Sometimes, the fighters carry the pain forward, yet manage to lead productively and with compassion. I’m referencing the fighters who carry the pain forward and take a sadistic pleasure towards humiliating, or attempting to humiliate, particular employees. It is usually self-loathing that leads the manager to feel a momentary sense of power when shaming and blaming others.

The “stray” employee’s behavior serves as a trigger to the manager that s/he is not “good enough” at what they do (i.e. managing) or are supposed to do, and they’ll be darned if they get shamed again. It is a reflex action, or a reaction…which is re-enacting an event that caused them so much pain, the indelible mark it left has become a part of how that person shows up at work, and usually also at home.

Some ways that “shame” manifests “not good enough” behavior outside of the workplace may include the following:

  • Iron Man*. Competing to prove strength, often considered as synonymous with power.
  • Marathon*. Could be a subconscious effort to out-run something (i.e. memory) or someone (i.e. feeling).
  • Addiction. A (temporary) way to cope, distract, or numb other feelings away.
  • Constant criticism. A way to place others at a lower level in order to elevate one’s self away from a sense of unworthiness.
  • No apologies. No admission of fault or contribution is a way to avoid shame.

I’ve also heard, “But, the CEO needs someone who can handle the tough conversations that need to be done!” Yes, a strong leader is one who practices self-awareness, accountability, compassion, constructive feedback, and curiosity while handling the tough and difficult conversations which need to be done. Accepting a divisional head / manager who revels in shame and blame is only going to lead to loss of innovative talent, create a culture of fear, and contribute towards a belief system that the only functional leader is a dysfunctional person. That’s what we call negative reinforcement.

Build a better working world. Collude towards the positive.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou

*This is not to say all top athletes are pushing themselves to such levels out of a feeling of “not good enough.” It is a possible variable out of several.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, a bully neutralizer, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. We increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

© Rossina Gil, 2018

Source: Brené Brown, Ph.D. Rising Strong, 2015, pg 83.

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Visual Positioning

Pilot

Many successful people practice visual positioning, where they visualize themselves succeeding or accomplishing something they’d like to do. That’s an internal practice. Others require something external, i.e. a role model to which they can aspire to be. My role in helping shape the future to provide more options to little girls begins with a question: Do we have any female pilots today?

You see, I fly a lot. This makes it easy to do this pet project. And, with only 6% of commercial airline pilots being women, the aviation industry is the most male-dominated industry in existence today (in the USA). I ask the question “Do we have any female pilots today?” every time I board an aircraft to the on-board, greeting flight attendant. I expect a “No” in response, and am delightfully surprised the few times I am told “Yes.” Finding a female pilot is ONLY the cherry on top (two is a bonanza!); and I post their photos on my public Facebook page (including the one above!). The finding is not the point; the question is.

First, what drives the question? Some of my friends believed I secretly wish to be a pilot. Wrong. Others believed my pilot picture posts to be a game of “I Spy.” No. One friend even believed I am “pressuring” and “forcing” girls to become pilots! Very wrong. Bottomline: It is hard for many to become what they can NOT see. If s/he can see it, s/he can be it. While my particular focus for this pet project is on little girls having more options, my bottom line regards anyone at any stage in his/her professional or personal development. More options = good; limited options < good.

Roger Bannister

In 1954, Roger Bannister became the first person to break the 4-minute mile. Before him, no one believed a person could run that fast. Experts declared it was physically impossible. This belief became a “truth,” supported by people “in the know.” No one saw it to be true, therefore it was untrue and, consequently, no one tried. Historically speaking, physical competitions go back millennia, even before the “Olympics” in Ancient Greece; so, in other words, this is “just how things are.” (Have you heard that line in organizations? – self-limiting beliefs spurred by institutional history and organizational culture).

What do you suppose happened after Bannister broke the 4-minute mile? More than 1,400 people beat his record not too long afterwards. What made the difference?

Your Store

Imagine this: You are the owner of an ice cream shop. You have a frequent customer. She comes in up to four times a week, which is much more often than most. Every time she enters your shop, she asks for a specific flavor – along with her regular purchase.

  • What does her question lead you to think?
  • How many customers would it take before you listen to your consumer base?
  • What would it take for you to consider augmenting your product line?

In your organization (or as a member of society), do you see yourself as a victim of “that’s just how things are”? How difficult is it to ask a question? In pure coaching, questions result in more options. More options lead to better results. Better results create a stronger economy. What’s your contribution?

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” – Francis Bacon

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, cultural integration expert, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. We increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

© Rossina Gil, 2018

When Opposites Attract…The Big Apple meets the Athens of the South*

magnet

What is about to happen in Nashville is that (yet) another corporation, this time AllianceBernstein, is relocating its headquarters to the area. Culturally speaking, these two regional cultures are on complete opposite ends of the cultural preferences spectrum.

SO WHAT?

Ultimately, culture can be defined as: the way things are done around here.  And, what happens when a relatively large group (say, a thousand plus employees multiplied by four – including possible family — to quintuple the number) carries the belief that they come from the best city on earth with America’s “financial headquarters,” world-class entertainment, restaurants, and high fashion?  Especially for a receiving group which lauds its antebellum (i.e. Latin for “before the war” – Civil War) architecture.

Misperceptions on both sides can swiftly transform into absolute truths through verification of shared experiences (with those who share the same cultural perspective), thereby creating an echo chamber and justification to harbor resentment against those who are not doing things the “proper way.”

NOW WHAT?

Successful transitions make it to the fourth and final phase into Acceptance, after passing through the phases of Honeymoon, Degeneration, and Culture Shock.

PHASE 1: HONEYMOON

The initial phase of assimilation begins with the honeymoon period. This varies by individual, of course, and generally lasts 2-4 weeks. The individual appreciates things which are real.  Examples include the following:

  • Space. While Nashville’s city size seems pretty small in comparison to NYC, New Yorkers are accustomed to living in apartments about the size of a Brentwood walk-in closet. New Yorkers will see storage space in Nashville as the size of their NY bathrooms, and wish that they had kept all of their excess belongings, such as vinyl records, sports and/or arts memorabilia.
  • Bars.  New Yorkers will be happy to have hundreds of funky, elegant, and/or trendy places which offer happy hour every night for those post-work drinks. You can continue to only go out to bars during the weekdays because Broadway on the weekends turns into something much like the “bridge-and-tunnel crowd” – known as “tourists” in Nashville.
  • Drinks.  In addition to Jack Daniels whiskey (which is fiercely delicious even for us teetotalers), New Yorkers will be glad to live in this craft beer lover’s paradise that includes local favorites like Fat Bottom Brewing and Yazoo Brewing Company.
  • Snow. New Yorkers need not fear falling down a flight of subway stairs in the winter. Your kids will miss school for questionable snow, that you may never actually see. Nashville snow days means the city stops.
  • Talent. You’re grateful to live in a city with such musically talented people, which is how Nashville gained its moniker “Music City.” After a while, you can’t comprehend the fact that people elsewhere have to pay to hear live music. You will eventually know someone who is in an indie band, a post-hardcore band, or is a singer-songwriter. Shows are at the Ryman, Opry, and other live music venues around town are on any given night. Even the guys who play in front of Whole Foods in Franklin are amazing.
  • Rats. No more rats or cockroaches.  Nashville offers New Yorkers wild turkeys, opossums, skunks, geese, foxes, and deer…Cinderella’s preferred friends.
  • Parking.  Except for downtown Nashville, most parking around Nashville is free.  Valet is either validated or tips only.  There goes the New Yorker parking spot as a status symbol.

 

PHASE 2: DEGENERATION

This is when the differences begin to feel taxing, leading one to feel less energy before the day is even over.  Here is one major example:

Driving. New Yorkers walk, use the subway, or use another form of public transportation.  You need to drive in Nashville, but if you’re from New York, you may not even remember the last time you drove a car. Couple that with Old Hickory Boulevard (a.k.a. OHB), a loop road around the entire city, and the fact that several roads in Nashville, including the OHB, can change names multiple times without warning or break and reappear somewhere else.

 

PHASE 3: CULTURE SHOCK

This is the hardest part of assimilation; some never make it through successfully.  One of my recommendations during this phase is to consider relocating after two years, if these cultural preferences are too different from your own to bridge the gap sufficiently.

There are four primary areas between NYC and Nashville which have wide cultural gaps: Direct/Indirect, Fixed Time/Fluid Time, Individualism/Collectivism; Formal/Informal & Conservative/Liberal (overlapping twofer).

Direct / Indirect Communication

Direct communicators wish to save time and to be understood without interpretation.  Indirect communicators wish to imply messages in order to maintain as much harmony as possible; the value tends to be placed on the group or “other.”  Example:

Cursing. Many New Yorkers feel comfortable not only with using expletives, they will often raise their voices when making demands.  Many Nashvillians grit their teeth and may tell you (and/or others about you), “God bless your heart.”  Even if New Yorkers do not curse or yell, to be so explicitly clear in their requests is heard — through the ears of those who prefer more harmony than confrontation –as combative and discourteous.

Fixed Time / Fluid Time

Fixed time is the belief that time is finite; it is a resource and there is only so much of it.  Fluid time is the belief/practice that there is an abundant amount of time, and time requires prioritization. Nashvillians, as a whole, are definitely a morning crowd and tend to be punctual, which will please New Yorkers.  The strong difference is New Yorkers rush everywhere even if you have no reason to, you have nowhere to be; yet, you’re still in a rush to get there. Examples:

  • Walking.  Several New Yorkers exhibit “sidewalk rage” – upsetness when people walk too slowly or when three or more people walk in a row on the street, since they block everyone from being able to pass. You might bump into someone when you’re walking and not take the time to say “Sorry” – which also violates some other Nashville cultural preferences of Being, Formal, Collectivism, etc.
  • Jaywalking. New Yorkers tend to cross streets where they are not supposed to, and before the walk-signal indicates it is okay to do so.  When walking through the city, you may have adopted a serpentine route to help you to avoid waiting for the lights to change to cross the street. Even when at fault in a near pedestrian vs vehicle collision, New Yorkers believe in the “pedestrian has the right of way” rule and may even flash the driver the bird or say, “I’m walkin’ here!”
  • Multi-tasking (Polychronic) & Doing.  To save time (“New York minute”), a lot of New Yorkers sanction multi-tasking behavior.  The intent is not to be rude.  They think it’s fine to walk, talk on the phone, hail a cab, and maybe even have a bite to eat all at the same time. Most Nashvillians see that behavior as uncouth, disrespectful, and just plain “wrong.”  They prefer to “Be” in the moment and take one thing at a time (monochronic).  You will see how they place lawn chairs facing a mountain or green landscape for no particular reason other than to breathe in the serenity of life.  You will notice how the cashier may have an actual conversation with the person in/on line ahead of you. Drivers will give you the courteous wave to merge ahead of them. New Yorkers must not make the mistake of honking.

Individualism / Collectivism

The group (collectivism) is very important to the vast majority of Nashvillians.  New Yorkers (from NYC) are the most Individualistic in the country, which is not to say they don’t value the following examples, they are just expressed differently. Examples:

  • Family.  Nashvillians have “summer hours” – shortened Fridays – to go home to children who are off from school.  They leave work to go watch their kid’s ball game or recital, and are considered “great executives” for doing so.  Nashvillians have four children, on average.  You will notice how every restaurant has a few large tables always ready.  Meanwhile, the New Yorker may talk more often to the coffee cart guy than his/her own mom.
  • Church.  Nashvillians may leave early on Wednesday nights to attend bible study.  The dominant churches for this area are Church of Christ and Southern Baptist.  Several Nashvillians do not consider Catholics as Christian.  New Yorkers must prepare for the question, “Which church do you attend?” and not say the gym or Central Park.
  • Friends.  Nashvillians are loyal to their friends.  Friends constitute those from childhood. This has resulted into a certain degree of corporate nepotism. New Yorkers must bear in mind the labyrinthian network of a growing Collectivistic town into a city, and consider how people who have always lived in the same area might see those who readily admit to having lived in more than five apartments as transients not capable of committing.

Formal & Conservative / Informal & Liberal

  • Hospitality.  Southerners know how to say “please” and “thank you.”  The New York, “Hey, let me get a…” is not the acceptable way to greet the person taking your order.  New Yorkers must be prepared for “Sir” and “Ma’am,” and recognize that honey attracts bees.
  • Elephant Herd; Donkey Passel. East Nashville is the Nashvillian blue spot. New York Liberals would do well to remember that TN is Trump country and ixnay on the presidente.
  • Religion.  With around 750 local churches, several national religious headquarters, and the world’s largest bible producer (Thomas Nelson), religion is a big deal in Nashville. (Bear in mind that wherever there is restriction, there is also a wild side).  Nashvillian couples tend to marry early and have children early.

 

PHASE 4: ACCEPTANCE & INTEGRATION

People in transition generally reach acceptance after 9-12 months.  This is why I recommend a staggered approach to corporate relocation.

  1. Relocate First.  This group actually is comprised of the top half of the corporation who tested for readiness several months prior to the proposed timeline.
  2. Relocate Second.  The next 34% (i.e. Late Majority) can relocate after the third quarter.
  3. Replace/Virtual.  The bottom 16% or so tend to opt out.  If possible, consider them for virtual employment. To hire locally, recruiters must be able to effectively articulate the corporate values and accurately paint a picture of expectations; otherwise, be prepared for (perceived or actual) internal subterfuge.

Historically, the most effective cultural mergers have been more of an infusion…blending “old world” behaviors with “new world” traditions and customs.

Start, Stop, and Continue.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, cultural integration expert, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  She is the author of the Corporate Looking Glass: Using Culture for Your Competitive Advantage, available on Amazon and used at graduate business schools in the USA and Europe.

We increase retention.  Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

© Rossina Gil, 2018

 

*The statements here are intended to be generalizations and not stereotypes.  If you are a New Yorker or Nashvillian and do not fit into the generalizations made, please do not be offended.

 

Advice to Your Younger Self

Joseph Campbell authored an impactful book entitled The Power of Myth.  In it, he writes how it is important for the Master to take the time to re-visit the basic principles, as if a novice once again.  And, so, it is that we benefit from re-visiting lessons learned.  From honest reflection, we can grow in the direction that works best for us.

Interestingly, I’ve found that nearly all of the reflections I’ve garnered from professionals comprise sage advice for our “younger selves,” a.k.a. entry-level workforce.  The detriment is: these reflections sans experience or context may sound like conundrums, riddles, or trite adages.  This is where serving as Mentors to younger professionals is useful.

I recently asked my professional colleagues: Knowing how your career has developed, what’s one great piece of advice you would offer your younger self — if you could — just as you were embarking upon your career?

Here is what they said:

Be true to yourself and believe in yourself. – Lynne Brown

Value curiosity over the need to prove you have the answer and always first pursue joy and purpose in whatever you do. – Joel Hasenwinkel

Understand and pursue your passions. Don’t be afraid to take risks. – Michael Brasher

Every career move need not result in growth but should give you diverse exposure….along the way, build a network of mentors and sponsors. – Johnson Dammu

Patience. Put in the hard work, years and years of it. It will be recognized, and additional opportunities will come. But, know…it likely won’t happen as fast as your 25-year old self wants. – Mark Haden

Welcome the feedback. It will help you grow, if you are true to yourself. – Gabe Ramirez

I would say watch for the subtle, positive shifts, give yourself more credit for what you can do and surround yourself with people who want to grow and learn. – Denise Murray

To make the world a better place, the least one can offer is to share the best of our experiences forward.

Joseph Campbell:

He who thinks he knows, doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows. For in this context, to know is not to know. And not to know is to know.”

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. She is the author of The Corporate Looking Glass: Using Culture for Your Competitive AdvantageWe increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

 Advice

What Executive Coaches Should and Should NOT Do

Exec Coaches

Most leaders recognize they either don’t have the skill sets to coach or they don’t have the time.  While being a strong leader entails having the ability to coach, the fact remains that companies pay for us executive coaches to come in and partner with senior management on flexing their style.

This “style stretch” may be a result of an upcoming promotion, settling into one’s position better, working with a different regional culture, or to rectify egregious behavior that does not sit well with peers and direct reports.

These lists below are to help companies and executives become aware of what to expect, and what to look out for, when engaging executive coaches…

DO:

Set Objectives.  These may be professional or personal objectives, as the areas tend to seep into each other.  E.g. Executive presence, motivating direct reports, managing up, learning indirect communication, etc.

Expect Regular Reports.  The company (or individual) paying for the executive coaching should receive quarterly reports, which share the progress towards a goal.  What indicators demonstrate that certain objectives have been met?  These goalposts should be established ahead of time within the Strategic Learning Contract (SLC).  What is the goal?  How much time are you dedicating on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to get there?  What are the resources you need?  Who are the people who can help you get there?  What does it look like when you have achieved that end goal?

Expect Measurements.  Progress must have its metrics.  It could be an X% increase of a business goal.  Perhaps it’s the number of people who wish to meet with you 1:1. Numbers must be attached for the quantitative crowd.

Guarantee Confidentiality. One huge benefit of working with an external executive coach (or a bonafied internal industrial psychologist) is that all of the details are kept private.  Otherwise, externals can be sued, and certified internals could lose their license.

Hold the First Session In-Person. Body language accounts for 55% of communication, and it is not all in the face. Fidgeting, foot-tapping, ring twisting, etc, cannot be easily seen via webcam; and, each carries its own meaning.  Plus, anyone who has ever argued that webcam is “just the same as” in-person is equating attending a live symphony with hearing the music on the radio.  There is something to be said for vibe.

Meet Regularly.  Not more than one month should lapse between coaching sessions.  It is hard to stay on task, otherwise.  I generally recommend every two weeks, although, serious coaching issues may require twice weekly.

 

DON’T:

Settle for Bias.  Coaches are subjective, too; and, they may tell you what they know you want to hear.  This gets you nowhere.  Let them praise you when your metrics kick in positively.  If you have a coach who never pushes back and (gently, yet firmly) holds you through a line of inquiry to some degree of accountability for whatever predicament you raise, then you may have a co-dependent coach…they would like to keep getting paid.

Settle for Unconscious Bias.  Some coaches bring their unconscious bias into the room, which is a red flag that s/he is not an expert coach.  Jumping to conclusions or accusations, e.g. “You lied to me;” labels, e.g. “You’re being childish;” and other forms of subjective experience, e.g. “You can’t say you’re ‘comfortable in your own skin’ just because you are [race]” are forms of bias that muddle your journey; not clarify the steps for your path.

Allow the Coach to Dictate Actions.  Coaches are there to help you become aware of solutions that work best for you and your situation.  Best practices can be raised to spur ideas, but your coach is raising a red flag if s/he starts telling you what to do.  Coaches are thought partners; not judge and jury.

Accept if Not Committed.  Unless the coachee is wholeheartedly ready to seek out ways to be more effective in workplace interactions, an executive coach is set up to fail.  Coaches succeed when their clients succeed.

 

COACHING FAUX-PAS

One Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) hired a friend of his who called herself an executive coach.  The CHRO hired her to work with a VP who had a terrible case of team attrition.  Unbeknownst to her, the human resource team fully intended to let the VP go, regardless of the outcome – which was never measured.  They simply paid the CHRO’s friend to have sessions with the coach, who occasionally vouched for her progress, and then the HR team documented that they had performed “due diligence” in supplying the VP with assistance before they laid her off.

This approach was not only contrary to the company’s espoused values of integrity and transparency, it communicated the HR team’s inability to recruit the right individual, hold the VP’s supervisor accountable, provide the VP with critical feedback along the way, and to hold a constructive conversation with her themselves so that the VP would not be blindsided with her own inefficiencies – despite turning over three entire teams.  No one had ever stopped her from mishandling her team.  Why? Because she ultimately provided results.  The end justified the means.  Or did it?  Everyone failed.  There was plenty of collusion which negatively impacted many families, and over a long period of time.

Leadership Development is the #1 human capital concern.  Spend your money wisely.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is an Executive Coach who also provides Global Leadership and Organization Development.  She is the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of executive coaches.  The team aims to make the world a better place through “A-ha moments” that reduce stress and increase productivity.  Please visit CorporateLookingGlass.com

 

 

HOW TO MAKE DIVERSITY & INCLUSION PROGRAMS WORK

RACI Acronym

Any change efforts within an organization requires METRICS to measure how the organization was before the intervention and to measure it again post-intervention.  Otherwise, money and time spent without follow-up will not lead to any substantive change, and the change efforts will merely become showcasing; just a way to appeal to consumers.

When an organization which strives to provide equitable treatment to all of its talent desires to bring in Diversity and Inclusion Practitioners, there are four important steps to follow:

  1. Aligned Leadership – Is there 100% support by the C-Suite? (If not, stop here and replace whichever officers are not in alignment. This is preparation for readiness). How is leadership going to get involved?
  2. Establish Awareness – What is the issue here? How does that tie in to the brand?  What makes this issue relevant to our consumers/stakeholders?
  3. Strategy for Implementation – RACI: Who is responsible? Who is accountable? Who is to be consulted? Who is to be informed?RACI Matrix
  4. Metrics – What are we aiming for? What does success look like?  How do we do when we have arrived at our target or future desired state?

Perhaps the most important part of a Diversity and Inclusion program is what is known as CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (coming in at Step 2: Awareness AND Step 3: Implementation). CBT is not teaching us things that we didn’t know, rather, it reminds us of what we need to do.  It is less about imparting information and more about building new habits.

Change can be scary for some. By repeatedly facing whatever it is that they’re afraid of, employees gain confidence in themselves.  It does not help anyone to be told, “Your fears don’t make sense.”

Indeed, cultures are created and shaped by reliance on repetition and a systematic approach. Consistent and progressive practice combined with accountability partners is what gets an organization to a higher cross-functional level of interaction and into a higher level of positive work climates.

Maintenance of any relationship, whether it be interpersonal or systemic, requires regular reminders of where we are and where we’d like to go.

A strong Diversity and Inclusion strategy incorporates elements from Psychology, Organization Development, Marketing, and Sociology.  The only way to ensure Diversity & Inclusion efforts are going to create a systemic impact is to use a cross-disciplinary approach.

This is what Corporate Looking Glass, LLC (www.corporatelookingglass.com) excels in executing.

 

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” – Robert Davies

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner.  She is the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of executive coaches.  Please visit CorporateLookingGlass.com

 

The Dark Triad: Your Colleagues

Dark Triad

Narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism form what is called “the dark triad.”  These personality profiles are found to be fairly common in normal work settings.  They fall into the category of Counterproductive Work Behaviors (CWB), which cost organizations millions, if not billions, of dollars annually.

While I’ve touched upon Machiavelli HERE, this blog is about recognizing the traits within your organization.

 

The Narcissists

First, a distinction between those who are narcissists and those who have Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD).  The latter is a mental illness where the individual has self-esteem issues, and some sort of deep sense of shame and humiliation, but come across as attention-seeking, confident individuals.  They usually do not have the wherewithal to rise to power, because they crumble at the slightest criticism.  Narcissists will react to challenges and criticism with rage; not anger.  This is because they have exaggerated views of their achievements and abilities, and their most pressing needs are for admiration and praise.  They do not like to share the spotlight, as they are envious beyond measure.

Narcissists tend to draw people in with their charm and overabundant self-confidence, but that is, in essence, the love they have for themselves.  The rules do not apply to them, so they offer no apologies, but expect loyalty.

Narcissists rarely, if ever, see anyone as their equal.  (E.g. Larry Ellison; Steve Jobs).  They are “more worthy” than others and, therefore, believe they are entitled to power, money, and prestige.  Not only are they heavily critical of others, they believe they have the right to exploit and control others to their advantage without feeling guilty. They can be profoundly apathetic and even ruthless towards others. In fact, they feel better when degrading others.

INFECTING CULTURE: Narcissistic leaders excel in communicating their inspirational messages and ambitious visions. This allows narcissistic leaders to draw their audience in and shape their beliefs (Have them “drink the Kool Aid” – a reference to infamous narcissist-psychopath, Jim Jones).  The effect of instilling a vision as truth or fact is particularly effective on those who are inclined to be servile and laudatory – essentially, the quiet type who doesn’t like taking a stand or voicing opposition, they just like to follow.  Together, the narcissistic leader and the submissive direct report(s) form a co-dependent relationship.  One wants to self-feed his/her need for dominance, while the other wants to follow.  (Freud had a field day on this topic).  In fact, vast amounts of empirical data, suggest that narcissism is at full force within an organization when the toxic triangle consists of the following three components: 1) narcissistic leader, 2) susceptible followers, 3) contaminated environments.

FINANCIAL RISK: Narcissistic leaders tend to make more impulsive and risky decisions, such as tremendously overpaying for a company acquisition.  This behavior is a reflection of their megalomania (delusions of wealth, power, and/or knowledge); although, not all narcissists are megalomaniacs, but all megalomaniacs are indeed narcissists.  They may be the CEO of a small to medium-sized company, but close the deal by flying in on their own jet, due to their egomania (excessive vanity, pride, arrogance), while touting how ecological the company is.

 

The Psychopaths (Social Predators)

First, the term “psychopath” is used interchangeably with “sociopath”; however, the serious distinction is that psychopaths are more dangerous.  Not only do they need a human to take advantage of (usually after isolating the prey from others), predatory behavior is their most prized objective in their life.  This is what separates them from the narcissist, although they can certainly be both (e.g. Harvey Weinstein).  For the sake of this blog, we shall stick with the model.

According to Drs. Babiak and O’Toole, psychopaths are more commonly found in corporate settings than in the overall population.  Psychopaths are parasitic in that they experience positive emotions when they see/cause others to suffer, and negative emotions when they don’t.  Their most important priority is getting away with it; not getting caught. (E.g. Matt Lauer, Bernie Madoff; Jerry Sandusky).

INFECTING CULTURE: Several have earned an advanced degree, such as Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. degree (e.g. Ted Bundy).  Psychopathic leaders are more likely to either describe themselves as hands-off managers and/or practice a laissez-faire leadership style.  Consequently, their teams end up being less engaged and more dissatisfied w their jobs than the corporate norm.

FINANCIAL RISK:  Psychopathic leaders may be praised for their capability to make tough decisions and stay calm in the heat of battle; however, this misperception is actually the inability to feel emotions.  While it may be argued that negotiations require separating emotion from business, the war for talent may well become the war on talent, leading entire divisions towards failure and significant losses.

 

The Machiavellians

Machiavellians are politically savvy psychopaths who are more likely to engage in counterproductive work behaviors, especially the type that concerns mistreatment and betrayal of work colleagues. They are the most socially skilled of the three types within the Dark Triad, because they are capable of manipulating and influencing others by pretending to agree with them while hiding their true intentions.  They use others as stepping stones and use lies/deceit to advance themselves.

There is a strong overlap between Machiavellians and psychopaths, in that both are characterized by clear deficits in moral standards and empathy.  The distinction is that psychopaths purposely set out to hurt others for enjoyment, whereas Machiavellians will injure someone solely for socio-political advancement and/or financial gain.

While a narcissist exposes him-/herself with anger and jealousy over someone else’s success, a Machiavellian is not delusional, can mask their true emotions well, and will accept the success of someone else if that means s/he could also move up the ladder.

INFECTING CULTURE – Since Machiavellian leaders are socially intelligent and unethical, they end up accomplishing their goals as they harm others, thereby fomenting a “dog eat dog” work climate.  For example, Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber, allowed several of his executive leaders (at HQ and across world regions) room and direction for unethical and questionable behavior. Dissension is created.  Top talent is lost (e.g. Susan Fowler, Uber engineer).

FINANCIAL RISK:  Machiavellians have crooked ethical views that lead to justification of their corrupt behaviors. (E.g. Enron’s “Burn, baby, burn“). In today’s social media world, sooner or later, most Machiavellians are bound to have short-lived successes and long-term career struggles.

 

What Ado about Something

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT.  Research indicates that corporate organizations which use leadership development interventions benefit from focusing on the dark side, in part because dark side traits predict how leaders respond to coaching and change interventions. Narcissists are incapable of assessing their own performance, since they always overrate their abilities. Because they believe they are perfect, narcissistic leaders are likely to be the ones who resist coaching and developmental interventions altogether.  It’s for other people to do.

COACHING.  If you manage to get a narcissistic leader in a coaching opportunity as coachee, remember that s/he is more likely to react defensively to negative feedback. Business psychologist Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic: “There is arguably no better way to spot a narcissist than to question his talents and see how he responds – the more self-obsessed and deluded a leader is, the angrier this will make him.”

360-DEGREE ASSESSMENTS.  This tool can be used to effectively identify workplace psychopaths, but they also tend to produce many false positives.  Once identified, bear in mind that in most cases, psychopaths they will not change.  Leaders will have to openly demonstrate the ability to be self-critical in order to be seen as more self-aware by their peers and direct reports.  When leaders lack self-awareness, their dark side tendencies create toxic work environments, damage morale, destruct team cohesion, reduce productivity, spike attrition, and cause other corporate maladies because they are incapable of recognizing others’ perceptions and of making attempts to modify their ineffective behaviors.

 

Society’s current largest workforce, millennial employees, is asking for more feedback than any previous generation.  Building self-awareness, especially awareness of one’s limitations, will only help any organization thrive. Therefore, having these interventions on a regular basis is paramount to organizational success and survival. Build on the two traits Millennials offer, curiosity and entrepreneurship.  Exhibitors of those traits are those whose talent must be retained.

The worst part of evil is that one gets used to it. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of coaches. She is the author of The Corporate Looking Glass: Using Culture for Your Competitive Advantage. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

 

 

Resources

Babiak, Paul; O’Toole, Mary Ellen. The Corporate Psychopath. https://leb.fbi.gov/articles/featured-articles/the-corporate-psychopath

Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. The Talent Delusion: Why Data Not Intuition, Is the Key to Unlocking Human Potential. Piatkus. 2017.

Navarro, Joe. Dangerous Personalities. 2017.

Twenge, Jean; Campbell, W. Keith. The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. Free Press, NY:NY. 2009.

15 Learnings from My 30th High School Reunion

Prep Band

I remember sitting in my Economics college class listening to Professor Lary (sic) Taylor describe how he had just attended his high school reunion.  Given my interest in human behavior, I was rapt with attention, as though I was hearing the words of a prophet prophesying my future.  Indeed, many of his findings concurred with my own 30th high school reunion.  I have starred (*) these six below.

First, I never intended to be the organizer for my reunion; that’s life for you.  I had missed two earlier big markers of time.  Namely, the 10th reunion was too close to my wedding to attend. And, my parents both died right before my 20th reunion, so I did not have the heart to attend.  Losing my mother led me to want to have a “family reunion” with my community.  The outcome resulted in planning the 30th to include anyone who lived in my hometown as a student in the 1980’s.  And, so, my mission began.

Here are the 14 learnings I take away from this experience on 9.9.17:

  1. *Be Kind…you never know what someone is going through. The strangest guy in my graduating class ended up in San Quentin prison for pedophilia. As it turns out, he was sexually, verbally, and physically abused by his father since he was a toddler.
  2. *Entrepreneurialism Works. A couple of my schoolmates never went to college and are financially successful and self-taught.  I never doubted it as possible, and it was rewarding to see it.
  3. Mama Mía. One of the absolute poorest schoolmates has become one of the most wealthy among us, both financially and spiritually. She adopted three children as a single mom.
  4. Generosity & Otherwise. In order to be inclusive to all I made the reunion entry a nominal $19.87.  Three schoolmates made sizeable donations towards expenses, and several paid-it-forward on the entry.  There were roughly a dozen who couldn’t comprehend why they should pay any amount, and a few dared to show up without paying (*freeriders).
  5. Bueller? Even a couple of “popular kids” were afraid to return; with some not coming at all.  One schoolmate claimed to have to breathe in his car for 20 minutes before he could join in.
  6. *Sing “Memories,” Babs. A lot of people forgot a LOT of details from the past.  For some, the fond memories got jogged back.  For others, there was closure on lost loves and/or grievances.  For all, the event felt like getting back in touch with one’s self, but a better version of one’s self.
  7. *Party on, Dude. The high school partiers are still the partiers.  Despite being rabble-rousers, they are an inextricable ingredient to a lively reunion.
  8. I Did; I Do. The girls who experimented early (on a campus which imposed a double-standard) ended up being devoted, long-married women.  Love, and let love.
  9. ‘80’s Medley. One of the great joys that added to the exponentially intense emotional highs was gathering with those schoolmates who preceded and succeeded us; not just one class, and not just for those who actually graduated.  It was a true community event – one which even included parents.
  10. *Back in Time. Several of us described how incredibly unusual it was to hear the same voices and hear the same laughter after all these years, and be able to recognize them. This enabled us to “time travel” emotionally.
  11. Before & After. Having a slideshow of how we were “back then” and having the schoolmate stand next to his/her slide photo when their name was called proved to be very useful. Some I failed to recognize upon first sight, and others I didn’t know had shown up until they stepped up. Individual recognition among a group of classmates to the larger student body introduced a “Venn diagram” of connection which was palpable.
  12. Repetition & Resilience Pays. There were numerous monkey wrenches thrown at every facet of the event: from venue to cupcakes; the worst being no cell phone coverage. I determined the Rule of 7…if I haven’t communicated, like an advertisement, at least 7x, then I must hold only myself accountable.  
  13. *Forever Young. We laughed; we cried. We lost 16 alumni in less than 35 years.  Given the smallness of our alumni group, that averages to roughly 6% of our student population.
  14. Scathed. No one seemingly gets through the gauntlet of 30+ years of life past high school without some form of tragedy, trauma, or grief touching us. There were tales of divorce(s), jail, death(s) of loved ones, lost employment, financial ruin, illness, etc.
  15. Success Defined. It all depends on how one defines success, of course. I define it as balance. From my observations, it appears that the ones who have achieved the most balance in their lives are not necessarily the ones who earn the most money, or have the most education.  It seems to be the ones who have successfully found the right partners, family, and/or friends to surround themselves with…constantly.  Positive chemistry.  That may sound like nothing new, yet, it is one thing to know it; and, quite another to witness it at this juncture in life and work, on such a grand scale.

I am grateful to have had my sons serve as volunteers at this event, simply for this last learning.  The challenges of life are hard to face without the love and support of those who know you at your core.  THIS is family.

I can cross this off my bucket list.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a proud member of the Class of 1987, Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  Visit us at CorporateLookingGlass.com.

©Rossina Gil, 2017

“Happy Chemicals” at Work

Happy Chems

Happy people don’t leave organizations.  Why? Because they enjoy what they’re doing with others who value what they bring to the table.  How is that relevant to the company?  Because literally billions of dollars are lost annually from attrition, gatekeeper recruiter time, interview travel costs, relocation expenses, learning curve/training time, cultural assimilation, possible visas/attorney fees, loss of productivity, and further fallout from the change of talent.  Has your company ever measured the cost of poor organizational health?  If not, be prepared that today’s talent is checking organizational culture reviews on Glassdoor before they even apply or accept interviews.

So, what is happening internally which causes people to stay?  Some companies (surprisingly) still believe it is about the money, despite several studies indicating the contrary.  Scientists across several fields of study concur that human beings strive for homeostasis, i.e. a balance, which helps us feel safe.  While we can be motivated by fear, our strong preference over “fight or flight” is to dwell and enjoy.  The four chemicals that our bodies physiologically produce when we enjoy our environment and the variables within it are the following: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, and Serotonin.

 

OFFICE YIN YANG

The SELFISH chemicals are dopamine and the endorphins.  They get us to where we need to go as individuals.  The SELFLESS chemicals are oxytocin and serotonin.  They get us to work together and develop feelings of trust and loyalty.  If only one side dominates, your organization has either chaos or stagnancy.  The balance of selfish and selfless chemicals is one of the successful CEO’s primary tasks.

Let’s examine each one:

Dopamine – DOMINANCE.  This is the Incentive for progress.  The positive is it enables us to set goals, focus, and achieve.  For those who like “the chase” and the cave man feeling of “conquest,” they have to monitor a possible addiction to dopamine. How does your organizational culture promote win-win goals?

Endorphins – ENDURANCE.  These mask physical pain.  They are released during a “runner’s high” and when your stomach is contracting strongly during a good laugh. Imagine: It is impossible to simultaneously laugh and be afraid. What keeps your office smiling?

Oxytocin – AFFECTION. This forms bonds of love and trust.  Oxytocin is produced through acts of service, sacrifice, and selflessness on behalf of others. Organizational cultures which implement these behaviors into a daily practice have a high chance of pre-empting the emergence of toxicity in the workplace.

Not only does oxytocin keep us healthy (no sick days), they make us better problem solvers. It is #10 on the Gallup Q12: “I have a best friend at work.”  This means someone who we can trust as an ally.  This chemical makes it more about “us,” instead of the addictive quality of “me” that dopamine fulfills.  When we share joint challenges, our bodies release oxytocin, which forms bonds.  Leaders must offer talent a reason to grow.

Serotonin – PRIDE.  It’s the feeling of pride and leadership.  Serotonin is produced when those we lead in the workplace develop into more skilled professionals under our guidance.  True leaders are supportive and do not undermine their direct reports.  (Managers do).

Serotonin only exists in symbiotic relationships – each person feels like s/he is gaining a benefit from their association.  Much like Confucianism’s five bonds (father to son, elder brother to younger, husband to wife, ruler to ruled, friend to friend), a burst of serotonin provides the feeling that others like or respect us.  This is why time is allowed to each Oscar winner at the Academy Awards, before the symphony plays them off stage…the winner feels like s/he couldn’t have accomplished what they did without the support from others.

 

CHEMICAL IMBALANCE IN THE WORKPLACE

When I was young, I was told “stress will kill you.”  This never made much sense to me until more recently.  Cortisol is the chemical that is produced by our bodies when our workplace offers a constant state of fear and/or anxiety.  This chemical, cortisol, has the potential to reconfigure our internal systems, cause lasting damage, and shorten our lives.  One of my clients ended up in the emergency room, only to be told by her doctor that she was experiencing work-related stress.  She had an interim boss who was a corporate bully.  He did not recognize that fear and/or lack of homeostasis inhibit(s) productivity.

For our own health reasons, we must never accept toxic environments, whether they be inside or outside of the workplace.  Do not attempt to fool yourself that you can become accustomed to the stress.  Low, regular levels of stress (i.e. cortisol) can no only break down our internal organs, it can activate dormant cancer cells.

What constitutes a toxic workplace?  Basically, values which are not being supported from the top-down. Author Simon Sinek: “Hypocrites, liars, and self-interested leaders create culture filled with hypocrites, liars and self-interested employees.  The leaders of companies who tell the truth, in contrast will create a culture of people who tell the truth.  It’s not rocket science.  We follow the leader.”

Mimicry begins in infancy.  Leaders know when to make it stop, and that includes you – know when to walk away from those who have a toxic abundance.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. She is the author of The Corporate Looking Glass: Using Culture for Your Competitive AdvantageWe increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

 

Resources:

Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D. Habits of a Happy Brain

Simon Sinek. Leaders Eat Last

 

How Stanley Milgram Predicted United’s Behavior

Stanley

“The essence in obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view himself as an instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes and he therefore no longer regards himself as responsible for his actions.” ― Stanley Milgram

Social psychologist and Yale professor Dr. Stanley Milgram conducted a controversial experiment on obedience and authority in the 1960’s. Following the Nazi war crimes from WWII where the German soldiers defended themselves in court trials as “Not Guilty” because they were just following orders, Milgram’s intent was to expose how willingly people behave towards those in charge. 

EXPERIMENT: Milgram engaged volunteer students to play the role of being electrically charged, where the ultimate charge involved excruciating pain and could potentially kill someone. While they were indeed connected to equipment, there was no exposure to pain – they simply acted. The subjects, unaware of the ruse, believed that the volunteer students could be hurt as they turned a series of “electrical” switches in increasing amounts of voltage under the direction of a “scientist.” The volunteers were placed in an adjacent room, however, their screams, cries of pain, and shouting to make it stop, could easily be heard. Whenever the subjects hesitated to turn the next switch of a higher voltage, the scientist would calmly state, “the experiment must continue.” How many continued?

RESULTS: Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the subjects completed the entire experiment. Not only did they not show concern for the student’s well-being, they insisted that they were not responsible for it, despite having been the one who turned the switch! Their reasoning? “They were just doing as they were told.” Deflection and blame (transference) against the student was also common, e.g. “He was so stupid and stubborn, he deserved to be shocked.”

ABERRATION: So, what about the other 35%? The subjects who refused to continue were those who did not see the scientist as the ultimate authority. They either saw God as who they serve, and/or believed that they themselves must assume accountability for their actions in harming others. This is true leadership, not just whoever is sitting at the top of the pecking order.

SUMMARY: The 65% result demonstrates how the majority of people within a system will ignore how others are hurting if, and when, they feel that they are disrupting their place in the pecking order. They are more prone to following the “rules,” instead of exhibiting empathy and humanity.

 

APPLICATION TO THE WORKPLACE

In a recent debacle with United, a passenger was literally dragged off a plane, because he refused to give up his paid-for seat to crew which needed to be sent to the destination city for work the next day. United had offered vouchers to those four who would give up their seats, but it wasn’t monetarily sufficient for the passengers to volunteer, so the four passengers to be ejected off the aircraft were selected (through algorithms) for “forced volunteerism” – which United referred to as “re-accommodation.” When the fourth passenger refused to deplane, the crew called Security, which ended up forcefully dragging the passenger off the flight, and, in the process, bloodied the passenger. Despite protests from fellow passengers, Security dragged the passenger up the aisle and off the plane.

The United crew, commended by their CEO the following day for their judgment, elected to not incrementally increase the price of the voucher for self-select volunteerism, which could have very well led to four passengers voluntarily agreeing to deplane. Instead, United resorted to treating its customers as cargo.

As Simon Sinek wrote, “We don’t just trust people to obey the rules, we also trust that they know when to break them. If good people are asked to work in a bad culture, people will be more concerned about following the rules out of fear of getting in trouble or losing their jobs than doing what needs to be done. When fight or flight is the name of the game and no broad Circle of Safety exists, then kill or get fired is the best strategy.”

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE and author of at least five books on (so-called) leadership, is among several corporate leaders who began treating people as an expendable resource back in the 1980’s. Since then, other organizations believed they should follow suit and use layoffs to meet their numbers for Wall Street. One company in the South (which no longer exists) followed this practice for 8 consecutive years, and, according to its former head of HRIS (Human Resource Information Systems), manipulated the data to falsely represent that more formerly exited employees were wishing to return than those wishing to leave.

 

IMPACT ON THE YOUNGEST WORKFORCE

It is little wonder why Millennials have been dubbed as “disloyal” for leaving companies after relatively little time. Bear in mind the following, which shaped their perspective:

  • Millennials witnessed the fall of “stable organizations” such as Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, and Lehman Brothers – companies to which some of their parents had dedicated their entire careers.
  • Millennials watched their parents’ devastation over losing money to fraudulent stockbrokers, like Bernie Madoff.
  • Some Millennial families became homeless after the Dot.com bust of 2000, or the housing-market crash of 2008.
  • Worst of all, many Millennials lost their parents in the ultimate sacrifice of solely showing up for work at the Twin Towers on 9.11.01.

What they observed is that company loyalty towards its talent for how hard their parents worked or how much they sacrificed or how well they contributed to the company no longer translated into job stability. In a workforce predominantly consisting of egalitarians, loyalty is not a one-way street. Therefore, it is paramount that empathy and humanity be part of the corporate equation in order for retention, productivity, and stock to stay strong. It is a balance that must be remedied in order for our economy and personal health to be robust.

 

Leadership displays empathy and humanity. Praise your talent for those traits; role-model them. Empower them to use their minds to overcome rules which may oppose these traits, and, like United, you could potentially save your company a $800 million public relations disaster.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. She is the author of The Corporate Looking Glass: Using Culture for Your Competitive AdvantageWe increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

 

Resources:

Stanley Milgram. Obedience to Authority

Simon Sinek. Leaders Eat Last