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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

 

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How to Turn a Dysfunctional Leader into a Highly Functional Leader

BH Blog 1

Jane Doe (Not her real name!) is a VP at a large organization.  Her boss sits in the C-Suite and rewards her for reaching the objectives listed in her job description.  The problem is Jane has had more than two entire team turnovers in less than two years.  Her boss wrestles with the question: How can he let Jane go when she is doing exactly what he hired her to do?

Jane’s boss weighs the actual costs of personnel lost, recruiter time, learning curve and the intangible costs of distrust, watercooler chatter and lack of team cohesion against Jane meeting his annual objectives and goals.  It’s so much easier for him to keep the status quo, so he turns a deaf ear to the complaints streaming in through the uneasy Human Resource directors.  Jane’s workhorse style and “the whippings shall continue until you are all happy” are inconsequential to him, since results matter more than feelings.  In essence, he is teaching Jane to just “get ‘er dun” and she is more than ready to comply.

Let’s be clear here: The dysfunctional leader is not just Jane; it is, firstly, her boss.

Examples like this real-life “Jane” and her boss abound in Corporate America.  Yet, slumped productivity, wide-spread disengagement, and high levels of attrition are costing the U.S. economy an estimated $370 billion yearly, according to Gallup.*

  • How can a company retain specialized top talent AND keep team retention strong?
  • How can the organization avoid ex-employees posting on GlassDoor.com and damaging the organization’s brand and reputation of its ability to manage well?

Blue Health™ is a two-day Leadership Development program that is designed with a heuristic approach – which enables executives to discover how they can improve engagement, productivity, and overall well-being for themselves, their teams, and the organization as a whole.

The Blue Health™ model demonstrates the ancient Greek philosophical foci of Mind, Body, and Spirit (Energy Management); to which we have added the systemic dimension of the Organization.  This Positive Psychology program is a deep dive into optimizing performance and social dynamics. It engages participants in critical thinking and incorporates various methods of adult learning theory to keep comprehension and interaction levels high.

Our associates have conducted primary research from executives within the world’s five Blue Zones (locations known for holding the highest concentration of self-sufficient centenarians), and Blue Health™ is endorsed by multiple medical doctors from the only Blue Zone in the USA; Loma Linda, California.

If you are ready for healthy, functional leadership, please contact us at info@CorporateLookingGlass.com for further information.  Or, dial 615.431.9689.

Be Well.

Rossina Gil is the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC, a team of Leadership and Organization Development Practitioners and Interculturalists, based across the USA.  Rossina co-launched the Blue Zones initiative in Des Moines, Iowa (Sponsor: Wellmark); and Redondo Beach, California (Sponsor: Beach Cities Health District).  She is the author of The Corporate Looking Glass: Using Culture for Your Competitive Advantage (available on Amazon.com), which is required reading at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management.  www.CorporateLookingGlass.com

© Rossina Gil, 2015

*Source:

http://www.fastcompany.com/3009012/the-costs-of-ignoring-employee-engagement

 

On-Boarding

OITNB

New Executives?  Your company may have a “fish out of water” story on its hands.  What is the process of acculturation (i.e. on-boarding) in place at your organization?

Commonly, when corporations send its top talent to other regions, including countries, to stretch the top performers’ abilities and learn how to adeptly be a Global Leader through international experience, the executives are offered two full days of cross-cultural coaching.  This type of consulting is to prepare for the full immersion; or, in some cases, it is arranged for post-arrival.

In order to survive in a new work environment, it is imperative that prior to joining, you are aware of the climate.  Now, with the help of Glassdoor.com, et al, insiders are providing glimpses of what the organizational culture is like for those on the outside looking to join.

Organizational Culture is a pattern of assumptions, values, and norms which are shared by organization members. Culture can evolve intentionally and unintentionally. (See Blog Corporate Primatology).  By understanding a culture’s norms, we can work towards the desired outcome. This applies to understanding family cultures (the in-laws), national cultures (expats), and corporate cultures (employees).

Understanding the Norms

Norms are unwritten rules of behavior that guide what members of groups do and don’t do. Norms serve a need, such as group cohesion, and provide predictability. Predictability keeps most members feeling safe because they learn the nature of the “reward band.” A reward band is recognition, bonuses, promotions, favoritism, extended to those who behave accordingly.

However, norms are mostly unconscious and might not reflect actual written policies.  They may also be contrary to whatever values the organization espouses to hold.  This is why it is paramount that new members identify the norms as early as possible in order to avoid pitfalls and land mines.

Identify the Norm. “Around here, when it comes to _________ we ________.”

E.g. Around here, when it comes to “feedback,” we “handle it face-to-face discreetly” or “handle it in the hallway with a colleague” or “take it straight to Human Resources (HR),” etc.

Around here, when it comes to “working weekends,” we “regularly come in on Saturdays,” or “can work from home” or “have this reduced to just travel,” etc.

Around here, when it comes to “vacation/Paid Time Off (PTO)” we “are contactable by cell only for emergencies,” or “are not contactable” or “are always contactable,” etc.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Analysis.  Have an Organization Development practitioner conduct an analysis to determine your organizational culture. Norms should be mapped. (See What is OD? and Hellenistic Philosophy and Leadership).
  • Accurate Portrayal. Have recruiters deliver a fair assessment of what kind of organizational culture the new employee can expect.                                                                                        Antartica
  • Relo Help. Arrange for Relocation Assistance, if the new colleague relocated to the area.  Relocation Assistance helps New Arrivals become familiar with the area (e.g. where to shop, DMV, places of worship, info on neighborhoods, etc).
  • Retention Convo. Hold a retention/engagement conversation with the new employee.  KeepPeople.com cards are a useful tool.  The supervisor should review this every six months.
  • Orientation. Deliver an on-boarding program which helps people understand the organizational norms AND avoid the pit-falls which have driven previous colleagues to leave.
  • Lingo. Provide a list of acronyms and terminology that is part of the organizational language.
  • Buddy. Assign a buddy or counselor, in addition to the Human Resource Business Partner (HRBP) on the first day.  Have the HRBP meet monthly with the new colleague (this should be on the calendar).
  • PDP. Develop a Professional Development Plan as a strategic document for the new colleague to understand what is expected of him/her.
  • Intros.  Set up meetings with key partners, vendors, clients, and co-workers as a way to introduce the new colleague into the organization.
  • Team Retreat. Share team strengths and responsibilities with each other during a private lunch meeting, full- or half-day meeting – preferably off-campus.  Psychometric tools and/or Organization Development exercises are useful for an accelerated bonding process.
  • Evaluation.  Disclose how the new colleague will be measured for performance management.
  • NLI. Schedule a New Leader Integration process, if the new colleague has direct reports, within 60-90 days.  Do NOT hold feedback until then; coaching must be timely and positively

Much like a plant being transferred from one location to another, the new colleague requires nurturing (i.e. compassionate coaching).  This is fertile soil.

While no one can mandate a welcoming organizational culture, having a structured, transparent, and easy-to-find-resources work environment, will maximize retention.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and sits on the Advisory Council of the Insight Garden Program, a leadership program designed to promote rehabilitation for San Quentin penitentiary prisoners.  Rossina is 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, 2015

Judgment Day

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Most people dislike judgment and wish to escape it. However, judgment is much like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog’s Day…it is there every day, and there’s not too much one can do about it, but get used to it and make the most of it.

Psychologist Paul Ekman argues that judgment is essential to survival. It is a part of our hardwiring, since judgment stems from our EMOTIONS. In fact, Dr. Ekman asserts that there are seven universal emotions: Contempt, Disgust, Anger, Sadness, Surprise, Fear, and Joy. These emotions are called universal because he found that the expressions for these emotions are understood regardless of one’s cultural origin. To test his theory, he brought pictures of authentic emotions to a remote village in Papua, New Guinea – a place where civilization was left untouched by the outside world and could not have “learned” these expressions through media or human contact. His landmark study revealed that these seven emotions are innate and could be accurately assessed by other humans. So, all humankind is born with the ability to “judge” or ascertain situations.

 

But Isn’t Judgment Bad?

All judgmental comments are helpful in understanding the NEEDS of the individual placing the judgment; hence, the utilization of Performance Management Reviews and 360-Reviews in the workplace. Subjective assessments can be mitigated by including all comments; not just the critical and hypercritical feedback.

Supervisors, and those without Direct Reports, can make more effective judgments in a variety of ways. First and foremost, slow down the knee-jerk reaction by practicing inquiry. Then, contemplate the three areas I reiterate in my blogs, namely: EMOTIONS, THOUGHTS, and ACTIONS.

EMOTIONS. Dr. Ekman found that emotions are a psycho-physiological (i.e. mind/body) experience that drive a person to action. As infants, we experienced emotion before cognitive development. So, when someone expresses an emotion and we do not understand the reason or intensity of the emotion, we have very likely at some point, and under different circumstances, experienced the same emotion and can, therefore, relate to the person using critical judgment. RECOMMENDATIONS: Practice compassion. Ask yourself, have I ever been disappointed, frustrated, confused, etc. by XYZ (e.g. someone offering me direct feedback, not giving enough face-time, not communicating “enough,” using words I can’t understand)?

THOUGHTS. Each employee moves forward making a series of daily decisions based on their thinking process. Reasoning is usually a combination of Nature (i.e. genetic/internal) and Nurture (i.e. environment/external). For example, a supervisor could be a Linear thinker and can get lost if someone jumps from A to C, without having discussed B. Men are typically Linear thinkers. If s/he is Linear and has a Systemic thinker for a direct report, then conflict can ensue because the supervisor could feel frequently lost and may attribute that to the direct report. A Systemic thinker can easily jump from A to D (or even G) because that is how his/her mind works. Women are typically Systemic thinkers, which is why there are jokes about how complicated a woman’s mind is (7-lane highway or massive circuitry) versus a man’s mind (dirt road or a one-push button). RECOMMENDATIONS: Practice Inclusion and Equifinality. This means that “there are more ways than one to skin a cat.” Plus, diverse thinking increases your competitive advantage (See blog Women in Corporate Leadership).

ACTIONS. Since we are the product of the sum of our experiences, we tend to be more receptive towards certain individuals than to others. At work, one supervisor/direct report might think that you’re fantastic, while the next one may not. How does this happen? Experiences vary by individual and that is what impacts and shapes expectations. Lack of experience usually reduces the ability to practice inclusion and equifinality; and if s/he has little to no experience and lacks compassion, then you are S.O.L. (i.e. sh*t out of luck). RECOMMENDATIONS: Recognize how experience contributes “added value.” Experience, unless dysfunctional, never diminishes value contribution and must be optimized.

Suspend judgment. Embrace emotion, question it, and do no harm.

Thank you.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Source:

Ekman, Paul. Emotions Revealed. (New York: Owl Books, 2003).

©Rossina Gil, 2013

Give Us Strategy! (Or Give Us Corporate Death!)

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A lot of companies demand a strategy, and this action is metaphorically like placing the cart before the horse.  Culture is the strategy.  Therefore, it is more advisable to focus on the organizational culture prior to focusing on the customer and/or the product.  The organization is the product.  The organization is a collected group of people.  This is why there must be unequivocal emphasis placed on the culture before the strategy can be formulated.

It is for this reason that my Claremont Graduate University professor, the late Peter Drucker, said so long ago, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!”  Many professionals don’t understand this, including a Chief Marketing Officer who wrote about this topic in one of his blogs.  Those confused argue against Drucker’s statement and how “culture trumps strategy” and further pontificate that strategy must be aligned with culture.  Idealistically, yes.  Realistically, not so much…What happens is that networking leads to positions (most especially at the C-Suite level), and it is typically top-leaders who create the “reward band” (i.e. determining who gets promoted), and that is usually how the tone is set of unwritten rules of behavior.  Those behavioral expectations set into motion a shift into what becomes the organizational culture.

Successful organizations have a visceral, palpable culture which permeates all managerial levels (i.e. Inclusion); otherwise, there can be a no definable, sure-fire strategy.  They will probably have a number of full-time recruiters working in-house to attract top talent, but they will certainly not be able to retain their talent– either by resignation or fiscal failure.  The key is having the leaders set the example and that begins by addressing the drivers (see my blog on “How Fear Interferes in the Workplace”).

Allow me to provide some concrete examples that differentiate culture from strategy.  First, what is culture?  Culture is a set of beliefs, behaviors, and values performed by a collected group of individuals.  This parallels my blogs on Thoughts, Actions, and Emotions (not to mention Jim Rohn’s Philosophy, Action, and Attitude).  Second, what is strategy?  Strategy is a plan of action designed to reach a particular goal. 

MILITARY EXAMPLE.  The strategy for the military would be their military plan, which entails which resources to procure, which techniques/commands for soldiers to employ, etc.  The military culture is tough and committed to team loyalty.  If the military attracts soldiers per their culture, then their strategy would work.  If they recruit those who start but don’t finish, who crumble easily, and who are highly individualistic without regard for a soldier left behind, then the strategy would not work.

BEST PRACTICE CORPORATE EXAMPLESouthwest Airlines was founded by flamboyant Herb Kelleher.  Their strategy is a business plan which entails how to keep their planes in the air, filled with passengers, and easy for mechanics to maintain.  Their culture is casual/informal (e.g. shorts, funny songs, jokes, and bags of peanuts thrown down the aisles), egalitarian (e.g. male and Baby Boomer flight attendants, pilots are not superior to cabin staff), and cost-focused (e.g. only one style of plane, no meals).  Their recruitment begins with observing the prospective employee or candidate-for-hire as they board the plane heading for the interview.  If the candidate fits the culture, then s/he, unknowingly, makes it through the first round.  If Southwest Airlines were to recruit those who are stoic, formal, and hierarchical, then the strategy would not work.  Why?  Because it’s too far of a cultural stretch for the new employees to unlearn their natural and conditioned behavior.

FAILED CORPORATE EXAMPLE.  Most companies choose to state as a “strategy” that they are to be the “best” at their product/service.  Without stating specifically and concretely WHAT that looks like, HOW it is measured, WHICH action steps are to be taken, “to be the best” is simply empty rhetoric.  Their “culture” is false propaganda aimed as a lame attempt to market the organization as an industry leader and/or to attract top talent.  For example, the culture could proclaim to be “family, health, and innovative.”  Reality may be that the “family” includes scores of “Cinderellas” and ugly stepchildren, “health” is recognized for the favorites (i.e. emotional health and preferential treatment), and “innovative” is without measure (i.e. subjective).  This type of company lacks culture, and suffers from severe fragmentation and high attrition.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Employee Engagement Surveys serve no value if the objective is to aim for a higher score year after year.  Leaders who tout that they must achieve a higher score than the previous year will influence their subordinates to rate a high score and not answer according to perspective.  It becomes a ritualistic exercise in futility.

2. Hire a Leadership Development (LD) professional who has studied Organization Development.  One per every 300-400 employees is advisable.  S/He can conduct a cultural analysis, retain confidentiality for employees (i.e. no documentation of conversations), and develop teams.  Anthropologist Margaret Mead said all change is possible in small groups.

3.  C-Suite executives must have mandatory coaching.  This is to avoid corporate bullies who take on defensive/offensive controller behavior(s) of their respective division(s).  Either the coaching is performed by an external, in order to avoid repercussions (i.e. termination); or, an internal LD professional who has a contract, and thereby has the assurance to do his/her work without “cloak & dagger” consequences.

4. Provide quality Performance Management Reviews (PMRs).  This is a weakness pervasive across America.  Most especially at one recent client where the supervisor would proselytize to others to not “Make Stuff Up” but when it came to himself, his defense was that he was fairly intuitive and others had even told him so!  For these reasons, he believed he was entitled to make assumptions without inquiry.  It would behoove organizations to promote employees with zero direct report experience into supervisory roles, only after they have been thoroughly trained as to how to provide a quality PMR; otherwise, their feedback can be destructive/ineffective behavior that may tear at the fabric of the culture and increase attrition.  Using a Behavioral Science tool (e.g. Ntrinsx) should help those supervisors lacking supervisory experience &/or education.

Here are some tips for quality PMRs:

  1. Feedback has to always be first-hand observation; otherwise, the feedback is gossip and that is not a professional PMRs.  Leaders are not susceptible to hear-say.
  2. It must be non-accusatory and free from condemnation.  Separate the action from judging the person.  One supervisor took his direct report into a room to say how “embarrassed” he was of her.  While the emotion demonstrated is best kept honest, this incident was a reflection of his managerial inadequacies.  Supervisory feedback is intended to develop the direct report; it is not an allowance to use the direct report as a target or therapeutic outlet for one’s deficiencies.
  3. Effective feedback serves as an aid and includes specific actions which are effective, and also provides, as a contrast, specific behaviors that were observed to be ineffective.
  4. Look in the mirror.  This touches upon compassion.  Is the criticism provided also information that you can apply to yourself?  Or, are you applying a double-standard?  If so, you may merit some push back.
  5. Keep it confidential.  This “should” be a no-brainer; however, one supervisor with three direct reports, shared information supplied by one direct report about a second one to the third.  This is called “Triangulation,” in Psychology.
  6. Lastly, nothing should be in writing until Round 2 – this means that feedback must not be a “Surprise!  Gotcha!” event.  The direct report deserves the professional opportunity to rectify behavior prior to seeing it in black-&-white, ready to be filed away.  So, have the courage to have the conversation prior to PMRs to solidify your leadership relationship and abilities.

Be true to who you are, and the rest will follow.  Identity is destiny, or suffer the true corporate death.

Thank you.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Sources:

Jody Hoffer Gittell, The Southwest Airlines Way, (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2005).

Jim Rohn, Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle, (Lake Dallas, TX: Jim Rohn Int’l, 1991).