A bias is a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation. Often, biases are unconscious. They can come from direct experience, or vicarious experiences (e.g. experiences of other people, stories, culture).
In the workplace, your biases and those of others can be harmful. It behooves you to be aware of yours and to be able to identify those of others. An example of a workplace bias may be: men (or women) are better leaders. If you or someone you work with has this bias, it’s easy to see the havoc it can cause.
What are your biases? Do you know? If not, give some thought to the perceptions and beliefs you have about the people you work with. Then, come up with actual interactions you have had with them and determine if they confirm your perceptions and beliefs. If they do not, you may have a bias there that is best to be aware of.
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Recently I listened to an episode of This American Life titled In Defense of Ignorance. In the episode, they discussed The Dunning–Kruger Effect, a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. The theory was developed in experiments conducted by Dunning and Kruger of the department of psychology at Cornell University in 1999. The study was inspired by the case of McArthur Wheeler, a man who robbed two banks after covering his face with lemon juice in the mistaken belief that, because lemon juice is usable as invisible ink, it would prevent his face from being recorded on surveillance cameras.
Have you seen the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action in your workplace? You deal with all kinds of personalities in your workplace and need to use your emotional intelligence to remain effective. What do you do when you run into people with an unshakable sense of superiority? How do you keep doing your work well amongst them?
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As you work, have you ever encountered a situation and thought, “this is absurd”? It may be a cynical reaction to the situation. However, it also may be a reaction worth paying some attention to. Absurd means wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate. That’s not too far out considering what you can encounter in your work, is it? You may dismiss an absurd situation as out of the norm, let it go or try to explain it away.
Looking carefully at a situation that strikes you as absurd, could give you some valuable insights about your workplace, let you see things as they really are or help you assess whether your organization is a match for you.
“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” ― Albert Einstein
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How do you handle surprises? Surprises show up at work and how you respond to them matters. Here are 5 ways to respond effectively to surprises:
1. Recognize that you are surprised and don’t react impulsively. Collect yourself before you respond.
2. Identify how you feel about the surprise. Is it good for you? Or bad?
3. Assess the best way to respond to the surprise.
4. Respond clearly and directly.
5. Pick up any pieces and move on.
It certainly is helpful to have allies in your work. You may have found some. You may also have learned some difficult lessons about perceived allies’ authenticity, hidden agendas and loyalty. What criteria do you use in considering whether someone is an ally at work? Your criteria should be well thought out and protective of your interests. If you consider someone an ally and they are not, they can do some real damage.
Your allies should be proven before you consider them so. Some people may be allies only in certain situations, usually because your self-interests align. Some people may be collaborators, yet not true allies.
Trust and loyalty are key ingredients in an alliance and must be maintained. Too much is at stake. Some say that trust and loyalty are not values that are honored in the workplace. They can be. Honoring these values and having true allies needs your constant assessment, as well as your emotional intelligence. When you do find true allies, you are a lucky one!
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Do you work with a bully? Bullies do not have real power – they depend on your fear, discomfort or belief in their power over you. If you give power to a bully, they usually run with it.
Stay aware that you have power and choice in any situation. Self-respect, staying calm and managing your emotions are powerful antidotes to a workplace bully.
Check out my animation on How To Deal With A Bully Boss!
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For generations, many organizations have relied on hierarchical structures. Hierarchies arrange organizations in a linear fashion and according to their designations of relative importance. Authority is paramount. People are “over” others and ranked determinedly. Hierarchies create a level of order, but also are confining and can limit innovation.
A group named The Next System Project has been looking at alternatives to current systems and recently sketched a model for a Participatory Workplace. Their concepts are quite a departure from hierarchical models, with democratically determined compensation and decision-making and emphasis on empowerment and engagement of all workers.
Changing workplace systems is no small undertaking. It is worthwhile to be aware of what new ideas are out there and also to look carefully at what type of organizational system you want to work within.
Change is all around us. My guess is that we may soon see hierarchical structures begin to fade as workers become more independent, we increase our focus on balance and technology empowers workers at all levels.
What do you think?
In a past post, Do You Ever Feel Fear At Work? I looked at how feeling fear can be a destructive force. The flip side is if we, as managers, create fear in others. For me, creating fear serves no good purpose. It is effective for some in maintaining control but, essentially, it is bullying that has no place in our workplaces.
Good managing involves building a team, not breaking people down. How do managers create fear in others? They create an environment of insecurity, where team members do not know where they stand and feel their position is tenuous. They threaten people, subtly or overtly. They let their emotions run wild, intimidating others. They create uncertainty, without providing leadership.
Do you think you create fear in others? Is it intentional? Could you be creating fear subconsciously? It takes courage to manage openly, respecting others and maintaining your and their integrity. Do you have the courage to eliminate fear from your workplace?
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In our world today, force is often equated with power. I’m not so sure they are the same. Force is defined as coercion or compulsion. Power is defined as the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. In managing, there is merit in distinguishing between the two and in going for power rather than force.
You can see the difference, I’m sure. If you look at your style as a manager or professional, do you lean more toward force or power? Force involves pushing. Power involves directing or influencing. The experiences and responses of those on the receiving ends of force and power are markedly different. Cultivate your power as a manager or professional. It will far out-distance the use of force.
How about your workplace? Do you see more use of power or force?
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As I was writing my last blog post about being “hooked” by emotional issues that come up when you are coaching someone, I thought that it is not just during coaching that emotions can hook us.
How often are your emotions present during your workday? Once emotions are present they can hook you, leading possibly to losing your center, reacting in an inappropriate way or taking offense. Emotional self-awareness is called for to avoid emotional hooks. Emotions can be a runaway train, but when you are aware and in the driver’s seat you can manage your emotions and avoid being “hooked”.
Have any emotions hooked you this week?
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