Type “psychological safety” into Google and you will see a bunch of articles on “so many ways to add or create psychological safety in the workplace”. Since the New York Times article in 2016 about Google’s research into “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team” the buzz phrase has been psychological safety. The number of books written on the subject is exhaustive and exhausting.
But what if we chose a new tact and instead of trying to add or create psychological safety we set about simply removing psychological unsafety. You see no one exactly knows what psychological safety looks like, although many have theories, no one exactly knows how to get it as a simple step by step formula otherwise there would only be one book and one way to do it and everyone would be doing it that way.
But dare I say that we have a much better clue for what psychological unsafety looks like and especially feels like. My definition is walking on eggshells. A common idiom we use daily to explain how it feels to be in an organisation that feels psychologically unsafe. Now imagine if we knew what caused this feeling and went about removing it? Hey presto! Problem solved. This presentation is my very simple theoretical solution for removing psychological unsafety and ultimately leaving us with psychological safety, as we learn to utilise the Object123 tools.
In summary, I think it is easier to measure and subtract power abuse than to measure and add psychological safety!
My question to the person that posted this Parisa Naraei PhD:
“My point is Parisa, that is what is needed with psychological safety, now, to define, design and measure it & get everyone to agree & there are a heap of books & thousands of pages on the subject, it is exhaustive and exhausting.”
“Now take the opposite approach that is measuring of power abuse. I believe we all have an intuitive section of our brain that can detect the slightest offensive behavior in a nanosecond. However, we have been indoctrinated to suppress, repress or oppress these feelings by such idioms as, “suck it up buttercup”, “sticks & Stones….”, “snowflake”, “don’t rock the boat”, “don’t be so sensitive” or “have a thick skin”, etc etc. I am sure you have heard at least one if not all of these before.”
“So imagine if we agreed to speak up, in real-time when we have taken offence & encouraged adult team members to have this behavior that children are so good at. But instead of throwing a tantrum like a child, we simply objected to the offensive behavior as it occurred. Eg. When was the last time you said to someone “I object” when they said or did something offensive to you? We usually, literally suck it up & after the meeting gossip to our workmates about what a deplorable person they are. Here is my slideshare pitch to help you understand my point.”
I think that there is too much emphasis on us NOT being offended and NOT speaking up when we are offended. And what we see are terrible arguments, domestic disputes, malicious gossiping etc as the result. That is, very poorly delivered objections, that we have been encouraging people to build up and contain and when eventually released, usually ends up being even more offensive than the original offender’s misbehavior.
This is a tweet from Mark Manson #1 NYTimes bestselling author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”. I beg to differ with Mark as I mentioned to Mark, although I do agree that how we choose to be offended should be done wisely:
And then you have this from his followers….
It is no wonder we have so many relationship issues in our society when everyone is being encouraged to basically “shut the F#*K up!”
Object123 goes in the opposite direction, I believe, by encouraging team members to actively and openly object to offensive behavior or misbehavior in real-time. Emphasizing how and when we object being the most important point and that we agree to use a singular platform to do so. Finally, we can now rightly know that we can even take offense to these idioms, and no longer think we have to accept being called a Snowflake.
Object123 is a self-help tool for resolving disagreements before they become disputes.
Eg:“OK granted” If one is upset by the other’s misbehavior or anger they can pause the conversation & caution the offender in real-time and he/she would need to either acknowledge or challenge the caution or it can be escalated to an objectionion.
Eg:“Sorry I was out of line” If the caution is not adequately addressed then the offended person can escalate it to an objection. Now the situation would need a simple apology or a further challenge to respond to the offended person or it can be escalated to a stop.
Eg:“Sorry, I was unfair because…& next time I will …” If the dispute reaches a STOP because the original caution and objection was not addressed appropriately by the offender, an acceptable apology would now be required or the dispute can be taken to a hearing before our peers to assess the matter.
how we deal with misbehavior
WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY Psychological Safety is the latest buzz word for corporations especially since the 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review on Google and high performing teams. There has been a lot written on the subject with many claiming to be experts and with years of research under their belt. Authors such as Brene Brown, author of Dare to Lead and Timothy R Clarke, author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, have written extensively on the subject and their work sounds valid but there is just so much of what we need to know in order to achieve true psychological safety.
THEIR FOCUS They seem to have focused on all the behaviors that team members should and shouldn’t do and what the team leaders should and shouldn’t do to enable these identified behaviors. Their information and data is exhaustive and exhausting.
OUR FOCUS However, there is another way to solve this overwhelming problem of dealing with misbehavior. Instead of focusing on how we all should behave (in the future) to achieve Psychological Safety, we simply focus on how we object to others misbehavior, now, and build up a knowledge of how we should behave, one objection at a time.
OBJECT123 This is our simple Psychological Safety framework that allows us to moderate each other’s misbehavior (anger), in real-time and direct. Now the janitor can object to the CEO’s misbehavior and know that they have the protection and safety that the framework provides, with everyone being held accountable, regardless who they are.
WHAT IS MISBEHAVIOR? Whatever causes someone offence can be deemed misbehavior. For example, I find anger offensive. Others may find use of certain words offensive and then of course there is tone, volume, rhetoric, lying, ignoring, being dogmatic, etc etc etc. The point being that we should be able to argue our case during a disagreement without being offensive and be willing to modify our behavior if it is offensive. It is no coincidence that we seem to most likely to lose our cordial behavior and become angry and offensive when we have a disagreement. This is why most of us avoid disagreements.
HOW WE DO IT Object123 allows us to disagree safely. The special sauce to OBJECT123 is our understanding of the difference between disagreeing and objecting. When we disagree it is with the content in the discussion but when we object it is with the misbehavior in the discussion. The Object123 agreement allows us to Alt-Tab between content and any misbehavior at any time, consciously dealing with misbehavior when we are upset or offended by it. Thereby quickly and efficiently nipping it in the bud, any small misbehavioral incident, during a disagreement, before it becomes a dispute.
Our written history began around 10,000BC with the Agricultural Revolution. After this, came the Industrial Revolution and we are now in the Digital Revolution or Information Age. My prediction is that the next revolution that builds upon the Information Age will be the Agree-cultural Revolution.
What is the Agree-cultural Revolution? I believe it is where we have created a simple culture within our business and personal arenas that encourage and enable “real” agreements to occur.
I see conversations today, generally with people being obsequious, compromising, acquiescing, assenting to authority and avoiding the asking of “dumb” or “difficult” questions. This is understandable as we don’t seem to have an explicit and standard way to resolve inevitable disputes that occur when we have disagreements and the resultant poor behavior they can cause.
Object123 is our proposal for creating such a safe, agreement culture or environment. Where we make one singular agreement that if person A is offended by anything person B has said or done, person A has the right to pause the conversation by objecting and have a parallel conversation about our behavior. This is done by agreeing to use three consecutive phases, if needed, starting with a Cautioning and then an Objecting and finally a Stopping, if necessary.
I believe the actual reason we have conversation, besides practice, is to form and improve our agreements. That our agreements are supposed to be in a constant state of flux where we can return to them at any time and disagree as we gain new information and renew and improve our agreements. And by using the Object123 Agree-cultural framework we facilitate these agreement conversations, making them enjoyable and not the stressful a chore that we are used to when we are having disagreement.