Measuring Psychological Safety Vs Power Abuse

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 reply:

“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.”

Snowflake!

All the reasons you need to keep your big trap shut!

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

Our Psychological Safety Framework

Object123 is a self-help tool for resolving disagreements before they become disputes.

CAUTION

Acknowledge

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.

OBJECT

Simple Apology

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.

STOP

acceptable APOLOGY

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


The fear we have of upsetting people and being upset when we disagree.

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.


The Agree-cultural Revolution

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.

I hope we agree.

Gossip Quotient

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It is great how babies and toddlers all seem to object rather than complain. (ie complain in real time to the person responsible for their care rather than gossip later behind their backs).

Imagine if they could learn to say to OBJECT123 to let us know instead of crying or screaming? I think it is possible.

But even better imagine if adults could learn this too?
You might say I’m a dreamer….

Psychological Safety Singular Framework

It seems to me there are two approaches to creating a Psychological Safety Framework:

  1. Describe 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.

Or

  1. Propose a singular framework for objecting to misbehavior that team members and team leaders could agree or disagree to use together.

The former takes a book or two and months of workshop learning.

The latter takes a paragraph, a one hour conversation and a lifetime of engagement.

THE PRECAUTION!

The word “precaution” suggests that it’s what comes before we need to caution or to even prevent cautioning. In fact, to me precaution does not seem to make sense until we make the statement “to take the precaution”.

Our lives are full of these precautions, so many in fact that I believe we have not thought what they are and where they are. Our whole legal and government system is one giant precautionary tool. A very expensive precaution against anarchy.

I challenge you to to stop and think about the next thing you do and spot all the precautions we have in place to avoid being cautioned or even to prepare us for a cautioning if we break them. Road rules, technology, monetary systems, workplace conditions, climate and environment, energy, education, health, science, sex, design, taxes, finance, legal, marriage, architecture, engineering, etc etc. They all consist of explicit precautionary policies, rules and regulations that allow our society to function and thrive even. They can keep us safe if we take them and can cause us a lot of problems if we don’t take or adopt these and many other precautions.

Of course there is a price to pay for having the precaution in place, just look at what has occurred with COVID-19 and the different precautionary policies each government undertook. The price paid by each government for applying the existing precaution of closing down travel, testing, and contact tracing early verses seeing if we could “ride it out” but possibly paying the price of many deaths later, as Boris Johnson claimed and Donald Trump implemented. I guess as a society and as an individual we have to ask ourselves how much are we willing to pay in time, effort and money for taking the precaution versus the risk of not taking it. The precautions are all there we just have to agree to them and implement them.

The precaution I would like to talk about is the precaution for when we have a disagreement or dispute in our personal and business relationships. What is the precaution we have taken for such a situation? I don’t believe we have yet any standardised precaution for this very common situation. Now, it is not a far stretch to say that most friendships or relationships end due to one or multiple disagreements and disputes and yet what precaution have we taken already? Or better still what precaution did your parents take and pass on to you?

I have taken a precaution that I call OBjECT123 and am willing to share and I would love to hear if you have taken a precaution for when you have personal disputes that you are willing to share?