Guest post by Mariela.
Sometimes i get comments on this post that are too good to be hidden in the comments section. Here is one from Mariela on my previous post “Purpose Maximizers and Candies”
Some comments on Candy 2 (as the person who unearthed this particular post, I guess it is no wonder that I want to comment on it :-).
A very interesting point that the “Why your boss is programmed to be a dictator” implies, and which is something that I myself always wondered about, is why does it always seem that as soon as you become a boss you seem to fit this Dictatorship mold. Even people who to start with are democratic and liberal and open minded end up being dictators ( I must confess that my answer has always been that power somehow gets to their heads and makes them act like perfect bastards, but I always wondered would I have the moral stamina to be different… or would I also become a dictator like everyone else; I’ve been so much afraid to face the answer to this question, that I have very carefully and deliberately avoided being in situations where I would have any hierarchical power what-so-ever).
Now, what this particular post talks about is two fold:
1), a lot of our behavior is determined by the situation (the example used is the simulated prison studies, where students acted the part of prison guards or prisoners, and were found to behave perfectly within the stereotypical roles, despite their initial character and personal convictions); so bosses behave as bosses, because our systems (organizations) force them to
2), the second thing is something known is psychology as Fundamental Attribution Error – which is the other side of the coin that Dhruve does not talk about, but you will find plenty on in the SWITCH book of Dan and Chip Heath (also referenced by Peter in previous blogs). The fundamental attribution error is a bias that we all suffer from, which means that in any situation we are likely to attribute observed bad behavior as fundamental character flaw of the person, rather than attempt to check if the situation was not responsible; however when we ourselves exhibit the same behavior it is very clearly the fault of the situation (example – observing a driver passing a red light, causes us to usually call him names, while when we ourselves commit the same offense, it is… because we have a very good reason that excuses the behavior, of course).
Now what all that means to me, is that there is great hope for our bosses and organizations: all we have to do is change the situation and people will miraculously behave in a different way. Simple! 🙂
I know it sounds way too simplistic to be true, but I have been observing this change in people in my work, but never realized what caused it and how I could reproduce it predictably.
I have worked over the last few months with many colleagues with whom previously I had difficult relationships.
My current work usually involves situations when I offer to help them achieve a goal and facilitate collaborative meetings/ workshops for them. I have observed the most amazing changes happen to people in such workshops – they suddenly behave in very open, non-confrontational, collaborative, and creative ways. They get excited, they want to share, they value their colleagues and they appreciate their differences. And before I could have betted (if I was a betting person) that they could never ever behave like that, because they were not such type of people (attribution error again).
I’ve seen this magic happen over and over again in different situations with different people, and I could not explain it, so I just took it for granted. Until I came across the SWITCH book and the Fundamental Attribution Error. And then I realized that there was no magic.
People are people, they have good and bad sides, and they are mainly….well, human. All you’ve got to do is chose the situation… and defer judgment: Good situations bring out the best in people, bad situations…..
Mariela should start blogging herself. But maybe this is a situation where she feels some sort of hierarchy or being in a situation where she fears the answer on what would happen if she goes full public. There is only one way to find out.