The 4th Monkey – “Do No Evil”

I am reissuing, with a few modifications, my most popular blog post, for your consideration. The universal application of these age-old concepts is a tremendous value that should guide our behavior and interactions with each other.

We grew up with the story of the three monkeys. I imagine that many of us have the same interpretation of what they represent. We were exposed to pictures or statues. One monkey had his hands over his eyes, the second monkey with hands over his ears and the third monkey’s hands were over his mouth. They were see no evil (Mizaru), hear no evil (Kikazura) and speak no evil (Iwazura). There were actions and behaviors demanded of us based on the three monkeys, but nothing was said about the fourth monkey. The fourth monkey was do no evil (Shizaru).

four-wise-monkeys

The stories of the four monkeys were popular in Japan in the 17th century. Their origin is between 2 and 4 BC in China. The Storyologer web-site (www.storyologer.com) has this account of Mahatma Gandhi who carried around a small statue of the three monkeys.  “Gandhi had a statue of three monkeys in three different postures. One was shutting his mouth with his hands, the other was shutting his ears similarly and the third one had put hands on his eyes. A visitor to his house became curious and questioned Gandhi about the various postures of the monkeys. Gandhi politely replied, “The one shutting his mouth tells us that we should not speak ill of anybody. The one shutting his ears tells us that we should not hear the ill of anybody. And the one shutting his eyes tells us that we should not see the ills of anybody. If we do so, we will have all goodness and nothing but goodness.”

Travelers will often find local markets with carved depictions or artwork featuring the three monkeys. My wife was able to purchase an angelic model of the same concept. There are three angels; one was covering her eyes, one was covering her ears and the other was covering her mouth. However, the fourth monkey was not shown. The 4th monkey, when pictured, is usually shown folding his arms (the body language of being closed) or covering his crotch to signify inactivity.

The different interpretations of the four monkeys is fascinating. In Buddhist tradition it meant don’t spend your time preoccupied with evil thoughts. In the West it relates to not facing up to our moral responsibility, for example turning a blind eye. But in my household, the monkeys were presented to us as a model of proper behavior. Our parents wanted us to identify with the images, to supplement our moral code.

See no evil (Mizaru)

We were told to pay attention to people and location(s). The idea was that if we were in the right location, we would minimize seeing trouble develop before our eyes. This was applicable in school and at work. We were instructed against being at the wrong place at the wrong time or the wrong place right. We were also told not to look for bad things in people or in certain situations. There are people who see bad things when they don’t exist, which could explain the manifestations of bias, stereotypes and profiling. We were not taught to be naïve, but to be careful and respectful.

Hear no evil (Kikazaru)

We were told to shield ourselves from bad language and bad intentions. We should stay away from people who spoke ill of others and gossiped. If we were not in the wrong place we could minimize hearing things that we should not hear. We were also instructed not to listen to foul or vulgar language. If we heard people language, especially regarding someone’s evil intentions, we could use the evil information to do good or to help others, that would be permissible.

Speak no evil (Iwazura)

Speak no evil was used to discourage gossiping or speaking ill will about someone. We were told to watch our language and to speak kind words. “If you can’t say anything good about someone, don’t say anything” was a part of this same philosophy. Adults told us that spreading bad news or malicious information could come back to haunt us. We should also, apply this same advice to the workplace.

There is a misconception around the concept about someone. This misconception has led people to adopt a code of silence in the workplace when a person is not pulling their own weight. We would rather silently complain or resign, before talking about an employee who was not working. We would not want to be labeled a snitch or a stool pigeon. In the streets people would say, “snitches get stitches”. To speak evil of someone means telling a lie, varying false witness or defaming their reputation. However, it is our responsibility to find a way to report injustice, illegal behavior and practices that undermine people and the organization. Our intention should be to speak the truth in love without malice or premeditated negative objectives.

One way to break the code of silence is by offering incentives to whistleblowers. These individuals are people who step forward and report unlawful activities in an organization. They are generally paid a 10% bounty if the measure goes to court and fines are levied against the lawbreakers. In neighborhoods where people know the perpetrators of violence, but fail to come forward, there are no such incentives. Residents may be afraid of retribution, as the rationale for their silence. We must also realize that justice requires telling the truth and this should not be regarded as speaking evil of someone.

Do no evil (Shizaru)

The fourth monkey’s actions are truly related to the others. The workplace is a common place for the four monkeys to be used as an operating system. Employee bullying and intimidation, sexual-harassment claims, the presence of racial discrimination, unconscious bias and sexually charged language and actions exists in many organizations. Where improprieties and liberties are taken with people’s rights in the form of disrespectful words and actions, there are laws in place to prevent and punish these actions. Employees, who adopt a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil mindset are not helping to develop a positive company culture or a respectful workplace

Do no evil is a perfect monkey to enforce the values of character and integrity. He reminds us of proper behavior and etiquette. Our choices have consequences and the more we can emphasize a positive corporate culture and a respectful workplace the more effective our organizations will be become. There is conduct and behavior norms which must be identified, emphasized and enforced vigorously. Character will minimize stress in the workplace and reduce the number of lawsuits and discipline related to improper behavior.

The do no evil mindset would influence our participation in the political process. Our dialogue in conversations around those who are different from us or have different opinions would be positively affected. If we operated each day thinking in terms of do no evil, we would be more empathetic in understanding of each other. We would put ourselves in the shoes of our neighbors and seek to understand their point of, listen to their words and lay the foundation for greater chemistry instead of conflict.

How can we create an environment in our workplaces, families and communities, where people are held accountable for their own unlawful actions and the private citizens who come forward can feel safe and protected? If the fourth monkey was modeled, we would have less of a cause to talk about Mizaru (see no evil) and Kikazuru (hear no evil).

Do no evil and speak no evil should be magnified and connected to many of our guiding principles of behavior.  The Golden Rule and its equivalent in many cultures advise us to treat people the way we want to be treated. The Platinum Rule which asks us to treat people the way they want to be treated. The 10 Commandments implores us not to do a series of acts which could be seen as evil, such as murder, stealing, etc. you are instructed to love your neighbor as yourself. If we began from a position of love it is easier to think in terms of speak and do no evil.

We must clearly outline expectations of behavior and the judgment related to them to improve the climate in our organizations, homes and places where people meet. Correct action is essential to achieving healthy results in our relationships.

The imagery and practices espoused by the 4th monkey holds the key to making this possible. I am hopeful that by emphasizing the fourth monkey, we can improve our behaviors, connections, interactions and relationships with everyone.

 

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser

 

 

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The Case of the Righteous New Manager

Hammer

A promotion to management is quite an accomplishment. A new manager joins the ranks of leadership, among the most important individuals in an organization. The manager conducts the functions of planning, organizing, staffing and budgeting, to help the company achieve results and expectations. They are accountable for implementing corporate policies and strategies, as well as caring for the company’s most important resource which are its people.

New managers may possess traits that may hinder or delay the development of their teams and the rapid results they desire. Some have an attitude of righteousness, which means they feel anointed as a manager, rather than being appointed to the job.

New managers bring a fresh perspective to their assignment. They may not be mired in history, preconceived notions and the barriers and restrictions on what can’t be done. They bring drive, enthusiasm and a can do attitude along with a desire to prove that their superiors made the right choice when they were selected as the manager.

The righteousness that new managers display can be itemized as follows:

  • They use an autocratic management style to avoid being challenged
  • They try to mold people in their own image
  • Abuse power through favoritism and preferential treatment
  • Never truly left their old job

Autocratic style

The righteous new manager using the autocratic management style believes that the manager is always right. This management style is perfect for it allows some new managers to hide their insecurities. They project a feeling of superiority. They display an attitude that says they deserved the job and should not be questioned. Challenges are seen as disrespectful to their position and they are swift and deadly in their response. The righteous new manager can be detrimental to organizations, departments and teams, when they operate vanity, insecurity or sheer arrogance.

If the righteous new manager is not comfortable with her skill level, she may not want people questioning her decisions. Autocratic managers don’t want to be questioned. They are accustomed to having all the answers in their previous assignment. But they have not achieved that level of competence in their new position. They respond to inquiries, as the parent who says,” Do it because I told you to or because I said so.” They are afraid to be vulnerable and admit they don’t know everything. They view this as a sign of weakness.

I watched a new manager receive a suggestion from a member of his group who was a former manager. When the idea was proposed, he simply responded that it can’t be done and moved on to the next subject. He missed an opportunity to compliment an employee on the idea and work with the group to fashion something that was within policy. The discussion could have been very open and fruitful if he had used a more participative style of management.

Autocratic managers unwittingly shut off information, which is vital to the success of their group. Managers do not have all the answers. An environment open to challenge and scrutiny can be very beneficial. The new manager must learn how to create this environment. This will enable the manager and the team to grow immeasurably from this experience.

The autocratic management style is a very effective style in the right circumstances. There are situations when the manager has to make the call without input from their teams. However the misuse of this style can be a problem.

Mold people into your own image

The righteous new manager may be tempted to over emphasize the skills that got them promoted. They may be experts in data analysis, customer service, strategic thinking, problem solving, administration or sales. If they were a great salesperson, they will demonstrate that they can sell and expect everyone to sell as they did. Sometimes they will not allow their salespeople to sell because they are always showing them how it should be done. The magic phrase,” this is how I used to do it,” eventually undermines the team. A righteous new manager will take over the sales call to the chagrin of their salesperson and the customer.

The biggest roadblock with the righteous new manager may be the veteran employee. The variance between the new manager’s methods and the veterans experience may be the most significant challenge. The veteran employees may not have had the advantage of the new terminology and techniques and the latest training modules, but they know their jobs. They have the advantage of experience and know how to get results.

When a veteran employee is in trouble, it is up to the new manager’s superior to guide them through this delicate personnel issue. This enables the new manager to benefit from the expertise of their manager. A high producing veteran employee can be placed on the verge of resignation or termination because the new managers making their lives a living hell. I remember when the most effective salesperson was demoralized and frustrated because the righteous new manager wanted things to be done their way. This frustration affected the workers ability to do his job. Sales began to decrease and the new manager made a case that to the veteran had lost his touch and needed to be replaced.

Favoritism

The new manager may have a number of people play up to them to gain preferential treatment. We’ve already discussed situations where prior relationships may lead people to think they should be treated differently. The new manager cannot give in to this temptation. There must be a concerted effort to treat employees with the appropriate and equivalent level of attention. If someone always gets the best assignments or is always called on and applauded in the group, this can cause problems in morale nothing can undermine credibility and engagement more than preferential treatment.

There may be instances where you have a natural affinity or relationship with someone in the group due to prior history. Don’t let this circumvent your ability to lead. This is easier said than done. Sometimes when you have made a conscious effort to avoid favoritism, people may initially accuse you of it anyway. There are situations when members of your team are of the same gender, race, ethnicity, city or country of origin, fraternity / sorority, college and personality type. People will assume you have a preference, even if you have not exhibited one. This says more about them than it foes about you. Be patient and steadfast. In time people will see that you are fair in your relationships with your team and their accusations, suspicions and thoughts of favoritism will go away.

Never really left the old job

This person loves to be called on in matters related to their old assignment. They were good at that job and it was a source of confidence. There is comfort and safety and the tried and true, the familiar has its own rewards and recognition. The new assignment is not been mastered, so these good feelings from the old days provide satisfaction to their ego, but can hinder their growth in the new job. They have to cut away and devote themselves to the new position. They also have to lose the mother hen mentality and allow the replacement the room to grow in their new job.

The new manager needs validation. It is important for them to receive encouragement as well as continued instruction until the new job is mastered. Maintaining a foot in both camps may result in doing a substandard job in both positions.

New managers want to demonstrate their effectiveness as soon as possible. In most announcements, it states the effective date of the promotion, but it does not state the effective date of the manager, in regards to their skill level. The reason is obvious. No one knows the effective date, when the manager’s leadership skills are fully grown and they are fully operational. A new manager plagued with righteousness delays their effectiveness and the performance of their team

Copyright © 2015 Orlando Ceaser