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 Black Panther Strikes

BlackPanter

The Black Panther movie strikes a chord with movie goers around the world. It is shattering box office records. It is catalytic in its messaging, story-line and visual excitement. People are using it to express profound pride, as it delivers lessons on universal themes, humanity, equality, diversity and inclusion, as well as the pursuit of excellence.

I have seen the movie 3 times, including 3-D and IMAX. Each time I walked away with greater insight. I read the comic book as a youth, so this is nostalgic and a long time coming.

Poetry and the arts allow us the opportunity to express ideas which are magnified with individual interpretation. When translated, transferred and transformed through the prism of our experiences, the results can be nothing short of amazing. Here is my poetic take on the Black Panther experience.

The Black Panther Strikes

The Black Panther strikes;

The images inspire imagination;

Invite, excite and ignite

The embers of genius

Until we remember with fascination

The universal themes and memes

That elicit dreams of excellence

That stream a new ideology;

That emphasizes and empathizes

To aspire desire,

To fire a higher reach,

Through awe and technology.

 

The Black Panther strikes,

As a cultural phenomenon,

For those among us who’d like an icon;

A super hero with super powers

That look like us with a face like ours;

To build confidence and regal speech,

To show what is possible,

When obstacles are breached;

When an illusion is legal,

But is shifted

And confusion is lifted

And giftedness is the new twist

To enlist us in the new success,

Which is true success.

 

The Black Panther strikes;

To the heart of the marginalized;

The underserved and disenfranchised;

The heirs, apparently in poverty,

Seeking their cultural identity;

Phenomenally packaged in energy.

They speak seeking a symphony,

In harmony and synergy.

 

Empathy and intellect can remove

Barriers, as we get involved

And agree to work to solve

The problems that surround us

And have bound us.

We must lift every man,

Woman and child to a place of forgiveness,

Where we can be reconciled;

To share, prepare and repair;

To lift each other from despair.

 

The Black Panther strikes,

Directly to community;

Inciting citizens in unity;

And stirs the blending of generations

Through tribal traditions

And pageantry.

We show young people

Who they can be

And celebrate their ancestry;

Seeking challenges to prove they’re free.

Science, technology, engineering and math;

Can help us blaze a wider path;

To channel the rage

And engage on a stage

That is larger than we

Intended, but to accept

The mantel and comprehend;

What we should support,

What we should defend.

 

The Black Panther strikes

To protect the family

And project the family,

As the center of cultural identity;

The truth is, we are all related,

Although our lineage is debated.

We have the capacity;

To help others improve their lot.

We can’t afford to hoard

Resources, when we’ve got

The power through distribution,

To offer solutions.

 

The Black Panther strikes

A story to which we can all relate;

To entertain and educate

And inspire action

Through universal mores

Of dignity and deliverance,

Eloquence and excellence;

Leadership and tough decisions;

Technology executed with precision.

Ancestors deserving a connection;

Connective tissue is in each of us

Enabling us to adjust,

So that we love and trust.

 

The Black Panther strikes,

Through imagination and truths,

From elders down through our youth;

For Millennials and women have value,

The men and young boys have talent

And though steeped in the values of tradition,

The motives that drive ambition;

They are inspired through art and technology;

That transcends pathology;

And through mythology

Explore new pathways

Beyond injustice and inequality.

 

The Black Panther strikes,

So close to home.

There are delegations of youth

At the screenings;

Reporters postulating the meaning,

As millions with African descent,

Extoll the messages and what they represent

And seeing it as a rallying cry;

A cry to honor our first investors

To honor our elders and ancestors;

Imploring us not to forget,

Their sacrifices, wisdom and toil,

For roots and foundation

Enrich the soil.

 

Copyright © 2018 Orlando Ceaser

Conversations with Your Super Hero

BPanter

I enjoyed reading for recreation as a young person. There were sophisticated fables and fairy-tales that transported me to distant lands and cultures. I also, enjoyed reading comic books with super heroes who had super powers from birth, mutations or another planet. These books expanded my creativity, vocabulary and imagination. Being different on several levels, I could identify with some of the emotional issues they experienced. There were recurring themes of identity struggles, lacking confidence and feeling like an outsider, a freak, as if they did not belong.

The super heroes realized they were different from their peers and they also wanted very badly to be accepted and to fit in. There were times, I felt isolated and different from my peers. In these moments of exercising my imagination, I felt connected to the characters in the stories; therefore, I felt important.

I noticed an interesting development in the back story of some of the super heroes. There were conversations with a parent, guardian, confidante or mentor. Sometimes the super hero was involved in self-talk and personal reflections. They needed someone to talk to and make them feel accepted and important. They needed assurance and encouragement.

The script of a conversation usually went something like this. “Special One, you are not like other children. You have gifts that are more developed than normal humans or mortals. You are different and unique. You are stronger, faster, smarter or a combination of several attributes, that exceed the performance of others. They don’t understand you. They may not appreciate you, but there is nothing wrong with you. They may tease you, but you must forgive them, for one day it will be your calling to serve them.”

The conversation would continue. “Your super powers enable you to do wonderful things. Your gifts may at times seem like a burden or a curse, but they are a blessing. You must shoulder the responsibility. Knowledge of your powers may cause complications for your family, so you must be secretive about your full range of powers. They may not be able to handle the information. Therefore, you must be careful and not let them see you expressing your total powers.”

And lastly, “Special One, you have been chosen to receive these gifts and you must use them wisely, not for your own benefits, but to help others and make this world a better place. I am proud of you and how you will use your difference to make a difference.”

This conversation is like the talks given by parents, to many children around the world. It is therapy and necessary when children feel different from the rest of a group.  The same talk is given to children who relocate and are the new kids on the block. Their distinction and newness are unknown to others, but can be considered as possessing super powers. Children must discover their natural gifts, interests, talents, abilities, proclivity or skills developed from hours of practice. The parents will generally say, “You are different and unique. But you are just as strong, fast, beautiful, smart and talented as other children.”

The fervor and enthusiasm around the monumental success of the Black Panther and Wonder Woman movies, shows the power of story and the arts. There are many articles, commentaries and conversations about the value of the movie in the context of diversity, inclusion and racial and gender pride through displaying positive imagery and story lines. There are the uplifting accounts of pride, promise and great expectations as self-confidence rises. I hope the overwhelming positive imagery will energize a generation to exercise the super heroes within each of us. Wherever these are differences, there is power. There will be a need to conduct conversations and self-talk to build up the human spirit to build confidence in our capacity for connection and greatness.

Whatever differences we possess can be viewed in the same context as a super power. However, just as the super heroes privately worked on improving their abilities, they must also strive for excellence and understanding themselves and others. They must work within their talent, hone their skills, to take it to a higher level. The opportunities will present themselves, when they may be pressed into action to save the day.

When children are wrestling with the distinction they have from others, parents will usually paint it in a positive light, so it can be used as a source of strength. Their difference should be identified as a source of power and pride, even when it seems like a curse.

When youth and adults decide to express their artistic, athletic, intellectual or leadership skills they may encounter negative reactions and reservations. When they stand out from and step up to a challenge, they may face opposition. Why are they upsetting the apple cart? Why do they bother? Why don’t they leave well enough alone? Who do they think they are? Do they think they are special and better than everyone?

Conversation with your Super Hero are important for their growth and development and well-being. When we view movies like The Black Panther and Wonder Woman look for language and imagery to go beyond entertainment, to mine educational opportunities and the inspiration that is there to generate positive action to change the world. We are the parents, guardians, confidantes and mentors required to encourage and comfort the next generation. We must help them identify who they are and who they are expected to become, to reach their destiny and fulfill their promise.

Copyright © 2018 Orlando Ceaser

 

 

Unconscious Bias & Micro-inequities – Strategies Using The Know System

Do you want to create the right climate for your employees? Worker satisfaction and operational objectives are influenced by the culture in the workplace. Do you feel your employees are your most important asset? If they feel valued, employees will increase their level of engagement and tap into their discretionary effort to increase productivity. Leaders may have good intentions around workplace climate and culture. However, leadership success may be compromised by factors they may not have considered, such as, unconscious bias and micro-inequities.

Leaders may blunt their effectiveness by shutting out people and creating walls that block the contributions of individuals and groups within their teams. Unconscious bias and micro-inequities may cast a negative cloud over their culture, work environment and work life balance/effectiveness. The Know System™ (TKS™) will help you ask key questions to gather information to solve problems and make decisions. TKS™ is a philosophy to help you develop a strategy to address barriers to success. Leaders, who create a safe environment, are in position to discover and capitalize on the potential in their talent pool.

Unconscious bias

The subconscious mind takes in over 11 million bits of information per second. The conscious mind is only aware of about 40 bits of information per second. Therefore, 99.99% of our thinking is at the subconscious level. The mind uses bias to help us process the sheer volume of information it has to handle. It makes shortcuts to a new in processing the data quickly, but sometimes speed causes it to make mistakes. Additionally, the mind uses past experiences and other bits of information to fill in the gaps where there is missing data. This automatic processing can give rise to misinformation, invalid conclusions and inappropriate decisions.

Tesia T. Marshik, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, in her lecture, Unconscious Bias and the Mind: Challenging the way we think about thinking1 (available on YouTube), mentions four distinct attributes related to our biases.

  1. We don’t always see the world as it actually is
  2. We often see the world differently from other people
  3. When told there is a another perspective, it affects our opinion
  4. How we expect the world to be, changes how we see it

We know that biases are thoughts, ideas or beliefs that cause us to prejudge an individual or group. Sondra Thiederman, PhD, in her book 7 steps for Defeating Bias in the Workplace2, defines bias as an inflexible belief about a particular kinship group. She also says that biases are attitudes not behaviors. When biases are negative, they can cause us to unfairly interact with the target of our bias.

Unconscious bias by definition is bias that is outside of a leader’s awareness. It can undermine the corporate culture and create tension that works against goals and objectives. Therefore, a strategy must be instituted. It must contain a system that minimizes harmful effects on the current culture. This strategy should address unconscious bias and micro-inequities.

Joseph Greeny, et al, in the book Crucial Conversations3 describes the relationship between our thoughts and actions. Initially, we see, hear or experience something which causes us to create a story around it. This story creates feelings that in turn are converted into actions. Unconscious bias affects the stories that we tell ourselves, which ultimately affect our behavior.

There is a large body of evidence to validate the existence, prevalence and effects of unconscious bias. Individuals involved in the studies would have categorically denied that they were biased, yet data conflicts with their impressions. These results may explain why women, people of color, those with age differences and disabilities may be at a disadvantage in some companies.

  • US orchestras – 50% more women selected in first round with the implementation of blind auditions4
  • Resumes with white sounding names received more call backs than ethnic sounding names for interviews5
  • 58% of Fortune 500 CEO’s are six feet or taller compared to 14.5% in the US population6

The Implicit Associate Test, IAT, developed by Professors Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greewald has compiled data on millions of people. The results validate that we are a product of our experiences, conditioning, cultural and societal messaging. Additionally, we have a subconscious tendency to display preference toward or against individuals or groups. The summaries of their research are presented in their book, Blind spot7. You may take the test at Implicit.harvard.edu. Some of the findings are;

  • 76% of us associate male with career and female with family
  • 70% associate male with science and female with arts
  • 75% have an implicit preference for white people over black people
  • 76% have an implicit preference for able bodied people

Micro – inequities

Micro-inequities are the negative micro messages that we communicate to others. They represent the manifestation of unconscious bias. Our conditioning, experiences and advertisements are embedded in our subconscious mind. Our actions are the fruit of our innermost thoughts and feelings.

Micro-inequities was coined by Dr. Mary Rowe8 in the 1970’s to explain behaviors identified while working with female and minority students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Rowe was an ombudsman who noticed many complaints from students that did not fall under the classic definition of discrimination.  She discovered a pattern of behavior of subtle slights which could be verbal or non verbal. The cumulative effect of these devaluing messages affected the student’s self esteem and self confidence. The actions of others made them feel unimportant, devalued and irrelevant.  Micro-inequities is an apt description of their encounters.

Micro-will inequities are the subtle, persistent slights that may be unconscious or conscious9. They make the recipient feel insignificant, not important, not valued the, invisible and inconsequential. Individuals, who experience micro-inequities, may become frustrated, isolated and retaliate by reducing their level of engagement and withholding vital information which, could be necessary for the success of the enterprise. They may feel invisible, like an outsider, unwanted, as if they don’t belong. These individuals do not feel included and may withhold vital information or adopt, what I like to call, an OMDB (Over My Dead Body) mentality about sharing their ideas. A few examples of micro-inequities10,11,12 are listed below;

  • Stealing ideas or not giving credit to the originator
  • Multi-tasking when talking to some individuals
  • Leaving people names off of memos
  • Some are not invited to the meeting before the meeting or the one after
  • Introductions by name only, while others get name / title and a story
  • Constantly checking their watch
  • Avoiding eye contact or rolling their eyes
  • Constantly interrupting in mid sentence
  • Forgetting a person’s name or using the wrong name
  • Don’t listen when some individuals speak
  • Closed to some suggestions but open to others
  • Comments ignored unless voiced by others
  • Selectively withholding praise
  • No small talk – selectively given
  • No time or very little time
  • Look for ways ideas won’t work, while others receive why their ideas may work
  • Communicate low expectations
  • Impatience in interactions
  • Always rushing when certain people want to speak to themUnconscious bias and micro-inequities must be identified and minimized. Systems must be put in place and a language instituted to build commitment and accountability. Unconscious bias and micro-inequities may be addressed using The Know System™.

The Know System™

The Know System™13 is a technique to assist in developing a customized or standard standards method of addressing these issues. Organizations are implementing programs to address unconscious bias and micro-inequities. The Know System™ is a decision-making, problem solving model that can assist individuals and institutions in addressing unconscious bias and micro – inequities. The model can contribute to individual, team and organizational strategies to improve culture. It will allow them to use their creativity to tailor a training program that fits their needs.

The Know System™ can be used to: 

  1. Define evidence of unconscious bias and micro-inequities
  2. Develop strategy and tactics to address them
  3. Set up programs, procedures or structure to minimize
    1. Performance management implications
    2. Interviews for hire or promotion
    3. Customer service
    4. Client and consultant selections
    5. Embed into corporate culture through standalone training programs
    6. Embed into corporate culture by inclusion in all training programs
  4. Establish accountability measures

The Know System™ is an intuitive methodology for gathering crucial information. It can help you create a mind map for data collection for analysis and implementation. Companies can use the creativity of their leaders and other employees to customize programs to address these issues at a local or national level. An opening exercise will familiarize everyone with the decision-making platform.

Opening Exercise

The following is a simple means to become comfortable with the Know System™  

  1. Write the word Know on the top of a sheet of paper or on your tablet or computer screen
  2. Write down words you can pull from the word Know
  3. Use your imagination and include 4, 3 and 2 letter words, which may include a few colloquialismsThe words identified may include the following: Won, Know, Now, No, On, Own, Ow (pain), Wok, Ok, Wonk, KO (Knock Out), Wo (slow down). It is not necessary to use all of the words, but only those pertinent to your situation. Only use the words you feel are related to address the unconscious bias and micro-inequities in your culture.

Write each word at the top of its own page or column and answer the relevant questions. You may review The Know System™ diagram for assistance.

TKSjpeg

The Know System™ will have a positive influence on individual reflections and group conversations and discussions. Once you have selected the words, start thinking of how they apply to your situations. I will give you a few examples to get you started.

Won

The first thing you may want to do is to select the word Won. This represents your vision, goal or objective. You want to determine what success or excellence looks like to you? Write this down to guide your thinking.

Know

What do you know and what do you need to know about your organization and employees? What you need to know may be in areas crucial to maximizing our relationship with our employees. The next step is to apply Who, What, Where, When and Why.

Now      

What is the current state of the organization? Describe the climate as seen through the eyes of your employees. How is the client?

No

It is critical to establish priorities and to maintain focus by removing or deflecting assignments that detract from your objective. Employees need to know what is important, so that they can maintain their vigilance on the matters that are truly necessary to achieve your vision and your goals.

WOK

Sometimes you have to stir things up a bit. Just because something is always been that way, does not mean that it always has to be done that way. There are instances when the status quo must be revised. There may be a need to disrupt the traditional way of doing things in favor of something better.

The Know System™ can be applied to strategy development, problem solving and decision-making. This also pertains to unconscious bias and micro-inequities. Additional information can be found in my books The Isle of Knowledge14 and Unlock Your Leadership Greatness15.

Copyright © 2017 Orlando Ceaser

 

Bibliography &  References

  1. Tesia T. Marshik, Unconscious Bias and the Mind: Challenging the way we think about thinking lecture at Learning Technologies Conference, 2016 (available on YouTube).
  2. Sondra Thiederman, PhD, 7 Steps for Defeating Bias in the Workplace (Chicago, IL: Dearborn Trade Publishing, A Kaplan Professional Company, 2003).
  3. Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler, Crucial Conversation (New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002).
  4. Cecilia Rouse & Claudia Goldin, Blind Auditions Key to Hiring Musicians, American Economic Review, September – November, 2000.
  5. Marianne Bertran & Sendhil Mullainathan, Employers’ Replies to Racial Names, National Bureau of Economic Research, 2004.
  6. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, (New York, New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005).
  7. Mahzarin R. Banaji & Anthony G. Greenwald, Blind Spot (New York, New York: Delacorte Press, 2013).
  8. Mary Rowe, “Barriers to Equality, the Power of Subtle Discrimination to Maintain Unequal Opportunity,” 1990.
  9. Brigid Moynahan, Go Ahead: Sweat the Small Stuff, The Conference Board, 2005.
  10. Brigid Moynahan, Go Ahead: Sweat the Small Stuff, The Conference Board, 2005.
  11. Stephen Young, Micro Messaging (New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007).
  12. Janet Crenshaw Smith, 58 little things that have a Big impact – What’s Your MicroTrigger™? (Rockville, Md: Ivy Planning Group, LLC, 2006).
  13. Orlando Ceaser, The Isle of Knowledge (Belleville, Ontario, Canada: Guardian Books, 2009).
  14. Orlando Ceaser, The Isle of Knowledge (Belleville, Ontario, Canada: Guardian Books, 2009).
  15. Orlando Ceaser, Unlock Your Leadership Greatness (Chicago, IL: Watchwell Communications, Inc., 2014).

 

 

 

Cartoons for the Chaos in Corporate Communities – Cocky and Rhodette

Corporations are communities of citizens who are ideally committed to a common vision. They are able hopefully resilient, with the capacity to withstand change, reinvent themselves and introduce new business paradigms, in order to succeed. These companies are survivors. They truly represent the “survival of the fittest” mentality. Corporations are staffed with individuals who have the survived a myriad of corporate reorganizations, growth spurts and culture adjustments. They have demonstrated the ability to adapt to change by adopting techniques necessary to avoid extinction.

Cockroaches and rodents have existed on this planet for millions of years. Cockroaches have been around an estimated 240 million years and rodents were probably chasing them for a good number of those years. They are truly survivors, exhibiting adaptive behaviors that have enabled them to adjust to changing circumstances.

The personification of these two characters is in the form of a cockroach named Cocky and a rodent known as Rhodette. They represent and will articulate the thoughts and feelings of employees in Corporate America. They will speak through reenacting scenarios that happen every day in some company around the world.

Cocky is a male and Rhodette is female. They are co-workers. Their biographies speak to their diversity. They manifest their diversity in many ways, such as gender, thinking styles, age, genus, species, educational levels and introversion versus extroversion, to name a few distinctions. Cocky learned business from his father Coach (co is from cockroach and ach is from roach), whereas Rhodette received her business acumen from her mother Rhoda. Cocky and Rhodette are close friends who spend many hours talking about business and comparing and despairing over the current environment in their company where the emphasis on production has a few casualties among the rank and file. They have revised their personal strategies for growing their careers. They speak for the masses although they also, have leadership responsibilities.

Cocky does not totally live up to his name. Whereas, he is self confident, he is also quiet and introspective; a true introvert. He knows when to keep his mouth shut. He may appear to be low key, but this is an adaptive quality, survival tactic. He can be commanding, when necessary. He will frequently sit in meetings and speak only when he has something significant to say. He is appalled by the amount of hot air released in meetings, as people speak to hear themselves talk. He is also disappointed when management condones and rewards this type of behavior. He sees his role as a pioneer to help others to adjust to corporate life. He has been promoted numerous times based on his productivity and the support of advocates, coaches and mentors. He says he is a realist, who fears he will go only as far as the company will let him. He is ambitious and has no desire to leave the organization.

Rhodette is flashy, extroverted and her electric personality makes her the major energy source in any gathering of employees. She can seemingly get away with outrageous statements. She is a strategic thinker and her mind and forceful presentation demeanor are threatening to others. She is aware that she has to be careful in how and when she states her views. She has been coached on her need to increase her self- awareness. She is a team player and her actions are usually to benefit the company or her teammates, not to acquire power, stroke her ego or build a fiefdom. She is a great sounding board for Cocky and their interactions are insightful and at times hilarious. They look out for each other and provide constant feedback, which helps them grow personally. Through their networks they are also able to gather information on internal competitors who may try to undermine their performance and career growth.

Cocky and Rhodette are both managers in a large corporation but their escapades and situations are found in smaller organizations. Their poignant comments and witty observations are thought provoking with educational lessons for everyone. They have coaches and mentors to assist them in their development. They are also connected with many employees within the company to help them report accurately on performance and levels of engagement.

Cocky and Rhodette have given birth to a new creation, Cocky, Jr. The perspectives of teenagers are expressed through the eyes of Cocky, Jr. and Rhodesia. They are hilariously representing thought-provoking issues experienced by teenagers and the adults who interact with them.

 

Copyright © 2007 Orlando Ceaser

Nullification of Positional Power – Undermining authority

Byside

The merger was in full bloom. HR and local sales leadership from both companies met to resolve some issues and establish a working relationship. The highest ranking person in the group was a Director, who was African American. The discussion was very intense and the room responded as if the Director did not have a rank several positions above their own. At the end of the session the HR person turned to the Director and stated, “People at our company would have never reacted to you as they did. They would be more respectful of your position.”

Disregarding and nullifying positional power is more common than we think. It is a risky proposition, potentially detrimental to all parties involved. Additionally, it is difficult to prove in many instances. In most instances, the evidence is circumstantial, relying essentially on body language cues and hurt feelings. Unless you can quantify it with actions on the part of the perpetrator, the target appears insecure or overly sensitive.

New leaders have stated how they do not receive the prestige, recognition and respect they deserve from their peers and subordinates. Shockingly, people lower in the organization challenge them when they would not challenge others with the same level of authority.

The nullification of positional power is a universal problem, but women and minorities have expressed it many times in conversations. They feel as if their jobs are not perceived the same as others in their position. When nullification is evident, and in its worst cases, the team does not function, as well as it should, which ultimately could reflect negatively on the manager. Team members may also suffer the consequences of reduced effectiveness and its impact on financial rewards. Engagement levels may go down and productivity can be adversely affected if this practice is not addressed.

Sometimes, nullification of positional power shows itself in overly aggressive challenges to your authority, undermining your directives and refusing to seek your guidance or valuing your opinion. You may be tempted to retaliate or verbally castigate them in public. But remember, you are still the leader and must be above the fray, as it relates to executing the duties and responsibilities of your position. You cannot let your ego impair your judgment. Public admonishments or executions, may feel good, but can damage the defectiveness of the team.

It is interesting how some people walk around with a look on their face that says,” I don’t care what job you have. I am still better than you and will not accept you in your role in this organization.” They are defiant and have a difficult time suppressing the conditioning they received from their experiences, environment, biases, preferences and stereotypes.

It is a fact that most of the time nullification of positional power is not blatantly obvious. It is demonstrated through negative body language, micro-inequities and comments made in private. Micro-inequities are subtle actions, often unconscious offenses, injustices and inconveniences that make the recipient feel inadequate, insufficient, irrelevant, unimportant, insignificant, unnecessary and undervalued. They may be verbal or non verbal and reflect overt and covert actions. The persistent activity may cause people to second guess their competence and lose confidence in their abilities.

It may seem easier to address this behavior if the individual reports to the manager. But the behavior is not usually out in the open. The actions may be underground and committed in secret. Significant damage may be done to your effectiveness as a leader, before you discover this breach in your positional power.

Within many organizations it is acceptable to challenge ideas for they pride themselves on candor. That is their culture and it is understandable. Challenge is in their DNA, as a part of their mindset which is evident in their practices. Candor is woven into the fabric of their culture and no one takes it personally when challenged by someone lower in the organization. Status and titles are irrelevant when they are solving problems or developing ideas in brainstorming sessions. However, respect of all levels is expected.

Nullification of positional power is often used against the new manager. Some people deliberately set out to embarrass the new manager. They feel the person does not deserve the job for a variety of reasons and find it distasteful that they have to report to them. They may try everything in their power to cause them to fail by not cooperating and performing at a lower level beneath their capabilities.

Nullification or disregard for positional power has always been an enigma to me, particularly with people, who were actually afraid of leadership. However, they become emboldened and antagonistic when certain people were promoted into a job. Whereas, they were cautious with their words around most leaders, because they were concerned about their careers, these same individuals took a huge risk and acted out of character, because either they did not care or felt there would not be any repercussions.

A District Manager was promoted to his new assignment. He lacked the experience of some of the senior members on the team. One of the members thought they should have received the promotion. He did everything in his power to make the job difficult for the new manager. Years later, he confided in me that he did this out of spite. He did not respect the person in the position and worked within his power to make it difficult for his new boss. He told me, as if to soothe his conscience during a moment of remorse.

Occasionally, resistance to the new manager is in the subconscious realm. There is unconscious bias where people do not recognize what they are doing. When they are reprimanded for insubordination or written up for behavior unbecoming of a team member, they are surprised. Their argument is that they were just stating their ideas and the manager became offended and took it personally. However, it is often conscious, malicious, intentional and secretive.

A Regional Manager was conducting a session with one of his Districts. There was dissention in the group. He brought them in for an opportunity to clear the air and for the District Manager to essentially apologize for his actions, reset expectations for the manager and each member of the team. The meeting ended and several members left in the same car to return to their territories. Before they departed the sound of the Regional Manager’s voice was heard in the back seat. The driver who was a veteran representative went to the backseat and shut off the tape recorder. Apparently, he had secretly and illegally taped the entire meeting. The other representatives were surprised by his actions. His actions gave a signal to the other members that it was OK to act in a manner that nullified the positional power of the Regional Manager.

What does a manager do when they are aware of members in her organization trying to nullify their positional power? What does she do when she discovers the corrosive impact of subversive comments and actions?

If the action occurs in a meeting, they could table the discussion until later with words such as, “John we can take this conversation off line and I’m we can resolve the issue and bring it back to the group.” It may be documented as a performance issue and expectations and consequences stated if the behavior continues. Sometimes, companies may reassign promising performers and justify it by saying there was a personality clash with the new manager. This could send a dangerous message, set a dangerous precedent and inadvertently sanctioned inappropriate behavior.

One of my favorite personal stories involved an encounter I had when I attended a manager’s meeting. I was from the Home Office, which usually has a mystique associated with it. After all I was from the epicenter of power for the organization. I was at least two levels above most of the people in the room. A manager two level below me misunderstood my position on a certain point. He raised his hand and said, “I strongly disagree with what you just said.” The room became very quiet. I responded, “Allow me to restate my case, because if you heard me right, I’m sure you would not “strongly” disagree with my position.” I repeated my statement almost word for word and he acknowledged that he was in agreement.

Leaders should not get provoked into unprofessional behavior. The matter can be addressed by going to supportive leadership within your company. Your job as a leader is to be a leader for all, even though everyone may not want you in the job. Press on. Show your value and contribute substantial results, resources, reputation and financial performance. If they don’t, the matter must be discussed with their supervisor, with specific examples of the breach of protocol.

Your performance and your network of supporters will change the perception of some of these detractors. You will never be liked by everyone, but your leadership and excellent performance will add value to the company. Inappropriate behavior and disrespect should be handled appropriately and should not be tolerated.

Lastly, leaders can counteract nullification of personal power by elevating their social power or social capital. Your personality, work ethic and integrity are revealed to the organization through personal and professional interactions. People get to know you and realize what an asset you are to the company. They realize that you are committed to their personal growth and development. They may become advocates and speak out against those who are stabbing you in the back. Team members see that you belong in the job and are the right leader to help them achieve their personal and professional objectives.

Copyright © 20015 Orlando Ceaser