Through the highly respected research on non-verbal communication by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, we have learned that in message communication, verbal (words) accounts for 7%, vocal (tone, pitch etc.) accounts for 38% and visual (body language) accounts for 55% of message communication.
Despite the effort of the White House to downplay the recent tarmac encounter in which Arizona Governor Jan Brewer displayed, what has been termed by many as, blatant disrespect to the President of the United States, it serves as a teachable moment about the importance of Social Intelligence and the expectation of respect in the workplace. While there has been much attention paid to Governor Brewer’s finger wagging in the face of the President, equally important is the inappropriateness of the in-your-face proximity that violates the acceptable personal space issue.
There is no harm in fundamentally disagreeing with your boss, co-worker, or the executive leadership at your organization. In fact, the most effective leaders are those who welcome diversity in viewpoint and prefer not to surround themselves with the workplace sycophant. There is no value in a “yes man” who favors a follow-the-leader to win favor strategy as opposed to actual critical thinking and exploration of new ideas.
Mastering the soft skill of Social Intelligence allows you to seize and control your career and manage the perception of others. It’s not always about what you do – but how you do it that matters. Your Social Intelligence is an important component of your personal brand. It speaks directly to one’s ability to appropriately perform damage control when things go wrong. Being genuine and passionate is a good thing. However, the marker of social intelligence is that you inspire confidence that you can be socially appropriate in communicating your viewpoint.
“No one wants to hear on a phone call that your son collapsed and died.” Those are the words of Pam Champion, the mother of twenty six year old FAMU band member Robert Champion whose death is suspected to be the result of hazing. The distraught father of Robert Champion stated that his only son meant the world to him. He commented on how difficult it is to accept that his son who was doing the right things in life to better himself and his community was taken in such a way. My heart goes out to this family.
This is yet another tragic story of another senseless murder involving hazing. According to a recent University of Connecticut study, since 1970, there has been at least one hazing related death on a college campus each year. Incidents involving sexual intimidation or nudity have been increasing since 1995. Eighty two percent of deaths from hazing involve alcohol.
Despite being classified as a misdemeanor in 44 states, hazing is a long-standing tradition among fraternities, sororities, sporting teams, marching bands and other social clubs in the name of brotherhood or sisterhood. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere, hazing is “a way to put discipline out there for someone who wants to become part of a bigger group. It's a way to establish hierarchy. And it is a way to become part of that group and then later on that person who has been hazed feels I will do unto others what has been done unto me.”
Not all social groups engage in harmful hazing but what if hazing in the form of aggressive adolescent behavior and physical and sexual abuse were replaced with an initiation mandate of becoming an academic superstar or leading an outstanding campaign of public service or exemplary social responsibility? Would that not accomplish the desired goal for tribal alliance and fellowship while instilling leadership qualities?
It’s not unreasonable to make a connection between the culture of hazing as a breeding ground that transcends the school yard and picks up in the workplace in the form of the workplace bully.
I encourage you to participate in the research study by completing the brief questionnaire designed to identify if there is a possible connection between bullying and social club affiliation that involves hazing. In addition, please consider sharing your thoughts and prayers for hazing victims in the comment section below. If you are interested in learning more about examples of hazing, click here
to head over to the Water Cooler
section. You can also click here
to watch a short video clip on the dangers of hazing in the video page
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, workplace bullying is defined as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that take one or more of the forms of:
· Verbal abuse
· Offensive conduct (including nonverbal) that is threatening , humiliating, or intimidating
· Work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done
It was previously believed that the act of bullying was derived from a state of low self-esteem. Bullies were characterized as insecure self-hating individuals who put down others as a means of feeling better about self. While this may still be true for some, current research reveals that today’s workplace bullies actually have high self-esteem. In fact, many act out based on a sense of entitlement and feeling of superiority over others.
The modern day work bully is frequently the office superstar. These are often individuals who are held in high regard by senior management and have been promoted to positions of authority which is translated by the bully as a vote of superiority. Some act directly while other may choose to act as a satellite bully by using manipulation tactics to use others as pawns in their bullying tactics. Either way, the bully is a dangerous character as they enjoy being cruel to others and lack compassion, empathy, impulse control and social and emotional intelligence.
Many experts are increasingly classifying bullying as workplace violence and psychological violence. According to the July 14, 2010 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of Fatal Occupational Injuries, workplace shootings by co-workers and former co-workers accounted for 12 percent of all homicides (421 fatal injuries) in 2008. In that year, there were 30 multiple-fatality workplace homicide incidents, accounting for 67 homicides and 7 suicides. On average, about two people died in each of these incidents. Considering the fact that nearly half of those shootings occurred in public buildings, even the most innocent bystanders were endangered.
Violence is never an acceptable consideration for conflict resolution of any kind. Consider that as humans, our brains are hard-wired to give emotions the upper hand. Thus a person being bullied has a hyper vulnerability to the phenomenon of emotional hijacking - a sudden unleashing of rage towards another person caused by an incident that may trigger anger or fear in an individual. Being able to spot and avoid emotional high jacking can make all the difference in how one responds to conflict.
So how does one avoid being the target of the workplace bully?
Consistent with the childhood playground bully, the workplace bully will always look for what they believe to be the weakest target. Best practices for self protection are discussed in the Water Cooler section. The video below procides information on workplace bullying. More videos are available in the video section of this site. In addition, please participate in the flash poll in the column on the right. As always, your comments are welcome using the comment section below.
Why Denny Dimwit Got Promoted
So far, the research collected from this blog supports the argument that our national workplaces are the equivalent of a mixed bag of fruits and nuts. It also confirms that often it’s the nut’s that seem to rise to the top! While there are a number of really great leaders out there, the research reveals that they are not in the majority. In our recent opinion poll, 16.7 percent of respondents described their boss as a leader while 33.3 percent labeled their boss as a lunatic and a majority of 50 percent of bosses was labeled as loser.
One of the most common frustrations that survey respondents have expressed is the fact that they are often being managed by people with significantly lower intelligence. Thus, it’s appropriate to discuss the role that intelligence plays in the workplace.
There was a time when companies most valued a person’s IQ (intelligence quotient) as a leadership indicator. He who proved to be the smartest person in the room led and the rest followed. However, progressive companies are responding to research that reveals that the soft skills of emotional and social intelligence are a better indicator of a person’s ability to be an effective leader. In today’s workforce, abstract and cognitive intelligence is no longer enough. A modern professional needs to master a multitude of hard and soft skills to reach the top.
If it sounds to you like I’m saying that your time would be better invested in working at your golf game, practicing yoga or reading a book on how to be a more authentic and empathic listener, then you are hearing me correctly.
Among the academia family of intelligence, emotional intelligence (EI) and its cousin social intelligence (SI) are the skills that relate to the management of one’s emotions and the ability to get along with others. Specifically, the concept of EI gave rise in the early 1980’s based on the research of psychologist, author and science journalist Daniel Goleman. EI involves the understanding and mastery of one’s own reactions and feelings and the ability to control one’s temper. EQ is the acronym used for the term emotional quotient which is the measure of emotional intelligence.
The concept of social intelligence has roots dating as far back as the 1930’s when psychologist and educator Edward Thorndike made the argument in a Harper’s Magazine article that the best mechanic in a factory may fail as a foreman for lack of social intelligence. The theory of SI involves the energy and image that one puts out to others coupled with an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Those with a high SI have mastered the ability to effectively navigate and negotiate complex social relationships. In addition to getting along with people, they are also able to get ahead with people.
There is a direct link between EQ and earnings. Research shows that people with high EQ earn more money – an average of $29,000 more per year - than people with low EQs. These findings hold true for people across all industries in every region of the world.
In a society that places so much emphasis on the link between higher education and career success, it’s intuitive for us to focus on IQ as an indicator for career advancement. However, the reality is that EI and SI are more important than ones IQ in attaining success in life and career. So the next time you ponder how the dimwit got promoted, you may find the answer by considering how their EQ and SI compare to their IQ.
If this information represents an epiphany that inspires you to shift your own professional development focus, the good news is that emotional and social intelligence are skills that can be improved. Visit the Water Cooler
section to discover the steps you should take towards improving your EI and SI skills. You can also find short video clips on EQ and SI by visiting the video section
. As always, your continued participation in the research study is appreciated. Please click here
to complete the private survey. Your public comments are also welcome using the comment section below.
Newly revised national economic statistics reveal that while American workers are facing the toughest economic times since the great depression, to the contrary, American corporations are enjoying the best of times as corporate profits have reached an all time high. Specifically, according to a recent New York Times report, corporate profits accounted for 14 percent of the total national income in 2010. This breaks the previous peak record of 13.6 percent set in 1942. The report also notes the fact that historically, American employees have always received more than half the total national income until recently. However, in 2010 the percentage of national income devoted to wages and salaries fell to 49.9 percent and have slipped even further to 49.6 percent in the first quarter of 2011. Needless to say, this is not a positive trend for American workers.
The Huffington Post is reporting that many of our nation’s preeminent companies have posted massive increases in profits this year and companies are continuing to hold on to record amounts of cash and other liquid assets while cutting costs by employing such initiatives as workforce layoffs and demanding more productivity from those remaining employees who have to do more with less resources.
In a recent NBC News report by journalist Lisa Myers (see video clip below), it was revealed that Siemens Corporation has greater than 3,400 job openings in the United States. Unfortunately, the company claims that they are unable to find qualified candidates with high enough mathematical and mechanical aptitude skills required to pass their aptitude test towards filling those jobs which range from sales, production and engineering.
Siemens is a German corporation that is a global powerhouse in electrical engineering and electronics. They provide technology and innovation in the fields of Healthcare, Energy and Industry Infrastructure. The firm operates 19 percent of its total operations in the US where they earned 27 percent of their reported 76 billion Euros in revenues in 2010 according to their July 2011 corporate status report.
Siemens is not alone in making the argument of a skills gap. In fact, a recent Manpower survey revealed that 52 percent of American corporations are making the claim of a skills gap as the reason they are unable to fill positions. While it’s not my intention to single Siemens out, it is appropriate to use them as an example because they have put themselves in the forefront of this issue with the report.
So I guess this means that the mystery has finally been solved. The 14 million unemployed Americans can finally stop wondering why it is that they can’t find a job. According to 52 percent of employers, they are just too stupid to be hired and/or trained. Well, before we all buy into that argument, let’s put the brakes on and ponder some additional facts and questions. The recent overturning of more than 100 years of settled law which found that a ban on corporate campaign contributions to candidates is unconstitutional has opened the door to unlimited corporate contributions in support or opposition of political candidates. This gives corporations more political influence than ever before. So as a critical thinker I’m asking… Are American jobs in a position to be leveraged for political gain? Could the unemployment rate become a corporate political bargaining chip? What else can explain this emerging strategy of blaming the “stupid” American workers?
NBC News Skills Gap Report
There’s a lot wrong with this picture. It makes one wonder if it’s really about a skills gap or more about corporate political crap.
First and foremost let’s not forget that, this is the same country that during World War II hired and quickly trained mostly uneducated housewives to fill factory jobs to support our military efforts. For the Rosie the Riveter archetype, the concept of working outside of the home in itself was a new phenomenon but despite lacking mathematical and mechanical aptitude skills, they successfully did what was needed. The concept of work and learning new skills is definitely not new for African-Americans as they have worked since the day they arrived in this country. They have a rich history of being innovators and creating processes, tools and equipment to make things operate more efficiently.
Given this, I have to wonder why it is that those 52 percent companies lack the desire to simply provide the training necessary to give workers the skills they want them to have. After all, we are currently in a modern-day war complete with the threat of terrorists who are trying to collapse our economy by any means necessary. A strong American workforce would certainly help to strengthen our economy. As established in my previous blog post (Is Your Company Doing a Diversity Backslide?), there is a significant unemployment rate among our most highly educated brightest and best in this country. This makes the skills gap argument questionable. Simply put, there are Americans with Masters and PhD degrees who can’t find jobs. It seems logical that a PhD could at minimum fill a sales job at Siemens.
The recent initiative led by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to withhold corporate political donations until political incumbents ease gridlock in Washington is worthy of applause. Corporations such as: Whole Foods, Zip Cars, AOL and J Crew where among the first of 100 to sign on. This is no surprise as these companies are well known for their efforts in social responsibility. What’s more telling is a comparison of that list against the top ranked Fortune 100 list to identify those who have not signed on to the pledge. It's one of those things that make you go hmmm.
Could it be that corporations have become so consumed with profits that they no longer want to spend resources on training and development? If so, isn't that in effect cheating the American worker out of professional development and growth opportunities? Grant it, individuals have an obligation to come to employers having done the work, through education and/or experience, to possess a baseline of skills. However, employers also have an obligation to develop and invest in its talent pool through training and professional development.
I am interested in hearing from you about your experiences with corporate training programs. Please participate in the research study by completing the survey available at this link
. All survey responses are confidential. You may also use the comment area below to post public comments that may benefit others. If you wish to remain anonymous, simply enter anonymous in the name field. The email field is also optional and private. In addition, be sure to head over to the Water Cooler
section where I share information on why corporate training is important to you and your organization.
In the August 1998 edition of Fortune Magazine, the big news was the fact that corporate America had discovered a new competitive secret that gave rise to greater innovation and was proven to have a direct impact on increasing the bottom line. In fact a research study, that became an annual event for the magazine, revealed that the stock performances of the top 50 companies that effectively utilized the new secret were outperforming the S&P 500 by as much as 30% over a five year period. The secret was that effective diversity management was more than just another “buzz word” or “flavor of the month”. The business case for diversity in the workplace was actually proven as it was scientifically linked to revenue generation. However, in order to maximize the benefits of diversity, it’s not enough to simply focus on overall representation numbers in the workplace. There should also be an emphasis on ensuring that there is diversity at the management and leadership levels.
Today, diversity still serves as our greatest national treasure. Our country was founded based on the desire to be rightfully different and unique. When we bring together open minded people with diversity in backgrounds and experiences to problem solve and innovate, the result is that those differences foster a greater level of new ideas, creativity, synergy, productivity and alternative approaches that come about from the combined differences in thoughts, experiences and mindsets.
The racial and ethnic demographics of our nation are changing. A majority-minority trend has arisen. Today, one-third of Americans are people of color. The states of California, Texas, Hawaii and New Mexico and the territory of Washington, DC along with major counties such as Montgomery County Maryland all have populations in which greater than half of their populations belong to a group other than non-Hispanic white. There is no doubt that this signals a more diverse workforce in which smart businesses should be able to harness the power and exploit the secret weapon of diversity and in the process secure our nation’s position as the economic global super power and world leader.
Employment trends indicate that instead of heading for such success, we are instead back-sliding with respect to building fairly balanced diverse workplaces. Our nation is spiraling into what could become a fatal fall from the leadership perch that we enjoy today. In this country, our culture is one that allegedly places the highest value on education combined with experience. Therefore it stands to reason that those with the highest concentration of education and experience (our brightest & best) should be in the highest demand especially in a downward economy when businesses most need to rely on experienced and skilled professionals who can do more with fewer resources and navigate less experienced professionals through difficult economic times. However, statistics tell a story of an alarming trend of racial inequality among our brightest & best.
The most current U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor reports reveal that while the overall adjusted unemployment rate is currently at 9.2 percent, the rate among African-Americans is nearly double at 16 percent and at 11.3 and 6.7 percents for Hispanic and Asian Americans respectively. Today, African-Americans make up 13.6 percent of the total U.S. population while Hispanics are 16 percent and Asians 5 percent. A new study by the Pew Research Center released July 26, 2011 reveals that the wealth gap between whites and minorities has reached a record high as the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households. Thus, the recession has taken a far greater toll on the wealth of minorities than whites. See the short CBS News video clip below for more on that very sobering statistic. You may also find additional video clips related to diversity and other workplace topics on the Working With Crazy.com YouTube channel or by visiting the video highlights page by clicking here.
As of 2009, 19 percent of African-Americans age 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Despite the alarming 16 percent unemployment rate for African –Americans, it would stand to reason that the more educated and experienced percentage of the group would be less likely to be impacted by unemployment. However, as recently reported in the Huffington Post.com, according to economist Algernon Austin, Director of the Race, Ethnicity and Economy program at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC, the unemployment disparity between college educated blacks and whites has actually widened. Austin offered the following quote: “if black workers who are the most prepared to compete and work in the new economy can’t find jobs -that’s something that we as a country have to take seriously.”
The fact is that as of 2010, the over age 25 college educated unemployment rate was 3.9 percent for whites and 7 percent for blacks. The situation was even worse for recent college graduates that don’t have years of experience. The jobless rate for black college graduates under age 25 was 19 percent, compared to 8.4 percent for white men. As the unemployment rate has continued to rise over the last year, it has given rise to an even greater crisis in the African-American community. In her book entitled Black Woman Redefined
, author Sophia Nelson argues that black professional women are under attack as there is something systematically going wrong here. If she is right, one has to wonder if this trend is rooted in a perhaps unconcious racial power struggle in response to the changing demographics. This would be unfortunate as such a diversity power struggle could be catastrophic fuel for the already burning economic downturn fire that is compromising our nation. Simply put, while we are sidetracked with the same old racial power struggles that has plagued our nation since its inception, nation’s with faster growing economies are better positioning themselves to take over the global leadership role. If we are able to straighten up and fly right in time to save ourselves, there is, thank goodness, hope with the younger generation as research shows that the millennial generation is less concerned with racial issues and has more acceptance and tolerance. They view diversity as a plus and are confident, connected and open to change.
Workplace diversity programs are critical in fostering diversity friendly workplaces and promoting best practices. While some may think the purpose is to promote the ethics argument that diversity is “the right thing to do”, the fact is that effective diversity programs actually improve business results. I invite you to head over to the Water Cooler section to learn more about diversity programs including ways to identify the signs of a diversity friendly workplace. As always, you are also encouraged to participate in the research study by completing the survey available by clicking here.
CBS News Wealth Gap Report
CNN reported on June 21, 2011 a new survey result form a study conducted by Mercer Consulting. The study revealed that even in this downward economy, nearly one in three American workers is seriously considering leaving his or her job. As of July 5, 2011 my own recent toxic workplace survey
revealed that 87.5% of respondents indicated they have experienced a toxic workplace. This supports a growing trend of an unhappy workforce.
Understandably, at a time of record unemployment, it’s easy for those without a job to lack sympathy for frustrated workers. However, the broader implications of a dysfunctional workplace are worthy of everyone’s attention. This is a matter that impacts our national economy and can be a catalyst for a less than positive change in our status as a global super power. We should all care about the emotional health of our workplaces.
Leadership and management have perhaps the largest impact on the culture and morale of a workplace. They set the tone for the culture and have the authority to change direction to keep workers engaged and motivated. A bad boss can have a devastating impact on productivity. Even more concerning is the fact that research shows that having a bad boss can have serious physiological effect on our health including increasing your chance of a heart attack by as much as fifty percent (see CBS news report video clip below).
There is a profound difference between a leader and a manager. While both are focused on efficacy, the leader is most concerned with the vision, and the manager is most concerned with implementation of that vision by best utilizing the tools and recourses available in the most efficient way.
In a nutshell, the hallmark of a good leader is that they inspire and motivate others to want to follow them while a good manager is skilled at organizing the work flow of talent.
There is no arguing that whether the title is CEO or manager, there are good bosses as well as bad bosses. Your work life can be miserable and unhealthy if you have the misfortune of a bad boss. Towards gaining a better understanding of your boss, it might be helpful to examine the path that he/she took to get to the leadership role. From there you can adjust your mindset and expectations as you gain insight into the likely limits of their capabilities and the options that may or may not be available to you for finding resolutions.
My unscientific observation has been that whether or not people are conscious or unconscious of it, they engage - or are afforded a way in through circumstances- in one of five basic strategies that are used to reach a leadership position. It’s also important to note that this list is not intended as comprehensive. The goal here is to examine the more common achievement strategies that can be found in the workplace. So in the process of identifying these achievement strategies, you may identify if your boss best fits into the category of leader, loser or lunatic. These are listed in no particular order of workplace prevalence:
1. The American Dreamer Strategy
2. The Pedigree Pass Strategy
3. The Nepotism / Affinity Network Strategy
4. The Bedroom to Boardroom Strategy
5. The Master Manipulation Strategy
The American Dreamer Strategy
In this scenario, one earns a leadership position through hard work and dedication. They differentiate themselves by the contributions they make over time in the workplace and their ability to build solid relationships through consistency and dependability. They earn the respect of others and inspire others to want to do their best also. Once they arrive in a leadership role, they do so with confidence in their own abilities and with a clear vision for the organizational goals that they will lead others towards fulfilling. They are generally open to new ideas and are not threatened by the success of others as they know that this exemplifies their own success. This encompasses the true spirit of leadership.
The Pedigree Pass Strategy
The arrival of some leaders into the role has less to do with abilities, hard work and/or having proven themselves and has more to do with a pedigree system such as having attended an Ivy League school or belonging to an elite social class. It doesn’t matter if it took them six years to finish Harvard with the lowest GPA in recorded history, the fact that they attended and graduated affords them the status of being considered the smartest one in the room. While there are many bona-fide Ivy League successes, sometimes these leaders arrive with a sense of entitlement and a posture of superiority that can be offensive and off putting to others. Some adopt a one best model (their way) for getting things done and the benefits of diversity in thought and approaches are lost.
The Nepotism or Affinity Network Affiliation Strategy
Being related to someone or having the right social connections is another way that leaders are placed. Instead of hiring or promoting the most qualified and capable individual, too often someone is given a position because they have a certain affiliation such as with a sorority or fraternity or other social or family networks. While it’s easy to accept that a connection is a fair advantage to bringing someone to the door for an opportunity, it’s another thing to allow a personal connection to be the justification for why someone is pushed through and passed over other more qualified candidates. Leaders who have arrived in this way are often unprepared and lack the skills required to lead others. As such, they are often insecure and unable to make decisions on their own.
They tend to surround themselves with sycophants who will cosign on any idea they have regardless of how stupid or ineffective that idea may be. There is a level of paranoia at play as they fear they will be found out for what they don’t know. By getting to the top in this way, they become disconnected with reality and lose out on learning valuable skills from the steps they missed. The people who work under them suffer because the knowledge gap is often too great and unbalanced as frustrated workers are forced to work with reality and not the manufactured artificial world of the poorly selected leader.
The Bedroom to the Boardroom Strategy
This strategy is sometimes used by both men and women as an express lane to a leadership position. Moral implications aside, the problem with a boss who has arrived using this strategy is that they have skipped a number of important lessons in their express ride to the top. In the process they have often alienated would be supporters as they quickly lose empathy for others and they tend to take on a sense of entitlement. Through their intimate bedroom relationship, they instantly pick up an “under cover” protégée pass. Often there is no incentive to sharpen their skills or be effective in the job because they enjoy a protected status. The next bonus or promotion is coming regardless of actual workplace performance. One thing that the bedroom climber shares with the protégée passer is the fact that these individuals will never know their full potential because they didn’t have to challenge and push themselves through adverse situations to find their true strengths. In this regard, they both lose out on the values of self made achievement.
The Master Manipulation Strategy
This is perhaps the most dangerous boss archetype. The master manipulator is a saboteur (see “Can’t we all just get along at work?’). They have traveled down a few dark roads and alley-ways, stabbed others in the back, and stashed a few bodies on their climb to leadership. They arrive in the leadership position paranoid and with deep rooted fear that they will be found out and/or out performed. They will throw you under a bus and back it up twice to save their own skin. They have no integrity and will lie or steal without blinking an eye. Their actions have driven them to the brink of insanity that often spills over into other aspects of their personal life as well. By now you may have likely guessed that this is the lunatic.
For us visual learners, I’ve illustrated and provided below a continuum that shows how these strategies place on a scale measuring the likelihood that your boss is a leader, loser or lunatic based on how they got into the role of being your boss.
View the CBS News Report
Visit the Water Cooler section
for additional information on best practices and coping skills. Also, click here
or use the site navigation buttons at the top to participate in a research study available on the research page.
As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged by using the comment form below. If you wish to remain anonymous, please enter anonymous in the name field.
More than a decade ago, American Rodney King coined the simple yet profound question “Can’t we all just get along” after his involvement in an incident of police brutality. As the workplace is a microcosm of society, there have been many times that I have asked myself the question:
Cant’ we all just get along… at work?
Arguably, the cornerstones of good work relationships include trust, honesty, respect, collaboration and open communication. Unfortunately, far too often we are confronted with the realities of: workplace inequalities, politricks, and toxic people who make navigating the workplace feel more like a combat zone where you constantly have to watch your back and pick your battles.
Within the African-American community we speak about the mentality of “Crabs in the Crab Pot”. This is the metaphor we use to describe the behavior of black people who adopt an attitude of “if I can’t have it, neither should you”. In the workplace, this disposition, which appears to be rooted in envy, fosters behavior such as sabotage and conspiracy that ultimately negate or diminish the success of the entire community as the emulation of the crab behavior is to pull down any member of the group who may be positioned to escape an under-privileged status.
While this does not represent the mentality of the entire African American community, it does represent an issue that continues to plague our community and deserves self-examination and remedy. Let me be clear that I am in no way suggesting that the crab pot mentality is the root of all workplace problems. Nor do I intend to focus this discussion on issues facing only black employees. Quite the contrary, there are a variety of issues that have nothing at all to do with race and everything to do with specific personality archetypes that give rise to a host of conflicts and misunderstandings among people of all races, ages, genders, abilities and orientations.
The mission of this blog is to spark discourse about this and other organizational behavior and workplace issues with the hope that we can all learn and do better. The Talented Tenth concept espoused by black educator W.E.B. Du Bois speaks to the necessity for higher education to develop the leadership capacity among the most able 10 percent of black Americans. As information and enlightenment is education, it’s important that we invest the time to pause and participate in frank discussion and constructive problem-solving as a community. Thus, I am asking you to do that here.
Let’s start with identifying the symptoms of the problem. Have there been times that you have felt convinced that you work with certifiable crazy people? Well, you may in fact be dealing with a bona fide DSM IV character; however, there are a variety of character types as well as organizational politics that could be the culprit. With respect to people, the workplace is loaded with “staff infections” and being able to quickly identify them will help you to develop strategies for dealing with them while protecting your own workplace Zen. I invite you to post here if you have stories of experiences dealing with any of the workplace archetypes listed below, or if you have effective coping method strategies to share with others. Check back frequently as additional workplace issues will be discussed.
The Crab (Native to the Black Community)
− Dedicated to sabotaging the success of his/her identity group
− Diminishes the accomplishments of other black people
− A passionate “politricker”
− Conspiracy innovator
− The passive-aggressive
− The sychophant
- The pedigree police
- The silent treatment
− The sugar coater
− The smiling cobra
− The thief
− The idea and credit stealer
− The naysayer
− The envious one
− The ladder climber
− The brown noser
− The office politician