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Nonviolent Communication

Twelve Invitations for Fellowship

  1. We’ll have a face-to-face catchup (1:1) at least as frequently as once a week. Either of us can cancel whenever we agree to. It’s our time.
  2. Our 1:1 agenda will be in our meeting invite so we remember important topics. But either of us remains free to use the time for whatever’s on our minds.
  3. When we schedule each catchup, we’ll state *at the time we schedule it* what it’s meant to be about. We prefer to avoid chatting without an agenda. The agenda can be as simple as e.g. “social”.
  4. When we drop into each other’s DMs, we’ll always say hello, and what”s on our minds. No suspense. No small talk while we are wondering what the DM is going to be about.
  5. We will share directly any face-to-face news or announcements that significantly impact e.g. us, our several relationships, our teams or our community, not via a big meeting, recorded video or mailshot.
  6. We’ll share feedback when it’s fresh. Feeedback is about our needs and the extend to which they’ve been met (or not). There will be no hint of performance reviews or other judgements.
  7. We trust everyone to manage their own time. No one is expected to clear with anyone in advance re: their time or place.
  8. We will attend to folks’ needs by way of informing them of our whereabout and times of availability – if and when they have a need to know.
  9. Things gets done the way we decide is best. Our focus is on folks’ needs, not outcomes or outputs. Once we’ve agreed on where we’re going, how to get there is up to each of us, in agreement.
  10. A team is most effective when it has a shared purpose, moves forward together, looks after one another, and takes care of each other and all the folks that matter. We choose to continuously look to our left and to our right for opportunities to help our fellows. We request help whenever we need it. Nobody has to do things in isolation except by choice.
  11. There are no reporting lines, chains of command and control, hierarchy, etc. We talk with each other and anyone about anything we feel is relevant.
  12. We attribute credit when attribution serves folks’ needs. We will never exaggerate our own roles or minimize others’ contributions.

If all of this sounds like it might serve your needs, I invite you to reciprocate by giving of the one thing we all need most. Attention to folks’ needs.

I want to hear your feedback, to know when someone’s needs are going unattended, or are being well-attended to. To know when and how we can bring more joy into folks’ lives.

We always welcome folks’ thoughts, listen patiently, and never respond defensively.

If we attend to each other’s needs, we can learn and grow and bond together. That’s how I need to connect with what’s alive in you.

– Bob

You’re not interested in how I am. It’s just habit, or politeness, or a bit of both, to ask. And it rankles.

Maybe you ARE intesresting how I’m feeling, or in what you might be able to do for me. As sure as hell I’m interested in how you’re feeling.

In which case, why not get to the point?

How about asking “How are you feeling?” (And see: Feelings Inventory for clues).

And/or “Would you be willing to suggest what needs of yours are not being met right now, and how I might be able to help you with that?”

How often do we see folks touting “tech innovation” with nary a mention of e.g. relationship innovation, and innovations in “being human”?

Here’s some valuable non-tech innovations you could be pursuing:

  • Nonviolent Communication (Marshall Rosenberg).
  • Empathy.
  • Compassion and Compassionomics.
  • Zen.
  • Nancy Kine’s Thinking Environments.
  • Dialogue skills.
  • Appreciation of Power Dynamics in the workplace.
  • Reflection and surfacing one’s own assumptions and beliefs.
  • Attending to folks’ needs..
  • Apprciation of the role of the Domination System and the Myth of Redemptive Violence.

The Organisational Psychotherapy Solution for Staff Attrition

What with The Great Resignation, record levels of disengagement in the workforce, and a decade and more of low productivity, management knows that losing staff – a.k.a. “attrition”, “turnover”, or “churn” – is a sure and quick route to disaster.

Why Do Folks Quit?

All the data (surveys, research, etc.) points to folks leaving their jobs because:

  • Feeling unappreciated.
  • Burn out.
  • Absence of flexible work options. 
  • Unable to work when and when best suits their needs.
  • Stress (distress).
  • Difficult relationships with colleagues _ and especially, management.
  • Corporate culture.
  • Bullshit jobs (lack of purpose, especially shared or common purpose).
  • Being bored.
  • Limited career development a.k.a. a feeling of being “stuck in a rut”.
  • Violence.
  • Lack of fairness.
  • (For folks in Collaborative Knowledge Work organisations) feeling like “order takers” or factory workers.

The Single Root Cause

All the above reasons are just aspects of one root cause: folks quit when their needs are not being met (or not even attended to).

Different folks have different needs, so any broad brush approach is unlikely to bear fruit. Better to talk with people individually about their specific needs, and how well – or more often, poorly – the organisation is doing in attending to those needs.

This is not an approach that is even possible, absent organisation-wide support for it.

The Organisational Psychotherapy Assist

Organisational Psychotherapy can assist in reducing employee attrition levels in a number of ways:

  • By helping your organisation build a culture that prioritises and actively attends to folks’ needs (see also: The Antimatter Principle).
  • By surfacing your organisation’s existing collective assumptions and beliefs – assumptions and beliefs which most typically lead to some or all of the above-listed reasons for folks leaving.
  • By identifying the cognitive biases which lead to folks feeling their needs are of no consequence.
  • By convincing folks that your organisation takes them and their needs seriously, and that you are determined to build an environment in which they can do their best work (see also: Harter & Buckingham, 2016). 
  • By adopting well-established organisational practices, best suited to CKW.
  • By awareness of Management Monstrosities and how to avoid them

– Bob

Further Reading

Harter, J., Buckingham, M. & Gallup Organization (2016). First, Break All The Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. Gallup Press.

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] leanpub.com. Falling Blossoms. Available at: https://leanpub.com/memeology/ [Accessed 11 Feb. 2022].

Irksome

Some folks tell me they find the titles of some of my blog posts a tad irksome, to say the least.

I can sympathise. I myself am often conflicted between penning titles that might garner reads (a.k.a. clickbait) vs risking irking some readers. I guess that’s the nature of (anti)social media as we now know it.

But there’s a reason I continue to risk irking some.

The Surprising Purpose of Anger

Therapists will remark that although such titles might trigger an emotional response – such as feeling irked, or worse – from readers, the trigger is separate from the response. And the response to triggers is completely within the control of the reader.

So, yes, my titles are sometimes calculated and designed to trigger readers. Given them the opportunity to introspect on their propensity for responding, the nature of their responding, and the needs they have that are not being met (cf. Rosenberg, 2005).

You might say irking some is a public service. 🙂

– Bob

Further Reading

Rosenberg, M.B. (2005). The Surprising Purpose of Anger: Beyond Anger Management: Finding the Gift: A Q&A with Marshall B. Rosenberg. Puddle Dancer Press.

 

 

 

Compassion Makes For A Better Developer. Period.

I’m loving the book “Compassionomics” by Steve Trzeciak, Cory Booker and Anthony Mazzarelli. I’m finding oodles of research-based data and information of immense relevance to software development organisations, and to businesses generally. 

Not that research, science, and evidence is going to sway folks much if at all. Yet, for those already swayed, the information in the book might be useful. 

There’s a bunch of terms – terms widely in use in the medical business field – explained in the book. Here’s a brief introduction to some of them: 

Burnout

“Decades of rigorous research have identified three hallmarks of burnout: emotional exhaustion (being emotionally depleted or overextended), a lack of personal accomplishment (the feeling that one can’t really make a difference), and depersonalisation. Depersonalisation is the inability to make that personal connection.”

~ Trzeciak & Mazzarelli

Depersonalisation also results in reduction in empathy for patients, and in treatment with compassion.

Compassion Fatigue

Literally, running our of compassion for patients.

Adherence

In the field of medicine, adherence is defined as the extent to which patients are able to follow treatment recommendations from health care providers. Non-adherence is, of course, the opposite: patients patients not following treatment recommendations.

The most common example of non-adherence is when a patient is supposed to be taking prescribed medication but is not taking his or her pills. But non-adherence can be about much more than just not taking medication. It’s also a factor with other treatments, like patients with kidney failure who do not show up for scheduled dialysis treatments. Or when a physician recommends that a patient modifies a certain behaviour – like quitting smoking, losing weight, or exercising regularly – but that patient doesn’t follow through.

Compassion Satisfaction

Compassion satisfaction is the degree to which a person feels pleasure or satisfaction from their efforts to relieve others’ suffering. Aside: It’s this idea that informs the Antimatter Principle.

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue (emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and, in this case, also taking on stress from taking care of those that are stressed from being sick)

“A lack of compassion leads to increased workforce issues”

“A new field of research is suggesting that when organizations promote an ethic of compassion rather than a culture of stress, they may not only see a happier workplace but also an improved bottom line. Consider the important—but often overlooked—issue of workplace culture…Employees in positive moods are more willing to help peers and to provide customer service on their own accord…In doing so, they boost coworkers’ productivity levels and increase coworkers’ feeling of social connection, as well as their commitment to the workplace and their levels of engagement with their job. Given the costs of health care, employee turnover, and poor customer service, we can understand how compassion might very well have a positive impact not only on employee health and well-being but also on the overall financial success of a workplace.”

~ Dr. Emma Seppälä, “Why Compassion in Business Makes Sense”

Emotional Labour

Emotional labour is the management of one’s emotions (both one’s experienced emotions as well as one’s displayed emotions) to present a certain image.

For decades, researchers in management and organisational behaviour have been studying emotional labour by service workers across all types of service industries. For health care providers, emotional labour includes the expectation of compassionate behaviours toward patients, even if those providers aren’t actually feeling an emotional connection with the patient in that particular moment. (A word of caution here: Please resist the temptation to trivialise emotional labour as “faking it.” It goes much deeper than that…)

Neuroplasticity

Recent advances in neuroscience have overturned the long-held belief that the brain’s structure and function was essentially fixed throughout adulthood, in favour of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the human brain’s ability to form, reorganise and grow new synaptic connections, even through adulthood. 

Summary

Are you really telling me the all this research has no relevance to the software industry? That developers, etc., have no need of compassion? That compassion won’t make for a better developer? Tcha!

– Bob

Further Reading

Trzeciak, S., Booker, C. and Mazzarelli, A. (2019). Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring Makes a Difference. Studer Group.

Just Bloody Ask

How many assumptions do you make in a day? Hundreds, probably. Maybe even thousands. And how often do those assumptions limit your choices, constrain your relationships, and detract from finding joy?

How would you like to make fewer assumptions, or at least, suffer less from the assumptions you do make?

Here’s a tip: Just bloody ask.

Assume that you’ve annoyed someone? Just ask them. Simply showing interest in their state of mind and status of your mutual relationship goes a long way to addressing the issue. 

Assume that someone doesn’t want what you’re offering? Just ask them.

Assume that the collaboration you need to get something done isn’t going to happen? Just ask.

Assume that everyone wants to go to Abilene, and it’s only when tyou get there you find no one did? Just ask first.

For all kinds of assumptions, until you ask, you won’t know. And when you finally ask, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised.

– Bob

Musing on the above, I just found this interesting (to me) article:

Flattery isn’t feedback – it rarely encourages or inspires genuine confidence

And then there’s the whole issue of the judgmentalism inherent in praise (however sincere).

“In Nonviolent Communication, we consider praise and compliments a violent form of communication.“

~ Marshall B. Rosenberg

(Feeling a bit like being punched in the gut is my response to receiving praise or compliments).

Damning with Fulsome Praise

See also:

Nonjudgmental Feedback

 

I use the phrase “would you be willing to…” to signify what Nonviolent Communication calls a “refusable request” (NVC Step 4). Here’s as couple of refusable requests I have of you:

  • Amongst my needs is the need for interaction. Would you be willing to invite your friends, peers, colleagues and bosses to follow – and interact with – my blog? If so, why so. If not, why not?
  • Also amongst my needs is the need to help, and post content relevant to you. Would you be willing to request some blog posts on topics of particular interest to you?

Thanks for considering. 🙂

We’re Still Working in the Dark Ages

Medievalism

Medievalism is a system of beliefs and practices inspired by the Middle Ages of Europe, or by devotion to elements of that period. Closely related to and encompassing Feudalism, and the Manorial system.

Foundations

Medievalism’s foundations include Faith, Seigneuriage, and land lordship.

Consequences

Despite many legal and social changes since the Middle Ages, from the perspective of folks working in organisations there’s not much difference between serfdom then and employment today. Employees are hired and remain employed at the whim of the Lords of the organisation, and dismissed with as little thought – or maybe even less thought – than serfs.

The relationship between employer and employees remains predominantly one of power-over. And although a relationship, it’s hardly ever a humane relationship. And thus hardly ever a positive contributor to organisational effectiveness.

Solutions

Whilst any kind of universal solution remains a long way off, and dependent on widespread social change, individual organisations can address the issue and consequences through deploying ideas like nonviolence, the Antimatter Principle, and redefining the collection of The Folks That Matter. Above all, though, progress depends on us recognising the medievalism implicit in the way our work works, and our relationships with that, and each other. Are you bovvered?

– Bob

Further Reading

Kahane, A. (2010). Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

 

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