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Psychology

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.

 

 

 

“Please, just attend to my needs”

This is the silent plea of everyone in your organisation (and everyone in our lives, for that matter).

Silent because of fear of appearing weak or needy. And silent because those in need rarely realise they have unmet needs, let alone realise that their needs could be attended to.

Are you hearing their requests? Are you doing something, anything, about them?

How would you feel if your heartfelt pleas continually fell on deaf ears? Do you care how others might be feeling?

– Bob

Product Development Success

What constitutes “success” in the product development arena, and how might we quantify it, or even measure it?

What is the ultimate unit of measure for success?

Some folks say it’s “life cycle profit impact”. But it really isn’t. Nobody gives a hoot about profit (cf. Deming’s First Theorem). Nor do all but a few take a long term (whole life cycle) view of the products in their product portfolio.

In my experience, the ultimate unit of measure for success in product development is the wellbeing of the folks involved. In particular, the personal wellbeing of executives and senior managers with skin in the game. And to a much lesser extent, the personal wellbeing of the middle managers, developers, and customers (most often in that order).

Of course, nobody wants to talk about this, least of all the beneficiaries. So the measures of success remain undiscussable, and spurious proxy measures such as profit are introduced to lull the unwary and naive.

– Bob

Further Reading

Think Different. (2019). Your REAL Job. [online] Available at: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2019/11/11/your-real-job/ [Accessed 21 Jan. 2022].

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.

Unbelievable

“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood let alone believed by the masses.”

~ Plato

Adapting Plato’s wisdom to the Antimatter Principle frame:

Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their community’s collective assumptions and beliefs will never be understood let alone believed by their fellows.

– Bob

Techniques

Let’s take a look at one (of many) nuanced distinctions between coaching and Organisational Psychotherapy: techniques.

Suggesting

Many coaches will suggest techniques to their coachees, techniques to make their lives easier, and to tackle certain challenges. For example, software coaches might hear their coachees remark that code quality could be better, and invite their coachees to look at TDD as a technique to help the coachees improve it. Or coachees might complain that their code is too difficult to change, and the coach might suggest looking at the idea of connascence, and the techniques derived from that.

Contrarywise, organisational psychotherapists will typically refrain from making suggestions, in this case regarding techniques. Instead, they are likely to ask open, Socratic-style questions inviting reflection, such as: “Are there known techniques techniques that might help improve code quality?” and “Are there ideas that might help with making your code more amenable to change?”

Clean Language formulations of such questions may help further:

Client: “We suspect we have some issues with our code quality.”
Therapist: “What kind of issues are those issues?” …conversation continues…

(Note: The above are rather contrived Organisational Psychotherapy examples, as such topics seem relatively unlikely in the context of Organisational Psychotherapy).

Continuum

Of course, Clean Language and Socratic questions are not the sole domain of the Organisational Psychotherapist. Both coaches and Organisational Psychotherapists may move on a continuum from leading questions to open questions, and back. The distinction I’m trying to illustrate here is that coaches may tend towards leading questions, therapists toward open ones.

And rigid adherence to purely open (Socratic) questions may rankle with clients and coachees, who may just want a straightforward answer, from time to time. One skill of the therapist and coach both, is to be able to resolve this kind of situation to the best satisfaction of the client.

– Bob

Further Reading

Sutton, J. (2020). Socratic Questioning in Psychology: Examples and Techniques. [online] PositivePsychology.com. Available at: https://positivepsychology.com/socratic-questioning/.

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

 

“Any [system] must be treated as-a-whole; in other words, that a [system] is not an algebraic sum, a linear function of its elements, but always more than that. It is seemingly little realized, at present, that this simple and innocent-looking statement involves a full structural revision of our language…”

~ Alfred Korzybski

Telling hundreds or thousands of people [something, anything] is never going to result in anything other than bitterness and conflict. And showing them will have about the same (lack of) impact.

Would you be willing to arrange things such that they might invite themselves to find out for themselves?

Psychological Safety – Oh! The Irony

The march of time seems to have judged “psychological safety” as a passing fad. Not that it’s an irrelevant idea – far from it. 

I suspect psychological safety gained some acclaim because everybody wanted it for themselves. “Yes, please. I feel anxious, exposed and at risk when I speak out, so I’d really appreciate some psychological safety, thank you.”

We’ll skip over the unlikely prospect of any managers being interested in providing an environment of psychological safety (why would they need to do that?) and get straight to the irony.

The Irony

I’ve spoken with some number of colleagues who all attest to feelings of anxiety, being exposed and being at risk of judgement by peers in the software community when they speak out about certain, possibly contentious or unpopular issues. 

Aside : I suspect it’s more often fear of the consequences of speaking out that’s at the root of these anxieties, rather that fear of being judged per se. 

The irony being, of course, that whereas individuals are fine with accepting psychology safety provided by others, they’re far less interested in extending psychological safety in turn.

What are you doing on a daily basis to extend psychological safety to others?

– Bob

Further Reading

http://www.psychologytoday.com. (1 June 2015). Tired of Being Judged? Try This. | Psychology Today. [online] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/longing-nostalgia/201506/tired-being-judged-try [Accessed 13 Sep. 2021].

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