Wednesday, January 30, 2019

"He Didn't Really Mean It But That Other Joker..."

We are funny people. We have 2.4 blind-spots (I can't find my reference for this but trust me!), meaning that there are 2-3 things at which we think we're really good, if not great...but everyone else knows we're not. Like I might think I'm really good at recalling references to facts...but...

One of those blind spots for all of us is our integrity, i.e. walking the talk, sticking with our values no matter the circumstances. A speaker at a workshop recently pointed this out with this scenario:
Assume you've grown up in a wealthy family and you're now a young adult. Money wasn't and still isn't a problem. Your parents were able to afford anything they or you or your siblings wanted. You had a nice house, nice cars, remarkable vacations. You went to the best schools and were able to participate in any extracurricular activities you wanted--participating in any of the sports leagues you wanted, music lessons, ballet, seeing movies, theatrical productions, concerts, whatever. Community involvement was important. Your parents donated a lot and benefited the less fortunate. But as a young adult, you discover that one of your parents illegally obtained their wealth--maybe through drug dealing, embezzlement, extortion, murder...You uncovered evidence of that your mom was involved in these unlawful and injurious practices. Would you turn her in?
Assume you were a young adult in a family that struggled to have any extra income. Your family barely paid the bills. As a young adult, you discovered the reason is because your father was paying off a crime family ("You gotta nice store here, Mr. Smith. It'd be a shame if something happened to it.") You've got evidence. Would you turn it into the police?
Most of us struggle with the first question. Few of us struggle with the second. The reason is an in-group bias, a bias towards people in our group, just like us in socioeconomic terms or values or appearance. This in-group bias provides grace and leniency for an individual who has transgressed our values. "Sure, she violated the policy and flew first-class but she's a good performer. She's a VP. We can let this slide by." The same bias encourages us to excoriate the whole group of 'the others or those people' if one of them violates the policy. "We can't let him get away with flying first-class. He's only a supervisor. They'll take advantage of this slip if we don't make an example of him." Note the motivating language concerning individual versus group in both examples.

Of course, to avoid some of this we decide we're going to treat everyone equally in the name of integrity. Then we get trapped by not treating people fairly. "Sorry, I've got to suspend you without pay for three days because you were late 3 days this week. I feel bad that your kids are sick and you struggled to find daycare since they couldn't go to school...but the rule is the rule. I've got to treat everyone the same." We then tend to treat the employee who could care less about getting to work on-time the same as the person who is highly engaged but circumstances hindered their performance.

One of the recommendations is that we try to show the out-group the same love we'd give to the in-group: love the hourly employees the same as we love our C-suite colleagues, love Republicans and Democrats equally, love the people on the corner with the same assistance as we would our neighbor who needed a bit of help...It's not easy. But exercise the muscles a bit everyday by spotting where you're treating 'the others' or 'those people' or the out-group differently from the in-group. Not just in decision-making--personal or corporate--but also behaviorally like who you greet, show appreciation, chastise, etc.
Maria Shriver, wife of Gov. Schwarzenegger, at the time of driving/talking in disregard of state-wide ban

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