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Blaming & Shaming At Work: Breaking The Destructive Cycle

Recently I started reading the book Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior (Patterson et al., 2013). 

The main idea I’ve gotten from the book so far is that cooperation breaks down when 2 conditions are present:
  • The other person thinks you’re disrespecting them.
  • The other person thinks that working with you will cause them some form of harm.
If this theory holds true, then the formula for getting people to work with you is this:
  • Show them respect AND
  • Focus on a mutual goal — meaning, it has to benefit both of you.
How this works in the real world:
  • Respect is shown through word and deed. It is what you say. It is your eye contact. It is your demeanor. It is your body language. It is listening. It is time. It is giving people credit for good ideas and good work. Etc.
  • Focusing on a mutual goal is shown through appreciative inquiry. What do you want or need? What do I want or need? Where do the two intersect?

If you don’t know how to start changing dysfunctional dynamics at work, start with customer service. It’s a goal that everyone can relate to, and a positive outcome benefits everyone as well. Like this:

  • Think about this: How do my colleagues contribute to serving the customer? Reflecting on others’ roles is a way of stepping into their shoes, and that mental awareness will in turn help you to approach them with a respectful attitude.
  • Act on this: “We don’t want any complaints coming in, that’s for sure.” With those words, you’re saying, “You and I both need to deliver excellent customer service, because the outside world only sees one face. When we get good ratings, it reflects well on all of us.”
Unfortunately, very often, we don’t have conversations about good working relationships until something has fallen apart.
Focusing on respect and win-win cooperation can prevent a crisis from coming up in the first place, and can also help repair the damage once it has occurred.
By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author’s own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain.

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