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← Why gossip starts and spreads at work | Joe Mull | TEDxStripDistrict

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Showing Revision 15 created 01/30/2020 by Leonardo Silva.

  1. When my son Miles
    was three years old, he fell in love.
  2. The object of his affection was a game:
  3. hide-and-seek.
  4. And though I love Miles dearly,
    I'm not afraid to tell you
  5. that he was terrible at it.
  6. (Laughter)
  7. First, because he would tell you
    where he was going to hide.
  8. He would say, "Daddy,
    you count, I hide in here."
  9. (Laughter)
  10. The second reason
    he was terrible at hide-and-seek
  11. is because after finding his hiding place,
  12. he would get himself into his tight spot,
  13. and then he would spend
    the entire time there giggling.
  14. (Laughter)
  15. I'm sorry, but if you're
    playing hide-and-seek
  16. and you emit a continuous beacon of sound,
  17. you're just bad at it!
  18. (Laughter)
  19. And the third reason
    he was bad at hide-and-seek
  20. is because of what would happen
    after the counting.
  21. He would go and hide,
    I would put my face against the wall -
  22. and you know how this works, right? -
  23. " ... 6, 7, 8, 9, 10! Ready or not!"
  24. (Audience) Here I come.
  25. "Okay!"
  26. (Laughter)
  27. One night right before bed,
    we were playing hide-and-seek,
  28. and he went to hide
    in his sister's room, and I counted.
  29. And I went down the hallway to find him,
  30. and I turned the corner
    to go into his sister's room,
  31. and what I saw in front of me
    made me go like this.
  32. And I was so glad at that moment
    that I had my cell phone in my pocket,
  33. because I pulled it out
    and I snapped a picture.
  34. And I'm going to show
    that picture to you now,
  35. and I want you to look closely.
  36. I apologize that it's
    a little dark and grainy,
  37. but see if you can find Miles.
  38. (Laughter)
  39. I told you he was bad at it.
  40. (Laughter)
  41. If you can't tell, he is laying
    on his sister's giant pink unicorn
  42. with a Disney Princesses
    pillow over his face ...
  43. How many of you here have kids?
  44. And have seen something
    like this before? Yes?
  45. So you know what's happening here.
  46. Miles believes what?
  47. That because he can't see me,
    I must not be able to see him.
  48. And if you have kids,
    you know that this is something
  49. that he will eventually
    grow out of, right?
  50. Well ...
  51. (Laughter)
  52. It turns out ... only in part.
  53. It turns out
  54. that while Miles will eventually
    grow into the ability
  55. to orient himself
    to another person's perspective
  56. as far as what they physically see,
  57. it will be a rare thing indeed
  58. for him to orient himself
    to another person's perspective
  59. to better understand
    why they say what they say
  60. and do what they do.
  61. It turns out that as adults,
    we're pretty bad at that.
  62. We don't do it often.
  63. We don't do it well.
  64. And that has everything to do with why
    gossip starts and spreads at work.
  65. Now, I'm going to share a little bit of
    the psychology behind this with you today,
  66. but first I want to talk about
    what happens at work
  67. when one person is
    a little honked off at somebody else.
  68. Oh, but in fairness to Miles,
  69. I should tell you he's not the only
    Mull child who was bad at hide-and-seek.
  70. His older sister Lilly was not exactly
    a cat burglar either.
  71. (Laughter)
  72. Let's talk about what happens at work
  73. when one person is upset or bothered
    by something said or done by another.
  74. When employee number 1
  75. is upset or bothered by something said
    or done by employee number 2,
  76. does employee number 1
    go to employee number 2 and say,
  77. "Excuse me ...
  78. (Chuckling)
  79. This happened,
  80. I'm having a little bit of a reaction.
  81. Why don't we sit down
    and talk about it like adults?"
  82. Does that happen where you work?
  83. Audience: No.
  84. What does employee number 1 do instead?
  85. They go to another,
    they phone a friend - you got it.
  86. They go to a co-worker,
    a peer, a friend, a confidant,
  87. and they say, "Hey, come here."
  88. Now, for our educational purposes today,
  89. let's pretend that these people
    all work together in a doctor's office.
  90. Employee number 1 goes
    to their colleague and say,
  91. "Hey, come here.
  92. Do you believe that I have roomed
    14 patients this morning,
  93. and she has only roomed 3?
  94. I don't know what her deal is,
    but I am done with her."
  95. And now, here's the interesting thing:
  96. the other person has almost
    the exact same reaction every time,
  97. regardless of the industry they work in,
  98. their job title,
  99. or the nature of
    the complaint they just heard.
  100. In almost every case,
  101. when employee number 1 goes
    to their friend, their compatriot at work,
  102. and says, "Hey, get this,"
  103. the other person hears the complaint,
    and then leans in and says,
  104. "I know! "
  105. (Laughter)
  106. "She did that to me last week too!"
  107. "Uh-huh.’’ "Uh-huh.’’ "Uh-huh.’’
  108. And then all of a sudden,
  109. we've got ourselves
    a little drama triangle.
  110. This is how drama starts in the workplace.
  111. And now, to be clear, I'm not using
    that term, "drama triangle," to be cute.
  112. This is a predictable pattern
    of human behavior
  113. that has been around for decades
  114. and was first published in the late '60s
  115. by a psychotherapist
    named Stephen Karpman.
  116. And when he published it,
    he named it "the drama triangle."
  117. Now, these types of patterns of behavior
    don't just happen at work.
  118. They happen in groups
    of all shapes and sizes.
  119. If you go to a church, this happens there.
  120. If you live in a neighborhood,
    this happens there.
  121. This even happens in your own family.
  122. Tell the truth:
  123. when you're frustrated with your mom,
  124. do you call your mom,
    or do you call your sister?
  125. (Laughter)
  126. "Listen, I'm done with Mom.
    You talk to her."
  127. (Laughter)
  128. And this is such a predictable,
    common pattern of behavior
  129. that these roles have names.
  130. Employee number 1 is called "the victim."
  131. That's how they see themselves.
  132. "I am being wronged in some way
    by employee number 2."
  133. The other person is called "the rescuer."
  134. That's how they see themselves.
  135. "My colleague needs me,
    my help, my counsel, my advice.
  136. They need me to be an ear
    and to be supportive."
  137. And that's bunk.
  138. They're really only there for two reasons.
  139. First, it's nice to be included
    in the scuttlebutt,
  140. and second,
  141. "I'm kind of a little bit glad
    it's not about me."
  142. And then, the third person
    is called "the persecutor."
  143. And I'm sorry for my handwriting.
  144. But that is how they are viewed
    by the other folks in this drama triangle.
  145. They're a bad person, of bad character,
  146. making bad choices.
  147. Now, drama triangles form
    for a couple of reasons.
  148. Most simply to understand
    is that they are just easier.
  149. It is almost always easier
    for employee number 1
  150. to seek out the comfort of validation
  151. than it is to step into
    the discomfort of confrontation.
  152. It's easier to find someone
    to tell you you're right
  153. than it is to go have
    an uncomfortable conversation
  154. where you could be wrong or look foolish.
  155. But the reality is there is
    a lot more happening here
  156. that takes place before anybody
    in this pattern talks to anybody else.
  157. It turns out there are some shortcuts
    that our brains take
  158. that lead us into this
    predictable pattern of behavior
  159. without us even knowing it has happened.
  160. Let me give you an example.
  161. What do you assume
    about someone who is late to work?
  162. "Lazy," "They don't care,"
  163. "Selfish."
  164. Listen to all the answers that come out.
  165. When I ask this question in workshops
  166. or when I'm doing team development work
    with an organization,
  167. the answers that come out
    in response to that question
  168. are almost always
    a list of character flaws.
  169. "They're lazy, uncommitted,"
  170. "They don't care,"
    "They're not organized" -
  171. it's some version of
  172. "They didn't do what they needed to do
  173. to be where they needed to be
    when they needed to be there."
  174. But what about when you're late to work?
  175. What's the reason then?
  176. Traffic?
    (Laughter)
  177. Whatever the reason,
    it's a good one, isn't it?
  178. (Laughter)
  179. The truth is that we are hardwired
  180. to more favorably judge ourselves
    and more harshly judge others.
  181. These are shortcuts
    that our brains take every day,
  182. biases that our brains have in favor of us
  183. and against everybody else.
  184. The first bias I want you to be aware of
    that leads to gossip at work
  185. is called "the illusory superiority bias."
  186. I don't need you to remember the name;
    I just want you to know what it means.
  187. We are hardwired to inflate
    and overestimate our talents,
  188. capabilities, judgment.
  189. The most famous example of this
    is a study that was done of drivers,
  190. that asked drivers to rate
    their skill behind the wheel.
  191. And do you know that 93% of drivers
  192. would rate themselves
    as an above-average driver?
  193. I'm going to let you sit
    with that one for a minute.
  194. (Laughter)
  195. In other words, 93% of drivers
    would rate themselves as better
  196. than 50% of all drivers.
  197. You know this too.
  198. You see it where you work.
  199. Let's imagine for a moment that I brought
    everybody at your company into this room,
  200. and I said, "Congratulations,
    everybody here is getting a raise -
  201. somewhere between 2% and 4%,
    based on merit.
  202. Here's an index card.
  203. Write down on this card
  204. what percentage of pay increase
    you believe you should get."
  205. First off, what does nobody write down?
  206. Nobody writes down 2%.
  207. You know what else nobody writes down?
  208. 3%.
  209. (Laughter)
  210. Nobody raises their hand
    and says, "I'm average."
  211. They write 3.1%.
  212. And you have a couple of people
    working for you who write 4%.
  213. And the one guys who's like 7% -
  214. who cleaned out the skanky staff
    refrigerator in the lounge this week?
  215. This guy right here.
  216. Boom!
  217. (Laughter)
  218. We overestimate
    our own skills and abilities.
  219. We even do this at home.
  220. How many of you have ever planned
    a Saturday project around the house
  221. and thought, "This will take me
    about four hours,"
  222. and it took you four weekends?
  223. (Laughter)
  224. We are hardwired to more favorably
    judge ourselves than we should.
  225. It's almost as if there's an angel
    sitting on our shoulder,
  226. whispering in our ear every day,
  227. "You are the best."
  228. (Laughter)
  229. "You are such a good person."
  230. (Laughter)
  231. "You're amazing!"
  232. And we believe her.
  233. (Laughter)
  234. But here's the rub:
  235. the angel doesn't ride alone.
  236. On the other shoulder sits a devil
    who also whispers in our ear
  237. and whose job it is
    to evaluate everybody else.
  238. The devil is another bias
    we carry with us every day,
  239. called "the fundamental
    attribution error."
  240. You see, social science
    researchers have figured out
  241. that when we evaluate
    another person's choices or behavior,
  242. we decide that it is due
    not to situations but to character.
  243. In other words, when you see someone
    do a questionable thing,
  244. you immediately decide
    they're of questionable character.
  245. That guy who cut you off in traffic?
  246. "Who does he think he is?
  247. He must be selfish, entitled.
    What an idiot!"
  248. That co-worker who's moving slowly today?
  249. "Doesn't care, doesn't try."
  250. What do you assume
    about someone who's late to work?
  251. "Lazy," "Unorganized," "Uncommitted."
  252. We have a devil who sits on our shoulder
    every day and whispers into our ear,
  253. and what they whisper
    into our ear is a made-up story
  254. about why people do what they do,
  255. and that story almost always
    assumes malice.
  256. So why does gossip start
    and spread at work?
  257. Because like a three-year-old
    playing hide-and-seek,
  258. we get so caught up in the moment,
  259. that we don't pause to orient ourself
    to another person's perspective,
  260. to better understand
    why they do what they do
  261. and say what they say.
  262. Instead, the biases of our brains
    whisper in our ears every single day
  263. that, "On a scale of 1 to 10,
    I'm a 7, baby,
  264. and everybody else is a 4."
  265. And when we start to believe that,
    when we listen to those biases,
  266. when we decide that our choices
    and behavior are virtuous
  267. and that others' are less so,
  268. it gives us permission
    to experience contempt.
  269. And then, we invite others
    to join us in that contempt.
  270. The truth is, if you want to cut down
    on gossip in the workplace,
  271. there are two core behaviors you need
    to ask your team to make a commitment to:
  272. assume good intent
  273. and go to the source.
  274. Assuming good intent is simply pausing
    and asking a very important question:
  275. "What would be a perfectly legitimate
    explanation for this person's behavior?"
  276. "What would make
    a good person act this way?"
  277. That guy who cut you off in traffic?
  278. Maybe he is an entitled jerk,
  279. or maybe he's on the way to the hospital
    for a family emergency.
  280. That co-worker who's moving slowly?
  281. Yeah, maybe she doesn't care,
  282. or maybe her boss asked her to slow down.
  283. That person who was late to work?
  284. Maybe their kid spilled
    orange juice on their pants
  285. right when they were walking out the door.
  286. Assuming good intent is how
    we mute the devil on our shoulder
  287. because it pushes contempt aside,
  288. and it forces us to reach for empathy.
  289. "Why would a good person act this way?"
    is a question we can ask ourselves
  290. that immediately turns us into a more
    emotionally intelligent member of a team.
  291. The other behavior is to go to the source,
  292. is to do exactly what I described earlier,
  293. to go to a co-worker and say,
  294. "Hey, this happened, it's bothering me,
    I'm having a reaction.
  295. We should talk about it."
  296. And if you can get
    the members of your teams
  297. to commit to just those two behaviors,
  298. well, you've just planted
    the building blocks for teamwork
  299. because those are core behaviors that lead
    to healthy conflict in the workplace
  300. and steer us away from patterns
    of unhealthy conflict.
  301. Oh, and you'll still have
    some gossip in the corners
  302. and whispered conversations
    in the hallways,
  303. but they will sound
    a little bit different.
  304. Now, employee number 1
    goes to a co-worker and says,
  305. "Hey,
  306. do you believe that Jane
    pulled Jack aside this morning
  307. and said that it was bothering her
  308. that he wasn't moving fast enough
    or pulling his weight?
  309. And he handled that really well."
  310. At which point in time, the other person
    can lean in and quietly reply,
  311. "I know!"
  312. (Laughter)
  313. Thank you.
  314. (Applause)