Posts Tagged ‘threat’

The phantom menace


I arranged to pick up my kids at school, so there I was, trying to park in the very car-crowded blocks around it. I picked an apparent empty place 50 meters ahead and, when getting there, it was the front of a building in construction stage. The space was “reserved” for the trucks delivering work materials the next morning, but it is reserved from the afternoon of the previous day by means of rests of iron bars and rocks on the sidewalk very near the border of the street. Anyone who dares to park there, can end with deep marks in the paint of the car. They really piss me off.

Is kind of a threat, tacit but it is a threat. Another everyday example: there are some areas in the city that have free parking. During special events, some people start to “help” the drivers to park, given the scarce spaces, and offer to “take care” of the car. They have no kind of identification, nor allowance from the government to do that, so it is up to you to give them money or not. But you know what can happen you don’t give them money: your car can be the only one in blocks with the windshell broken, the music equipment stolen and have a very nice “human product” gift in the front seat.

There are some tacit threats in your private life, as the previous examples, and some in your work everyday. You give a tip to the waiter of your everyday coffee store even if you have not had a good service, just to be sure your next coffee will be just coffee, and you laugh at a gross joke from your boss about a non-present person just to be part of the “team”. There is something in common to all the examples: a risk to loss something; it can be your position, your car, your health or your secrets, you fear to loose something.

There is a darker view to this kind of situations, and is the fact that there are people that take into account your fears. It is a group of people for who the threatening is a common situation, almost a way of life. Some of them are easy to nullify, but others are not so easy. The latters are the people that have someone or something that “protects” them; thay have power, or they are protected by someone who has it, or maybe just a very developed ability.

The fear directs people to do things that are very near to the irrational. Michael Jensen, creator of the REMM model, describes those kind of behaviors as “Pain avoidance” model, in contrast to the “Resourceful, economical and maximizer”, where people start to act to diminish the pain in that moment, not taking into account the future. You pay for the “protection” of your car, but that only generates a feedback loop that attracts more people to “aid” you to park.

The examples apply to the work, off course. If a Manager ask an employee to end certain “very urgent task” very near the annual revision date, it is very likely that he will accept the task, even when he knows for certain that it is impossible to end it in the timeframe imposed by his boss. Or the fear to signal a bad action of a coworker because you can be seen as a “non team working” by the rest of the team.

Are those real threats?  There is no blackmail, no verbal or written menace, just the feeling of the “victim” that there can be consequences. It is even very difficult to do a formal accusation, not because the probable revenge, but because there is no proof.

As I mentioned earlier, some people use this behavior in their own benefit. They have mastered in the art of psicological menace. They are law offenders in the street; at work, it is called mobbing. As managers, we are responsible of our employees. It is our job to know the mobbers and ask them to stop.

There is a thin line between “stressing” the team and threating it. The power of the words is huge; use them to good. Respect your team’s values and yours, not doing to others what is wrong if being done to you. At the end of the day, we all want to go home happy about the day and want to return happy tomorroy.

See you. Regards,

    Diego :D