This is a brilliant book, which applies Systems Thinking to boss behaviour, written by Chetan Dhruve.
I found this book an excellent read explaining how bosses do not set out to be dictators. The author is certainly not analysing bosses’ behaviours, instead he explores how the systems in place influence bosses to behave in the way they do. I challenge you not to find any similarities with at least one of the case studies in this book with what you have experienced in your workplace.
Two particular studies that grabbed my attention were the Stanford Prison Experiment (I am not going to spoil a good read) and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.
The details of the Challenger disaster is well documented and relates to the “O ring” failing to seal a gap at very low temperature, thus allowing hot gases to escape. This was the technical reason, but there was a people reason as well, which is explained eloquently in this book detailing what happened to all the parties involved. Everyone involved had a story, and everyone’s story was the truth. The root cause of the problem is traced back to the engineer’s advice not supporting the instructions imposed on the directors from above. If the engineer’s advice was taken then the management would fail to meet their targets and heads would roll big time. (If they had taken the engineer’s advice, maybe the disaster would have been avoided!)
I have seen similar situations arise many times in many organisations where in response to a problem the solution appears too difficult to implement, only because the solution does not alleviate other pressures influencing the project. The real problem is that everyone is trying to resolve the problem from a different perspective; everyone has a different priority ranking on the key project success indicators influenced by their own fear of the potential consequences. The fear of the potential consequences is very real, and amongst other things it can be the cause of stress in the workplace, exacerbated by the breakdown in communication and understanding of the perspective of all parties involved.
So a message to all you would-be bosses out there, don’t be dictated by a system, look at your own behaviours and the consequence it is having on the work environment of your staff.
You can start by seeking feedback from those you do not report to directly or indirectly. Secondly, encourage your staff to evaluate your performance. Thirdly, look in the mirror and ask yourself what you would really like to change in the way you respond to pressures in the work place.
All feedback should be received as a gift. Welcome it, reflect upon it, and positively act upon it.
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