“Tingling to Tell”

Posted by jlubans on February 16, 2016

Caption: Robyn Nevin (1979) as Miss Docker, the Cheery Soul (yukking it up) with the wife of the ill-fated rector.

Writing about gossip and office politics “took me back, back, back to mammie’s knee” as a 1920s song might go. No, not exactly; the thought did catapult me (figuratively) back to the Sydney Opera House Theater’s production of Patrick White’s “A Cheery Soul” circa 2000. I was in Sydney observing the maestra, Simone Young's leadership of the Sydney Opera House orchestra, see Chapter 15 in Leading from the Middle: Orchestrating Success: A Profile of Simone Young, Conductor.
I'd forgotten the name of Mr. White’s play but I recalled the lead character as a do-gooder who itched – it was her Christian duty, she’d say - to correct those in error, albeit with a gleeful vengeance and catastrophic result.
Indeed, it was Ms. Docker – that cheery soul - who I was thinking of when I recalled, from early in my career, a department head peer who was tingling to tell me just how ineffective I was; all she needed was my permission.
So, in these days of “shameless honesty,” “radical candor,” “mokita moments” and “front-stabbing” how can you separate “constructive feedback” from that not quite so?
A recent story in the WSJ suggests that we can take too far candor’s cause. Bridgewater, the world’s biggest and most profitable hedge fund (managing $154 billion) practices a corporate philosophy of “complete honesty.” Seemingly, if greed is a good motivator, inflicting emotional pain is even better, as long as you succeed at the conundrum of “removing human emotion from decision-making”.
Well, all’s not well at the emotion-less Bridgewater. One might even say that emotions are stewing. Two of the leaders “have called for votes on each other’s (corporate) conduct”, specifically on whether or not the two have “integrity.” As defined at Bridgewater, integrity is “never saying something about a person that you wouldn’t tell the person directly.” Surely, Ms. Docker would approve. Talking behind people’s backs, makes you a “slimy weasel” to use the official term from the Bridgewater Lexicon*.

I wonder what Mr. White could have done with this scenario.

*Other iPad data collection efforts at Bridgewater:
Dot Collector
An app to rate and organize employees’ attributes like ‘willingness to touch the nerve’
Believability Index
A measurement that reflects how much weight individual opinions are given in debates and polls
Pain Button
An app to record feelings such as ‘angry,’ ‘frustrated’ and ‘sad’

These and other applications are fed into a giant store of information which is used systematically to rank and reward or to “rank and yank” each and every employee.

Leading from the Middle Library of the Week:
Nevada State Library Archives and Public Records, Carson City NV USA

NOTE: "Wisdom in a Thimble: Managers and Fables" My upcoming talk at the National Library of Latvia in Riga. February 24, 2016, 11.00 - 13.00.

© Copyright John Lubans 2016
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