Culture and Leadership Connections Podcast

Leadership Without Power and Emotional Triggers

November 20, 2019 Season 1 Episode 1
Culture and Leadership Connections Podcast
Leadership Without Power and Emotional Triggers
Chapters
Culture and Leadership Connections Podcast
Leadership Without Power and Emotional Triggers
Nov 20, 2019 Season 1 Episode 1
Marie Gervais

Recognizing emotional triggers

Racist comment from inside the team from one visible minority to another and from one manager to another (white manager making joke insults to other white manager; white manager making joke insults to visible minority manager) 

Relationship: I had no power and was under scrutiny and micromanagement from the white boss. I was the only woman on the team. Everyone else was a tech person, I was the curriculum person.

Goal: to increase workplace sense of psychological safety

Problem: coming into a team climate of conflicting relationships and power dynamics, without power. People with power were vicious and cutting, atmosphere of one man upmanship and scarcity

 What I actually did: First I tried to divert attention from the racism by complimenting the person who had been targeted. This just made it worse. Eventually I shut down and made myself as small as possible. Felt intimidated and undermined. Didn’t talk to anyone about it. Left the contract. 

Why I felt so powerless in the situation: it was a short term contract, I was working on a project I did not have previous knowledge of, I didn’t know the team who had worked together in various projects in different countries, the politics were always hot and I didn’t understand them or know who to talk to about them

What I would have done differently: thought more carefully about why I had such a strong emotional reaction that I couldn’t get past – in fact it related back to me being beat up as a child by a taunting bully who was similar to the white boss in this incident. If I had understood that this was a childhood trigger, I could have swallowed my fear and spoken directly but privately to the people doing the racist comments, taking care not to make them lose face or feel humiliated and showing my belief in their capacity to be encouraging and supportive.

Principle: This is an injustice disguised as a “joke” and is one of the indicators of social dominance. Racist comments cannot be allowed to grow, they create a toxic atmosphere. Social dominance and narcissism are dangerous – if you are seen as not bowing to their will, they will crush you. It has to be handled delicately so that the people causing the problem don’t make it worse for their victims or for anyone else. 

Think about various ways to deal with the issue/ from the side/ individually/ group setting/confrontation/. Be systematic and strategic

Strategies: Consider your emotional reaction to each one, then choose the one you can do with confidence

  • Combat racism by building a climate of safety quietly with others, ask others to say one thing they admire or like about X. Suggest that at team meetings people think of something they appreciated from an individual or the entire team as part of the team routine. 
  • Confront the issue at a team meeting without accusing or blaming
  • Speak confidentially to each of the “actors” to say how those comments affect you and the team and the work atmosphere
  • Document incidents and file a complaint
  • Watch, listen and later write a complaint to the company with your documentation
  • Talk to a higher authority explaining how having to always “watch your back” is keeping you away from doing your work. 
  • Be informed of the new legislation about psychological safety in the workplace – employers can now be brought to task for allowing a toxic workplace climate to continue. 
  • Ask your self if it is worth it – maybe you should just look for another job.
  • Remember that people who actively confront a bad behavior either privately or in public, are typically targeted further BUT they feel more confident and strong because they spoke their truth and they know it was heard – remember the proverb – “people don’t throw stones at trees wi
Show Notes

Recognizing emotional triggers

Racist comment from inside the team from one visible minority to another and from one manager to another (white manager making joke insults to other white manager; white manager making joke insults to visible minority manager) 

Relationship: I had no power and was under scrutiny and micromanagement from the white boss. I was the only woman on the team. Everyone else was a tech person, I was the curriculum person.

Goal: to increase workplace sense of psychological safety

Problem: coming into a team climate of conflicting relationships and power dynamics, without power. People with power were vicious and cutting, atmosphere of one man upmanship and scarcity

 What I actually did: First I tried to divert attention from the racism by complimenting the person who had been targeted. This just made it worse. Eventually I shut down and made myself as small as possible. Felt intimidated and undermined. Didn’t talk to anyone about it. Left the contract. 

Why I felt so powerless in the situation: it was a short term contract, I was working on a project I did not have previous knowledge of, I didn’t know the team who had worked together in various projects in different countries, the politics were always hot and I didn’t understand them or know who to talk to about them

What I would have done differently: thought more carefully about why I had such a strong emotional reaction that I couldn’t get past – in fact it related back to me being beat up as a child by a taunting bully who was similar to the white boss in this incident. If I had understood that this was a childhood trigger, I could have swallowed my fear and spoken directly but privately to the people doing the racist comments, taking care not to make them lose face or feel humiliated and showing my belief in their capacity to be encouraging and supportive.

Principle: This is an injustice disguised as a “joke” and is one of the indicators of social dominance. Racist comments cannot be allowed to grow, they create a toxic atmosphere. Social dominance and narcissism are dangerous – if you are seen as not bowing to their will, they will crush you. It has to be handled delicately so that the people causing the problem don’t make it worse for their victims or for anyone else. 

Think about various ways to deal with the issue/ from the side/ individually/ group setting/confrontation/. Be systematic and strategic

Strategies: Consider your emotional reaction to each one, then choose the one you can do with confidence

  • Combat racism by building a climate of safety quietly with others, ask others to say one thing they admire or like about X. Suggest that at team meetings people think of something they appreciated from an individual or the entire team as part of the team routine. 
  • Confront the issue at a team meeting without accusing or blaming
  • Speak confidentially to each of the “actors” to say how those comments affect you and the team and the work atmosphere
  • Document incidents and file a complaint
  • Watch, listen and later write a complaint to the company with your documentation
  • Talk to a higher authority explaining how having to always “watch your back” is keeping you away from doing your work. 
  • Be informed of the new legislation about psychological safety in the workplace – employers can now be brought to task for allowing a toxic workplace climate to continue. 
  • Ask your self if it is worth it – maybe you should just look for another job.
  • Remember that people who actively confront a bad behavior either privately or in public, are typically targeted further BUT they feel more confident and strong because they spoke their truth and they know it was heard – remember the proverb – “people don’t throw stones at trees wi
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