When it comes to workplace problems related to people or people behaviours, perspective is the complicator that tends to be missed in change endeavours. Perspective or perception, involves the lens we look out from, our worldview that informs our sense of reality. Perspective is informed by our knowledge, nature, experiences, and beliefs. All of these factors have the potential to shift or influence perspective, our sense of reality, and that of our employees.
Let's have a closer look at the role of knowledge. Have you ever heard of the saying 'knowledge is power?' Power is defined as the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way. A close cousin of power is empowerment, a widely applied concept in the area of change and development capturing the essence of changing states from powerless to powerful, authority or power given to someone to do something/the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights.
Empowerment through knowledge isn't just about building 'expertise' but understanding the why. When it comes to change resistance and negative conflict, identifying why people behave in certain ways enables us to explore meaning and meaning, is what informs our beliefs. Beliefs are at the core of people conflict, they guide our sense of truth. Complicated? Yes and no! Perspectives are complicated and this is the reason why endeavours to create change in the workplace often come up short. The good news is that if we break it down, we can understand the drivers of people's reality, and herein lies the ability to create sustainable solutions.
We can use knowledge to influence/change beliefs which then, in turn, changes behaviour. Power also involves the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events. By empowering leadership to understand why people behave in the way they do, we then can improve their capacity to direct or influence the behaviour of their people.
Fear in the workplace is the number 1 performance culture disabler and we, the leaders and culture change makers, need to have the knowledge about what drives this emotion in our people (and ourselves!).
Fear is governed by our sense of reality (there is that perception again) but the problem with it is that it also significantly compromises our cognitive function, resulting in beliefs and behaviours that are not engaging the neocortex (the thinking brain). The 'implementation' gap when it comes to addressing behaviours in the workplace, from change resistance and conflict to bullying and harassment, is that we don't tend to consider how people's mental states might be influenced or even compromised. So in a sense, we are very one dimensional in what we expect of professional conduct, what is right and what is wrong. Now evidently setting standards and clear distinction around conduct in the workplace is essential. However, when it comes to addressing workplace people problems where we are not meeting the standard, we need to really understand the underlying complexities. Setting up leaders for success means giving them the knowledge and skills to understand people complexities, how to address engagement barriers, and empower.
For those interested to learn more about the complexities of fear and cognitive responses, this video provides a simple introduction to the neuroscience behind fear in the workplace.
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