“Remember, we see the world not as it is but as we are. Most of us see through the eyes of our fears and our limiting beliefs and our false assumptions.”Robin S. Sharma
“Don’t Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”Don Miguel Ruiz
This article is about psychological contracts; interpersonal assumptions and unconscious ground rules we have for what is required of us and others and what one is entitled to receive. In and of themselves these contracts develop in a benign and fluid way, but at some point, they become rigid certainties that define not only our expectations, but mores within separatist camps. The psychological contract itself is not problematic. It is the lack of realization that everyone has them, that they stem from one’s unique, private logic, a desire for community congruence, have merit, and deserve receptivity, recognition and respect, even if not agreed upon. The lack of a commitment to curiosity and compassion – within oneself and with others – is at the root of every interpersonal conflict – large and small – and lack of resolution, causing untold setbacks.
Just one such example is the divide between Baby Boomers and Millennial and GenZ employees. As a Boomer myself, I heard growing up that “children are to be seen and not heard”, “you should respect your elders”, “you must earn respect”, and “you’ll understand when you’re older.” The major theme in these popular phrases was “you must defer to those older than you; anything else is reprehensible.” A couple of decades later we have the internet, advanced global communications, awareness of widely varying belief systems, and an evolution of today’s popular thought and politics. It’s no wonder the psychological contracts in Millennial and gen-Z employees are vastly different from Boomers. No one should be surprised, nor disgusted. They hear, “you can be anything you want”, “your self-esteem is top priority”, “you are our future,” and “everyone matters”. They experienced rapid increases in democracy, very public shifts in national and international policies, and evolving cinematic themes of “no one is better or deserves more respect than anyone else, despite age, experience or title.” It’s no wonder these generations are often polarized.
While this is by no means the only instance of widely varying psychological contracts with numerous points of mis-understanding and contention, it’s just an obvious, contemporary one that most people agree is characterized by recurrent hostility and opposition. Nor is this article about what to do about inter-generational divides (I cover this in other articles). My main point is that psychological contracts are not conscious, nor examined and discussed. Instead, they remain hidden and then inadvertently, they are used to justify blaming, shaming, and hostile and righteous disrespect and separation, with lasting negative impacts. Consider: what does this cost you, your people, your business, your life?
The way out is to make interpersonal relationships, including exercising trusting behaviors and living from purpose and values – more important than anything else. It’s time to learn what we should have all learned in grade school: the conditions and conversations that expand human potential those that decrease it so we dismantle them. I met a new partner recently, and he understood this well. He was given a two-month window to complete a project with a new team. He asked for three months. He spent the first month building trust and authentic community. Then his team went on to complete the project in the next two weeks, ahead of the original completion date – all while having a peaceful, relaxed, fulfilling and productive time with one another.
It’s never too late. Make new commitments to learn, together with your team, all the ways to grow in emotional intelligence so you all can live in authentic community with the goal of making one another wildly successful. Not only will you all be happier, you’ll all gain productivity and profitability too. Call me today!
Why People Hire LifeWork Systems
Business owners, community leaders, and educators hire Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace and recognize a systems approach ensures consistency and sustainability in the transformation process. They know that conscientious employees grow your business and improve your reputation, giving you competitive advantages.
We help organizations instill into every person a common language and toolset for how to participate in a responsibility-based workplace. Visit our website at www.lifeworksystems.com, and click the link at the bottom to complete a culture assessment and schedule your first consult to review a report on your feedback, all at no cost.
You can also contact Judy Ryan at 314.239.4727 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As published nationally in St. Louis Small Business Monthly, in The Extraordinary Workplace column, Feb 2019