Why disobedience in times of Covid-19

Author: Manu Steens

Today I received an email from a colleague about fellow travelers on the train:

“It is really bad how few people in the train wear their masks correctly while they are still sitting close together on chairs / benches. What a difference with 2 weeks ago. ”

In itself this can of course be a coincidence that she is in a train wagon that is the exception. But the partygoers of June 20 in Brussels are no longer a coincidence. Are people able to deal with their regained freedom, or is there something else going on? Earlier, during the lock-down , there were also parties that gave crisis managers and police officers gray hair: the so-called (how can it be different?) Lock-down parties . This concerns people who deliberately ignore current advised behavior and consciously run risks. From now on, what I am going to write is rather speculative, because it should be investigated. So it is only a presumption.

In my opinion, the party- goers are people who are looking for a form of arousal by consciously running a risk. They score high on the SSS: the Sensation Seeking Scale (Zuckerman). The question of how the communication of the target groups should be drawn up is then relevant. Is a split according to small kids-youth-adults-elderly enough, or should we add another dimension: sensation seekers and non-sensation seekers? The reason why I find this relevant is because of the idea that not every infected person infects the same number of other people. Perhaps there is a small group of superinfectants , and this group of sensation seekers may be part of it because of their reckless behavior. The question then is: what is known about these sensation seekers?

According to Stephen Lyng , Thomas Workman and GH Morris in their article “ Edgework and Risk Communication” there are roughly two groups of sensation seekers. There are those who voluntarily engage in risky behavior despite the risks they run, and those who do so precisely because of the risks to be run. The latter are called ‘edgeworkers’ in literature . The first group is often limited to passively run risks due to e.g. incorrect nutrition, disbelief in damage from drug use, driving without a seat belt and unsafe sexual behavior. The edgeworkers, on the other hand, are of a different kind. They go for the risk through, for example, sports or leisure experiences where they consciously risk death, a disability or serious physical injury or other outcomes with a high toll. Examples are sky-diving , mountaineering without ropes, sport flying, irresponsible fast racing on the road …

The reason why they do this? There is more than one reason. For starters, they feel they have an innate talent for facing dangers, which they count as survival skills . As a result, they often also have the idea of ​​belonging to an elite. They also believe that their survival skill is not uniquely limited to their experience of a particular sport or relaxation. They believe their talent spans all possible dangers. After all, it is an innate quality. You either have that or you don’t. And they are not alone: ​​they are more often in an group (e.g. a sports club) of like-minded people where such behavior is encouraged. Their supporters therefore fully agree with them. Moreover, in their experience they sometimes have an “other world” experience, where an experience of seconds seems hours or vice versa. Or, for example, the phenomenon of car racers who get the idea that they have mental control over their vehicle, that they form a unit with it. Sometimes they lack words to tell the experience. Sometimes not. Their goal: “controlling the seemingly uncontrollable ”.

The cause why they do this? Marx- Mead ‘s approach emphasizes social forces that stimulate the search for edgework opportunities. Causes are separations between people, contradictions and conflicts in institutionally based actions. These are things you can have with a lock-down and unclear measures. Also in a social environment, characterized by ‘alienated’ activities, but also in class conflicts, oversocialization , people look for a greater personal individuality in their institutionally defined lives. They are looking for issues in which challenges such as hyper-concentration, control options and survival skills are critical in continuing their ability to live. This contrasts sharply with the perfunctory behaviors of institutionally assigned roles and routines that seem impenetrable to the creative possibilities of the usual, more mundane social individual. The institutional but necessary measures in an pandemic, after a long time with a slow evolution of the pandemic, have a very disappointing effect on these people. The edgework opportunities bring back an enchantment to the social world by experiencing the ‘rush’. So further rationalizations and its disappointing effects mean that this target group will seek alternative experiences, with all the consequences that entails.

A statement such as “have they learned nothing from the past two weeks” has no effect anymore, because it is another rationalization. Adapted communication is therefore imperative for these people. Perhaps one that works on the feeling rather than the ratio. And if the theory of superinfectants is correct, then this target group matters!

 

Knowing more? This idea sprang from reading Stephen Lyng , Thomas Workman and GH Morris in their article “Edge Work and Risk Communication” .

Racism and risk management

Author: Manu Steens

Corona has dominated the news for a long time, but now it’s back: racism. The situation in the USA with the death of George Floyd brings the old problem of racism back to life. In this case, the individual situation developed into a national problem to which even high-ranking officials, such as the president, do not seem to have a good response. Meanwhile, there were riots in the EU. France brought back memories of an earlier situation.

But also in the personal sphere of many immigrants, on an individual level, people are confronted with racism of several types such as physical and verbal harassment. The question that then arises is, how great is the risk.

When the subject is raised in the private sphere, it is easier for victims to talk about it in a limited circle of confidants. These testimonies can be very detailed. These conversations are necessary to know the situation well, to assess the risk. The question is then, first of all, how do you estimate such a risk? One possible way to get a feeling for the possible risk is to estimate the possible impact when it is realised. A measure for such a systemic risk is, briefly, the “gap” between the needs and the possible answers provided by the system. In this case, the needs of the migrants who experience racism here, and the solutions provided by society to these needs. If the gap is large, the potential impact in the event of an accident is very large. An easier example of a totally different type of risk is the electricity supply in the USA. The demand side has become very complex, with all kinds of (types of) customers, small and large, while the supply side delivers with a simple and outdated technical infrastructure. So if something happens to electricity in the USA that is serious, the impact will be huge. The solution to such asymmetric risks is to reduce or to eliminate the ‘gap’ between the demand side and the supply side. So we should be able to make the same reasoning for racism, we hope.

The fact that racism is a big problem has been clear in recent days. And apparently, in many places in the world, the layer of varnish of civilized behavior over a rough surface is wafer-thin, and dares to peel off.

But racism has been made illegal. That was one of the system’s solutions. Is that a solution to the verbal harassment that can mentally ruin a human being? Move to the actors in the situation: person x wants to bully person y. Person y appeals to the legislation and sues person x. Person x digs himself into the mental trenches, where he considers himself safer. The case goes to court, and causes further polarization of person x and y and their supporters. Result: the situation has only been good for the lawyers. As a migrant, can you approach it differently? Are “other measures” possible to say it in risk management terms.

Imagine: you are a migrant in a country, you work, you want to integrate, and you are confronted with situations like this. The problem turns out to be huge, as the world shows. So in order to find a good solution, the solution has to be something other than something that triggers further polarisation. But what exactly is the migrant’s possible situation? This is where the concept of “tribes” comes into play. People have a cortex that is hardwired for an “inner tribe” of about 150 people. These are people you know, who know you, for whom you stop to have a chat on the street.

When a migrant comes here, he/she leaves behind a “tribe” and is isolated here in the first instance. It is in human nature to form a “tribe”. That takes time, and therefore at the same time, a migrant is also more vulnerable than a “local”.

How is a “tribe” a solution? A “tribe” can be a solution for the psychological resistance of the migrant. So at the same time we know that it will only be a partial solution. He/she leaves behind a “tribe” and that is a serious price he/she pays. Especially when you know that part of the psychological well-being of the human being comes from being loved in just that “tribe”. So it is best for the migrant to create a new “tribe” in a selective way, by choosing people who also choose him/her. This is called reciprocity. A second psychological reinforcing factor is to use this technique of “tribes” in a conscious way. This can be done by seeing the bullies as from a “different tribe”. They don’t belong there themselves. Because tribes can be competitive when terrain is to be divided. This can be about the most fertile land, but also about more/less chances of passing exams, for example. After all, the results and chances of passing exams are statistically normally distributed and can be influenced.

There are some characteristics of this solution: it is a solution on an individual level and not on a political level. It takes time to implement, and it takes a dose of luck to meet the right people for the “tribe”, people of good will with an implicit outstretched hand. In the best case, this new tribe is multicultural. And it takes an iron will of the migrant not to isolate themselves nor to permanently withdraw in complaints.

Whether the “gap” can then be narrowed further with a political “push”, “pull” or any kind of measure, is not discussed here. Finding solutions, using both types of measures at the right time, is the work of governments all over the world. This requires the nudging of behavior on a large scale. This is on an individual level, and not on an individual level, and for more types of racist-risks.  The news shows that it’s time. The news also seems to indicate that it is possible, when a policeman kneels together with demonstrators, demonstrators protect a lost policeman and bring him back to his unit, soldiers dance the macarena together with demonstrators…. There is hope because there are people of very good will. But the risk is great.

Teleworking where it can

Author: Manu Steens

In the press conference of 3 June (https://www.info-coronavirus.be/en/news/nsc-0306/), measures for the reduction of the lock-down were given by the NSC (National Security Council) under the direction of Prime Minister Wilmès. A measure in which there is reasonable resentment among some employers is: “Working from home is recommended where possible”.

After all, many employers want their employees to go back to work in a 100% profitable way. This is understandable and desirable, since the economy is currently very damaged by the situation. However, does this also require a 100% presence on the work floor?

The NSC’s statement is nuanced in two ways: it says “Working from home is recommended” and “where possible”. In other words, this can be interpreted as follows: “dear employers, we advise you to continue to allow telework where possible, of course you may return to work where that is not possible, decide for yourself but please use your common sense”. And it’s this common sense that’s so desperately needed right now. Because what does it mean when you, like so many other employers, take a short cut and decide “that everyone goes back to work”? Arguments are given going from “the employees want social contact with their colleagues” to the other extreme “I want to be able to ask everyone questions when I have them” or “it doesn’t work 100% profitably now”.

Above all, such a reaction as an employer is unsubtle. It is absolute. It does not take into account the people who are afraid of being infected during (public or organised) transport. Such an action is tantamount to asking employees to leave their brains at home in the morning when they leave for work and only use them at home in the evening. As an employer, you pay emotional interest on this. Emotions cannot be switched off. And going against emotions is very demotivating. It is therefore better for the organisation to allow a limited presence on the work floor. The question then is, how can you best do that? Do you have to assign everyone a day? Or two days? Etc. And then work from home for the rest of the week where possible?

Looks like this is best pretty loosely organized. People should come to work when they need to. They know best when needed: they are experts in their job and know when they need certain things from the shop floor. Also when a face-to-face meeting with colleagues is important. So the principle can be better “you are welcome at the work environment, if you consider it necessary according to your personal needs” than by order of a higher hand. Because in the latter way, it just becomes more difficult to make good and even effective arrangements and to work together. In this way, the principle of “come to work one day a week”, for example, can be flexibly implemented in consultation with their colleagues. That is why the advice is: limit the number of places on the work floor and in the meeting rooms, and have everyone reserve a place if they feel the need to work away from home that day. Moreover, important conclusions can be drawn afterwards from the numbers that emerge from this in combination with the performance numbers. E.g. how much office space do you really need, and what are the real needs to work 100% profitably. From this you can then make suggestions for improvements.

Of course, this does not apply to production halls where, for example, cars are assembled and where you need the work force. That’s why “where possible”.

Elk nadeel heb se voordeel

Every disadvantage has its advantage

Author: Manu Steens

With this statement we associate a well-known Dutch footballer: Johan Cruijff. Another version of this statement says “Never waste a good crisis”.

This statement is rigorously universal: every crisis offers opportunities. An opportunity may lie behind every risk. Is that right? We are now in the midst of a terrible crisis. In Belgium alone, there are around 9,000 corona-related deaths. How on earth can you say that there are benefits to this crisis, you will say. That is so: people who have had a corona death in their family, have lost someone dear, victims of domestic violence, GAS-fines due to lock-down-fatigued behavior… are confronted with the dark side of the disease.

But every medal has two sides. What about the positives? Are they really there?

A first advantage of this crisis is that many people work at home in large numbers for now. The “bosses” of their organization are actually forced to trust their employees, something many may only feel when the work result is presented. Others have confidence from the start, and adapted all their HR policies to allow for more teleworking in non-pandemic times. This has the advantage that in the long run people will go “to work” differently, especially less than. Less desk space will be required, provided there is some organizational talent to arrange for it. That saves money. There will be less driving in cars. This even saves in several areas: less fuel, less mileage, less maintenance, and other car-related expenses. But also less exhaust gases: the air in the cities is purer. There also is less noise from the cars,…

Due to the introduction of the lock-down, the closing of the nightlife, the number of weekend casualties fell significantly. People now get to know each other better as well.

These interventions have been going on for several months now, and people feel the needs come to the surface for which they need each other more. For which they have to apply a new way of solving problems. So new solutions arise. The first shops opened, and there was a brief fear that the garden centers would be taken by surprise. Nothing could be further from the truth. People were very disciplined. There was no question of a surprise. After that, the smaller shops opened again. Again there was no question of a surprise. That seems to indicate that many people are embarking on a new culture, one that has spontaneously occurred through the habit of “staying in your home” for two months now.

Such a cultural change can therefore be seen as an opportunity, where companies can save a lot on several aspects of employment. Hopefully, the number of traffic jams can also be permanently reduced. This also reduces the general emission of fine dust from cars. The number of accidents is decreasing. People can be less hunted at work that they can handle more at home, which saves them private time. After all, they have to travel considerably less to and from work. “With a little help of their friends”. And for suspicious executives, it can be a good experience to see that the work has continued and that his employees have continued to work. E.g. thanks to on-line meetings through an ever-improving technology called the internet. And that in the future they will do even better at home if the children can also go to school. A culture change in the organization where employees have more sliding hours can be beneficial for some professions.

In this way every disadvantage also has its advantage. Although it remains human to only want the benefits.

Tribal Leadership – Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

Authors: Dave Logan; John King; Halee Fischer-Wright

The authors indicate that you can recognize tribes  in your organization, and what level of culture these tribes can have. The latter you recognize on the basis of language use by the members of the tribe.

But first you need to know what a tribe is. A tribe is any group of 20 to 150 people who know each other enough to stop on the street and have a chat. They often correspond to the people in your email address book and your smartphone. Often a small company is a tribe, often a large company is a tribe of tribes. A small tribe (20 people) often has only one culture, a (medium to) large tribe (50 to 150 people) can have multiple culture levels at the same time.

Tribal leadership is leadership that focuses on the language and behavior within a culture. It does not seek to sharpen cognitions, beliefs, attitudes, or other factors that we can only measure indirectly. It does focus on language use, behavior and relationship structures. To start this leadership, the leader must start practicing two things:

  1. The tribes tell him their level of culture through their language use.
  2. Upgrading the tribes to a “higher” culture level.

The authors’ research shows that the use of the following vocabulary is typical of the culture levels:

Stage Mindset Word usage – examples
1 Life sucks – clusters of ‘gangs’ – alienation Life, sucks, interrupts, can’t, stop, whatever
2 My life sucks – clusters of apathetic victims – separated Boss, life, trying, can’t, give up, quit, sucks
3 I’m great – “lone warrior”, culture of the “wild, wild west” I, my, my, job, profession, do, did, have, went
4 We’re great – radiating tribe pride relations as a partnership We, our team, do, they, have, did, committed, value
5 Life is great – innocent wondering, relations in teams Wow !, miracle, happy, vision, values, we do.

 

In addition, they also provide a number of tools with which you can upgrade from a group of a “lower” culture level to a “higher” culture level. The success factors that you have to look out for are the words that the tribe will use during their evolution to a higher level. In doing so, the leader must again keep two things in mind:

  1. The tribe must rise systematically stage by stage, it cannot skip a stage.
  2. The tribe has to master the stage for a while.

Levels from level 1 to 2:

  • The person has to see it and want it. Go where the action is: eat with colleagues, go to meetings, take up social functions …
  • Encourage a break with others with a “life sucks” mentality

From level 2 to 3:

  • Encourage making friends in dyadic (two-person) relationships.
  • Encourage friendship with people in late stage 3.
  • Show her that her work makes a difference.
  • Show what her strengths are within her competences.
  • Show her growth potential that she still has to acquire, but keep it positive.
  • Give her projects that she can do well in a short time. Don’t follow it too closely.

From level 3 to 4:

  • Encourage triads (three-person relationships).
  • Let her get to know others with the same core values, discover corresponding interests, and find opportunities where they can complement each other in terms of work.
  • Encourage her to take on projects she can’t handle alone. So let her work with partners.
  • Show her that the success comes from her own work, but that the next step is something that requires a different style: collaboration.
  • Describe role models who focus on “we”, triads and group success
  • Tell about your own step from stage 3 to 4
  • Teach her that real power is not in knowledge but in networking. Make it clear that you are on her side.
  • Encourage transparency. Encourage her to tell more than what is absolutely necessary.

From level 4 to 5:

  • Ensure her triads are based on values, benefits and opportunities.
  • Encourage the use of market conditions to make history.
  • If the market doesn’t deliver anything, create an opportunity.
  • Recruit others to the tribe who share the values ​​of the group’s strategy.
  • If the team encounters difficulties, also refer to others for solutions. Do not try to solve everything yourself (that is level 3 behavior).
  • “Change the oil regularly” with the following questions: 1) what is going well, 2) what is not going well and 3) what can the team do about it?

 

Tribal leaders do their work for the good of others, not for themselves, and they are rewarded with loyal employees, hard work, innovation and collaboration. The tribe can complete more difficult assignments in a shorter time with a higher quality of finish.