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Remove the Bit & Blinders

Why tightly controlling your employees is destructive.

"In the 2000 Mind and Life meeting on destructive emotions, His Holiness [The Dalai Lama] asked me, 'What is destructive compassion?' My response then, which I continue to believe, was, 'Destructive compassion is controlling your children, not allowing them autonomy.'" (Ekman, Emotional Awareness, 31). 

I’ve been reading lately about emotional intelligence, empathy, and compassion in an effort to better understand how these cognitive concepts can be harmoniously utilized in software development. One of the glaring elements I’ve noticed while worming my way through psychology books is an emphasis on freedom from “parental” control.

Now, this parent-child relationship starts off making perfect sense. When a child is young, the parent uses his or her abilities to keep the child safe, often by being finite in explanation and demanding in results. In fact, the language of speaking to a child is often very direct and “command and control” in structure. “Do not touch the fire!” “Stop hitting your brother!” “Wash your hands.” These are imperatives that allow no wiggle room for questions or continuation without approval.

Obviously, for an early-development child, this makes sense! As the child grows, however, and gains a consciousness of his or her own, the relationship must change to remain healthy. Often times, there is a struggle as the youth attempts to gain an identity away from the command and control relationship established earlier in his or her life. Herein begins a potential source of life long anxiety.

I’ll save the particular details; but, generally, I also view this as similar to some of Joseph Campbell’s teachings. A hero must travel away from the village, thus gaining independence, self-knowledge, and world knowledge. Only through this journey may the hero come to be master of two worlds--potentially interpreted as the conscious and subconscious.

Where is this going?

Simply, in order to properly manage, we must understand the harm in “command and control” relationships. They may work early on in our interactions with an employee, where we are all testing the waters and finding our footing; but, when employees are skilled, intelligent, and capable, we will only cause rebellion by being imperative and forceful. Instead, we must be empathetic, compassionate, and understanding of the employee’s wants, desires, and capabilities. We must have trust. After all, why hire someone you cannot trust?

Agile specifically tells us to trust our developers. Lean has an emphasis on respect for employees. Instead of just saying, “Okay, I’ll do that,” we must understand the why of the rule. Why should we respect our employees? As managers and employers, we must be curious and find the wonder that resides within psychology, philosophy, and its application within our lives and workplaces.

Only through this complete integration of philosophical, psychological, and physical may we truly build workplaces that inspire consistent, stellar results with a happy corpus of participants.

About the Author

Andrew Andreas Grapsas is a game programmer at Arkadium, Inc. developing casual and social games. He previously worked at THQ and EA as a systems and gameplay programmer on triple-A shooters.

Andrew is actively writing and programming for various projects. You can read more articles exclusively at his blog

Follow Andrew on twitter!

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