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Mad Men at work

In a recent LinkedIn post this Simon Sinek short video on how to express emotion had close to a half million views, and tens of thousands of reactions and comments.

This is LinkedIn people … is it not supposed to be all business?

In another post Sinek spoke of actually replacing the judgement of an underperforming employee with empathy.

Suggesting that leadership is far less about terminating under performers than it is about understanding them!!!

That post had shares in the tens of thousands.

WTF?!? Are we running a day care here?!

Back in the day men lead, employees followed and secretaries served.

If your buddy wasn’t performing you had him into your office for a scotch or two and a smoke and you told him to get his sh*t together and shook hands with a commitment to do better.

Feelings were simply not on the agenda.

Then the damn hippies got involved and all of the sudden we had Foosball tables, hammocks and cappuccino bars. Industrial psychologists and off site bonding – once reserved for the senior execs was made available to the rank and file.

Was it coincidence that the Mad Men leadership soon became passé and “cool” companies like Google and Facebook, with their environments and culture eclipsed the former icons of Wall Street?

The pendulum had swung and those left in the former culture stood judging from across the room.

“It will never last”

“Ya it’s fun to work there but will they really accomplish anything?”

“I’d like to see their revenue model!”

I bet they get a lot done sitting around talking about their little feelings- NOT!”

Like all those who judge, there is but one practice that prevents them from greater accomplishments – contempt prior to investigation.

And what typically causes that?

The fear that arises our “reptile brains” when we see visible differences in leadership and success.

Enter the female CEO.

During my career I have had the privilege of working with and for several women.

Some were great leaders and others were a&$holes.

Just like men.

But different.

The primary difference was the women I worked for, as a group, focused much more on emotions than their male counterparts.

They did NOT focus only on emotion but they were more intuitive toward and ready to address emotion than men, who often completely overlooked or worse consciously ignored the influence of emotion on a team members performance.

The conclusions of an article in Scientific American suggested that women convey the emotions of Happiness and Sadness more effectively then men who typically have a narrower emotional repertoire.

Men are great at expressing – wait for it- Anger.


Nor should it then be surprising that people don’t know how to confront owner/bosses, with less than favorable comments about their leadership and areas they need to improve upon.

The corporate culture is rife with the “egos of accomplishment” which fuel the fear that if a boss/owner is questioned and truly confronted then mutiny is just around the corner.

So they create an artificial culture that confuses respect with infallibility and iron fisted leadership. Which then cycles into repressed feelings and resentment. Followed by employee theft (of both time and objects) and corporate politics.

But I am not suggesting a case here for male entitlement or feminism.

In my view, this is about recognizing what the behavioral scientists confirmed in the aforementioned study.

Women have a skill that is a competitive advantage and worth emulating.

And rather than sitting on the other side of the boardroom table in judgement and designing a corporate structure with a glass ceiling, those currently in power might consider another option- learn how to leverage fearless vulnerability to express a broader range of emotion.

I wonder if the race to artificial intelligence is about efficiency or avoidance?

We have tried to mask the avoidance of listening to how are employees feel with a culture that espouses “this ain’t a daycare we need to make widgets -I have a family to feed”.

But avoidance is never authentic and clearly employee turnover disillusionment, office politics and an “us versus them” are all examples of the results of that approach.

So maybe the dot coms are not the utopian corporate cultures we once hoped they would be – the pendulum movement rarely ends at it’s fullest arc– but perhaps we can stop avoiding our feelings by encouraging leaders to have the courage to learn the emotions skills they struggle with and be open to being confronted.

After all, though it wasn’t day care, it is said we learn everything we need in kindergarten .

Here’s that Sinek post:

And here is the Scientific American article:


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