I’ll be the first to admit that watching Survivor is like watching a car wreck – sick, but oddly intriguing. While most people would say they watch it for the crazy challenges, the strategy & game play, or the barely dressed girls, I watch because of the psychology behind it. The reason Survivor is truly successful is because they set players up for months of heated storyline by mixing three careful ingredients (paranoia, isolation, and high stakes) and letting them stew. From there, players’ minds go crazy, they psych themselves out, pit people against each other and create drama from nothing…all of which viewers like myself love.
While “Survivor: TV Style” makes me giddy, “Survivor: Office Style” makes my stomach turn.
“Survivor: Office Style” is what happens when you take paranoia (big changes within a company), isolation (any group of employees who don’t have access to all relevant information around them), and high stakes (their ability to put food on the table), and mix them all together and let them stew.
When there are big changes within a company, be it a bad economy, a major player leaving, or a merger, a sense of paranoia sets in amongst employees. If they are isolated (stuck there without details) and believe that those changes can have a negative impact on their job (high stakes), productivity will decrease and chaos will increase. Eliminate just one of those factors and the chaos decreases as well.
The quickest way to decrease paranoia is to decrease isolation and the easiest way to decrease isolation is to increase communication. Yet so many companies screw this piece up. When you are going through major changes in your organization, it’s time to hold your employees hands and make them feel better. I believe that death by over-communication is less painful (and much less common) than death by under-communication. Yes, sometimes the truth hurts (especially if the truth is that your company isn’t doing so hot), but giving employees as much information as you possibly can shows your employees that you’re at least trying to help them understand the situation.
The quickest way to get a pulse on where the areas of paranoia are within your company is to touch base with the managers who interact with your employees regularly. Coach them on how to gather feedback from employees about areas of paranoia, how to figure out what employees are concerned about, and what to do with that information.
The high stakes factor will never go away – but you can have control over the paranoia and isolation by using common sense and lots and lots of communication. So, what are some of the ways your organization tries to extinguish the torch on “Survivor: Office Style”?
Marisa is a Culture Coach for small and quickly growing organizations trying to establish the infrastructure required to create a company full of passionate, motivated, and engaged employees. She has held culture and engagement roles for two nationally recognized great places to work, founded the research and networking group Culture Fanatics, and is an industry recognized blogger. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and twin boys and is looking forward to the day she can bike across the country to raise money for MS research. @marisakeegan.