Among all the problems that a team leader must face, lack of obedience is almost never one of them. Human beings abide by the rules by default and what it costs to work is precisely to have workers Have a disruptive thought. Employees who meet the guidelines without questioning and who do not question the status quo generate fewer conflicts but also jeopardize the company’s capacity for innovation and creativity. Have someone who dares to The opposite is a good problem.
It is true that there are some contexts in which having an authoritarian boss who demands that his orders be fulfilled has some advantages. For example, if we talk about the emergency personnel of a hospital or a team of firefighters during a fire. In these cases, the most appropriate is that it is a person, the boss, who centralizes the decision-making process and the others obey without question. “Being very task oriented, it is carried out efficiently,” explains Elisa Sánchez, a labor psychologist. “There are times that it is even essential, such as when there is an emergency and you have to make quick decisions following a protocol.”
Sánchez emphasizes that these are very specific situations. As a general rule, it is better to stimulate critical thinking to blind obedience. We tend to think that, by surrounding ourselves with colleagues who think like us, things will flow better and work will be easier, faster and more efficient. “This explains why many bosses prefer obedient, submissive people who don’t contradict them,” explains Sánchez.
But there are some risks. If a person always centralizes decision making, it may happen that others never dare to take the initiative. “Normally, it happens for fear of being criticized. There are also people who prefer not to be responsible for decisions to avoid consequences. ” Above all, if they know that being critical is not a desirable behavior in their environment. Fear, insecurity and not wanting to assume the consequences of an error make them prefer to obey initiative.
In addition, the behavior of leaders directly influences the attitude of employees towards innovation. “A boss who has self-confidence likes to be held. Understand a worker who questions things, a critic or someone who thinks differently from him as a challenge or a possibility that can contribute to the development of projects in the company, ”explains Sánchez. “If you are insecure or afraid, you will inhibit or punish any initiative that will get you out of what you control.” And the consequences of this attitude are more worrisome than it might seem.
The risks of blind obedience
During the last decades, psychology has made it clear, with experiments that have proven to be worryingly robust, that most people are obedient by default. The simple fact that someone occupies a superior position seems reason enough not to question their indications. One of the most representative experiments of this phenomenon is the one carried out by the psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 60s, with which he wanted to demonstrate to what extent obedience can be dangerous.
He devised an experiment involving a teacher, who was in charge of asking questions; a student, who had to give the correct answer; and the experimenter, who gave directions. The student was in a different room, where he was given electric shocks that rose in intensity for each wrong answer. The professor could not see him but could clearly hear his complaints from the next room.
If a person always centralizes decision making, it may happen that others never dare to take the initiative.
Although there was a trick: the student was actually an actor who pretended pain from the discharges. Upon reaching 285 volts, he pretended extreme suffering and, from there, no longer emitted any sound. With these signs of apparent pain, the teachers asked to abandon the test. But the experimenter ordered them to continue. That alone was enough to administer the next shake. Of the initial 40 participants, 60% obeyed until the end, applying the most intense discharge.
They repeated the experiment several times in other contexts and with other people and the degree of obedience was increasing. Teachers who inflicted the downloads were not threatened or received rewards for doing so. They simply obeyed because a superior said so. It is thought that they did not feel responsible for their actions because they were following directions from their boss. As this experiment shows, people often do what they are asked for, lack of obedience is unusual and does not pose a problem for leadership.
Where does this obedience by inertia come from? For Elisa Sánchez it is a matter of education. “We educate children to obey parents and teachers by default, in part because it is more comfortable for them not to be contrary,” explains Sánchez. “When we have been complying with the standards for 15 or 20 years, it is very difficult to question the status quo and contribute something different and original.”
Throughout our lives we have received punishments when we disagree (such as feeling apart when there are opinions contrary to those of the majority) and rewards when we obey (such as feeling good children for always paying attention to adults). Counteracting this learning by legitimizing disruptive proposals and critical thinking is essential to stimulate team innovation.
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