Saturday, May 31, 2008

Your Boss is a Monkey

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Excerpts taken from article "Your Boss is a Monkey"
Authored by the Heath brothers, authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die apply this approach to another irritable mammal: your boss.

Exotic-animal trainers need a great poker face. Let's say you're a trainer, and one day, a beluga whale spits a mouthful of cold water at you. Your first instinct will be to shriek or jump or curse, but any reaction will probably reinforce the spitting. If you react, that whale will own you, and you'll be a Spit Bull's-eye for the rest of your life. Instead, you must ignore it and appear unfazed, expressionless -- a training technique called "least-reinforcing scenario," or LRS.

Say your boss is a yeller. If he yells and you slink off to do his bidding -- or if you yell back or cry -- then you'll be a Yell Bull's-eye for the rest of your life. Your strong reaction reinforces his behavior. Next time, stifle him with an LRS. Make your face blank, make it Zen, make it Vulcan. After a moment of nonresponse, continue the conversation calmly. Your apparent indifference will smother the fire.

Animal trainers have a saying: It's never the animal's fault. That means you can't blame an animal for something the trainer has failed to do. Similarly, you can't fault your boss's bad behavior when you've failed to use some of the primary principles of training. Rule one, as we've seen with the yeller, is to ignore bad behavior.