Q: What are some ways for people to tell if they have some invisible hierarchy? In terms of language, too. What are some of the cues, like if you were to go back and read somebody’s email, what are the phrases you look for?
A: It’s in the ways that we enforce hierarchy. There are some very obvious physical ways. Thicker carpet, barriers to entry, bigger offices.
But in emails, we use things like, “Hey, I’ve been doing this a long time.” So, there’s longevity.
Claiming experience when fresh eyes might actually be better. “Well, I’m a certified ABC trainer. What are you?”
So, we hide behind experience and longevity and we use these phases to suppress fresh ideas and diversion thinking. It’s massive coercion.
I was reading a transcript of an industrial accident and they make a decision to do something which ends up being fatal but then they mock, they actually mocked people who would have made a different decision. So, we’re joking and putting down and ridiculing people – that has social power to stop anyone from disagreeing or saying they see it differently. In this transcript, they are now locked into the decision, even though it starts to become apparent that it was a bad decision. Could the leader now change? No! Because the leader’s already mocked people who would change and so they’re trapped and it’s horrible because you can see how they end up sailing to their deaths.
It’s subtle but these are the things that people do. Anything you do that makes it where you’re trying to put your idea into somebody else head as opposed to invite their ideas into yours, I think steepens the power gradient.