Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Feeling helpless?

In an experiment dogs were taken, and given electric shocks. Some could turn off the shocks if they pressed a button. But others had no way to control the shocks. The dogs that could turn off the shocks learned to do it, and were able to avoid being shocked, whereas the dogs with no control just lay down and whimpered.

Later all the dogs were placed into a pen and given electric shocks. The dogs could stop these shocks by jumping into another part of the pen. The dogs who had been able to turn off the shocks with the button, learned to jump to the shock-free part of the pen. The dogs who had been unable to control the shocks previously just lay down and whimpered.

The whimpering dogs had learned there was nothing they could do to stop the shocks, so they didn't even try.

The modern corporate environment is a similar situation: you may get promoted not because you are good, but because someone else resigns. You may get pay rises not because your work improves, but because the economy is doing better - and as a result your firm is doing better. You may be sacked, not because you are bad at your job, but because the company is moving in a different direction. The rewards and penalties don't relate you your performance, they are out of your control. When things get bad, the best you can do is lie on the floor and whimper.

Corporations create helplessness in their employees.

If you want to avoid helplessness, it is up to you to find out what it is that you do control.

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