11
12.23.2020   /   duration: 37 min
The Experience Lab
It's nice being nice around the Holidays

It's nice being nice around the Holidays

In the penultimate episode of our first season, Rob and Jay dig deep into the realm of team dynamics — confronting niceness disease & groupthink, creating psychological safety and the pursuit of unit cohesion.



Hosted By

Rob Hall, Senior Director of Product at Digital Scientists
Rob Hall
senior director of product
Jay Cosgrove, Senior Product Manager at Digital Scientists
Jay Cosgrove
senior product manager


Episode Transcript

Rob Hall: This is the experience lab, the official podcast of digital scientists from Atlanta, Georgia. We are an experienced lab that explores and builds digital products. My name is Rob Hall, and I’m the Senior Director of Product at DS. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: And I’m Jay Cosgrove, senior product manager.

 

Rob Hall: Thanks for listening.

 

Rob Hall: Did it snow at your house the other day?

 

Jay Cosgrove: No, I don’t think I’m as far north as you are. 

 

Rob Hall: No, you’re not. Nor are you at the elevation I’m at.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah several 1000 feet lower than you.

 

Rob Hall: Did you even get? To be fair, I’m My house is only at 1875ish feet.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Okay, but maybe I was exaggerating a little.

 

Rob Hall: Yeah. I mean, it makes me feel better if I’m like, at that tier ahead of above you, you know.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah yeah, above always in everything.

 

Rob Hall: Did you even get snow flurries? 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Um, yes. A little bit of snow flurry. And, you know, in New York where I grew up, you wouldn’t even bat an eye at this. But in Georgia is like anytime the snow falls very noticeable. Everyone freaks out. pretty much nothing happens.

 

Rob Hall: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I couldn’t figure out the other day, I made my weekly run to the grocery store. And almost all the milk was sold out.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Because of snow flurries.

 

Rob Hall: Because of the pending snowflakes. Now, to be fair, when it does snow, and it sticks on the ground where I live, like you are actually snowed in, because you can’t drive down the mountain without, you know, some level of peril.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Hopefully he’s got a neighbor with a couple cows.

 

Rob Hall: There are horses. Not too far away. You know. So today, I want to chat about a topic that I think has affected many people in various organizations on a variety of levels. And I think some of the things that we have to chat about affect pretty much anybody who is in a leadership role. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah. 

 

Rob Hall: Particularly anybody who, who works with people. Because these are these are inherently people oriented problems that we want to examine today. One thing that that has come to mind recently, for a variety of reasons is this idea of niceness disease. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Think is another DS coined term.

 

Rob Hall: Could be I mean, I’ve heard it a lot.

 

Jay Cosgrove: We may need to start a glossary of terms.

 

Rob Hall: Shout out to a former member of our team there who always wanted a glossary and never got one. Anyway, thinking about this, this term of niceness disease. And there’s been some authors that have written about it in some detail. The idea being that you are trying out of an abundance of caution, for offending, for causing harm, or otherwise hurting the feelings of a team member, that you are going out of your way to avoid conflict. Yeah, so it’s not just conflict avoidance, but it’s, it’s taking that to an extreme degree. Yeah. And I say niceness. very intentionally other than using, you know, instead of using words like kindness, for example, sure, because critical feedback can also be an act of kindness towards another person, depending on the spirit in which it’s, it’s offered, I would say. But talking about niceness disease, where I see that emanate the most, for example, be in an organization where the cultural driver is, everyone is going to get along. Yeah, we are all going to hold hands, maybe not literally, but figuratively, right, we’re going to sing Kumbaya, we’re going to have a great time working together. We’re all going to embrace one another despite our differences. And we’re never going to disagree.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yep. I was gonna say I think it’s a bit of a symptom of culture right now. You know, there’s a lot of things going on, where people are hyper aware of how they affect other people. And some of that is really good, you know, that we should be conscious of the words that we say, and how we say them, but that there is a pendulum swing to it, where even feedback or like healthy kind criticism, as you just said, is just unacceptable in a lot of organizations, and I don’t know this definitively, but my guess would be, this happens often when the organization becomes larger. And I think part of that is because as it becomes larger, keeping company culture intact, and people feeling friendly and safe enough and interesting enough have other team members to receive that type of feedback that that becomes harder at that point. Would you agree?

 

Rob Hall: Yeah, I agree. You know, I think part of it comes back to this issue of candor. What does it mean to exchange ideas with a reasonable degree of freedom? And to give each other the benefit of the doubt? Sure. You bring up Jay, this idea of offense? Essentially, we’re on one hand, we’re rightly trying as a society to be more aware of how our words and our actions affect others, right. That in and of itself is a highly virtuous pursuit. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Sure. 

 

Rob Hall: On the other hand, despite our best efforts, we’re still inevitably going to hurt each other’s feelings. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yep. 

 

Rob Hall: That is going to happen. That is a human problem. That in my view, is never going to be fully overcome. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah. 

 

Rob Hall: But there’s a reciprocation, of understanding that’s required in a professional or personal relationship. That Yes, you may hurt my feelings by something you say or do but in reverse. What’s my responsibility back to you? What’s the feedback that I should offer you as the offending person? 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah. 

 

Rob Hall: Did you mean to cause me offence? Right? You could have, but then maybe not.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah, exactly.

 

Rob Hall: If I’m going to be a responsible adult, I have to raise my hand and say, You said something that hurt my feelings. Here’s why. Here’s what it was. Did you mean to cause me harm? I’m willing to bet that more often than not, the case is No. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah. 

 

Rob Hall: Harm was not meant. Sometimes it is, sadly, yeah. Sometimes there are, you know, jerks, that are out to harm other people and don’t care. They lack empathy. And, and they’re just toxic individuals. But on the other hand, I, you know, I think it’s important that we offer people the benefit of the doubt on a team. Yeah, most of the time.

 

Jay Cosgrove: I think there’s, there’s two sides of criticism, right? Like, there is personal, like, you can take it two ways you can take it personally, or you can take it on your work. And I think the thing is, it’s like if we can mentally when we’re receiving criticism, if we can mentally detach those two, that’s a really healthy thing. Right? So, you know, that statement is not made about you personally, as a human being, you know, it’s meant or intended towards your work to help better the product or the project or whatever you’re working on. And that is the piece that I think we should remain open handed to, and, and okay with receiving something that we may not necessarily agree with.

 

Rob Hall: So you’re almost saying people need to focus on compartmentalizing? 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah, I think so. And it’s in to your point, it’s not always that way. Sometimes there are personal slights that are made sure. And, like –

 

Rob Hall: Sure you’ve hurt my feelings. So now I’m gonna hurt yours.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah, like jabs that are made in comments towards someone directly. 

 

Rob Hall: Yeah. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: But I think that comes down to there’s just two sides of the coin. There’s giving criticism and then also receiving it. And both should be open to examination right now. So we have a lot of cultural focus as a country around giving criticism, right. But have we looked internally at how we receive it?

 

Rob Hall: You’re kind of leading in this direction Jay towards another topic. That’s very, very, at least to me, and our listeners, and folks around us are certainly welcome to disagree. With my assertion on this, I think there’s this emerging trend and an emphasis about creating safety on a team, particularly psychological safety. I think that entire idea is positive, in and of itself. However, I see where that can very quickly evolve into niceness disease. Again, where we’re afraid of conflict. And so you inadvertently create instead of embracing healthy conflict, right, instead of creating areas where critical feedback can be given and received justly and fairly, you’re creating an environment where everyone ends up walking on eggshells around one another.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah, I’m just not healthy. I mean, and we’ve experienced it most with clients where you just see, or even internally, where you see work, start moving slowly. A lot of times it comes back to that, because if it’s slow or even lower quality work, sometimes it can come back to alright, well, are we challenging these assumptions? You know, which is literally your job as a product manager to challenge assumptions? Right. And, or are we being, like you said, too cautious to challenge something because we don’t want to step on the toes of the client or an internal team member or whatever.

 

Rob Hall: Why would we not want to step on someone’s toes though? I understand the point. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Fear of fall out probably.

 

Rob Hall: Is that it, it’s just more conflict avoidance. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah, it’s conflict avoidance, I would say. I think I mean, that’s got to be the biggest thing, right?

 

Rob Hall: Yeah, I’m, I’m afraid of getting in trouble with someone. Because yeah.

 

Jay Cosgrove: And sometimes there’s wisdom there. Like, you have to use that as a product manager of new knowing when to insert that. But I, like I said, I think one of our chief tasks as a product manager is to challenge assumptions, which by definition means you’re challenging, and not going along with the daily flow, to try to break up any concept of groupthink that might slip into your product. 

 

Rob Hall: You took the words right out of my mouth, right there. Give me your definition of that Jay. Because I think groupthink is another thing that is is tightly related to niceness disease. And if anything, I think they’re often one in the same thing.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a bit in the word when a group starts thinking in the same pattern together, right? They’re not challenging each other’s assumptions, but going along with that group. I don’t know. So all the way down in college when you’re doing group projects with people, and one guy is the loud guy at the table, kind of saying, this is the direction that we should go in, and everyone else just wants to get the project done. Everyone agrees? Right. Yeah, exactly.

 

Rob Hall: I think it’s important, though, that there’s a distinction drawn between groupthink and true alignment. Because if we think about the job of a product manager, as a leader, and accountability partner, alignment is at the core of what we do, it’s our job to get people a diverse group of people on the same page, and to continually reinforce their need to be on the same page. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Sure. 

 

Rob Hall: And it’s always a messy exercise to go through. It’s never perfect. But what’s really the difference here, because I can see also, and we’ve experienced this before, where the sense of niceness is confused with alignment. I’ve experienced that professionally in the past. I’ve seen that in some of our clients where oh, well, we’re all bought into the same vision and moving forward together. But then the actual outcome says very different.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah. I mean, that is really hard to separate. I almost hate that you asked me that question, because –

 

Rob Hall: You’re welcome. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: I don’t have a clear answer to it. 

 

Rob Hall: That’s okay. That’s why we’re talking about.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah, I think I think the difference there, you know, just shooting from the hip is probably in the research, right? Like, if you guys are if a team is making assumptions, and then everyone’s just going along, I would call that groupthink. If the research proves the concept proves that this is correct, you know, the data proves it. And everyone is aligning around that, then that I would call that alignment. But once the data starts speaking against the concept, or the users themselves, start speaking against whatever concept it is, and you guys are in a team is still holding to that original concept, then I think you’re starting to drift into groupthink.

 

Rob Hall: I think I see where you’re going with this. To me, groupthink has a lot more to do with what it does to discourage people on a team from doing their best work. So if I’m thinking about our concept of alignment is not we’re going to move in perfect lockstep together moving forward. But that we’re all have we we develop a shared vision and a shared understanding of what the goal is, for this particular effort, whatever that is. That does not mean that you can’t have a contrary opinion about how we get there.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah. So you’re almost saying it’s the level to which alignment is?

 

Rob Hall: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s the difference between it’s, in some ways, it’s the difference between an absolute us dictatorship of action, but a dictatorship of thought. So it’s to say everyone on the team is going to share my specific definition of tools and processes and our approach to doing things without question, right. And if you’re not in full, complete agreement with me, then there’s a problem. Yeah, we’ll call that, you know, insubordination at that point, as opposed to alignment is. We can disagree all day long about all these other little things, as long as our focus is on achieving the same goal. We’ll still get there.

 

Jay Cosgrove: So it’s alignment on goal versus groupthink on solutions, maybe, is that a good way to summarize it. It’s really just saying we’re aligned on a shared goal or vision versus a detailed specific prescribed solution.

 

Rob Hall: Yeah, and I but I think it even is like the difference between openness mindedness to talking about it? And having the discussion? I mean, I can think at one point in my professional career, where it was, it was almost heresy to talk about using a different design tool to get a job done. Because it was unthinkable that someone would break rank. And and mention it, well, it’s like, well, why not? If my job is the product manager is to find a clear solution to serving the customer with a better quality outcome and a minimized expense, then let’s do it. Here’s the patent. Well, but that’s not what we do here. Okay. So to me that’s groupthink. Forget proposing the better solution. Don’t even think about it. Literally, because you’re gonna harm the entire team by thinking for yourself.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yep. And just like with the criticism, I think there’s two sides of that you have to be aware of, are you the dictator? In this scenario? Are you the one dictating and kind of keeping everyone silent on the team? Or are you the one that is kind of nodding along? And, not speaking up in that? Right? Because I think we’re responsible to be aware of both.

 

Rob Hall: Okay, you bring up a very good point, to the people that nod and smile, and grin and bear it? What happens to them in those situations, because this is a real cultural problem that occurs in a lot of organizations.

 

Jay Cosgrove: I mean, I think eventually, they they’re gonna burn out and leave.

 

Rob Hall: They’re gonna burn out.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah. Because they’re just going to be frustrated with it in keeping it inside for so long is obviously not healthy for anyone.

 

Rob Hall: Right? So they form resentment. And they turn and they leave. Yeah. And that’s, that’s not good.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah. I mean, and if you start seeing that, as a product manager, or a manager or supervisor or leader, you know, that’s a big indicator in hopefully you’ve got some exit interview process set up or something where you can get some of that raw feedback to adjust it yourself. If you’re imposing that on the team. 

 

Rob Hall: Don’t be an ass is what you’re saying. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: That’s what I’m saying. But I think we have to go back to the other side of it, right, of not being so concerned about that, that we are so nice that we don’t give any feedback, specifically as a product manager. Not every organization is this way. But at DMS, the product managers have a lot of authority on the project, you know, they’re allowed to make sometimes unilateral decisions in the effort to keep the project moving forward in the right direction. I mean, a lot culminates on the product manager. And I think it’s important though, that we realize that, that is really how you keep projects moving. In my opinion, I always think back to the concept, the alternative, which is, you know, a committee rule by committee, and they say, a committee that puts together a horse, it turns out to be a camel, something to that effect. And I feel like that’s what often happens when a product manager is not able to or unwilling to speak very clearly, and very concisely, indirectly, about the direction that something needs to go, is you end up with a camel. 

 

Rob Hall: Sure. So I’ve experienced that before. In the past, I had a client some years ago, a really brilliant individual. And he had a very passive leadership style like that, where it was rare to hear him exert a clear definition. He did a very nice job facilitating conversation. But when it came down to making a clear decision, at least in my opinion, he would let the team wander in the desert for way too long. And it affected the outcome of the product. The end product, in my view, is not nearly as good as it could have been if he said, sooner. Hey, remember our goal? Remember our North Star? We’re way out in the weeds. We’re off there. We’ve departed the ranch at this point, come back. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yep. And it’s, it’s hurtful in the long run to the team, you know. So even though you might think, yeah, I’m keeping the peace. I mean, ultimately, you could lose the client, you could lose the end users if it’s like an internal project, or product, and doesn’t really help in the long run.

 

Rob Hall: So I’d like to turn this conversation more towards talking about the role of the product manager as an accountability partner, both both in terms of the culture of the team as well as the delivery of the work that you’re doing.

 

Jay Cosgrove: It’s another great title to add a product manager on top of all the other hats we wear, absolutely accountability partner.

 

Rob Hall: Yes, love it. We wear all the hats. So big shocker. People aren’t perfect. I know.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Wow.

 

Rob Hall: Even you Jay. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Mind blowing, the first to admit it, actually, maybe my team will be the first to admit it.

 

Rob Hall: Oh I’m sure. So, as a PM, I think you have to have a very clear understanding right upfront about the humanity of the people on your team. Not a single one of you are perfect, there will be mistakes made. And I think as long as you can approach people by giving them the benefit of the doubt, understanding that most folks really just want to do good work and go home, that you’ll be okay. In recognizing that people aren’t perfect, sometimes things do in fact, go sideways. And this particularly can affect people’s productivity, sometimes, just plainly people are not as productive as they need to be. What do you do when that happens?

 

Jay Cosgrove: Well, the first step I’m going to do is verify that and make sure that that productivity isn’t actually showing up in someone else’s work. As you know, we’ve made a big effort to start pair programming, this is a great example. Right? And a lot of times all the code is submitted by one of the developers and another person is, you know, either watching or sitting next to them. And design has been doing that a little bit too. And so sometimes, I think we have to make allowances for it. And just double check that productivity is an issue

 

Rob Hall: And not make assumptions.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Exactly right. But once you’ve kind of verified that, that there’s something going on, my first step is to maybe speak with the manager, if it’s going to like if it’s an actual research design or development resource, make sure that there’s not other factors that I’m not aware of that might be affecting it. And then my next step after that would be to just have a direct but kind conversation with the person about what’s going on, you know, and I think that’s part of the reason that sprint and sprint retrospectives and daily stand ups are really helpful to just have as those common points that aren’t threatening to talk about productivity, velocity, all those things.

 

Rob Hall: Yeah. Yeah.

 

Jay Cosgrove: So sometimes, as you’re gonna dig into that, I think you’re gonna find that people actually did drop the ball. How do you approach? 

 

Rob Hall: Well, first of all, when that happens, it it typically stinks. I mean, it just sucks to know that someone hasn’t been doing their job.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah, usually get to deliver that news to the client, in the form of a weekly update, that is not so great. 

 

Rob Hall: Yeah. And that’s, it’s awful to have to, whether that’s your superior in a large organization, or a client agency relationship, to have to raise your hand and say me and drop the ball, we didn’t get it done, we didn’t do our job. That’s a painful message to have to deliver. But as far as addressing that issue with your team member, you have to be candid with them about it. And, and yes, you want to exercise kindness, you want to approach them in as empathetic and human a way as possible to uphold their dignity as a person. But at the same time, again, you are their accountability partner. In the project, you have to say, hey, you’re not delivering, you’re not getting the job done. And trying to understand why. And hopefully, you have a good enough process, and, and enough built in accountability to how your organization works, that you’re able to catch on to this before it reaches this point, where you have to have kind of an inner you have to intercede with this type of conversation, but then you have to do it. You have to do it. And if you don’t, the consequences of not stepping in, and having that kind of conversation are not just harmful to the team. They’re harmful to that person, too. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah. I mean, you could start seeing repeated patterns. I mean, one of the things I like you said is they have to be aware of how that affects everything. You know, I mentioned that here DS we as product managers have some solid authority on the project, but also heavily wear the crown. Right. You know, if something happens a lot comes back to us a lot of times the pm is going to be the one that takes the hit. That’s right. And they have to be aware of how that affects the pm and also the credibility of the company.

 

Rob Hall: Yeah, and it’s irresponsible for the pm to throw their team under the bus.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah. So then on the same side to take the full blame for their team. I’m not saying that you wouldn’t do that in front of a client I almost always do. But the team member should not walk away feeling like okay, the pm should have done better to help me prevent dropping the ball. Which I think is a symptom of niceness disease.

 

Rob Hall: Speaking of niceness, sometimes people on a team simply refused to play nicely. Wait, what do you do with that?

 

Jay Cosgrove: I’ve got a really good story for this and actually in a previous life, I actually worked for a company I was pretty new there. And within the first, probably two to three months there was a pretty large client. And we were preparing a pitch for them. And one of the directors that I was working with one of the functional directors actually kind of stole the pitch away from me without me knowing, went around my back, worked directly with the other directors cut me out of all communication, I had no clue just showed up one morning, and had an email that everything was done, the pitch was done. And, and I had been relegated to a pretty minor role in that pitch when I was supposed to own it. And that was a big, not playing nicely scenario. And so my step in that situation, I actually sat at his desk and waited for him to come in and confronted the issue just to be as bold as I could. And I was certainly respectful. I mean, he was a director, I mean, I would have been respectful to anyone. But certainly for a director, I wanted to honor his time there, but also wanted to be as direct as I could about how much of a misstep that was enrolled and how much of a poor message that was sent to the team in our process. And honestly, it was one of the best moves I ever made. Because that point moving forward, I had an incredible relationship with that director. And we worked very well together. And I think there was a lot of respect that was gained out of that conversation, just being very candid. 

 

Rob Hall: That’s good. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: So sometimes people are maybe nice, but are gonna dig in and not listen, what are you gonna do to that?

 

Rob Hall: If someone doesn’t listen? Or isn’t listening? A habitual non listener?

 

Jay Cosgrove: I think we’ve seen a few of those in our time.

 

Rob Hall: That’s a tough one. I think I think very often people who don’t listen, are people who may have deep feelings of, of lacking validation themselves. If they’re not listening, it’s because they themselves feel like they’re not heard. That’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s just straight up misbehavior. But I think from a relationship building standpoint, very often, if you can get to the root of what is it that they need? That is not being met, it may have to do with some sense of validation for them for their own ideas.

 

Jay Cosgrove: I would agree with that.

 

Rob Hall: Their own sense of self, whatever.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Like mentally checked out a little bit, because of that.

 

Rob Hall: Could be, could be, yeah, or maybe in a previous role. They just had to fight so hard to have their ideas heard. That even once they’re in a place of safety, they haven’t grasped it yet. Like, wait, wait, no, you’re okay. Please tell us what you think. But you need to listen as well. That’s a sensitive issue to work through. Because it can also you know, when someone’s not listening, you have different levels of listening, right? It’s are you an active participant in conversation? So that’s one form of listening, but then it’s Are you following up with a directive or a task that’s been assigned and following through with that task? It’s the whole, you know, elementary school, okay. Everyone needs to listen and follow directions.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Put on your listening hats.

 

Rob Hall: That’s right. There’s a reason they teach you that when you’re in grade school, and they kind of beat it into you, because it always comes back. Always, we have such a distracted culture. And nowadays, there’s so many things screaming at us for our attention all day, every day. It’s hard enough to be an active listener as it is. But if you are on a team, and you’re just patently refusing to listen, that’s a difficult issue that needs to be dealt with. And I would argue for the team leader, you need to deal with that quickly.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah.

 

Rob Hall: You can’t let that go. Because that is that is toxic behavior that spreads.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah, I love that. Where’s it stemming from? You know, is it validation? Or is it distraction? I mean, I think one thing that I love about our workshops that we do, is right at the front, we say this is a phone’s down, laptop down, turn it all off, turn it off.

 

Rob Hall: Great. All right. Sometimes people block forward progress. And Jay, before I ask you to solve this one. I’m going to give you an example. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: All right. 

 

Rob Hall: So we had a client that shared a story once about a senior level Product Manager. And sadly, this is a story about a product manager. Side note, PMS are not immune to any of these human problems that we’ve been talking about. We could all be talking about ourselves. But so this, this was a senior level pm who had been in the organization for quite a few years, perhaps better part of a decade. And they were unhappy with the direction that the company was going. And instead of literally getting with the program and evolving with the new direction of the company, they had decided to use what leverage they had to basically build a wall around them and obstruct and to derail strategic initiatives, and to become a literal blocker to forward progress. And even worse, this individual had gotten other reasonably well tenured employees on their side. So they essentially formed a cabal of people that were anti new direction for the company. And we’re doing all they could to just obstruct. Now, the fact that that’s even possible in an organization is a symptom of niceness disease. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah, I think so.

 

Rob Hall: Because if it was up to me, I’d have fired him. Right. That’s like you’re not? Yeah, forget it. That’s intolerable.

 

Jay Cosgrove: What do they say? Hire slow fire fast.

 

Rob Hall: Yeah, that’s right.

 

Jay Cosgrove: I think that’s a pretty good adage there.

 

Rob Hall: Yeah. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah, so I guess the question is, how would I deal with that? Well, I try to make sure communication streams are open so that you can get that sense as quickly as possible, so unfortunately, maybe have to let someone go if that’s the situation. But obviously, you know, you want to take steps before them to correct the behavior that you’re seeing? I don’t know. I think it kind of goes back to the last question where maybe they’re, they’re dug in and not listening a little bit. And you got to go to the root of why that’s happening.

 

Rob Hall: Right? Why do they not want things to move forward? Can you get a clear rationalization for that? Is there a serious concern that needs to be addressed?

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yep. Yep. And I think this brings us nicely to the next one, which is sometimes as the PM, you gotta be that bad guy, you got to call people out, you’re gonna have to have these. And, you know, as I’ve become, I don’t know, a little bit older. I think I’ve, I’ve lost a little bit of my critical edge. And I do want to see people get along more than I want to have conflict. Even if that wasn’t the case of my youth. But how do you deal with that? Now? You got to be the bad guy. What are you gonna do? 

 

Rob Hall: Well, I preface this by saying I loathe being the bad guy. Yeah. I mean, I’m an infp. On the Myers Briggs. I am. What am I a two wing nine. If you do the inia Graham, I’m a diplomat in my very nature. And so having to, quote, be the bad guy, and hold people accountable does not come easily to me at all. I try, at least as far as I approach accountability, I try to lean into the relationship that I’ve hopefully facilitated and building with that person up until that point where I don’t have to come down hard on a person, because I’ve earned their trust, to the degree that they can sense when something’s wrong. Now, obviously, that’s not always the case. Sometimes you have to rip the band aid off and say this isn’t working. And unfortunately, sometimes you have to let people go. Sometimes there is if you consider what your professional boundaries are. If you consider what it means to protect the team, the safety of the team, you consider what it means to protect the company and your livelihood, you have to have boundaries in place where you can say, seriously, if you cross this line, that’s a fireable offense. You’re done. And sadly, I’ve had to deal with some people before in my career where that has been the case. And it’s very painful. And it’s never a pleasure. But sometimes it has to be done. But again, it depends on the person. It depends on the situation, it depends on, on what the behavior is that you’re trying to address. Hopefully, with most people, I think, are very receptive, again, like in trying to give people the benefit of the doubt. Most people are very receptive to feedback, and want to do a good job, and will receive correction in the spirit that it has given.

 

Jay Cosgrove: Yeah, I actually think that’s kind of a mark of a senior person in general, whether that’s a PM, a designer, developer, or manager is your ability to receive criticism. You know, I especially noticed that with designers, honestly, because I think when you design something, you know, you’re kind of pouring your heart and soul into it a little bit. Right. It’s hard. It’s hard. So when you receive criticism on it, it’s hard to separate it, like I said, From a personal critique. And versus just like a work critique. Yeah. But I think a mark of a senior designer is that they’re able to separate that a little bit and they’re okay with being wrong. they’re okay with being challenged. And, and I think that is, that’s a hard place to get to, you know, hard place but it’s –

 

Rob Hall: Absolutely is. 

 

Jay Cosgrove: So enjoyable, working with team members that you’re able to have that open and honest conversation.

 

Rob Hall: Yeah, I agree.

 

Jay Cosgrove: I think I would just encourage PMS out there that are having this issue or concerned about this, this niceness disease, that maybe it’s infiltrated their organization or even them, to take that bold step of just being direct. And you can do that kindly. But I think it’s going to ultimately benefit you. It’s going to grow you as an individual, it’s going to benefit the individual receiving that criticism, that critique, and then it’s also going to benefit the company as a whole. So it’s worth it. You got to get over it and just do it. You got to be the bad guy sometimes. 

 

Rob Hall: Yeah, I totally agree, Jay. And I would also encourage folks to ask for help. Yeah, find a mentor. If you don’t have one, get one. Talk to your own leaders. Talk to someone that you trust, that you can lean on for advice on how to deal with those tricky situations. Because again, you’re dealing with people, you’re dealing with humans who have thoughts and feelings and wants and dreams and desires and fears, who would can and do act out whether they mean to or not at times. And we as humans have a funny way of often doing the things that we don’t mean to do or don’t want to do. And that’s that’s part of life. I think, you know, our life’s journey here is just to figure out how to be more human. 

 

Rob Hall: Thank you for listening to the experience lab from Digital scientists. To learn more about our team in the great work we do or even hire us, visit our website at Digital scientists.com