Do people have the right to be themselves?

Do people have the right to tell the truth?

Can people be themselves?

At work?


Some people seem to believe that they give up their freedom as soon as they walk in the door of the company. Perhaps many many people believe this, to a notable degree.

And, to a minor degree that is right.  For example, outside the company, as long as you are an employee, do not do anything hurtful to the company.  That’s a good idea.

And usually NOT telling the truth is more hurtful than anything.  Assuming the truth will come out eventually.  OK, there are edge cases of “dirty linen” or trade secrets.  NOT talking about those seems the right thing to do.

Also, I am against the PC HR thing one often sees: where no one can say anything unless any possible listener completely agrees it’s ok.  I think that suppresses the truth.

Yes, there are people who are rather clearly hurting others’ feelings. Usually without knowing.  To no real purpose.  My main solution would be for the hurt people to explain themselves to those who hurt them.  I know almost no one who wishes to hurt other people.  So, usually, in my opinion, they can work it out.  “Stick and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

You cannot really police free speech.  That is, there are always “ok words” that can be put together to hurt someone, if one wants.  But again I say, in general people at work do not have time to try to hurt people.  And people in teams should WANT to work together to get the mission accomplished.

But all that is is a bunch of side cases, in my opinion. (And it is an endless problem with lots of special cases.)  If there is no real mission, people often drift into this kind of “drama”.

The bigger problem is the internalized sense that, as an employee, “I am not allowed to tell the truth.”  I think a lot of employees and a lot of managers have internalized that idea.  Yes, none, in America anyway, would I think agree that “I can ONLY say what the authorities tell me to say.”  But, still, they feel constricted. And it makes no difference what any one at the current company has said.  It is often a thought that arose 3 companies ago.  The current company (the people there) may have no problem with the truth.  But one still thinks so — from long ago.

And this is not good.  Feeling one is not allowed to tell the truth — this is not good. One can see immediately the problem this causes in playing Scrum well, for example.

Let’s go further.  And more importantly.

Danial Pink wrote a book, Drive.  About motivation for knowledge workers. For us (we agile people), I cannot recommend it too strongly.  And for many of you, probably due for a re-read.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.

He summarizes what motivates knowledge workers in 3 main words. Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

I want to emphasize two of those words.

Autonomy.  We are trusting people with freedom. For examples, trusting the Team with the freedom to figure out how to “win” in their situation. How to get the mission accomplished.  This autonomy makes so much difference.

Let us not take this autonomy too far.  The Team is (also) allowed to ask for help.  In fact, if they really need help, they must as adults ask for it.

But mostly they have the freedom, as a Team, and the responsibility to figure out how to succeed. Is this not glorious?!

And they have PURPOSE.  A sense that they want to accomplish this mission, this purpose, this goal, this release, this win, this success.  A specific one. That they commit to.  And to do it despite all the obstacles that life inevitably throws in their path.

SORRY: Some of you tell me that not all Teams feel this sense of Purpose.  Let’s agree they should (in the normal case).  So, OK, get that fixed. (Yes, maybe a topic for another post.)

And one person, the ScrumMaster, is again supposed to help them identify those impediments (aka opportunities for improvement) and help remove or mitigate the top one, one at a time.  Every day.

Isn’t this set of ideas wonderfully simple and brilliant and good?!

It all means many things. One is: they will set their own internal team culture of (positive) conflict and honesty and collaboration to get it done.  They must do that, or they will not win (or not win by as much).  It is a wonderful balancing of these life forms, whom no one really understands.  And yet it happens.  Well, usually.




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