Quickie Post — the Not-so-Hidden Cost of the Empathy-Disordered in Social Networks

Conor Kelly Creek Hoodoos

Dunedain training, Clearwater backcountry, north-central Idaho  August 2018 — in case you’re wondering what we emphasize, it’s cheerily stoic, steadfast performance, coupled with calm, relentless awareness.

Fellow chronic co-conspirator Ryan Martens sent a link regarding corporate gaslighting from a former colleague of his at Rally Software, Shannon Mason.  Shannon is the VP of Product Management at the recently absorbed Rally after it was bought by Computer Associates.  Addressing the issue of ‘gaslighting‘ in corporate environments, Shannon points out a mix of the personal effects of gaslighting on the individual — increased hypervigilance and workplace instability, as well as the broader systemic effects rippling across the system, where individuals check and re-check work because of the fear of being caught off-guard, with career-limiting consequences.  One of the great things about this piece is Shannon is one of the only people I’ve ever seen address some of the things I discuss in my work on the empathy-disordered, which is the system-level disruption that happens when the empathy-disordered work on relational disruption inside social networks.

I had never seriously contemplated Shannon’s ‘wasted energy’ argument.  It was revelatory for me. But it shows, once again, how you can run, but you can’t hide from the empathetic development, and its subsequent timescales it allows and encourages in your organization.  If you’ve got someone who’s using psychological distortion to manipulate the environment for their own, selfish gain, far too much energy is going to get dumped into short timescale thinking.

The implications are straightforward.  You’re so busy watching the fly on the end of your nose, you and your employees miss the large market changes that really determine the fate of your company.  And, of course, there’s also the very real consequence of talent flight that will occur if you allow this kind of behavior to continue.  Labor mobility of top talent is real.  And healthy, evolving people expect to come to work to do work — not play some weird game of gotcha.

Here’s a background post written by myself that gives more richness to this problem.

2 thoughts on “Quickie Post — the Not-so-Hidden Cost of the Empathy-Disordered in Social Networks

  1. This seems related to a central point made by Keith Payne in The Broken Ladder. It’s about the impact of inequality on not only society but also psychology.

    There is, of course, the research that shows inequality decreases empathy and that is even more true for the upper classes. The rich simply lose the ability to read and understand the psychological experience of others, especially those below them. In a high inequality society, you would expect psychologically dysfunctional and stunted individuals to gain the greatest position and power, such as moving up the corporate ladder.

    That isn’t the point I was mainly thinking of, though. Payne observes that high inequality creates a condition that feels like poverty, even for those who aren’t poor. All the signs of stress seen with economic desperation and uncertainty end up showing up in every strata of society. The consequences of this is people begin to increasingly react to situations with short term thinking, and hence stop investing toward the long term collective good within society and within organizations.

    Combined with anxiety and conflict, this is a recipe for systemic crappiness for all involved. People are less physically and psychologically healthy with greater disparities. The wealthiest also are worse off, as compared to those in more egalitarian societies. It doesn’t contribute to a state of happy relationships in any aspect of life, including the workplace.

    Liked by 1 person

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