More Malicious Compliance, Mastery and lessons from Shed Building……

Shed building is not my day job; in fact it’s about as far away from ‘driving a desk’, as it’s possible to travel.  These two areas do however have some interesting crossovers where it’s possible (in theory) to transfer some learning. Before I say anything it is probably worth mentioning that my recent activity wasn’t just extending the shed, nothing here is ever as straightforward as it appears. There was a bit of chicken ranching thrown in, messing around with the sewage tank, significant amounts of concrete and lots cutting up logs. Naively I thought this would be an opportunity to test my motivational skills and transfer employee engagement ideas into the world of teenage sons…… like the complete idiot I am.

Malicious Compliance is worse than blank refusal.  I’d always imagined that my teenagers would be thrilled at the prospect of doing some building with me. Learning some of the skills I’d picked up from my father and others, and creating something useful.

Using a bit of motivational ‘pull theory’ I tried the following approach:

  • Me, “kids, fancy having a go at chopping up logs with the chainsaw?”
  • Kids, “No thanks…. we are fighting off zombies with double blade chainsaws on the X-box, woah, awesome, totally realistic!”

I could go on, but you get the drift. My initial ‘offer’ was then followed by a series of increasingly less polite requests until I eventually ‘lost it’ and used coercion (blatant threats) and switched off the house power supply.

So, I got the help I needed. However it was possibly worse than struggling alone. The sullen half hearted shoveling of aggregate into a cement mixer and the limp attempts at hammering nails were pitiful. This was good old malicious compliance at its worst with nothing hidden, nothing taken away. But I know the game!

Some of this was a deliberate attempt to provoke me into criticism which would legitimise the option of storming off in a “Dad is so grumpy and really difficult to work with” rage. So not ‘loosing it’(again) and ‘solid encouragement’ were the order of the day, and it sort of achieved the objective.

Work Lesson Learnt – What excites and motivates me doesn’t necessarily do the same for other people, not everyone loves chainsaws. It never occurred to me until recently that not everyone loves those ‘hands on’ practical team building activities that happen in work. Painting the community hall, might not be something everyone enjoys, even if it is a fantastic thing to do.

People tend to be more committed to something they have chosen to do rather than forced to do, so it’s better to let them choose the activity.  Failing to do this will probably generate malicious compliance which just defeats the point of the exercise.

Age and experience beats youth and enthusiasm. For round two with the kids I did actually find something that interested them.  Driving 8ft posts into the ground for the chicken run with a 16lb sledgehammer. Just the sort of thing a teenage gym monkey dreams about. Whacking a post with a 16lb lump of metal should be nothing for someone used to throwing around ten times that weight in the gym. My ‘pull theory’ was working, full engagement, excellent.

It all went wrong as it turned out, I “won” on the post sinking contest, by a mile, I am champion (of our back garden) on the sledgehammer.

Why did I succeed? Well it is apparently because “Dad’s had about 150 years of practice…..…and my hair was in my eyes”. Not strictly true, I did use a sledge hammer a fair bit in my youth and developed a little bit of expertise.  I might not as be as strong as the gym monkeys but experience it seems does count.

Lessons Learnt – Mastering a skill is important, which usually means putting in the hours. Even something as apparently straightforward as using a sledgehammer requires skill.  A lesson that has parallels in the workplace.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hour rule in his book Outliers which might be the amount of time spent by the people who manually drilled the holes in this rock with a sledgehammer and cold steel chisel. I took this picture of a rock used in drilling competitions at Central Nevada Museum in Tonopah with the hope of inspiring the kids about what their ancestors did as miners. I’m still waiting to see if anything has registered.

Anyway we did finish a few jobs and rounded off one day with a genuine campfire and cooked some burgers. During this I got the most astonishing request:”Dad, can you move the fire closer to the house, I keep losing the WiFi signal on my phone”……..I despair.

So, what’s the PONT?

  1. Take care in what you pick for motivational activities at team building activities (not everyone loves a chainsaw).
  2. Better still, let people choose what they want to do. This should get better engagement and avoid malicious compliance.
  3. Age and experience (and mastery of your tools) will beat youth and enthusiasm, but I would say that wouldn’t I!

About whatsthepont

The things I’m currently interested in are: 1.How people learn and share knowledge; 2.Social Media, Web2.0 whatever you want to call the world of the internet; 3.Better public services.

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