A stone on the window

 

One day, while I was working in my office on a presentation about what escalate aggressions, I heard a distinct bump coming from the glass door to the balcony.

Without much consideration I got up to see what had happened; and in the short time between my getting up, half-circling past my desk and walking to the balcony door, my thoughts and feelings had already formed an explanation: ”someone has thrown at my balcony door; a rock wrapped in something. Young rascals have now come to this area as well, oh – yes, I must handle them in a calm manner,” I complacently thought to myself as I opened the door.

I looked around – there was a bird, a wing bent to one side. It had flown smack into the windowpane, not dead, merely unconscious. I took it and put it on my desk , while I got back to my writing – which happened to be a text about ”Attribution-Theory”, a theory about people in conflict assign (”attribute”) others and themselves certain motives after a certain pattern. And while the little bird was gathering itself together, so was I, and I discovered my own variant of this attribution phenomenon; namely, that I in seconds had constructed an explanation to an upsetting experience – and that this explanation was totally off the mark.

I had established a fantasy-explanation with a fantasy-guilty part. I had in my mind created a scapegoat in less time than it took to snap my fingers. A vague sense of shame arose in me while the bird started moving again. I took a closer look. It was so tiny, with an orange top on it´s head. The bird hopped up to the groove between my neck and shoulder and nested there. I was speechless and felt the vast distance between my own little fear which had immediately created an image of being unsafe and this little bird and its trust.

I laughed at my reaction. With the bird nestled safely upon my neck, I crabbed over to the computer and had the internet help me identify the little thing as a ”Goldcrest”. The little bird enjoys the heat of a human body, it said. Before it had completely recovered I opened the terrace door and placed it gently outside.

I returned to the text about attribution: There is in relations with a certain amount of insecurity a tendency for people to attribute negative motives and hidden agendas to others for whatever unforeseen hindrances may come up in course of the relationship such as lack of clarity, misunderstandings or unexplainable events. At the same time, we hold ourselves completely free of blame for similar situations. If your colleague is late, that means she doesn’t care about you, but if you’re late, it was the traffic.

Attribution is very common, it is hard to catch, it happens almost immediately, it enhances aggression in conflicts. In clear communication we must stop to think before we leap into fantasyland where we can conjure up an explanation which doesn’t have any reality to it.

The goldcrest flew away without hitting any window panes.


Danish Work Culture as seen from Kazakhstan

Good communication with a stranger e. i. a foreigner presupposes that one can put one´s own immediate understanding aside and see that other people may engage in a social exchange with quite different, unspoken expectations.

A talk given by consultant and university-trained teacher Alma Bekturganova Andersen at KVINFO highlighted a set of differences in work cultures stemming from whether you speak from a top-down, autocratic background or a democratic background. Alma Bekturganova Andersen, born in Kazakhstan as a Russian-speaking Kazakh is married to a Dane and has lived and worked in Denmark for several years, spoke captivatingly in Danish about the unspoken rules in the Danish workplaces she and her other Russian-speaking friends tend to stumble over.

Alma Bekturganova Andersen gave an overview of differences between autocratic and democratic cultural codes at work:
In an autocratic culture the communication goes top down, and the correspondingly, attention from bottom up; the hierarchy points to management making the decisions, and to workers to obey orders without discussion.
Danish self-understanding as having a work culture that underscores equal and open social exchanges loses foreigners. Similarly, Danes have a hard time understanding of some of  “the new entrants´” reactions and attitudes e.g. strict obedience of leaders and management.

Alma Bekturganova Andersen differences between autocratic and democratic culture in the work place:

Top Down Culture                                                                     Democratic Culture

The boss threatens employees                                                     Boss perceives others as equals
Focus on right or wrong                                                                 Everybody is right in some sense
Direct criticism is given in front of others                                     “Recommendations” are given in private
Do not say no to the boss                                                               You can negotiate with the boss

Competitions are everyday                                                            Cooperation is the norm
Over performs                                                                                  Community in teams is supported

Pending on direct orders                                                               Things are agreed upon in meetings

Provides constant unsolicited advice                                           Asks questions
Result is important                                                                         Process is important

Meeting is meeting                                                                           Meetings: enjoy your self with coffee
Say yes without having understood the topic                              Says openly when you do not understand
Too shy to ask for advice                                                                 Questions are welcome

Trade Union is employer´s tool                                                     Unions are useful for employees

“Everyone else is responsible for my life.”                                  “I am personally responsible for my life.”

So if you wonder why your Danish team member directly go on to discuss any decision presented by team leader, 
or if you, as a Dane, wonder why your critical questioning seems to fall on arid ground, you might consider that
what it is considered normal for you can be a mystery to your fellow team member.
And you can open up mysteries by inviting interested and kind curiosity on board.


How do you make a request? Five Free tips to get heard. And a bonus tip.

Sometimes we find it hard to ask things of others; a simple request suddenly sticks in the throat.