There’s No Such Thing as a “Sanity Clause”


White Bordeaux.jpgWhite Bordeaux

If the heart of winemaking is the Burgundy region, Bordeaux is the mind. Merlot and Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc in any blend provide ponderous potables from the rich terroir near the banks of the Gironde River. The costs for a “typical” Bordeaux can be daunting, as you know if you have priced a Chateau Latour or Chateau Lafite/Mouton Rothschild. Other Bordeaux of lesser quality have a relatively lower price, but the quality vacillates too much for the premium. 

Luckily, Bordeaux is home to some extraordinary whites as well. It is said that the marginal land value of red grapes in that region so greatly eclipses those of whites that only the best vintners would dare grow and bottle a white wine. White Bordeaux is usually a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The lower residual sugar gives a clean, true flavor that may be harder to approach than the Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough New Zealand (I admit to being a sucker for those wines), but the result is a refreshing glass without the contemplative air of its red counterpart.

Watching the Olympic beach volleyball competition has been a different experience than it was in the past. Historically, I would be watching the ball and the scoreboard, but beginning in London and continuing now in Rio, I’m focusing more on the pairs. There is very little time to set tactics between the time you send the ball over the net and when it returns, so a tacit understanding of roles is essential for success. Included in that understanding is a form of psychological contract—how responsibilities are shared, how success and error are handled, the overriding purpose. Teams that have a strong psychological contract tend to fare better than teams that don’t. We instinctively know this as every season we hear how a new coach needs time to get his system in place or a “super team” will struggle to find their chemistry.

A psychological contract is an unwritten agreement that defines the employer/employee relationship. An employer who promises a safe, rewarding work environment, then sticks a new hire in a cubicle with a broken chair and exposed wires and subsequently ignores the employee has broken this contract. When a contract is broken, the employee’s productivity and quality will decrease, attendance likely will as well. All are signs of disengagement. When left unaddressed, meaning when the broken social contract is not resolved, the employee may begin to intentionally undermine the organization.

As a manager, it is our responsibility to promise only what we can deliver and deliver what we promise. This means focusing on the real, not just the ideal. We may want a “horizontal hierarchy” and free discourse, but “when the CEO speaks, the conversation is over” clearly defies both a flat structure and open communication. A quick litmus test, if the C-suite only responds to “Mister Smith” or “Ms. Brown,” you may not be in a flat organization.

Similarly, whether you promise constant feedback or annual reviews, be sure to deliver on either. Few things will shatter a psychological contract quicker than accumulating violations and presenting them at once or, if the company is structured around annual reviews, giving a shining review three weeks late and failing to have it reflect in compensation.

The key is to understand Vroom’s Expectancy Theory. We instinctively do—we know the first runner to cross the finish line in the Olympics will win the gold medal, that good acts shall be rewarded and bad acts punished—and are upset when such things don’t occur. As a manager, we need to apply these principles to the workplace.

What psychological contracts do you make with your staff and how do you “enforce” them?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s