SBM Articles


What Does 'I'm Right, You're Wrong' Cost?

by Judy Ryan

“Remember, we see the world not as it is but as we are. Most of us see through the eyes of our fears and our limiting beliefs and our false assumptions.”
-Robin S. Sharma

This article is about psychological contracts, interpersonal assumptions and unconscious ground rules we have for what is required of us and others and what one is entitled to receive. In and of themselves these contracts develop in a benign and fluid way, but at some point, they become rigid certainties that define not only our expectations but also mores within separatist camps.

The psychological contract itself is not problematic. It is the lack of realization that everyone has them, that they stem from one’s private logic and a desire for community congruence; have some merit; and deserve receptivity, recognition and respect even if they are not agreed upon. The lack of a commitment to curiosity and compassion — within oneself and with others — is at the root of every interpersonal conflict — large and small — and the resulting lack of resolution causing untold setbacks.

Just one such example is the divide between baby boomers and millennial and Gen Z employees. As a boomer myself, I heard growing up that “children are to be seen and not heard,”“you should respect your elders,” “you must earn respect” and “you’ll understand when you’re older.” The major theme in these popular phrases was “you must defer to those older than you; anything else is reprehensible.”

A couple of decades later, we have the internet, advanced global communications, awareness of widely varying belief systems, and an evolution of today’s popular thought and politics. It’s no wonder the psychological contracts in Millennial and Gen Z employees are vastly different from those of boomers. No one should be surprised or disgusted.

They hear, “you can be anything you want,” “your self-esteem is top priority,” “you are our future” and “everyone matters.” They experienced rapid increases in democracy, very public shifts in national and international policies, and evolving cinematic themes of “no one is better or deserves more respect than anyone else, despite age, experience or title.” It’s no wonder these generations are often polarized.

While this is by no means the only instance of widely varying psychological contracts with many points of misunderstanding and contention, it’s an obvious, contemporary one that most people agree is characterized by recurring hostility and opposition. Nor is this article about what to do about intergenerational divides (I cover this in other articles). My main point is that psychological contracts are neither conscious nor examined and discussed.
Instead, they remain hidden and then are inadvertently used to justify blaming, shaming, and hostile and righteous disrespect and separation, with lasting negative impacts. Consider: What does this cost you, your people, your business, your life?

The way out is to make interpersonal relationships — building trusting behaviors with others and living from purpose and values — more important than anything else. It’s time to learn about what we should have all learned about in grade school — the conditions and conversations that expand human potential — and then understand and dismantle whatever decreases that potential.

I met a new partner recently , and he understood this well. He was given a two-month window to complete a project with a new team. He asked for three months. He spent the first month building trust and authentic community. Then his team went on to complete the project in the next two weeks, ahead of the original completion date — all while having a peaceful, relaxed, fulfilling and productive time with one another.

It’s never too late. Make new commitments to learn, together with your team, all the ways to grow in emotional intelligence so you all can live in authentic community with the goal of making one another wildly successful. Not only will you all be happier, but you’ll all gain productivity and profitability too. Call me today!

Judy Ryan (, human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Join her in her mission to create a world in which all people love their lives. She can also be reached at 314-239-4727.

Submitted 79 days ago
Categories: categoryThe Extraordinary Workplace
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