Management Magazine
Office Diary

Know-you at work, its healthier and happier

False self is a decoy that ignites a little rivalry within hearts.

BY CAROLINE MWENDWA

Ever found yourself in the middle of a conflict resulting from diverging opinions on either a solution to a problem in the office or on how to implement the suggested solutions? How did it end? Often times, people engage in arguments, either about work or general matters of life, and each person fanning their own side of the flame, resolved to win the debate. These arguments do not under any circumstance end in a conclusion, because none of the parties is interested in coming to a conclusion, instead, both parties are usually determined to win the already heated contest. 

Factors that determine productive arguments/resolutions

James Masterson’s masterpiece The Search for the Real Self; Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age, deeply explores the early developmental experiences that shape individual’s personalities later in life. He argues that depending on the success of a child to develop a real self that is not masked with a false self, individuals can either become borderline, or exhibit narcissistic behaviour. Those in the category of borderline, are unwilling to activate their real self. This means they end up depending on their relations to decide matters on their behalf for fear of losing favour with other people. Narcissists on the other hand have a grandiose image of themselves and want everyone to affirm this image in their interactions. They therefore believe they are and must be the best in everything, and if engagements don’t end that way, they take offence.  In essence, they believe perfectionism is attainable.

According to Masterson, these two developmental factors act as motivators on a primal level when it comes to social relationships and by extension, arguments. 

The social environment 

From a social perspective, the renowned author and journalist Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers, advances a convincing argument that highly successful people are not absolutely self-made. Gladwell asserts using different case scenarios that the socio-culture, year of birth and the economic situation has everything to do with the achievements of famous game changers in the world. He successfully argues that people who have innovated revolutionary ideas, and propelled them with confidence to build legacies such as Bill Gates, and the likes, were born at the right time, in the right culture and at an opportune economic era. That if these fateful factors did not play out in their favour, their story would take a different curve.

Another aspect that comes out clearly in Outliers is how cultural orientation of individuals determines their communication tendencies with seniors/authority. This Gladwell exemplifies with fatal plane clashes that were caused by highly mitigated conversations between captains and their juniors and how from a young age, successful people are trained to interact freely with authority, and take charge of social interactions. The same goes for office arguments between colleagues and or with their supervisors. The level of cultural power distance determines if an individual will acquiescence to another person’s opinion, or counter it assertively, and professionally.

Caroline Mwendwa is the Editor Management Magazine. Email: cmwendwa@kim.ac.ke

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