I once worked for about eighteen months with a peer I couldn’t trust. It was awful. I wasted time, effort and attention on parsing his emails, protecting my team and laboriously documenting “agreements” that “clarified the situation” to my boss (which would be run over an hour after we had met to “ratify” them).
And I felt bad. All the time. There’s just something nasty about not knowing: not knowing what will happen in the next meeting; not knowing if an agreement will be kept; not knowing when another email will come in from your boss, from your team, from a peer, with another set of bruises and breakages and emotional upset. And there’s something more than that: having to be around somebody who you don’t fundamentally trust is spooky, uncomfortable, unpleasant.
|I recently highlighted this rather terrific post by Jessica Rose. It kind of off-handedly introduced a notion we might call “HR Debt” – the organizational analogue of technical debt.|
Coincidentally, a day later, I then walked into a client session where the issue was, in fact, fixing up a team that had been badly structured and poorly lead: we spent an hour sorting out the pain, cost and general difficulty of getting things set to rights. The notion of “HR Debt” was immediately helpful. Good!
We might describe technical debt as the literal cost (time, attention, real money) of avoiding doing things the right way. In the short term, the company saves money by, for example, not fixing a legacy architectural issue, by “hard-wiring” a piece of code, or just not fixing known bugs (feel free to provide your own list).
So I’ve had a few clients who check their laptops and phones in meetings, to the extent that it comes up in a 360 review.
I’ve even had a couple of clients who apparently do it in one on ones.
When you pull out your phone in a meeting, or open the laptop and start typing away, you are not invisible: humans are exquisitely constructed to connect with other humans. We notice every detail in face, body posture, vocal tone, and attention. How do you feel when somebody pays close attention to you? Intense, right? Can be great, can be uncomfortable, but there’s a lot happening there. How do you feel when somebody completely ignores you, despite the fact that you’re right there? Less good, right?