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February 2, 2005

Excerpts: Tell Me How I'm Doing - Part IV

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 2:21 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Invisible Man


A few minutes later, as Scott was walking back to the meeting room, his boss stopped him. "Say, Scott, would you do me a favor? The receptionist in the front lobby has an envelope with my name on it. Would you mind getting it for me? It's okay if you're late to the meeting." A bit puzzled, Scott agreed and began walking toward the other end of the building.
Back in the meeting room, the coach quickly closed the door and said, "We're going to conduct an experiment. Scott has been sent on a fictitious errand so that we can set it up. In a minute he'll return with an envelope that your boss asked him to fetch: That's the fictitious errand. When he returns, I need all of us to completely ignore Scott. We don't look at him. We don't talk to him. If he asks a question, we ignore him. We'll all pretend he isn't here. And we're going to do this for the next hour. We'll have another break in about an hour, so be sure that you don't engage or communicate with him in any way during that break. Remember, for an hour he doesn't exist. After the next break we'll debrief Scott to see what he noticed and how he felt about being ignored. Any questions? Good. Now let's begin so he won't suspect anything when he returns."
A minute later Scott walked into the room and tried to hand the envelope to his boss, but the boss didn't reach out to take it; he just looked straight ahead at the coach. Confused, Scott placed it on the table near his boss and returned to his seat.
The coach was telling a story about a man who, after he was promoted to a supervisory position, became so ineffective in dealing with his employees that he later lost his job. His employees complained that the new supervisor overly criticized and complained to the point that they lost their motivation to perform. The coach looked up from her notes and asked, "What do you think? Can criticism, complaining, or even sarcasm motivate employees to work harder?"
No one said a word. There was total silence. Finally, Scott raised his hand; he wanted to clarify something. But the coach ignored his upraised hand and no one looked his way. After a few seconds of silence, the coach continued, "It looks as though we're not sure of the answer."
She walked to a position directly in front of Scott. Without looking at him, she continued, "When someone is critical or sarcastic to you, how motivated does that make you? When someone ignores you, how much harder do you work? Think about it."
Again Scott raised his handa little higher this time. In fact, his hand was now right in front of the coach's face. But still she ignored him. Scott looked around the room at a dozen of his friends and colleagues, but no one looked at him. It was as if he had disappeared. What is going on? he thought.
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About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.