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Stakeholder Psychology 101

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Why is it important to understand who your stakeholders believe themselves to be before understanding who they are to you?

Understanding the stakeholders you rely on to represent, manage and grow your business is inherent in developing a stable and sustainable workplace culture. What is culture if not a combination of attitudes, behavior, beliefs and perceptions of those that are part of the population calling itself a community? Whether that is defined by an action or a brand name, we all want to be a member of a club that supports our worthiness to be there.

This morning my attention was distracted from my usual walk with the dogs to a large crowd of oddly assembled people in a gated area off to the edge of the park. Oddly assembled, because the crowd ranged from 8 year old girls to 75 year old men all enjoying the same activity and supportively cheering one another on. It was the skate park. And not just any skate park, as there exists not one without a deep sense of altruism here in Southern California, but the skate park where Tony Hawk is often seen both in the bowl and on the sidelines as a coach and mentor. But this morning, I was led to watch this unusual collection of amazing athletes in the bowl or pool as it’s often referred to and my wonderment about the skate culture felt palpable. Awed and amazed as I watched I couldn’t help but think about the culture that supports this unlikely population including an obvious honor code, loyalty and support system, along with jargon, associative anecdotes and behaviors in physical presentation. What is seemingly the interest to fly on a board brought them together, but the camaraderie seems 90% why they stick.

Understanding why people want to feel like they belong is the essence of understanding our own self concept. How do we come to know ourselves if not by association to all that we act by. In other words our self concept is a direct result of our attitudes, yes…but also our actions. And aren’t those self schemas that we create (a sort of personality template if you will) the filters through which we perceive, remember and evaluate others too? We often look to others for images of what we dream of or rather, dread becoming in the future. Depending on what we see, we create a sort of self fulfilling prophecy.

So why is this important in a professional setting, specifically in understanding how workplaces are themselves little cultures within a culture?

Pointedly, a common failure of top management is in recognizing declines of organizational interpersonal dynamics. Situations of inflexible perfectionism, lack of satisfaction from work, workplace bullying, hostility among ranks, and the constancy of a crisis/reward system erodes a sense of self concept. We project a sense of self concept by our attitudes and perceptions, and swimming in a bowl of misaligned departments and one-up-man-ship merely results in non committed stakeholders reflecting one another’s lack of creativity, innovation and inspiration. There is no obvious honor code or loyalty and support system. No cheering on. There is no jargon (culture-speak), anecdotes that we all adhere to, or protective gear and gait we all present with.

Homo sapiens are a comparative sort of species. Our mental templates by which we organize our worlds include what is behaviorally happening around us in addition to our own experience. YES! Our social surroundings affect our self awareness, coloring our social judgment. And yes, our self concern for acceptance and appreciation motivates our social behavior and our relationships define us. In short, our experiences, ideas and feelings about ourselves affect how we respond to others and how behaviors are adapted. This is the crux of a culture. A group within a species who shares a schema of self and behavior. Remember from above: A culture is a combination of attitudes, behavior, beliefs and perceptions of those that are part of the population thereby defined as a community.

Creating a productive culture where leaders and stakeholders have a valuable sense of belonging, unparalleled camaraderie, feel understood and respected, and have genuine care, concern and appreciation for themselves and others starts with how each of us show up. One of the primary mechanisms for change is admitting we have a problem.

At Inspired Action at Work, we’ve spoken to a multitude of leaders and stakeholders over the last few months. It seems the majority of workplaces, including private, public, non-profit, and B Corps among others are experiencing, what is a likely result of Covid salience, a shift to remote work and a general morale flushing called the "shit storm" effect. Assessing whether the causal attributes of said "shit storm" are individually attitudinal, behavioral, dispositional, situational or just the psychological construction of 2020's dystopic reality is not for the weak stomached. If your workplace is experiencing the effects of this storm, give us a call. We'll tease out the pain points and provide valuable insights into recovering your organization's community again! Confidentiality is guaranteed.

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