Are you inadvertently inhibiting those around you?

Have you ever attended a performance that was mediocre at best? Perhaps one that you felt was just awful. And at the end of the performance, when the crowd is clapping out of respect for the effort, someone in the crowd decides to stand up.

Chances are, the mother of a cast member was in attendance, and out of unconditional love, leapt to her feet in applause. A few people around her look at her, and like puppets are pulled from their seats into a standing position. Before you know it, waves of people leap to their feet in a standing ovation.

And you know the majority of these people didn't really enjoy the show. Yet for some reason they felt compelled, by the act of a single individual, to stand in applause when they really would've rather held their applause entirely.

Have you ever been the sole individual that decided not to stand up and join in the applause? How did you feel while you sat there with the entire room standing? If you're the type that always stands in these situations, imagine if you didn't, how would you feel?

Our minds are hard wired to mimic the behavior of those around us. It's a simple function of the fact that being a member of the group tends to afford advantages that an individual cannot access alone.

Your mind observes the behavior of those around you. If you notice other people doing something counter to your own behavior, you will likely feel inclined to change your behavior to match theirs. That's why it only takes one person to create a standing ovation.

The people nearby feel awkward in the presence of someone standing. So they stand to relieve the subconscious, normative pressure. As they stand, their mind rewards them for their behavior. If they remain seated, their mind will punish them with feelings of wrongdoing.

Left undone

It's become fashionable to extend rather flexible working conditions in business. Organizations are tripping over themselves to ban traditional norms in the workplace. Both new and old organizations purport to throw off the shackles of 9 to 5. Instead, they offer flexible hours, working from home, time during the day to hit the gym, casual dress codes, and personal development on the clock.

These are just a few of the hip new perks of both startups and traditional businesses. Many businesses are jumping on board simply because everyone else is doing it. It has become fashionable to extend rather flexible working conditions in business.

Consequently, because efforts are not genuine, many fail to extend the professed benefits. And it usually goes unnoticed by management while those that were looking forward to the perks are disappointed.

Why do they fail to deliver? Because most of the time, while the writing on the wall suggests it's ok to come and go as you please, nobody ever sees a manager coming and going as they please.

Workers see managers coming in at 7 and leaving at 7, never working remote, dressing in formal attire, working at their desk through lunch, not taking a break to hit the on-site gym, and rarely investing in their own personal development.

Normative punishment

So, while people are told it's ok to take advantage of flexible hours, they never see people in a position of status working flexile hours. And like the sole individual that starts a standing ovation, these managers set the tone for the expected group behavior: doubly so because they're in a position of power. Many people look up to them.

Even if there are placards on the wall that say it's ok to dress comfortably. And there aren't external pressures like customers visiting the office. All it takes is one person in a position of authority, that religiously dresses formally, or even in business casual, to nullify every placard.

Individuals in a subordinate relationship will feel a sense of transgression if they show up in jeans and a t-shirt while their boss is coming in wearing slacks and a button up shirt.

Subconsciously, in a part of their brain that they have no control over, they will feel an emotional impulse to conform: that they're not being a team player. And the next day they'll wind up in slacks and a button up.

What's important

Part of the problem is that organizations, like individuals, are clamoring to adopt the practices of other organizations without understanding why and if these practices are actually desirable. Organizations, like individuals, are simply following the crowd in giving a standing ovation to a performance they don't appreciate.

Accordingly, while they say they embrace these benefits, all it takes is one manager that doesn't reflect the benefits in their own behavior, to snuff the candle of change. Individuals subconsciously take note and eventually, if these benefits are important to individuals, they'll wind up leaving.

If you want to embrace these new ideals in your organization, you must know why they matter. It's not enough to want to copy the competition. You must understand if and why flexible hours matter. Why a casual dress code is important.

In doing this you'll uncover the things that do matter. Maybe you realize that the type of work you require doesn't necessitate a 9 to 5 schedule. And that individuals can take advantage of a flexible schedule to take better care of their health by seeing the doctor during the day, instead of avoiding the doctor because they never get off in time to get a check up. Or, perhaps individuals have the time to attend their kid's soccer game.

Maybe you can't afford a flexible schedule because you work in a field like health care where you have to ensure you have adequate help on hand to avoid jeopardizing the health of patients. Perhaps in this case you require a regimented schedule, but you recognize the benefits of fitness, so you allot time in the schedule, or in between shifts, for staff to rotate through an on-site gym.


Out of this process of looking at what's important and why, you'll uncover a list of perks that are sustainable. You should prioritize the items on the list.

And then you should hold everyone in a position of power--managers, leaders, etc--accountable to not working a rigid 60 hour schedule, to dressing casually, to routinely spending time at the on-site gym and not working late to make up for it.

You can be the person that stands up and starts a trend. The person that doesn't just talk about moving away from traditional, superfluous norms; the person that exemplifies the behavior they want to liberate for others.