It’s pretty clear to us what happens in an organization or relationship with a negative environment. Animosity builds, projects start failing, good people start leaving (or in the case of a relationship, divorce/breakup follows).
Less apparent is what happens in a department/organization/relationship that operates in a vacuum. If the tendency of a manager is to not provide consistent feedback and/or not address issues in the organization head-on what resulting processes occur in the organization? What, if anything, is the consequence to the organization?
Nature is Resistant to a Vacuum State
Wikipedia defines a vacuum as:
In the world of physics, a true vacuum state that is in fact truly devoid of all matter is impossible to create. Even in outer space which is the closest physical approximation of a perfect vacuum due to its low density and pressure, matter remains:
Outer space…effectively has no friction, allowing stars, planets and moons to move freely along ideal gravitational trajectories. But no vacuum is truly perfect, not even in interstellar space, where there are still a few hydrogen atoms per cubic meter.
It is as though nature is highly resistant to a vacuum state, and a true state of ‘no matter’ is impossible.
Looking at this further, Wikipedia explains a QED vacuum (QED vacuum is essentially a vacuum state with no matter, as we described above):
QED vacuum has interesting and complex properties… As a result, QED vacuum contains vacuum fluctuations (virtual particles that hop into and out of existence), and a finite energy called vacuum energy.
It seems that when nature is in a state of vacuum, it compensates–“virtual particles that hop into and out of existence”–and creates matter where there previously was none.
Humans Fill the Gaps and Create their Own Matter
This resistance to vacuum is what occurs in an individual when they are left guessing about their performance. It occurs both on a macro level—where they are left guessing about their overall performance as a member of the organization–and on an individual level—where they are left guessing about their contributions to a specific project. Absent other ‘matter’ the individual inevitably fills in the gaps and creates their own ‘matter’ by drawing their own, often erroneous conclusions about their contributions or standing in the organization. Importantly, the conclusions the individual draws are inevitably negative ones—the Hydrogen atoms that remain in the near vacuum of outer space have a negative charge.
Left unchecked the ‘matter’ continues to grow, ultimately forming into full blown concepts and perspectives, finally often culminating in action as the individual becomes bitter or leaves the organization.
The takeway for the manager, is that we often assume, absent feedback from us, the employee is left in a neutral state, with ‘no matter’. The reality however, is that the individual resists the vacuum state and fills the gap with their own negative matter.
Critics may conclude ‘the modern manager is busy and doesn’t have time to make sure there aren’t misunderstandings swirling about in his/her employee’s head’s’. But if you aren’t taking the approach that there is *nothing* more important to the success of your organization than the right-mindedness of the people who are working for you, you are doing it wrong.
- About the Author
Nathan Safran is a former Analyst at Forrester Research where he covered the Digital Home. While at Forrester, Nathan authored research studies on trends, attitudes and behaviors of consumers toward technology adoption and use.
Nathan has been quoted as a subject matter expert in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Fortune magazine. Currently, Nathan heads the Research Department at Conductor, Inc an SEO Technology Platform firm.
Nathan writes at exceljockey.com about the intersection of Business, Technology and Psychology. See the About page for more info. Follow Nathan on Twitter: @Nathan_Safran