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Yonatan Zunger 🔥 @yonatanzunger
, 10 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
A subtle thing about @markzabaro's second point: If your company has power disparities large enough that "punching up" becomes reasonable, then you have a different problem. 1/
Why? "Punching up" is a way to poke holes in power when that power is entirely asymmetric, and the resulting relationship between people, if it exists at all, is parasocial: influence and knowledge flow asymmetrically.…
Quite separately from all the other problems steep hierarchies create — the ripe opportunity for unfairness, for frustration, and so on — a steep hierarchy also guarantees that information won't flow upstream. R. A. Wilson called this the "SNAFU Principle"…
In a hierarchical organization, orders flow downward, and bullshit flows upward: people don't feel empowered to point out actual problems, because it will cost them to do so. Humor that "punches up" is a way around this.
But that's a symptom of a crucial collapse of communication, and a sign that the organization isn't functioning in a healthy way at all. The people who know what's needed for an organization are typically at the front lines, not back in the main office.
In a very large organization, a senior leader won't have time to directly interact with everyone (who could?!), but if people don't feel that they can alert even the CEO if they see a problem, *and get a useful response*, communication is failing.
Unfortunately, as organizations grow, this becomes more and more universal, and turns into profound organizational cancer. "Civility policies" that try to forbid the only remaining working mechanisms for upward feedback become counterproductive.
All of which is to say, banning "punching up" is far more dangerous than it seems: it doesn't create civility, it just closes off the naturally occurring communication channel which is your only backup when you're about to be eaten by the SNAFU Principle.
And it can create profound discontent that you're blind to. In a large organization, it's key to create communication channels where people *can* be honest: both safe from repercussions, and with founded belief that they'll be listened to.
Often this can involve bringing in a third party to act as ombudsman, or to listen to people and provide feedback while protecting individual sources. Of course, this only works if you listen to them. //
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