How do you relate to your co-workers?  Do you see many of them as problems to deal with or do you relate to them as Creators?  How you answer these questions can have a great deal of impact on the satisfaction you have in your workplace, as well as on the quality of products and/or services your organization provides.

This question was front-and-center for David this week as he served as an executive coach in the University of Notre Dame’s Executive Integral Leadership program for their executive MBA students. Participants received feedback on how their employees, coworkers and managers perceived them as leaders (using The Leadership Circle Profile).

Two-Triangles-300x300Douglas McGregor, from MIT’s Sloan School of Management in the 1960’s, provides a way of thinking about this question through his theory of employee motivation, which he simply called Theory X and Theory Y. These theories can be interpreted through the lens of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ and TED* (The Empowerment Dynamic)™, respectively.

Theory X sees employees (and coworkers) as problems.  It assumes that people are basically lazy and will avoid work if they can, so they need to be controlled and threatened with punishment if they do not perform.  This, of course, creates environments of mistrust and blame.  In such an atmosphere the DDT thrives, as employees feel like Victims to their Persecutor managers.  Drama is rife as coworkers react to one another as problems and, in many cases, then turn to their managers (or the Human Resources Department) in search of a Rescuer.

Theory Y, on the other hand, assumes employees and coworkers are Creators.  It assumes that people are inherently self-motivated and seek out work and responsibility that satisfies their desire to create products and services that meet the needs of others.  They want to do a good job. In such an organization employees, leaders, and coworkers are much more likely to cultivate a climate conducive to TED* as they labor together as Creators, Coaches, and – at times – Challengers.

As you go into your workplace (or if you are reading this at work), look around you and ask yourself: am I seeing those I work with as problems or Creators?  And most importantly, how are they perceiving me?