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How To Be Smart While Showing Courage at Work
We begin our careers full of optimism. We expect to encounter people who are eager to hear what we have to say — as our teachers were in school or college. Over time, we hear stories of people who stick their necks out or go against the established thinking only to be assigned dead-end projects or even lose their jobs.
Given such evident risks, courage at work may seem ill-advised, however leadership experts suggest otherwise. Even in organizations where silent assent pervades, visibility and bold moves are usually rewarded more than reticence. Taking a risky act before you understand the political landscape, however, can result in career damage, and young people in particular are prone to taking risks without adequate knowledge of their professional landscape.
If you avoid risks, you lose the opportunity for both the learning and career progress that can result. The key is to observe carefully before jumping in. Acting both intelligently and courageously requires knowing what’s expected — what the local parameters are in terms of making bold moves. Often, it takes a while to identify them.
A senior executive at a sporting goods company shared with me that as a young man and new employee, he’d been told “to get all the money possible — to make a huge profit for the company.” Those in the company who had hired him hadn’t indicated where the line was in terms of taking this goal too far. Once, in front of the CEO, he recalls insulting a senior vice president by suggesting he do some things differently to improve his performance. The CEO never said anything about this to him (nor did the senior vice president), but the promising, young employee found himself edged out of meaningful projects and assigned dead-end jobs. He got the message, changed his behavior, and kept his job. Now he believes, “If you ignore politics and make someone above you look bad, you’re going to have a short career.”
Since that time, he says he has taken some criticism from colleagues for being a “political animal.” His response: “It’s better to be a political animal than political roadkill.”
Since standing up to powerful people can be hazardous to your career, how do you know just when to do it? Some prerequisites must be met before making courageous political moves at work. First, cultivate a deep sense of what matters most to you, which requires reflection on your priorities. Second, something you stand for, believe in, or hold dear should be under threat if you’re going to have to go where others fear to tread. Once you know what truly matters, then what others think becomes less relevant, less of a priority. As President Harry Truman once said, “I wonder how far Moses would have gone if he’d taken a poll in Egypt.”
People who show courage at work — as opposed to people who simply spout out what they’re thinking and thus commit political suicide — are in touch with a sense of their “center.” Knowledge of self in terms of priorities and purpose is the bedrock of courage. Add to this the following:
- An informed view of the political terrain, (including knowing the right people to influence and those who may be political landmines)
- Highly developed communication skills
- Careful assessment of timing — the pros and cons of waiting
- Consideration of potential collateral damage of your actions
- An awareness of, and willingness to live with, the consequences
- Contingency plans in case all goes bust
These considerations make it far more likely that the result of risky career moves will succeed, and, in the end, be seen as courage rather than political fiasco.
Kathleen also writes about this and related topics here.
Photo: Nic Nelsh/Shutterstock.com
"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
The future of deepfakes<p>In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.</p><p>But the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=324528215059254" target="_blank">video</a> is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real. </p><p>The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/is-seeing-still-believing-the-deepfake-challenge-to-truth-in-politics/#cancel" target="_blank">2020 report from The Brookings Institution</a>. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes. </p><p>As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."</p>
Context is everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold.
A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.
- Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
- In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
- The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.