Dear Organizational Psychology MA Students,
Greetings. Happy April.
This month I read a new book written by a family friend, Gregory Boyle. Greg is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world. This excerpt from his book made me think of you:
Years ago I went to give blood [to the Red Cross] which I did regularly. One year, after running the usual tests, the guy at the blood bank, looking at my initial results, blanched and told me to go to see a doctor - and fast. I did, and the doc diagnosed mononucleosis and treated me for mono for more than a year. Turns out I had leukemia.
A bad diagnosis is never neutral. It always puts you behind the eight ball. You have to play catch-up, and that wastes time, money, and resources. No treatment plan worth a damn was ever born of a bad diagnosis. Never. A good diagnosis is everything.
No hopeful kid has ever joined a gang. Never in the history of gangs, and never in the history of kids. Not once, not ever. Journalists in particular have a hard time with this concept. "Well, everyone knows that kids join gangs because they just want to belong," more than one has scoffed at me. "Not true" is always my reply. "Kids join Little League because they want to belong. They join gangs because they want to die. Gangs are the places kids go when they have realized their life is a misery." Hopeful kids don't join gangs. Gang involvement is about the lethal absence of hope. No kid is seeking anything when he joins a gang. He's always fleeing something. There are no exceptions. That is a good diagnosis. *
Greg goes on to explain about how getting the diagnosis right about kids who join gangs makes all the difference in stopping the cycle of gang violence, helping kids heal, and, in turn, healing us too. I know you all know the critical importance of a good diagnosis. In all of our Org Psych classes we routinely study and discuss theories, research, methods, frameworks and tools that enable us to diagnose well, whether we are talking about an organization's current state in advance of a change effort, a team's explicit and implicit norms as it drives for better results, a leader's strengths and derailers as she leads a new diversity and inclusion initiative, or the impact of a VUCA environment on a changing industry. You might be coaching a new manager in a not-for-profit organization, consulting to a Fortune 500 company as it transforms its performance management system, implementing a new training program on self-awareness for millennials, or working with an NGO to understand and remove systemic obstacles to providing plentiful, safe water around the world. Regardless, you know how our best interventions can only come from our good diagnoses.
My 11 year-old son took two days of New York State ELA tests last week along with the rest of his 6th grade classmates. He didn't show any anxiety in the days leading up to the test nor during the testing days themselves. His calm, easygoing manner about the exams stumped me, especially since the previous month's physical fitness tests in gym class seemed to render him a ball of nerves. For those he made me inspect his nightly fevered practice sessions of push-ups, sit ups and pulls ups and he peppered with me with questions about whether his plank was really at a 90-degree angle or not. I was left wondering why my fit, athletic, agile, sports-loving 11 year-old was so worried about P.E. exercise tests and yet completely unbothered by an hours-long academic test over two days where he had to write essays, demonstrate his reading comprehension repeatedly, and answer numerous multiple choice questions? I could not figure it out, so I turned to my resident child expert, my 14 year-old son. He looked at me like I was somewhat dim, "The gym tests are in front of everyone, Mom." That is a good diagnosis.
As we start the run up to this year's commencement, I hope those of you who are graduating are feeling proud of your knowledge, skills and abilities - learned, deepened, and honed in our program - to diagnose, to intervene, to embrace a systems perspective, to be a scientist-practitioner, to contribute meaningfully and with hope to our shared world. To all our students, as the academic year starts to draw to a close, we are certainly feeling proud and hopeful of you.
Sarah Brazaitis, Ph.D.
*From Boyle, G. (2017). Barking to the choir: The power of radical kinship. New York: Simon & Schuster
Current Student Profile
McKinsey's recent report highlights the continued challenges facing women in the workplace, particularly women of color:
How conscientious are you? Here are some ideas about how to change your thinking, attitude, and behavior to facilitate greater conscientiousness at work:
As always, with all these recommendations, don't hesitate to let me know what you think and/or to offer your own suggestions for possible inclusion in upcoming newsletters. I welcome your input.