Crying and smiling seem normal to most people. But what if culture or environment dictate otherwise? This Invisibilia podcast examines two fascinating social experiments that sought to challenge social norms by teaching oil workers how to cry, and McDonald’s workers in Russia how to smile. Due to the nature of their work, oil rig workers had grown accustomed to shielding their vulnerability and never crying, even after witnessing their co-workers’ deaths – a horrifyingly common reality on oil rigs. In turn, workers would also not acknowledge their fears and anxiety, or ask for help. However, after a leadership consultant began working on creating a “learning culture” and helping the workers deal with their feelings through emotional exercises, the workers became more open, let themselves cry, and learned to communicate freely – which led to an 84 percent decrease in the rate of accidents. On the flip side of emotions, employees at the very first McDonald’s in the Soviet Union were not used to smiling regularly. To them, smiling continuously was seen as a “bad character trait” and unnatural, and smiling at strangers could make them feel uncomfortable. To adopt the McDonald’s culture, workers watched training videos, then began practicing catchphrases, making direct eye contact, and of course, smiling. As workers became more comfortable with smiling, they noticed their customers becoming friendlier and more upbeat in behavior. These social experiments cement one of our core beliefs: anything, even something that seems completely foreign, can be learned through deliberate practice.
Listen: Back to Basics
Sep 06, 2016