My Way or the Highway

June 27th, 2013

I got lucky…

Since I was a freshman in high school, I have had the wonderful opportunity to get out into the working world, obtaining real life experiences through my job at Hotline Surfboards. I started at the locally owned and operated surf shop just doing what I was told, which usually consisted of sales and mundane responsibilities around the shop. This went on for a good amount of time, until I was taken under the wing of my incredible boss, and owner of Hotline, Cammi Collins. She made me feel as if I could do anything, supporting me not only through my accomplishments at work, but also in my personal successes. Since this is the only real work experience I have had, I thought it went the same way for most people with a job; I was very wrong. Most people do not encounter such acceptance and assistance when just starting out, having more of a negative influence, or just a “down to business” management system.


Don’t be the person who puts up this sign

Figure it out, or quit.

Whether it be in your personal or professional life, it is pretty likely that you have encountered a person that seemingly lives their life along the motto, “Its my way, or the highway”. It may be an unlikeable boss, professor, or even parent that you feel promotes this negative way of going about things. If you can relate to this, you’re not along by any means. In an article taken from written by Alan Hall, it is stated “…74% of people today would consider finding a new job”. Now whether you like your “higher up” or not, it is your responsibility to act in a professional manner until you either resolve your issues, or leave your position. The latter option is seemingly the route people take. So, to avoid the vicious cycle of an angry employee turning into an unmanageable boss, you need to know how to create a well functioning, and ideally enjoyable workplace, like I had the irreplaceable opportunity of being a part of.


Certainty vs. Provisionalism

To effectively create a warm and working environment, it is essential that you have communication—and not just any communication. As explained in our text book, “Interpersonal Communication” written by Julia T. Wood, there are two different types of communication that effect what climate you will shape. These two rival forms of communication are confirming communication versus disconfirming communication. This is the difference between creating a constructive climate or destructive climate, respectively. In J. Dan Rothwell’s book, “In the Company of Others” he writes, “A constructive climate is composed of a pattern of openness and supportiveness. A destructive climate is composed of a pattern of closedness and defensiveness”.

When communicating to create the given relationship climate, or in this case workplace environment, it is crucial to recognize and understand the how the different ways of addressing people effects the development of the climate. One of the ways to create a confirming climate is by the use of provisionalism versus certainty. Provisionalism is a form of language that acknowledges others’ point of view, while still “sticking by your guns” too. As cited by the University Center of Rochester on, “[Provisionalism] tends to promote a “lets see what happens” attitude”. For example, if you are talking to an employee who says he has a new way of doing a task you could say, “I usually do this this way, but what ideas do you have?”, providing a supportive environment that will promote further creativity. Certainty is the opposite of this approach. It is more of a “know it all” way of speaking such as saying, “The only way to do this is to…”. This ends all contribution opportunities from the people around you, and creates that destructive climate I mentioned earlier.

Hotl!ne Surfboardz

What it did for me…

Now there are five other ways to communicate in order to create a supportive climate, but this one that especially relates to the workplace. By happily accepting and fishing for my ideas into the production of what we did at Hotline Surfboards, my boss, Cammi Collins, successfully created a confirming and constructive climate. Her use of constant provisionalism allowed me to develop not only self-confidence in my ideas and tangible projects, but also for my further growth intellectually in the company and the field of work, eliminating the “my way or the highway” feel. It is a lesson that I will never take for granted, hope to one day be able to provide for the people that look up to me, and wish each and every one of you will be lucky enough to experience for yourself!

2 Responses to “My Way or the Highway”

  1. Kira Zimney on June 28, 2013 4:57 pm

    Your blog that takes into account “Confirming and Disconfirming” communication that helps show the different areas in life in which effective communication versus not-so effective communication can be applied. For example, when reading this chapter on “Communication Climate: The Foundation for Personal Relationships,” one person may consider a relationship with an old friend, while another thinks about their coworkers/work environment. Your example of your relationship with Hotline Surfborads owner shows a positive side to each confirming/disconfirming relationship.
    As you pointed out, Certainty v. Provisionalism states that we engage in conversation with “certainty” by using language that is “absolute” or a “one and only answer,” much like you discussed when you illustrated the point “my way or the highway.” Your story about your relationship with the store’s owner was positive in that her help and guidance was instructive to build your confidence in a new and first position in the working world.
    Your point of view on your owner helps show that she never gave any sign of “ethnocentrism” while instructing you in your new position. Ethnocentrism, the assumption that one’s own culture or “norms” are the only right point of view can sometimes be present in people of higher authority than us. Like you mentioned, a teacher, manager, or even parent, yet you seemed to have a proactive, confirming relationship with your “authority figure.” For instance you mentioned that she was “open-minded” and saw everyone’s point of view when trying to help with work, thus being the complete opposite of ethnocentrism. So, the Hotline Surfboards’ environment you were in had a positive outcome for you, most closely because the communication between employers and employees was open with regard to certainty.

  2. Courtney Lippert on June 28, 2013 10:03 pm

    I really like how you related certainty vs provisionalism to your job. I have noticed this at both of my jobs, and have been able to compare between the two what one job does better than the other and vice versa. My jobs have completely opposite environments. One of them is confirming while the other is disconfirming. At my job at Yankee Candle you can feel how confirming it is. It’s easy to speak with my manager, and it’s easy to listen to constructive criticism without getting upset about it or feel like I’m being attacked. They’re open to suggestions and are willing to listen to ideas. At my factory job however, the environment is so disconfirming. Everything is very one way. It’s always management versus employees. It’s so hard and disconfirming to speak to managers about anything. I can’t even ask for a bandaid for a cut on my finger without fear of being accused of not doing something properly. It’s a very disconfirming environment which ultimately affects everyones attitudes about being there which relates to evaluation vs description aspect of confirming and disconfirming communication outlined in chapter 8. Good job relating it to your experiences and opening my eyes to looking at my jobs in a likewise way.

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