“Let’s go back and eyebrow-f**k ol’ mate” This was a plan hatched by two attendees of a course we conducted for a client in NSW.
Ol’ mate was a cranky truck driver that delivered product to the two conspirator’s stores, and eyebrows had been a crucial part of the course.
During this course, we discussed how to develop and maintain a healthy, happy and engaging work environment by avoiding the Parent/Child leadership style.
When talking to others – kids, colleagues, partners – with our eyebrows down we can come across as a stern, judgmental parent talking to a child.
Workplaces that have a parent-to-child or top-down dynamic can be a work environment where:
Moods are contagious
When a leader sneezes their team can catch a cold, or the coronavirus. (I hope you didn't run out of toilet paper). I remember when my youngest son called to ask me what time I was going to be home, he was 18 at the time and had just crashed my ute. (I loved that ute!) I told him the time I was going to be home and he then said “Dad, we need to have a chat, and can you promise to keep your eyebrows up?” Sometimes it’s hard to keep our eyebrows up!
But back to the two conspirator’s and their plan to eyebrow-f**k their ol’ mate.
When dealing with the grumpy, eyebrows-down truck driver they did so with their eyebrows up. They greeted him by name and looked pleased to see him. After a week they reported that the truck driver was arriving to their store on time and greeting them with his eyebrows up too!
Eyebrows play a significant role in communication. Take a look around your workplace. Who has their eyebrows up and who’s are down?
It's not just managers who are work environment mood setters; staff are too. We owe our work colleagues our best efforts; w should not leave those with whom we interact with frowns on their face.
Adult / Adult workplaces
The approach to work design in which the boss sets the goals and workers toe the line is called technocratic (parent/child). It has been the traditional approach to work design, and it has been marked by poor motivation, low productivity, and high levels of rework.
An alternative approach is socio-technical work design (adult/adult). The key difference is collaborative participation in goal setting and problem solving. Studies have shown that the greater degree of participation, the better the process works.
Socio-technical work design builds and maintains motivation, improves productivity, reduces rework and creates a culture of cooperative relationships.
When a work colleague has their eyebrows down - looks annoyed, frustrated, stressed - we could ask, "Bob, you look annoyed. Is everything okay? Is there something I could help you with?" This is a supportive way of ensuring bad moods don't spread through the entire team.
How’s that working for you?
It doesn't always work though. Some years ago, when playing golf, I gave the eyebrows-up tip to an angry, eyebrows-down playing partner. I didn’t know he was a police officer.
A few months later, travelling between Swan Hill and Kerang, I was pulled over for speeding by guess who? Yes, the golf-playing copper. He recognised me and said with his eyebrows up, “How’s the eyebrows-up tip working for your now Sunshine?” We both laughed. He let me off with a warning. Phew!
Keeping our eyebrows up
Keeping our eyebrows up in stressful situations helps us remain cognisant of how we’re feeling, which helps in keeping our emotions in check. This in turn helps create healthier, less stressful environments at work and at home.
When we asked a client to keep his eyebrows up when dealing with staff he said, "I'm going to have to tattoo the bastards up"
Let us know if you need a referral to a tattooist.