It seems an inevitable part of the human condition that we hurt each others feelings, confuse our friends and colleagues, anger or worry people close to us. I believe most of the time this is unintended and inadvertent. Regardless of intent, these feelings, if unresolved, can do real damage. My company, as a group of people who work closely together, care about each other, and build value based on trust, wanted to try something to mitigate the damage such feelings can cause.
First, we gave these negative feelings a name. FUDA (we say “foo-da”) stands for Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt and Anger. We have an agreement about FUDA at Atomic Object. It’s a shared understanding you buy into as an Atom. It’s partially a policy, in the sense that it defines expected actions by employees. But it feels to me more like a collective agreement.
Atomic Object’s agreement on FUDA has three aspects:
- Everyone experiences feelings of FUDA from time to time.
- Everyone is expected to actively work to resolve their FUDA.
- If you observe FUDA in a colleague, you should try to help them resolve it.
1. FUDA is inevitable
Feelings of FUDA are part of being human. They are normal, expected, and inevitable. It’s not bad or wrong to have these feelings. What is bad, both for the individual and the company, is to cherish, nurture and hold onto your FUDA.
Our expectation of Atoms is that, when experiencing FUDA, they will actively and positively seek to resolve it. In my experience, FUDA that is not ephemeral usually comes from an incomplete or narrow understanding of a situation. In a company, growth makes the situation of people having incomplete information or narrow perspective more common, and thus represents a real challenge to a company culture of close relationships, little hierarchy, broad input, transparency, and collective decision making. It was this negative side effect of growth that drove us to create our agreement on FUDA.
2. Take action
While no one can stop negative thoughts from arising, everyone can choose the actions they take when they do. Gaining more perspective, researching, learning, active introspection, asking questions, discussing with peers, benchmarking other companies, talking with company leaders—these sorts of activities can help resolve FUDA, and are what we expect of all Atoms. It’s ok to have FUDA; it’s not ok to hold on to it.
3. Help others
No one enjoys being in a state of FUDA. Long-standing, unresolved FUDA has corrosive effects on working relationships, and may even be a personal health risk. As a company of people who care about each other, we should all be willing to help our colleagues when they are in a state of FUDA. In addition to be willing to help, we expect people to watch for signs of fellow Atoms struggling with FUDA, and to pro-actively reach out to help them.
Giving FUDA a name has helped us talk about a tricky subject. Acknowledging that negative feelings are a natural part of life helps de-escalate conflict. It’s a lot easier to tell someone you have some FUDA you’d like to resolve when you both know that having FUDA is inevitable.
Formulating our stance on FUDA helps Atoms feel that it’s ok to be in a bad place, but to also know they’re responsible for taking action to resolve their feelings. Embrace and resolve.
Unresolvable FUDA is rare, and I believe is almost always due to an irreconcilable mismatch of values or goals. In such cases, I think it’s best to avoid “right/wrong” judgments and move forward with integrity and honesty to pursue separate paths.
We don’t always get it right. I’ve been told something I’ve said generated FUDA in an unspecified group, and that I should do something to fix it. While I strive to not do things that generate FUDA, I can’t fix what’s not mine and I don’t understand. These situations remind me we need to continue to talk about our shared agreement on FUDA.
I’ve seen, and felt, the temptation to not communicate on a controversial or complicated topic in reluctance of the risk of generating FUDA. That challenges our value of acting transparently. People, especially company leaders, need to communicate carefully, but they also need to trust their colleagues to actively work to resolve any FUDA that may be inadvertently created.
Negative thoughts, if harbored and left unresolved, are almost always destructive. A shared agreement about our personal responsibility to actively resolve our FUDA helps us avoid relationship damage and maintain trust with each other.
- Atomic Ownership, Part 3: Valuation - January 2, 2019
- Atomic’s purpose: to be a company where work matters - November 5, 2018
- Elevating & distributing “glue work” flows out of our core principles - October 18, 2018
- Atomic Ownership, Part 2: How the Atomic Plan & our ESPP work - July 16, 2018
- Atomic Ownership, Part 1: Context, motivations, and accomplishments to date - May 17, 2018