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Ask Culture and Guess Culture (Found via Captain Awkward)

I think I'm guess by nature, but I can see how ask would be a good one to have a feel for, at least to pull out of my back pocket when I need it.

I'm not sure which model fits more at work — big-organization people, civil servants in particular reading this: what do you think?

Date: 2014-01-09 05:31 pm (UTC)
amazon_syren: (Love is Better than Anger)
From: [personal profile] amazon_syren
Someone in that discussion (somewhere in that discussion, possibly on twitter?) suggested that men tend to be "ask" people and women tend to be "guess" people, and this lead to a theory that people with social power/privilege tend to be "ask" people (possibly because their guess is that a 'yes' will be forthcoming?), whereas folks without same tend to be "guess" people (because they're more likely to Get In Trouble if they just come out and say "I need/want X").

I think there's definitely something to this.
As an example: In my power-exchange, I am (constantly) having to push myself to be an Ask Person, even though I grew up very much as a Guess Person.

However: I also think that, among peers at least, "ask" and "guess" culture is also a very classed thing that relates to the whole idea of "bootstrapping".
I remember reading this thing, back in, like, 2007/2008 about cultural differences between working class people and middle class people in Brooklyn neighbourhoods, and a big one was that middle class people don't talk to their neighbours.

I grew up middle-class - both culturally and income-wise - but my adult life has been low/uncertain/limited incomes, primarily physical jobs, and poor neighbourhoods. Based on my own experience, I think there's something to this even when you get beyond the specific neighbourhood where that study took place.

I think there's this idea (that goes all the way back to the 1700s when "middle class" started becoming an identity, one that was *very* reliant on the idea that The Middle Class was neither idle-and-rich NOR lazy-and-poor, but hard-working, and therefore deserving of their success) that Middle Class People Don't Ask For Help. That calling someone up and just straight-up asking for a place to crash or the borrow a car or... whatever is rude and presumptuous and puts someone on the spot when they're not expecting to need to pony up to someone's baldly stated request for a hand-out.
(I read a thing the other day about how the best way to help Poor People is to just give them money with no strings attached, and the writer of the article - someone who has money - forgets at his peril that people without money are still people with humanity and dignity and such, and I think this relates a little bit to the above).

Whereas if you are part of a culture where income levels are low and/or uncertain, asking for help isn't nearly as frowned upon. If I can get all "grand language" on you here, there's maybe an expectation of reciprocal hospitality and generocity that goes on?

I find that I, specifically, am far more likely to assume I'm getting taken advantage of or ripped off than my wife is. I am miserly in that regard, and had to do a whole bucket of personal soul-searching before I wrapped my head around the idea that maybe, just maybe, lending my neighbour four bucks at the end of the month was not a stupid idea that would result in my becoming The Font Of Free Cash for the whole building, but was instead just the right thing to do.
Ghost, on the other hand, lends money and equipment out without a second thought, and it's never bitter her on the ass. Everything gets returned, and returned in good time.
I grew up middle-class - hearing disparaging remarks about welfare recipients being theives, no less - and Ghost grew up working-class and, often as not, poor. And I think our behaviour around generosity is built into our respective class backgrounds.

Beyond that...
Look, I've been poking at the idea of Leather (as in queer kinky community Leather) as a classed identity. Because our history/mythology site our origins as broke/n WW2 vets, working-class bikers, and socially-exiled queers who, often as not, had no support from families-of-origin and had to look to their communities for stuff as basic as food and shelter.
Leather - at least the Leather Dyke community that I'm part of - is very much an Ask Culture. Part of that, of course, is because, what with all the BDSM (and polyamoury) going on, the whole business of Clear, Open, Honest Communication is kind of a major big deal in the culture. But I think it also has to do with (a) the fact that a LOT of us are broke/working-class, and also (b) our origins/origin-story.
Because leatherfolk who, economically and possibly up-bringing-wise, are middle-class or have middle-class origins, are none-the-less Ask Culture people. They have that reciprocal hospitality and generocity thing going on. They are people who will put the word in our ear about "so and so needs a ride to Montreal, can you give them one" or who will call us and say "Can we crash at your place on our way to Toronto". They are people who will call on people in their community to get help for other people in their community. They are people who will show up on our doorstep needing a meal and a good cry. They are people who will show up on our doorstep with a meal and a good shoulder, who will lend us their cars and open their homes to us if we ask.

So there's that. It's not big organization stuff, exactly. But it's something to look at.

As for civil servant culture... I've only ever worked in the civil service on a contract basis. So my experience is probably going be quite different from what someone more permanently involved will have seen/been/done.

I know people who grew up so deep in Guess Culture that they think hint-dropping is the "polite" way to make a request rather than the "obnoxious" way to do it, and their reaction to people at work who straight-up ask is to be furious and feel really put-upon and to see the asker as being lazy and demanding. I know people (and I'm one of them, I suspect) who are okay with asking to help others - "Have you got anything you need help with?" - in the office, but who are loathe to ask for help when they're overwhelmed. This might be a class thing, too. Asking to help means you're a team-player and you value/respect Company Time. Asking for help means you're inefficient or otherwise not very good at your job. I wonder how much this has to do, also, with one's position on the totem pole.
As a temp, I ask for direction a lot, because I know I'm learning how everything works in Place X, and because I know I've got a damn steep learning curve during the first 3-5 days of my contract. But, because I also know the contract will eventually not get renewed, I don't much care whether they think I'm too "asky" or not. Someone who'd just got accepted in a permanent position, on the other hand, might feel differently, might feel like they have to live up to some (real or perceived) workplace culture and be already-competent at their jobs and may be very nervous about coming right out and asking for things (for direction, for information, for help, for whatever) if they're not sure what is and is not appropriate for their position in this particular workplace.

Which I think kind of brings me back to what I said about power exchanges very early on in this response, which is: The more power you have, the more ASK you have/get to be.

The more Ask you get to be, because the people below you will probably give you what you want purely because you're their boss, but also the more Ask you have to be (oh recently-promoted one) because you are officially in charge of other people's time and energy and, well, hinting that you want Task X to be done by Person Y is just... that is not an effective use of resources, and it'll leave your employees floundering. (Perhaps I should take my own advice...)

Anyway. That's my thoughts on that one. :-)


TTFN,
Amazon. :-)
Edited Date: 2014-01-13 05:19 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-01-17 06:23 pm (UTC)
amazon_syren: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amazon_syren
Y'welcome. :-D
I look forward to your thoughts. :-)

Date: 2014-08-08 10:08 pm (UTC)
amazon_syren: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amazon_syren
Happy birthday, btw. :-)

Re: lots of decorum in Guess Culture: ye gods, is there ever! O.O

Re: People who just ask for stuff, even though it's inconvenient for you and they don't appear to need the help...
Yeah.
I think in a situation like that it's... Okay, (a) it's awkward as hell, because then you have the lovely choice between saying "This is really a bad time for me" and the many ways in which that can be read, misread, and poorly reacted to, or just doing the favour anyway... and the resentment that can grow because of it.
I know that I grew up in a household where the imperative tense was phrased as "Would you mind setting the table?"

That you make a point of checking in about work-load and such before making a request is, I think, a really good thing. :-)

Re: Social Capital (at work or otherwise):
It's always easier to ask people for help when you have a lot of social capital with them. :-)
I'm about a billion times more comfortable asking my friend, Moderatrix, to borrow her car than I am asking the same thing of, say, my mother.
It's also easier to say "Yes" to a request when you know someone well enough to know that it's not going to be a unidirectional thing all the time.

Ask or Guess?

Date: 2014-01-16 04:27 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] blogcutter
Do you think maybe it could be a generational thing? Or an introvert vs. extrovert thing? Or maybe in the workplace, it's more a matter of the type (i.e. job category) of employee, i.e. professionals would expect to have more scope and leeway in HOW they do their work as long as the work gets done, so they would lean more towards the "guess" culture.
Whatever the case, your post made me realize that a lot of my job dissatisfaction was down to the fact that I was a "guess" person stuck in an "ask" culture where the HOW of doing the job had to be distilled down to the fussiest, most minute procedural details. But I also find that many of the younger people seem to have a high need for positive feedback on the job, even when they are floundering or seem not to have a very good work ethic. I suppose the best work environments are those where the team leader and individual team members all have compatible workstyles (that would be the utopia) or at least (going back to the real world) are able to adapt their workstyles as needed and communicate what they prefer without fear of repercussions!

Date: 2014-01-09 04:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] metalana.livejournal.com
Every civil service office I've worked in (that's a lot) is a Guess culture. You gotta know the unwritten rules, and the written rules, and which things not to ask for lest you look rude for not knowing the rules. I hate subtlety and fail at it often.

Date: 2014-01-09 01:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilanikhan.livejournal.com
I think I'm probably a convert. From Guess to Ask.
Tangerine makes a good point - the farther away you are from where you learned your Guess techniques, the less they'll work for you.
I am now an Ask person. Yes, there are rules in the Civil Service for what you can ask for and what you can't. I find those rules are all but implicitly stated regularly. Stay within those rules and ask away. I think the Guess culture at work is inappropriate- it will result in grumpy people (the ones not asking) and angry people (the ones who aren't being asked, because guessing does come off as Passive-Agressive).

Date: 2014-01-09 01:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] asimplelife.livejournal.com
I used to be guess and now I am ask. In my particular situation - lots of gov experience as a casual, about 6 years now - I did three years as a guess and 3 as an ask. The first time around I just said yes to everything and took on more than I could chew in the hopes that someone would see my value. I ended up doing a job 3 salary bands higher as well as my own job for a year. I know now I should have asked for the higher salary but at the time I just hoped my director would see all my hard work and give me a raise. Nope.

Now, I go into every contract situation with my terms. I ask the hiring manager for concessions that seemed unfathomable previously. For example, I am taking a month off to go to Puerto Rico in Feb-Mar and before I signed on I made sure they were ok with that.

I feel in the gov especially people who ask for things generally get them or at least get to explore the issue with their higher ups (obvz YYMV) more so than my experience in the Private sector. I have become WAY better at tooting my own horn and pointing out my successes so that when it comes to ask for something, I have a series of backup info to support my case. I used to just work hard and hope someone noticed, but now that I am wiser I realize that even though they may notice they aren't just going to hand me something as they will just assume I am happy the way I am because I haven't indicated otherwise.

I am a huge proponent of asking and don't think it is rude at all. People who ask get things, I have learned. I also don't have a problem saying no to someone (another one of those older, wiser things I've only learned in the past couple of years) so if someone wanted to come stay with me and it wasn't convenient or I didn't feel comfortable I would probably just say, "Sorry, we really don't feel out place is large enough to support house guests but there are some great finds on Air BbB!" If it was someone I wouldn't mind seeing I would also add, "we'd love to get together though, let us know if you are available for coffee or dinner." Being passive, (ie:"Oh that's not a good time for us,") will only get future requests over and over. It's best to just nail that coffin shut from the get go because eventually you are going to have to come out and say it, you may as well be upfront.
Edited Date: 2014-01-09 01:31 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-01-09 07:09 pm (UTC)
ext_3444: (Default)
From: [identity profile] beable.livejournal.com

I think I mostly grew up as an unhappy guess who one the one hand prefersthat people be direct and on the other hand still feels guilty when I have to say no.

I'm trying to be more of an ask and it sometimes is less stressful and sometimes not.

In terms of civil service culture, I find it a real mix,

I find that work-tasks (e.g. requests from clients) tend to be more ask-based - in part largely because part of our methodology is using ITSM frameworks that essentially force this behaviour as the dominant culture. When dealing with IT work, ask-based is usually much clearer.

I find HR/opportunity/career-development/interpersonal type culture to be more guess-based - and I'm not sure how much of that is me being more guess-based as a gender typical thing and how much is the overall real culture. So for the example of if there was an acting opportunity that one knew was coming up, then in guess culture mode I might talk about how it sounds like an exciting way to get experience with X, but I wouldn't directly ask to be considered. If I was in ask culture mode, I would clearly ask whether it was possible to be considered for the opportunity. In this specific example, I have no doubt that askers get more opportunities, but I think more of us tend to be guessers in that context.









Date: 2014-01-09 08:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ironphoenix.livejournal.com
I think guessing is more expected in (purportedly) closer relationships, particularly blood families; with more social distance, as in workplaces, asking becomes more acceptable.

Date: 2014-01-09 08:40 pm (UTC)
ext_7447: (Default)
From: [identity profile] iclysdale.livejournal.com
I think one of the greatest strengths of unions in big bureaucracies is that they convert a guess culture - which I think they intrinsically tend towards, and which work far better for people with the same cultural background as management and far worse for more diverse communities - in to something that's at least closer to an ask culture.

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