80% self-censor

7 April 2022. New York Times:

“There is now little doubt that students frequently bite their tongues because they feel unsafe. A 2021 survey of more than 37,000 college students — by far the largest on free expression to date — found that more than 80 percent of students censor their own viewpoints at least some of the time, while roughly one in five students regularly do so. Meanwhile, only 40 percent of students say that they are comfortable openly disagreeing with their professors.”

Yes, hypersensitivity on American university campuses is well-known. What does this have to do with communication and feedback within American companies? Everything. Political correctness, like it or dislike it, has been a growing force in the United States for several decades.

“Do not criticize me in front of the team”

American football. The professional league – NFL. Green Bay, Wisconsin. Cold. Very cold. The Green Bay Packers, the dominant football team of the 1960s. Their coach, Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest of all time. Their quarterback – play-maker, Spielmacher – Bart Starr.

Starr: quiet, serious, disciplined, selfless, talented, understated, fully focused on one goal only, winning. Winning championships. Starr to Lombardi: “Do not criticize me in front of the team, instead just the two of us. Otherwise I cannot lead the team.”

Listen to minutes 3:45 to 4:30


Discernment: the right to choose what should be done in a particular situation; the quality of being careful about what you do and say so that people will not be embarrassed or offended; the quality of being discreet.

Showing discernment or good judgment: the ability to make responsible decisions; individual choice or judgment; the power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds; separating or distinguishing.

First Known Use: 14th century. Synonyms: discreetness, common sense, horse sense, levelheadedness. Antonyms: imprudence, indiscretion

Source: MerriamWebster online.

„Where they stand“

Americans teams maintain short lines of communication. Informal feedback is given constantly and in both directions. Team lead and individual members want to know at any given time „where they stand.“

Up to the Minute

Frequency: The rate at which something occurs or is repeated over a particular period of time or in a given sample; the fact of being frequent or happening often; Middle English frequence, originally meaning a gathering of people; from Latin frequentia ‘crowded, frequent’.

Americans like not only to know where they stand as individuals at the workplace and as companies in the marketplace. They want to know where things stand in many national areas of interest such as sports, politics, business. They expect up-to-the-minute information, especially in the form of statistics.

In sports, news anchors and statisticians closely monitor team standings, individual statistics: leagues, cities, teams within a particular geographical area, a player’s individual performance, wins, losses, and historical records are under scrutiny. Viewers and fans use statistics in order to anticipate team and individual player performance. This precise monitoring of statistics allows fans to converse with others about the sport, as well as to bet (gamble) on sports.

In politics, polls, surveys and election results are constantly recorded and analyzed in order to predict voter sentiment. Depending on the election, or on the type of political information sought, polls are gathered from hour-by-hour, within days apart or annually. In the majority of U.S. presidential elections over the past 40 years, election monitoring in eastern states are critical to forecasting election results across the country.

In business, stock movements are so closely monitored that most Americans with smartphones have a stocks app. The World Market Watch app allows users to be kept up to date on all world stock markets with real time quotes.

In business news, major outlets report how business reacts to political events. During the announcement of Elizabeth Warren’s win against Scott Brown for the Massachusetts Senate seat in the November 2012 elections the value of stocks on Wall Street decreased as she ran on a platform to greater scrutinize and regulate the financial sector. In August 2011 when Standard and Poor stripped the U.S. of its AAA top credit rating that the country has held for 70 years, stock values immediately fell.

There are currently 239,893,600 Internet users as of June 2010, which is 77.3 percent of the population. The US Census Bureau for 2011 reported that out of 311,591,917 people living in the United States, 232,000,000 Americans are equipped with a mobile communication device, an incredible two-thirds of the population.

Based on circulation the five largest newspapers in the United States are USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. These newspapers publish daily reports of global, national, state and local level events at least daily. The New York Times has Afternoon Updates in their Top News, Opinion, U.S. and Business sections. Online versions offer up to the minute reporting.

In 2012, 81% of Americans in ages between 12-24, 68% between 25-34, 55% between 55-64 and 23% 65+ have a personal profile page on a social networking website. Out of this group, 22% of Americans, roughly over 68 million people check their social networking pages multiple times per day.

Loose canons

Every culture has its definition of what effective leadership is. The ability to communicate criticism in a constructive and discreet manner is one of the most important skills required. Discretion, being a discreet person, handling sensitive issues discreetly, is essential not only to leading high performing teams, but for attracting and retaining high performing individuals.

Managers who are indiscreet, who voice their criticism of individual team members in the presence of others – colleagues, suppliers, customers – are considered to have poor interpersonal skills, to be negative, destructive, even mean spirited.

Americans refer to them as „loose cannons“ or as „time bombs.“ People do their best to avoid them. And talented team players do their best to find another, a better position within the company, or if necessary outside.

Indiscretion is a danger in the American business context. It is demotivating. It scares off talent.


Discretion: The quality of having or showing good judgment; ability to make responsible decisions; individual choice or judgment; power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds; the result of separating or distinguishing.

Off-line: Americans prefer to discuss sensitive matters „off-line“, meaning to do so privately, one-to-one, separate from the other team members. A capable team lead knows how to practice this kind of discretion while signaling to the other team members that the sensitive issues are being addressed and not „swept under the rug.“

humiliate: To reduce to a lower position in one’s own eyes or others’ eyes. From late Latin humiliate – ‘made humble,’ from the verb humiliare.

Cohesion: The act of forming a united whole. Mid 17th century from Latin cohaes – ‘cleaved together,’ from the verb cohaerere, on the pattern of adhesion.

During World War II, on August 3, 1943, General George Patton slapped a soldier who was hospitalized for psychoneurosis, accusing him of cowardice. The incident nearly ended Patton’s career. A week later, in a far less publicized incident, Patton slapped another soldier, who had been hospitalized for his “nerves.” Many members of Congress and the press called for Patton’s removal from command.

Bobby Knight, one of America‘s most innovative and successful college basketball coaches, was known for his straight-talking, open, honest and impatient, combative personality. After almost thirty years of extraordinary success at the University of Indiana, Knight was fired for very minor indiscretions involving players and students. Mr. Knight once said: “When my time on earth is gone, and my activities here are past, I want them to bury me upside down, so that my critics can kiss my ass.”

Wayne “Woody” Hayes (1913-1987) was the football coach at Ohio State University for over twenty-five years, with a career record of 238 wins 72 losses and 10 ties, winning five national championships. Hayes challenged his players to be the best, often becoming impatient and angry, at times physically rough with them during practices. His career was ended after a 1978-game in which he physically attacked a player on the opposing team.

Hillary vs. Barack

During the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, when individual state in the U.S. have elections to choose the party‘s candidate, there were several interactions between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama which made many feel uncomfortable. The interactions were direct, confrontational, critical, in some cases bordering on personal.

Within a week or so the two candidates had softened their tone. The media reported on it at length, speculating that senior people in the Democratic Party had advised Clinton and Obama to do so. They feared that if the attacks continued the winner of the primaries will be damaged going into the general election.

Candidates in the same party exposes each other‘s weaknesses offers opportunities for the opposing Republican Party. Hilary and Barack were asked to be more discrete.

Crushed by Negative Speeches

Frankfurt. May 2015. Employees at Deutsche Bank’s headquarters week became the latest powerful stakeholder to call for its chief executives to resign. The workers council’s target: Anshu Jain.

The Corporate Center workers council, a powerful body that represents the 2,500 employees had put out a flyer entitled “Wind of Change? Wind of Jain?”

The letter called on the bank’s co-chief executive Anshu Jain to resign, stating a radical new start would give the bank back some credibility and could give rise to a real spirit of optimism.

Mr. Jain is apparently no longer able to shake off the repeated criticism so easily. There were numerous negative speeches aimed at him from shareholders over the course of the recent general meeting.

Hart aber Fair

Hart aber fair – Hard but Fair – is a very popular weekly 75-minute talkshow in Germany about political topics. The moderator, Frank Plasberg, and his guests take on especially current and controversial issues. 

As the name of the show suggests the discussions are open, lively and controversial. The show is well prepared and well structured. Ideological speech-making is blocked. Facts and logical argumentation are critical.

Between five and six guests are invited representing politics, academia, non-governmental organizations as well as “the man or woman off the street.”

The guests are carefully selected to represent the specific sides of the argument. The show’s research staff provides background information during certain segments.