A culture that is "overly pleasant"

Participants in Zoom calls are overly cordial and that this leads to shallow conversations, claimed the CEO of Zoom. On the one hand, I find this ironic coming from the CEO of Zoom, but on the other, I wholeheartedly concur with what he said.

Do you, as a product manager, encourage your remote teams to question each other’s ideas more? How can psychological safety be used to get people to say what they actually want to say?

The majority of the members on my team would merely keep nodding in agreement if the VP were present, making the lengthy meetings we frequently have with the VP seem pointless. Issues arise during executions.


I completely reject her point. Online discussions have been some of the most fruitful and engaging ones I’ve had. However, despite the fact that in-person work undoubtedly has some benefits, this is not one of them. Online discussions offer a wide range of perspectives and allow for more inclusive participation, transcending geographical boundaries. Additionally, they provide a written record of the conversation, making it easier to refer back to specific points and ideas discussed.


@DamianMarshall, When there are more than three participants with divergent viewpoints in a virtual debate, it becomes very difficult. This is because virtual platforms often lack the natural flow of conversation, making it difficult for participants to engage in real-time exchanges. Additionally, the absence of non-verbal cues and body language can further hinder effective communication and understanding among participants.


But is that just a coincidence, or did you actually have productive and tense meetings that just so happened to be held online?

While it is possible to have productive and tense meetings online, the challenges mentioned earlier can still impact the overall effectiveness of communication. However, with proper facilitation and active participation from all parties involved, it is still possible to have meaningful discussions and reach consensus even in a virtual setting.


Does it really matter? The important thing is that it disproves his assertion that online chat users are overly polite. It challenges his assumption and highlights a different reality.


Oh, I don’t think the claim was ever really true. It most certainly only applies to Americans, not people of other countries, and it most likely refers to the particular type of Americans with whom he interacts on a daily basis (those who fake a grin and respond with a meaningless “How are you today?”). a subset of a subset that is anecdotal and has no statistical significance.

It’s definitely not the case where I am.


You need to debate constantly. But make sure your arguments are sound. not engage in dispute only to make oneself heard. Debating constantly is essential for personal growth and intellectual development. However, it is crucial to ensure that our arguments are well-founded and supported by evidence or logical reasoning. Engaging in disputes solely to assert oneself without valid justification can hinder constructive dialogue and impede the progress of meaningful discussions.


Throughout COVID, I changed jobs twice, and each time, I found it quite difficult to connect with friends who lived far away. I put a lot of effort into fostering a sense of fun and camaraderie, and eventually it succeeded, but it took a lot longer than it should have, and the work’s quality initially suffered. I adore being able to work from home frequently, especially because I have kids and a terrible commute due to the Bay Area traffic, but I am also aware of the benefits of not having to exert as much effort to plan and interact with others. Top-performing remote teams are undoubtedly possible, but they require a lot of work, and not all employers recognize that effort. Others simply get careless and complacent, and I have observed this at Facebook and Google, which is why management, in my opinion, wants employees back. Although it’s challenging, they could improve their management culture.


Correct, but only as an optional step. Everyone does not have the same profile or working method. For instance, when working remotely, I tend to become much more extroverted and collaborative. I’m naturally an introvert.

So, in a way, this is the poisoned apple. You give preference to those who have a profile for working in an office while face-slapping those whose productivity is higher while working remotely.

Seems oblivious. It’s obvious that Zoom is a stock or product destined for disaster.


She is somewhat correct. For the majority of employees, criticizing superiors has never felt comfortable or safe. However, organizations that have promoted a speaking-up culture have thought that this will immediately translate to Zoom and remote work. Not at all, no.

In a distant setting, businesses must consciously foster that kind of safety-to-disagree. In one instance, I saw this done quite successfully. Here are some examples of the explicit procedures they followed: asking questions in silence, conducting live, anonymous polls during the call (even in small gatherings), occasionally demanding that everyone get off mute, etc.

Speaking is hindered by Zoom in ways that speaking in person is not (such as the mute button, speaker-view, where the person speaking is the largest video, and meeting owner authority).

Therefore, these obstacles must be specifically addressed. With five minutes left in the call, you can’t merely ask, “Any questions or thoughts?” and truly expect a response.


Wow, one would assume that Zoom’s CEO would have a better understanding of how people operate remotely. I vehemently disagree.

Since he is the owner of the business that first promoted remote work but is now requiring employees to come into the office, I suppose it seems sense that he would make some utterly naive statement.


In order to create a culture where people push to come up with the best concept rather than assuming we will win with our initial suggestion, I try to model it after that of competitive sports. I try to model it after competitive sports by encouraging healthy competition and continuous improvement. I believe that by constantly challenging ourselves and pushing our limits, we can ultimately achieve success.

However, I also let people know that mistakes are OK, and I guarantee that alternate suggestions are always given consideration. In conclusion, fostering a growth mindset is key to personal and professional development. It allows individuals to continuously learn and improve, ultimately achieving success.


So what would be some good ways to bring it up in a politically correct way without offending the VP if you, as a PM, don’t see that idea working or simply want to make sure the team has a discussion before committing to it?


All of these skills are essential if you want to be a successful PM, including how to win over ambivalent stakeholders, influence without formal authority, disagree with someone while maintaining a commitment, and use evidence to support your claims.


I think it’s really strange that they expressly link that problem to internet calls. I believe that certain businesses generally have problems with being too “friendly” and inhibiting constructive disagreement and conflict. But those are enduring cultural concerns that, in my opinion, have absolutely nothing to do with whether collaboration takes place in person or via a Zoom session.

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As a product manager leading remote teams, it’s important to foster a culture of open and constructive communication. Encouraging team members to question each other’s ideas can lead to more robust discussions and better decision-making. Here are some strategies to promote this culture of healthy debate and ensure psychological safety:

  1. Set Expectations: Clearly communicate to your remote team that you value diverse perspectives and encourage constructive criticism. Let them know that questioning ideas is not only allowed but encouraged.

  2. Lead by Example: Demonstrate openness to feedback and encourage team members to provide feedback to you as well. When team members see you accepting criticism gracefully, it sets a positive precedent.

  3. Create Safe Spaces: Establish safe spaces within your team meetings or collaboration tools where team members can openly discuss ideas without fear of judgment. Encourage the use of these spaces for brainstorming and discussion.

  4. Build Trust: Trust is crucial for psychological safety. Ensure that team members trust each other’s intentions and believe that feedback is given with the best interests of the project in mind.

  5. Foster Inclusivity: Make sure all team members have an equal opportunity to speak and share their thoughts. Ensure that quieter team members are also encouraged to participate.

  6. Constructive Feedback Framework: Encourage team members to provide feedback using a constructive framework, such as the “feedback sandwich” (positive feedback, constructive criticism, positive feedback) to ensure feedback is well-received.

  7. Emphasize Learning: Frame feedback and questioning as opportunities for growth and learning rather than as criticism. Encourage team members to view discussions as opportunities to refine ideas collectively.

  8. Facilitate Debates: In meetings, create a structured environment where debates are encouraged. Appoint a devil’s advocate or rotate the role of challenging ideas to ensure diverse viewpoints are considered.

  9. Respect Differences: Acknowledge that team members may have different communication styles and preferences. Encourage respect for these differences and ensure that team members adapt their communication styles to be more inclusive.

  10. Feedback Loop: Establish a feedback loop to continuously improve the team’s communication and collaboration processes. Encourage team members to provide input on how discussions can be more productive and respectful.

Remember that creating a culture of open and constructive communication takes time, effort, and ongoing commitment. By actively promoting psychological safety and encouraging team members to question ideas respectfully, you can create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and opinions, ultimately leading to more meaningful discussions and better decision-making.