I was speaking to one of my clients a while back and in our conversation as he was talking about his work he described it as: “My job is my 8 hour inconvenience”.
At first I laughed because I wasn’t sure if he meant it seriously or as a joke. It seemed a bit blunt, harsh and sarcastic.
But, then as I reflected more on his sentiment, as well as my thirty-plus years experience working with people in organizations all around the world, I could think of so many examples of people who, even though may never say a statement like that, share similar sentiments.
So many people seem to feel powerless in their job on a daily basis. They feel they can’t really make the difference they can and want to make. And, they feel that the internal silos, bureaucracy and politics hinder their ability to do the right thing for their organization and change or affect the things that are not working around them.
When people stop believing that things can change or they can make the difference they tend to get discouraged and resigned. And, more critical, they stop pursuing certain opportunities and challenges. Instead, they resign themselves to the status quo, and as a result they stop bringing their passion, heart, innovation and ideas to the game. They start going through the motions in many things they do. When they encounter broken or dysfunctional dynamics they stay away from these; they ‘pick their battles’ and overall they orient themselves more around surviving then thriving. “Unfortunately,” most professionals are professional and competent enough in their job to be able to do a good enough job even in this state. So, over time this becomes the norm in most organizations, including the most successful ones.
However, keeping up with this “normal” level of existence comes with a price – it requires a certain degree of “numbness”, apathy and resignation. It’s like living with a physical pain and constantly taking painkillers to tolerate it. As we all know painkillers have side effects. And, in our case the pain is feeling I can’t make a difference, the painkillers are becoming resigned and numb, and the side effects are selling out, sometimes giving up and almost always not fully expressing our selves. For the organization the biggest side effect is not getting the best out of its people.
But, the moral of this story is not all bad. Even though I do see too many people at all levels of so many organizations that fit the bill I have described above, I also meet many really brave, committed and powerful leaders, managers and employees in all organizations. People who have taken a bold stand and not buying into the cynicism, resignation, negativism and suffering that surround them. People who have made a decision to always fully express themselves and communicate authentically and effectively at all times. People who will never become victims and always stay true to themselves by making a difference in everything they do.
For me these people are the true heroes of organizations, because it takes a lot of courage to say NO to cynicism, resignation and suffering, and ALWAYS stand for optimism, possibilities and our ability to make a difference.