Give Up The Shoe Shine

January 29, 2013

It’s hard to believe January is coming to an end. One month down and eleven more to go! Is it me or is time just reeling past at lightning speed these days. Workplaces around the world are back in full swing after the holiday hibernation. Teams are still on a high from their last holiday (let’s see how long this elation lasts some wonder!). Yet with all this renewed energy for every new year that comes and every January that brings with it promises of a better world, and all that we find ourselves transfixed with the daily conundrums of working life.

Hypothetical scenario:

You find out your boss has passed you up for promotion and instead offered you another role. A “strategic” role they say. Except that you’re not nearly as busy as you were; you don’t have a team anymore and you’re sidelined from many projects. What’s “strategic” about that you think? You’re angry about this. How can they do that you think. You storm in to your co-workers office and vent your heart out. Your blood is boiling and you can’t fathom speaking to anyone right now until your hissy fit is over.

Fast-forward to the next day; and the boss arrives back from a week-long corporate retreat. Guess who is first in line to greet said dismissive boss but you! Suddenly you’ve developed amnesia and forgotten about what they’d done and you’re literally fawning over “the boss” and two steps away from polishing their shoes.

Seriously?! What happened??

This scene plays out over and over in the corporate circus that our workplaces have become today. A place where real and true emotion and values cannot be expressed for fear of being cast off as “unprofessional” or “different”. A place where doing the right thing may as well be as foreign as giving off-cycle pay rises to staff just because. Sometimes I wonder why it is I look for logic where logic doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s my past engineering brain that still looks for reason and logic for why things are the way they are. The more I look at organizational behavior and the psychology of employees at work I realize it is far from logical. One trend is clear though. A common driver for all this strange behavior is mainly fear. Fear of losing our jobs. Fear of not being competent enough. Fear of being caught out. Fear of not “fitting in”. Fear of our co-workers. Fear of our managers. Fear. Fear. Fear.

What if – crazy thought here – we decided to let go of the fear and replace it with faith? What if we had faith in our abilities and in doing what’s right for our organizations? What if we decided to be the most authentic version of who we are at work? What if we got rid of the masks we wear and cut the strings that tie us to some irreverent puppet master that manipulates our fears into submission? What would our workplaces look like? Foreign? Alien? Unknown? I for one would like to explore what such a workplace would be like. I long for the day when we acknowledge each other for being human, flaws and all. The day when we genuinely believe in improving everyone’s working day because it’s the right thing to do. The day when we evaluate ourselves based on our highest values and not against some social standard that has morphed us into skilled schemers planning the next plot to take out our opponent. The day when we sincerely listen to what the other person has to say and truly take it to heart. The day we decide to put our egos aside and work for the better of everyone instead of the derived satisfaction of a select few. The day we finally get real.

That is my plea. If I had the chance to chime in on the hypothetical scenario I would tell the angered employee to go and talk it out with said boss. When did we become a corporate nation of wimps? Let them know how you really feel. Don’t disguise your anger with insincere flattery in hope that you will stay in their “good books” for fear of retaliation. Grow a spine. Give yourself the respect you deserve. Own your talent. And after that if you still feel the need to polish your boss’s shoes; then by all means do so!

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Regina Shadle January 30, 2013 at 2:42 pm

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