Some people say that stress is the gap between expectation and reality. This seems like an overly simplistic definition, but I think it gets at something true about the challenges associated with being continuously disappointed.
Consider it in the context of popular discourse about HR, leadership, and organizations. If aliens landed on Earth and studied what to expect from working in an organization by attending conferences and reading social media posts from HR and organizational thought leaders, they would probably be really fucking disappointed on their first day at work: Read more
“Let’s make sure we communicate this up the chain of command”
“We’re cultivating our next generation of leaders”
“We took a shot and we missed”
“You need to stop sitting on the sideline”
“The project has been derailed”
“We’re playing defense when we should be playing offense”
“We’re like a family”
“Let’s put together a task-force”
“I call foul”
A small fascination of mine is noticing the metaphors that people use in organizations. Listening for metaphors is harder than it sounds. Some of them are so embedded in our daily language that I forget that they’re metaphors. Like ‘time is money’, or “showing the ropes” to a new person.
I’m relearning how to breathe. Which is odd, since the fact that I’m typing this suggests I already know how to do that. And since I’ve also just returned to school to do a masters degree it would be fair to expect that I’d be into more advanced material, generally speaking. But here I am. Breathing.
I haven’t been writing. I’ve wanted to, but I’ve been deep in a trough of not knowing. It feels pretty awful, but I’ve been here before and I know the drill. I have to keep going and eventually I’ll come out the other side.
Writing on the internet, even if it’s just a blog, or a tweet, seems to favour the certain. Or at least it can feel that way. When I’m in the trough of not knowing, I can vaguely remember being certain, the same way I remember summer when it’s mid-February. It’s a warm pleasant memory and I can’t wait for it to return. Until then, I have to fight the convincing belief that everyone already knows everything, except for me.
“To make something good of the future, you have to look the present in the face.”
Simone de Beauvoir
I’m so proud to announce the launch of The Aperta Project, and its first collaborative initiative: The Toronto Tech Study.
As many of you will already know, I’ve been focused on workplace sexual harassment for the last year and half, following the outpouring of stories that the #MeToo movement unleashed in 2017. To me, workplace harassment is not only utterly detestable, it’s an example of the failing of modern management and Human Resources to close the gap between our rhetoric and reality.
I’ve become increasingly fascinated by power in the last few years. Think about it: power is woven through every experience we have with others: in relationships, interactions, and organizations, but we almost never acknowledge it. Saying power is invisible doesn’t quite get at its intangible quality. I think it’s more accurate to say that it’s unseen, because so frequently we’re not even looking for it.
This morning I spent nearly three hours digging out a Wisteria from my front garden. It was there when we moved in 5 years ago, hastily planted by the sellers to make the house look more appealing. “Wait”, I was told by people who knew more about plants than I do. “It takes a couple of years, but it will give you beautiful flowers.”
So, I waited. And every summer it sent green tendrils up and around and along the wrought iron fence. Slowly at first, and then like an evil, starving octopus grabbing at the other plants, reaching boldly out into thin air, slapping at passerby’s faces. We’d regularly trim back the “tentacles”, as we came to call them, but they quickly reappeared. Sometimes it seemed like I should be able to actually see the vines growing, they regenerated so fast.
I had a whirlwind week, and a highlight was facilitating a fantastic panel discussion on toxic cultures at the Conference Board of Canada’s Corporate Culture Conference. This is a topic I’ve been asked to speak about a lot in the last year, and it always leads to interesting conversations after my session. It turns out that a lot of people have experienced a workplace they would describe as toxic at some point in their career.
Of course, “toxic” is a description of impact, not a diagnosis of an organization. I think it’s important to keep this distinction in mind, lest we assume that labeling it is the extent of analysis that’s required. Or, like the great philosopher Britney Spears, we decide that there’s no escape.
Like a lot of people, I just read ‘How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation’, an article by Anne Helen Petersen. If you haven’t read it yet I urge you to do so. It’s excellent and touches on a web of issues facing today’s workforce. While ostensibly about the conditions that make millennial burnout so likely and prevalent, I suspect many people (of all ages) will see some aspects of their lives reflected in Petersen’s words.
The article intersected with a few other things this week. One was a Twitter conversation I got into this weekend about Shadow Work. In her article, Petersen names the feeling of profound inertia she has about some of the mundane maintenance tasks of living “errand paralysis’.
Welcome to 2019! I didn’t plan to write or publish this 2018 reflection on blogging, but I got up today and that’s what happened… I think this is a good annual practice for me to get into in order to think about the year in review and the year ahead, and who knows, maybe a few people will find it interesting. So here goes: