“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.
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.
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:
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
— Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the words we use for important ideas about work ‘diffuse’ over time, and all the problems this creates. Like a game of telephone, as an idea spreads its initial meaning gets refracted through each receiver, who stamps it with her own experience before passing it on. What starts out as a clear concept gets muddier and muddier over time.
“…complexity is about how things connect far more than what the things are.” – Dave Snowden
I crashed my brain in August. In the same way that my computer gets slower and slower as I accumulate more and more open tabs, I was finally left with a spinning wheel of mental overload.
Do you ever feel like you’re having the same conversation over and over again? Maybe it’s with your boss, a colleague, your spouse, a parent, with yourself? I know I do, and it feels like being stuck in a well.
We might use slightly different words, shift our tone or emphasis, but underneath that superficial layer we’re playing out the same interaction again and again.