Participation/Consent

I once worked for a Senior Leader who believed that addressing people’s fears out loud would legitimize the objects of their fear. This was an otherwise skilled political appointee whose good opinion I coveted but failed to secure. She appeared to think that if we addressed employee concerns about a building system malfunction or an impending government shutdown, we would be somehow endorsing those things as acceptable outcomes. I couldn’t get my brain around the idea that sharing information about something we didn’t control might constitute acceptance or that recognizing an unpleasant reality might constitute endorsement thereof. (Since I am still bitter, let me add that I’m glad no one put this person in charge of responding to actual environmental or public health problems. Radiation? What radiation?)

Reality is not waiting for our participation. The building ventilation system will continue to function (or not) whether I talk about it. Congress will do what it does without my endorsement. The lab will continue to send me bills whether I open them or not. Employees are still subject to office policies whether they acknowledge them or not. The government will validate the results of the elections regardless of the opposition party boycott. Unless you’re living as a revolutionary – or a hermit in a remote freehold, healing your own ailments with roots and berries – there isn’t a valid “opt-out” option for most institutionalized life processes.

When I’m in a funk, I feel like withholding or withdrawing my consent from the early 21st century suburban wage slave wife-and-mom terms of service. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In either event, I often confuse consent with participation. I stop opening envelopes and don’t clean up the pile of crap that’s accumulated near my basement desk because I just don’t want to participate anymore. I don’t want to be responsible for these people. I don’t want to make the effort. In those moments, I fantasize about opting out in terms that range from impractical to immoral to downright irreversible.

(Sooner or later something wakes me up and reminds me that it would be smarter to participate in such a way that I can find my way to some version of the aforementioned freehold (or at least a comfortable approximation thereof) without bringing shame upon myself or surplus sorrow upon my family. I’m rooting for that something to kick in soon, because damn. Dino Spouse and Mouse both look worried, and the basement is a mess.)

I wonder how many bosses refrain from talking about problems in the office because deep down they’re annoyed at people for getting distracted by unpleasant realities (like malfunctioning building systems or looming shutdowns) and demanding reassurance.

Leprechaun Tractor

I like the Metta World News Segments in the Key and Peele Show. Non sequitors rule. The title of this post is a phrase I thought I heard someone use yesterday. Mondegreens also rule.

Leaving this afternoon for a few days of  not being anywhere near my workplace  visiting my parents and brother, aka the Protosaurs, in Florida and retrieving Mouse from her two-week stay there. I can already feel the muscles in my shoulders and neck starting to unclench.

The 18%

I took one of those internet personality quizzes and learned that I am a mere 18% bitch. It was obviously a bad week for internet personality quizzes, since apparently I was also a “normal kid” in high school. But the bitch thing kind of resonated with me. It’s not that I’m such an all-fired nice person. It’s just that I’m more of a douchebag than a bitch. I’m not a confrontational person, and over the years I have cultivated a long enough fuse that I can usually resolve or find my way out of difficult interpersonal circumstances before I explode abruptly with an outburst and/or outright flight. Neither of these are good supervisory tactics.

(I’m not sure that they’re particularly good adaptive mechanisms in general, but they seem especially ill-suited to the workplace.)

The irony of this, of course, is that I’m considered something of an expert on how managers should provide employees with direct feedback on an ongoing basis so as to forestall the abrupt outbursts and snap decisions that get supervisors in trouble.

Look Upon Procurement Man

Image of the guide to my online contracting class

 

Procurement Man is the star of CON 100, the first of many classes I will complete online and in person to obtain my contracting warrant. I have been spending lots of quality time with him between office tasks and in my vast amounts of spare time. Just wanted to share.

I hope someday that Procurement Man gets his own video game spinoff.

You Are Here

“Self-esteem” was a big deal in education during my formative years. The rhetoric surrounding self-esteem was right up there with Striving For Excellence and Just Say No on my list of reasons for holding adults in intellectual contempt. The problem with emphasizing self-esteem over self-awareness is best expressed in the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The less people know, the more they assume that they know.

My biggest beef with books about “leadership” is the presupposition that readers know where they fit in their organizations and which leadership skills and techniques are appropriate relative to their position in the hierarchy. I get a lot of inspiration out of online leadership literature (leadiature?) from this guy, for example. A typical post offers ideas for generating urgency. There’s something people at any professional level  can get out these insights, to be sure, but do you trust everyone in your organization to decide if and when it is appropriate to burn bridges? I’d love to see a couple of listicles from him on figuring out whether you’re applying the right leadership skill set for your actual place in the organization. This week GovExec ran a couple of good pieces about understanding what your boss wants and leading change from somewhere other than the top.

Dino Spouse and I watched the first two episodes of “World Wars” last night and tonight as I was blogging and reading leadiature. We met young Hitler, young Churchill, young Roosevelt and so on at the outset of World War I and watched them evolve. The on-screen experts more or less mirror the demographics of said world leaders. It’s not bad television, especially when leavened with Dino Spouse cracking wise about the intended audience for the program (“Is it for 12 year-olds?”) and my feminist grumbling (“I just found out that you can’t be an authority on World War I without a penis!”) I’m curious to see how much examination the series gives to the personal leadership styles of its Great Man subjects.  I’m also wondering how much I can admire the charms of the actor playing young Hitler without it being weird.