Gabriel: This can’t be. You’ve disobeyed Him.
Michael: You gave Him what he asked for. I gave Him what He needed.
Rodrigo: Tell me … how often we settle for what is asked instead of what is needed (the harder choices)?
I have had this post sitting in my draft folder for months. This issue is one of my biggest peeves in the current business world. It has always been but has grown over the years (growth correlated to existing growth of actions within the business world).
And then Rodrigo gave me the opening in a comment he made on another post I wrote.
“How often do we settle” on the harder choices?
Doing the right thing in business, it seems oddly enough, is tied to risk <and risk aversion>.
And risk aversion has increased in management (I have no source for this other than what I have observed).
Risk has always been about balancing that which is and that what you believe can happen.
And work (and personal) seems a lot about balancing what you think, or believe, is the right thing to do and pleasing (just doing what you are asked to do).
One could argue by doing what you believe is right that ultimately you will please (with the end result) but work life these days rarely gives you the long term binoculars to permit the “end result” play. So the battle is within the moment.
And, frankly, I believe it is out of whack (the balance).
And it is really out of balance at a level of seniority (middle to lower-upper management) that it is detrimental to the success of businesses. Not just results success but culture success (which begets results success if you are wondering).
Why does it happen?
A lot of people at that level just don’t want to ‘rock the boat.’ They don’t want risk ‘extinction’ <their Reptilian brain kicks in and the survival instinct takes over>.
The survival spectrum in business is multi faceted and responsibility probably falls in a number of places (but I am going to focus on individual responsibility here).
I bring it up, first & foremost, because while I believe it occurs at all levels it is most egregious in older more experienced folk (who actually better understand what the “right thing” really is) and yet their actions clearly fall into the ‘pleasing’ bucket.
And I see it more these days than ever before.
The core of the behavior is fear.
Fear to make a mistake.
Fear to create some conflict among peers/management.
Fear to have spotlight on oneself <for possibly the wrong reason>.
Fear to having people perceive one is ‘slowing down progress.’
Now. Fear is a harsh word so I will soften it a little with some practical realities. In a tight job market older more expensive unemployed stay unemployed longer.
And many older people have lost savings twice in their careers (early 2000s and recently).
And most older people didn’t have a work forever mindset but rather had a finish line <retire> and rest mind set.
So while the economy has certainly made most companies incredibly risk averse it has probably made older people within the companies think of risk as just another name for Satan.
Ok. I worded it that way purposefully. Because when coming across that random senior who constantly takes risk by the hand and says “let’s dance” most other senior folk look upon her/him as the devil incarnate.
So. Pleasing. In the old days it was called “phoning it in” <just going thru the motions trying to make things as smooth as possible until retirement>. I recognize it is very different now because no one feels completely ‘safe’ to retirement age … oh … and some people aren’t even sure when that retirement age is.
Therefore it all translates into a higher level of “pleasing.” So high it is unpleasantly sugary sweet and unpleasantly unproductive.
So while I softened fear (rationalized it at least) its end product remains the same. Lower productivity. By the way … ‘lower productivity’ is bad in case you weren’t sure.
I began with fear because that was the cruelest judgment I could offer.
Ok. Let me share the blame.
The company/organization. Patience within organizations appears to be at an all time low (if I could create a graph I would have inserted a funny graph showing how expectations have disproportionately increased versus patience … which has actually declined). As I began this post I mentioned risk aversion.
Pleasing has no real immediate risk to a person. And minimal down the road <particularly in this world of keeping emails with the intent to absolve oneself from responsibility>.
Doing the right thing, i.e., the more difficult thing to do … carried immediate risk <it will most likely create some organizational conflict at the moment> as well as will maintain some long term risk <most organizations suck at aligning behind a controversial decision once it is made>.
In the end … pleasing is almost always easy. It takes little or no effort <beyond a self cost of self esteem & self worth>. Doing the right thing is almost always difficult. Yeah. Difficult. Think about it for a second. Practically speaking, in the work place, almost the only time you hear the “let’s do the right thing” words uttered it is in a debate/discussion of alternatives/issue resolution type situation. Pleasing just … well … happens. ‘Do the right thing’ rarely just happens.
This kind of behavior, this out of whack balance, is not healthy.
Not healthy on two levels:
- Organizationally: it creates a lazy organization. And an organization that most certainly runs a risk of lack of innovation and lack of constant improvement. Disharmony often creates a great melody. Pleasing creates a false sense of cultural positiveness. Everything I just typed is bad.
- Personally: every single time an individual chokes back a ‘right thing’ response and pleases it becomes easier and easier to just please. It diminishes the mental edge <in business>. It diminishes self esteem <in Life>. Everything I just typed is bad.
Everything in life has some risk. And self preservation (keeping job) should have a high priority. But at some point I imagine everyone has to look in the mirror and ask the REALLY hard questions … the ones that you have to answer about yourself … with no excuses. Because ultimately, I imagine, it is the person in the mirror who makes you make the hardest choices.