What happens to people when they walk into the office each day? Thoughts, emotions and rational thinking are replaced by a self-preservation mode that causes whispers spurred by fear.
What is that fear? How does its base gain momentum to bloom into this creature that takes over? That feeds off of gossip and relentless backstabbing and has each worker making sure the whispers are not about them?
With this fear, cliques in the office are formed not out of mutual respect or sameness, but because people want to make sure nothing is being said about each other. It is a group of individuals sharing their fear and their need for self-preservation.
The danger here is that so much time is spent dealing with the fear that the work that needs to be done suffers, and subpar products and antiquated ideas are produced. The reason being that those who are the mongers of fear create problems and distractions for the sole reason of ensuring that there is nobody whispering about them.
Countless rounds of revisions exist not only to ensure people's titles remain justified (Senior VP of this or that), but to keep the attention away from the people up top. Make no mistake about it: Those who are your boss have gotten to that position for the most part not because of the work they've done, but because of the attention they've diverted from themselves.
If you are the type of person who stands up and looks to get work done, you should be prepared to be sold out and offered up to the chopping block when something goes wrong because those who hold titles over you make sure that their hands are not on projects in their initial state.
This absence of action ensures that they can be perceived to come in and save the day rather than take responsibility.
Here we can see why America as a whole is slowly transforming into a land where production takes a backseat to self-preservation. This creates a system where nothing is produced except for excuses. As you can see by the empty factories, high unemployment rates, and school performance scores, excuses and fast talk cannot help the sagging foundation of this country.
No worries though. China and India are doing a fantastic job of getting their people ready and trained to increase production and create jobs. When you read about that in the press, it's presented to you as Americans losing their jobs to these countries, rather than people now being able to work because of a new skill they've acquired.
Please don't worry too much America -- you still have your "Angry Birds" game to play during meetings. You'll get to that next level, and, of course, if you have to pause for any amount of time, you'll no doubt have a sentence to say to keep people thinking you have something to say. Try these on if you're in a pinch:
- We'll take that offline and see what the KPI* is.
- We need to make this more intuitive
- We should regroup internally on this
- Are there any metrics on that?
- What do the Google analytics say?
* KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators. Using acronyms like this when you're in a pinch and feel like you aren't adding anything to a meeting is extremely important to keep treading water in the corporate world. More than that, because of the hollowness of these words, nobody is going to accuse you of standing up and trying to do something different of great -- You'll last a good, long time and be known as someone who's easy to work with.
Indeed, you'll be adding to the absence of action. Each addition creates this new class of American worker who have crimps in their necks for looking down on their cell phones and trying pretend they have other pressing engagements outside the meeting.
That is the underlying fear that causes people to behave like seven year olds inside the office. The fear of being found out to be utterly useless and easily replaceable. Take a look around in your work setting and see what the people who have the large titles actually do to maintain their status. More than that, take a listen at how they speak to you and how you speak to them. Are you sitting in your chair while they are standing over you? Are they even listening to your answers or are they merely dispensing canned reposes like a laugh track to a rerun of "Welcome Back Kotter"?
How many more PowerPoint presentations do you have to sit through before that tiny voice in the back of your brain is finally listened to:
"This is absurd! People are speaking in templates! There is nothing original about any of this!"
The American business model for the middle class was always to work hard and produce your best work. The thought being that you could leave your mark on your progress, and others would follow that model -- Perhaps even creating a new model off of your base. It would be an evolution of production. Of Industry. Now, what are we doing?
Showing each other websites and answering questions by going on Google. Where is the thought in that? How is what you're doing any different than what a teenager is doing at home? From what I see -- from the people in offices on Facebook and Twitter -- not much. So then, it only stands to reason that since we, as Americans, are getting paid to do jobs that can be done better and cheaper by those who are more eager to put their backs into an honest days work, the middle class will eventually become marginalized, leaving only memories of high scores and funny YouTube videos we forward to each other.
Sit down and write another e-mail. Go on. Blast it out and CC those you know are being copies and play the game of BCCing others who want to believe they are in the know. You're in self-preservation mode. Just realize what this means -- you are creating nothing and making yourself average in order to remove the threat of you competing.
Take a look at America -- is the same thing not happening?