Danger – This is Suffocating Us!

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We’re losing our individuality. The very centre of our beings is being stolen. It’s being snuffed out. We only have ourselves to blame – our submissiveness to the stampeding herds around us is subsuming our individuality.

I have conducted face-to-face coaching sessions with twenty seven managers so far this month. They have all complained about being overworked, too much e-mail, too many meetings and not having enough time to think.

This is not a new problem, but it has got worse. It will become even more overwhelming.

Why is this?

In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, creates the analogy of the elephant and the rider. He uses the metaphor of the elephant to represent our emotions; the rider represents our thinking. Once the powerful elephant gets control and charges in one direction there is no way that the puny rider can stop the movement. Or, once an emotion gets a grip of us, our thoughts are powerless to stop it

The problem with modern business is that there are too many powerful herds of emotional stimuli pulling us in different directions around the workplace. We feel that we have to respond every time our e-mail pings to announce the arrival of a new message. We jump to answer the telephone, even when walking down the street. We are dragged into meetings. We strain to complete our workload. This reactive behaviour puts constant pressure on our emotions. It is continuous and exhausting. Individuality is constantly being suffocated by the pressure to respond and to comply.

Training Can Be Counter-Productive

To tell people who are already in the emotional pressure grip of trying to keep up with their e-mail, their Twitter contacts, the demands of fashion and their mobile phone, that there is a right way to conduct performance reviews, or a right way to communicate with colleagues, or a right way to complete time sheets, is only adding to the pressures and forcing their individuality into yet another straightjacket.

The demand to be allowed to work from home in order to get some peace to concentrate on being productive says a lot about what is wrong with the workplace.

Inspired front-runners in the world of technology like Google and Apple allow workers to take time out just to work on their own ideas. But how many companies in other sectors ever allow similar “creative thinking breaks”?

If we train people to be more and more like their fellow workers are we not opening the door for our jobs to be taken over by robots?

Worse still, are we not depriving ourselves of the most precious energy of all, the energy that is created within each unique thinking, feeling human being? Should we not be working tirelessly towards providing opportunities for individuals to express themselves?

Imagine the explosion of enthusiasm and the wealth of ideas that would be released if the proactive thoughts of thousands of workers were combined to produce a synergistic effect!

Leadership Stagnation

It appalled me to read in The Times this week about a Brexit poll that suggests that 93% of FTSE company CEOs and Chairmen want to remain in the EU. Are they totally bonkers!

These are the same people who whinge about red tape, over-restrictive employment laws, and health and safety regulations. Can they not see that the bureaucrats in the EU will go on creating more and more straightjackets for their businesses as they seek ways to  “protect workers rights?” One view of the EU is that it is a mechanism for restricting freedom because it is working constantly to level the playing field, moving relentlessly toward the lowest common denominator.

Our world is changing at an accelerating rate. The only hope of being able to keep up or even, occasionally steal a march on progress, is to keep developing our creativity and our knowledge. To create opportunities for self-expression. In order to do that we need to open up the lifeline of our independence both as individuals and as a country and guard it zealously against the suffocation of human habits and reactive behaviour.

 

 

About David Ferrers

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