Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rising to the Occasion of Wonder in the World

RECENTLY, the Wall Street Journal (herein after referred to as the Journal), ran an article by Mr. Edward Rothstein.  The article, "The World's Wild Wonders" focused on the exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History called, "Life at the limits: Stories of Amazing Species".  The writing is wonderful and the topic even better.  He tells of small creatures that can survive in space and freezing temperatures and come back alive and flourishing.  He tells of woodpeckers with giant tongues and lizards with unique talents such as squirting blood four feet out of their eyes.  He doesn't tell us of his own unique talent.  He only shows it through writing.  That made me wonder.

The microscopic tardigrade, of which more than 1,000 species exist. PHOTO: EYE OF SCIENCE/SCIENCE SOURCE
(As in not my photo.)

Mr. Rothstein has the privilege, quite earned I suspect,  of being the Journal's "Critic at Large".  As soon as I read his title, my mind went to another place of wonder.  I wonder if I were critic at large at the office...

Critic at large obviously is not a negative title. It is one deserved for observation and documentation skills developed over time.  I do not have this as a formal part of my training.  But, I do have it and wondering about the goings on is what I do.

For instance, a person in our office came up to me and asked if I had heard about Freida's's problems.  "She told Jane and Bob, but doesn't want others to know."  Freida works for me, and the others, including the teller, do not.  I am not totally sure that matters, but what did matter is that these people were doing the one thing she asked them not to do!  They were sharing her secret and sharing it with her bosses boss.  In this case it was about a family matter.  It could potentially have an impact on work, but hasn't.  So why were they sharing?  And why with me, a Director?

The wonder is in the why.  I believe they were sharing because having this secret bit of knowledge made them feel important and special.  And, they wanted others to know that they are important and special.  Who wants to talk about balance sheets and profit margins? In a non-work environment, if you told your best friends' secrets you would be looking for a new best friend!  But, in the work environment, you don't get to choose with whom you must deal.  That situation inevitably leads to confiding in people because you are with them more than reliably than anyone else.  Normal human behaviour dictates that if you are with this person so frequently for such a prolonged period, you start to interact as family, and de-emphasize co-worker relationships.   A normal reaction, especially for difficult news delivered at work.  But not wise.  Here is why.

Derby Day at the office

Your behaviour, inspite of the circumstances, is still evaluated on job performance by upper management.  Sharing tidbits of information about another does not improve your performance, but could drastically affect some one elses.  And management may now view you (the sharer)  as untrustworthy and perhaps, disloyal.  Was that the intention of the "sharing"?  I doubt it.  I think the employee received a call at work with bad news and needed to share and chose to do so with an indiscreet co-worker.  The result, while immediately gratifying, was devastating to the employee who shared.  Word to the wise, if you truly don't want something shared at work, call you sister or your minister or anyone outside of your office.  That is the only way to ensure that your secrets don't belong to everyone.

To the contrary, there are those who want their secrets shared.  "I am getting divorced, I can date!" "I am graduating from college and have an interview somewhere else!" She said what?  I am eating Breakfast at Tiffanys!

 These are far different from personal information that you want held close.

The other situation that seems to cause angst is the work function with relaxing food and drink, but the formal relationships in tact.  Take the dinner cruise for instance.
Work Dinner Cruise

Hard though it might be to think that your behaviour on the dinner cruise will follow you back to work, it will.  Even if you are miles away from home.  Imagine that you confess to a peer in another business that your true love is someone at the company, but you are not able to express it.  Or that your brother is now working for accounting, but since last names are different, no one knows.  Do you think that the information will stay with the outsider that has an ongoing financial relationship with your company?  I think not.  Again, people with hot information want to share.  It gives them validity, it feels powerful.  And before you have passed booth 34, everyone in the trade show knows about it.

Wonder, yes, I could sit and wonder about peoples' work motives all day.  But for now, please utilize the business etiquette rule of: if you don't want it told to the company employees in the newsletter, or by the coke machine, Don't Tell It!

You will save yourself a lot of heartache.

p.s. Don't be the one who shares secrets either, it really doesn't make you important beyond the moment!