Plagued

Now, did I say I was suffering with ‘the Plague’? I did NOT! It’s a Saturday morning when these thoughts enter my mind; triggered by experiences in the last week but going back over many years. It doesn’t matter where in the world I am now, for Pete’s sake – and I don’t know Pete. Did I say I have worries? I did NOT! Did I say I require counselling, advice, professional guidance, or psychoanalysis? I did NOT! Opinions asserting that I do, are dismissed out of hand.

It is about ‘the humans‘ again – that race that prides itself with ‘intelligence’ and ‘skills’ exceeding the rest of the ‘animal’ kingdom – but are so weak and fragile….[Errh.. urggh…. Chyrsst! I’m wrestling to keep ‘Stupid‘ from breaking in, as I write this! Painful.]…. Sorry – as I was saying, I really wonder about this ‘race’ or species, if you wish for a more politically correct word. So, the way teams of people work in the public sector and private sector – by long and hard tradition – is as follows, and to be 200% clear refers to no particular named service.

People have been programmed in these ways for a number of reasons:

  1. Everybody has to show leadership.
  2. Not everybody knows how to follow – they don’t teach that.
  3. Everybody has to be seen to be doing their jobs.
  4. Those given responsibility for leading teams, especially in public services have to be ever vigilant for dumbass accusations of bullying – or being labelled as a bully behind closed doors. So team leaders become limp, to avoid trouble – often unknowingly to themselves.
  5. Lack of managerial oversight of team functioning.
  6. Prevailing dysfunctional cultures support the above.

Changing the above patterns is no easy task. Why? Because the prevailing and supporting cultures are much bigger than the teams they create. Furthermore, usually in public sector services of any type, team leaders have no authority to direct their team members. They may make requests for action and team members can do as they please.

The correct model for public sector team meetings and performance are broadly as follows:

  1. Team members feedback information uninterrupted – save for exceptional circumstances by the leader of the team.
  2. Then there is discussion, clarification, correction and proper working of the issues arising.
  3. The person taking the minutes of these meetings is not left tearing their hair out, or on leaving the meeting suffering with stress!
  4. Proper well thought out SMART plans are generated.
  5. There is sufficient time for self-evaluation of team performance on previous tasks.
  6. Supervising managers of teams evaluate hands-on, the teams’ performance and their leadership, and make suggestions for improvement.

All of the above are well established in management principles about teamwork.

But the humans are not that simple. You see they have a thing called.. wait for it.. FEELINGS! Their personal feelings actually and often takes priority over the job or service they’re required to deliver – at least collectively. They need to feel a sense of individual self-worth by butting in wherever and whenever to score some perceived point, that has little value to the task at hand. They need to ‘feel’, at least to themselves, that they are making a valuable contribution, there and then. Interrupting their drivel means that one can be labelled or accused of being a) OCD, b) over-controlling or c) an outright bully. Tough – I didn’t invent the system; I only report it as I find it after 30 years in my line of business.

Okayy… to the peril of my own sanity, I’ll allow Stupid in on an ultra-tight leash. [Context of this conversation is highlighted at the end of it]

Stupid: You’re so full of yourself – why are you calling people animals?!!!

CW:   Eh? What are you on about?

Stupid: You said that people think they’re better than the rest of the animal kingdom, which means you think people are animals.

CW:   People are in fact ‘animals’ – they just don’t like to realise that. End off – move on – and remember you’re on an increasingly tighter leash.

Stupid: And why are you being racist!?

CW:   I said nothing racist!

Stupid: You referred to race, when you said the ‘human race’!

CW:   There’s nothing racist in that. The ‘human race’ is not a racist term. Move on.

Stupid: Stop pushing me – you’re bullying. You’re trying to cover up that you’re a bully, by shutting me up.

CW:   I’ll push you and shut you up as I like cuz this is my blog, and I told you the last three times I let you in  – consistent with your request that I exert more control over you – that I will be doing as you requested. Not because you have some freedom of speech means that I am obliged to listen to utter drivel or give it any showcase. I am exerting appropriate control over you, which is well within my authority. This is not bullying by any definition.

Stupid: So what is bullying?

CW:   Bullying is the inappropriate exercise of power that causes objective abuse.

Stupid: I feel abused!

CW:   Tough! Many people feel ‘abuse’ – or abused – when others exercising their appropriate authority, enforce controls on them. The important words were ‘objective abuse’ – not your subjective perception of abuse. The more drivel you dish out the tighter will be my controls over you – as you suggested a few posts back.

Stupid: So you think you’re entitled to control the people you manage by shutting them down, as you do to me?

CW:   Yes. I have a job to do too! If every moron like you decides to jump in with their drivel and have their say forever, the service to be delivered simply will not happen to a high quality that is required. I deal with intelligent but wayward professionals rather differently and with more tact. You deserve no such courtesy.

Stupid: But people have freedom of speech in this democratic society, so who are you to control what they say!?

CW:   It is a democratic society but the nature of an employment contract means that they have contracted to limit some of their rights to freedom of speech. If there were no controls, and everybody had a free for all, then the objectives of a service simply would not be realised. I have been charged in the particular scenario with leading a team of people. And no – in professional scenarios it is not about shutting people up (or down). It is about tactfully steering their contributions and managing time so that a proper high-quality service is delivered. All of these people have the same responsibilities to deliver high quality to their clients, so I’m totally perplexed as to how they miss that which is more important than their own utterances.

Stupid: I don’t understand any of that. You’re trying to use high-powered language to baffle me. I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know anything about contract law.

CW:   You have a limited intellect – your name should inform you. So, I’m not going to spend time inefficiently, explaining the basics of legal and management principles to you. Furthermore, you wouldn’t dare argue the same nonsense in a court of law when the judge directs you to move on or shut up.

Stupid: There you go putting me down again. You’re no judge in court!

CW:   I’m giving you the facts about your limitations. It’s the truth and reality – a very tough place. I need not be reminded that I’m ‘no judge in court’. Such a statement is insulting and irrelevant. The point is that people in authority or positions of leadership have certain rights and powers to exert control over people’s utterances.

Stupid: But… but.. hold on… wait…

CW:   No – back in your box.. you’ve had enough say for today. I don’t have to let you out at all but I do at times because you have a purpose which I decide.

And now finally – just to be 100% clear – as this is social media and in the public domain, the above conversation with Stupid is contextually a conversation with an ‘alternate’ part of myself, emergent from years of experience. I can be as brutal with stupidity in my own self-talk, or on my own blog as I like. All adverse inferences about the quality of my interactions with others in professional life are dismissed in advance. I am fully aware that I need to be more accommodating and tactful with professional persons in real life – and I allow people to spout their drivel on occasions, only in order to play the stupid cultural game.

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