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Don’t let others drag you down

I had a very interesting and enjoyable discussion with Jessica the other day that I thought I would share with you. She had questions about the process she is responsible for and its development. But the more we talked about concrete things like processes and linking governing and supporting documents to activities, we got into more interpersonal relationships and culture in the business.

As a talented, ambitious and driven person, she really wants to improve the business. She is one of the 14% that Gallup’s recurring survey shows are committed to their business. But being one is not without its problems. One would think that one would be appreciated by colleagues for one’s drive and forward thinking to really improve the business. Because if you succeed in what you set out to do, everyone wins.

But, no, it’s obviously not that simple. There is always someone who feels threatened by others pushing. Returning to the 14% engaged mentioned above, it also shows that 74% are disengaged and 12% are actively opposed.

For the vast majority, the 74%, it means that Jessica and her like out there in Sweden, driven to improve, can be perceived as a threat.

  • A threat to the status quo of the business.
  • A threat to the relative calm of the business.
  • A threat to being able to hide behind a desk, or whatever, and not having to step forward and act.

To borrow an expression that my friend and colleague Hakan used when I found myself in a similar situation many years ago; “you lower their chord”.

By that he means that if you are good and show that you want to push, it makes everyone else look worse. It’s strange that we should see it that way, instead of cheering on those who have the courage, the knowledge and the guts to push on. Because, again, if they succeed, I win in my everyday situation too.

This is in the culture of the organisation. Unfortunately, many times we have too restrained a view of people who want to improve, where we distrust them and begrudge them success. Even though we also gain from it.

Many times we have a strong “we”. Many times it can also be a strength, but in this case it is a weakness. Because if it’s always “us” and consensus on everything, we don’t allow anyone to stand out and do something different. Someone who dares and takes initiative.

It’s like as soon as you make an attempt to step up, to rise above the ordinary, there are hands that grab you and want to pull you back down to the same level as everyone else. The 74% disengaged pull in the 14% engaged to become like them, i.e. disengaged they are too. Because if everyone is disengaged, it’s like no one is. Everyone is equal.

Jessica talked about when, as a teenager working in the summer, she took the initiative to make coffee in the morning, when she was still very early at work. It was appreciated by many.

But then one morning she wasn’t there, and there was no pre-made coffee. After that, she was told by a colleague, who was also often early at work, that it was probably best if Jessica didn’t make coffee. Because it made the colleague in question look inferior, because for all these years she never made coffee for her colleagues, even though she was always there early.

I hope and believe that you are one of the 14% who are engaged at work. Someone who drives and wants to implement improvements for the whole business. I know, because I’m one of them, that we don’t do it primarily to appear good ourselves, but because we actually want things to be better than they are.

I hope you never give up! Do like Jessica, who despite her previous negative experience when she took an initiative and it was not appreciated by some, did not let it discourage her but continues to push and work for the common good.

Good luck in your work and initiatives!