I have recently had two very interesting conversations with two of my clients, both at the executive level in their respective businesses, who consulted me for opposite reasons.
One of them, let's call him Mr. K, needed help to deal with resentment and frustration which he experienced after being laid off by his company. He had worked long hours in the previous 2 years, reorganizing the sales department and tripling productivity. He had been able to stimulate his team and other employees to internalize responsibility and take ownership for their work, improving communication and reliability. And then one afternoon, after working all day as usually, was called by the CEO, given the pink slip and escorted out of the building. Mr. K, was not really concerned about being laid off, he could get another job in no time. But after working 10-12 hours a day and really making a measurable difference in his company, he thought he deserved a different treatment.
Ms. X, on the other hand, was also a department executive and recently had to lay off a number of employees. She later had a "happy hour" discussion with a group of friends in which she was subtly accused of laziness since, in their opinion, she could have easily chosen a less aggressive way to improve productivity in her company, but which would have required much more time and energy. Ms. X was shocked to see the disdain and even anger manifested by her peers, some of whom she considered friends.
What are your thoughts and opinions? Were you ever in any of these situations?
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WHERE IS THE LINE BETWEEN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE -SEEING THE FULL HALF OF THE GLASS- AND DENIAL OF REALITY?..
In Camus' short story "Jonas or The Artist at Work" Jonas the painter expresses constantly his gratitude towards his lucky guiding star. He keeps going forward with serenity and acceptance, even when he is charged a huge rent for an apartment with very narrow rooms (rent included the "cubic air" accumulated under the very high ceilings). Even when his numerous daily visitors deprive his baby of sleep and do not let him work at his paintings. And even when a gallery owner proposes him an obviously disadvantageous deal.
It was Camus' short story that gave me more understanding of the position of two of my clients in a multi-cultural conflict management situation: a high-tech start-up, a CEO and a Director of Operations. As the heat of the market and the anxiety increase, my clients find themselves arguing excessively over the attitude toward the development of their product.
As it turns out though, the conflict included some personal / cultural issues: the CEO believes that there is that much one can do to influence the course of events. The Director of Operations believes that the CEO avoids taking responsibility as a leader and hides behind this belief that there is that much one can do, after which one needs to trust things will happen.
What are your opinions? Can you guess what are the cultures of origin of the two clients?
For years I've telling my clients (and friends alike) that running all over the place doing things brings only illusion and meaninglessness in our lives. Driving around from one "errance" or "appointment" to another, cramming in "activities" for them and their children, scheduling "playdates" (nobody really notices anymore how close to ridiculous this word is?.. Do you really need a date to play?!.. World renown Danish family therapist Jesper Juul names play as the one of the only 4 things children really need. The other 3 are food, shelter and affection).
It seems to me that anger, anxiety and conflict are the three major symptoms of a life that not only is unnecessarily busy, but it is cluttered in a habitual manner, in order to avoid dealing precisely with the sources of anxiety, anger and conflict.
It is Rollo May, in its "Freedom and Destiny", who points out a truth that we seem to be eager to ignore:
"The pause is especially important for the freedom of being. what I have called essential freedom. For it is in the pause that we experience the context out of which freedom comes. [...] When we don't pause, when we are perpetually hurrying from one appointment to another, from one 'planned activity' to another, we sacrifice the richness of wonder. And we lose communication with our destiny."
And it is the contemporary Tim Kreider who reframes the same issue, just in a more popular manner, in his New York Times article The 'Busy' Trap:
"It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence."
I am very happy to have participated at a round table discussion with Ionut Ancutescu, representing Forbes Romania. The event was organized by George Roth, Honorary Consul of Romania in San Francisco, and organizer of Romanian American Business Network (RABN). It was an extremely interesting, lively discussion, where several generations of Romanians, mostly entrepreneurs and high-tech professionals, dialogued about what it means to be a Romanian in Silicon Valley.
One of the most interesting participants was Anda Gansca. A Stanford graduate, at her 23 years old Anda is involved in some extremely exciting projects. She is CEO and Co-founder of the start-up called Knotch (together with Stephanie Voltesun). In my work I use psychology, sociology and systems theory, so I liked to hear her using the expression (new for me) sentimental analysis. I am very curious about how could I use my skills and knowledge in this area of virtual social networks.
The poster contains all the necessary words, just in a different order: "Like", and "we need your support". As I said in a previous commentary to the NY Times article (“The Island Where People Forgot to Die”), it is the meaning, the metacommunication that occurs beyond the verbal what matters the most. The fine line between humorous and offensive creates a sort of adrenaline rush. I believe that sarcasm, in its most complex forms, creates a psychological double bind and psychological tension. Depending on circumstances, this tension will be released either toward anger/aggression, either toward a relief, a relaxation.
Part of my work (www.synergiscounseling.com/anger-coaching) is to help clients identify (real or perceived) psychological double binds. They can be present within any social system: work environment, group of friends, family, couple relationship, community, nation, etc. In fact, since we are in the middle of it, politicians use very often psychological double binds to push the voters in the desired direction.