I’ve often felt that people in local school administration jobs – principals, superintendents, etc – can have unique workplace challenges because there always seems to be a torch-carrying mob in their community that wants some teacher fired, or the curriculum changed, or spending to go down (or up), or whatever inflames a group’s passion.
The digital world makes it easier than ever to be a member of a torch-carrying mob. Now we can find like-minded mob members, inflame each other’s passion, and find a common monster without ever leaving our homes.
Here are a couple reasons why people are drawn to the mob: they’re fun, and they’re easy.
Who doesn’t like to feel the passion of self-righteous rage? It makes us feel so…righteous, which is a pretty good feeling for our worse angels. Plus, it’s easy to be a member of a torch-carrying mob. You simply need to have a torch or a pitchfork – and yell loudly.
Which brings us to the topic of the workplace.
In a recent post, Seth Godin notices the same thing:
After a decision is taken and the organization is moving forward, it’s fun and easy to be the critic, the rogue and the skeptic. Easy because the chances that you will have to actually take responsibility for your alternative view of the future are slim indeed…
Of course, all successful organizations require some constructive tension that enables it to adjust and improve. The operative word, of course, is “constructive”.
“Constructive” seeks to improve. Constructive is quiet and thoughtful. Constructive is about “we”, not “me”. Constructive keeps the overall strategy in context. Constructive can be the voice of someone not represented in the room – the customer, the investor, the implementor.
In a military operation, two things can get you killed: a bad plan, or an operation where not everyone in the unit is working 100% toward the objective. This gives rise to one of my favorite adages from the military: “Disagreement is not disloyalty until after the decision is made”.
There are times when we should speak up, and there are times when we should shut up and put our shoulders to the plow. If you’re confused about which time it is, ask yourself if a decision has already been made.