I aim to make sense, here, about managing people in the workplace. To augment what I'm seeing in my circles — limited! — I chew on information and data from credible (imo) sources. I talk to people, sometimes experts, and analyze my way to what feels like an actionable reality.
These days I’m hitting a wall. Opposing narratives presented as truth, limited information transformed into memes, algorithmic feeds, disparate experiences and outcomes. Other stuff I’m not seeing. What people aren’t saying.
Also, people have moved; the rent is too damn high; childcare costs are bananas, eldercare options can be dodgy or non-existent; while the cost of bananas seems stable, a jar of jelly costs $6.95; tech is firing, service is hiring; the future of office work is super-unclear; civil rights and democracy in my home country — which I just typo’d as hope country — at risk. War, weather, what else?
Some are dealing with longer term effects of having been sick, or contending with a layoff or other income discontinuity. Others are grieving.
Like, has anyone seen a mashup of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “The End of the World as We Know It?” (Um, those who read to the end will find a treat.)
Three years into the pandemic, I feel like those of us attempting to make sense are running up against a reality: things don’t make sense.
It’s like the goddesses and gods have dumped a bazillion-piece jigsaw puzzle onto the largest dining room table in the universe. Puny humans haven’t even found all of the edge pieces yet; some pieces are probably on the floor, blending in with the carpet.
I like to keep it practical here. How can we manage in (waves hands) all of this?
We become skilled managers as we build experience, in a context. You start to see patterns that make some things easier.
However, for example, after changing organizations, you may notice that you need different tactics to, say, advocate for a team member. Context matters. Your known patterns may no longer matter.
One of my takeaways from reading Getting Things Done was David Allen’s suggestion that his adherents assess what’s in front of them, and immediately act on anything that takes two minutes. I mean, this works with transactional stuff. Pay a bill. Empty the trash. Delete an email.
Your management challenges aren’t transactional. They’re relational. While our past experience is valuable, it’s not all relevant today; today, context includes everything that’s so confusing right now.
Should you hire the person who lives in Kansas City, when your organization has huge and currently half-empty offices in Austin? Sure, your CEO has committed to hybrid, but I'm raising my coffee cup to folks at Twitter. Leadership can change context in a heartbeat.
I think the job right now is to complexify. My current hypothesis: we should face any management challenge with some (squishy) questions. Like, what could happen in the next year that might make this decision look genius, or, horrible? What don’t I know; where are the unknown unknowns?
In a time of shifting context, when nothing makes sense, it’s not a good idea to puzzle everything out on your own. Or, lol, solely on the Internet, Slack, or Discord.
Maybe it's never been more important to engage in mutually supportive discussions with friends, peers, mentors, and advisors.
Thank you for reading my newsletter! I was recently asked what I'd be covering in the newsletter this year. On my list at the time – Mothers, and/or Care. I also plan to address some of my "we didn't start the fire" items, above, as anchors for thematic deep dive issues. Also, stay tuned for additional data, analysis, and commentary, on The Great Resignation.
Welcome, new readers. Whether you're new or not, I love hearing from you. Please do reach out if you're moved to share suggestions, questions, comments, salutations, or topical thoughts.
This Warm Take was written while my coffee was getting cold, and before going to see Casablanca on the big screen with my dad, now 90. As such, there may be typos or grammar problems. I'll probably fix them later, on The Internet*.
May you and everyone in your circles be safe, healthy, and free.
*indeed, on March 6 2023, I corrected several grammar snafus
Showing my work/a bonus link
- The Power of Myth (in Business): On Management #33, my December 2018 deep dive, includes the filters I use to decide whether a resource is credible, and worth recommending or citing.
- Warm Take: have you been memed? September 28, 2022 commentary on the intersection between viral ideas and our workplaces.
- Competence: On Management #48. Believing that we don't know what we don't know, and then acting on that belief, is the keystone to becoming competent.
- The Toaster Hoaxster, on Cheat! Alzo Slade's investigation into whether Alan McMasters invented the toaster – spoiler, McMasters didn't – is not-unrelated to all of my harping about the supposed inventor of the OKR.
Of course they did
Someone whose German is better than mine, does Wildes Blech actually mean Wild Metal?