Workplace Seminar – Day One

I’m writing this at midway through day one of the seminar, and it’s not so bad. (Note: I edited a little when I got home, but there wasn’t enough change in my impression to warrant a full update.)

It’s somewhat predictable, and a bit of old hat for someone who has had the training and experiences I have. Still, this seminar isn’t exactly for me. I’m an odd duck, and know it. Case in point: The toys on the table are a nice touch; an obvious suggestion towards a playful and open frame. However, I did not find them shocking or surprising like several others did. And the assurances that we would not be doing anything “extremely radical” was a disappointment rather than a reassurance.

I recognize that I’m not the target audience – and that in some cases, I know the subject matter nearly as well as the facilitators (or better – the “you use only 10% of your brain fallacy” grates on my nerves anymore). But at the bare minimum it is three days to take stock of my own situation, to wear REAL clothes to work, and subvert the exercises for my own purposes. Not a bad gig.

And – here’s the kicker – if management has signed off on this, then maybe this empowerment initiative stands a chance of not being subverted into another control mechanism. The old model of unions versus management has been left behind. This is an attempt at a Pauline kind of mutual support relationship – which I talked about some yesterday. I’m somewhat hopeful; the fact that management has bothered to expend this degree of personnel and effort so far ups the odds of them having bought in sufficiently to actually try to listen to the messages of change.

In addition, I made sure to insert the meme that “positive can include pointing out real problems” instead of the corporatespeak “positive means never saying anything not … positive.” This is a good thing; a failure to do that was a failing of the last initiative.

I also asked about one of the problems we’ve had so far – the “bad apples” problem. That is, if you’re in a mutually supportive relationship and one person out of a group fails to support it… well, Bad Things Happen. We’re going to talk about that tomorrow, I’m told.

They did talk about – briefly – the circles of concern and influence. This was interesting – something I’d only really heard of incidentally and sideways. The model and distinction between what concerns you and what you can affect (and trying to have them reach parity) is a nice model. Vaguely frustrated that one of the stock answers to dealing with stuff you can’t influence is to “hand it off to someone else”, which is awfully hard when you’re near the bottom of the totem pole.

They’re talking about this spreading through the entire organization, which would be a good thing. The culture of this place has been slowly changing, and it needs changing faster. But those doing the changing must not only be aware of their cultural limitations and assumptions, but those of being changed. Exhorting them to – keeping with the same example – hand off and delegate problems they can’t directly influence isn’t going to help Housekeeping or Nutrition Services. Or for that matter, learning that empathy for others has negatives (e.g. learning to not care about emotional pressure when you’re already overworked).

Still, not a bad start. Winning my cynical butt over is difficult; that they’ve gotten this far is hopeful.

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