Rick subscribes to Men’s Health magazine. Their tag line is “Tons of Useful Stuff” and I agree. We are magazine junkies, each with multiple subscriptions to various ones… Better Homes & Gardens, National Geographic, Field and Stream… to name a few. No really. I think we get six in total.
And although we both read all of them, cover to cover, I think we read, talk about and use the Men’s Health the most. Oddly, they have the tastiest, healthiest and easiest to make recipes… maybe not the kind you’d use for company (though I have), but the kind that you’d make once a week for your everyday home cooked meal.
They have a column called The Office Politic by Gil Schwartz. In this month’s issue he writes in an article titled Are you failing enough? “If you can’t be great, be a total screwup. But never, ever be good enough.” he begins.
“When I started at this corporation, where I’m now a satisfied inmate, there was a whole different culture in place… There was very little reward for strategic thinking, taking risks, or failing in a bold attempt. Ass was kicked with daily regularity, often simply because the boss was in a bad mood.” Schwartz describes the executives he joined as “angry, anal, vague and punitive.” Sounds familiar to me…
He continues, “Consequently, the workforce was frozen in place- cautious about expressions of opinion and intent, guarded in meetings, stingy with information… the guys who worked for you kept their thoughts and data to themselves, lest they be squashed under a fat man’s wingtip.” Wow… did he work at the same corporation I did?
Alas, no. Schwartz continues in the article to describe “glowing attributes” he looks for in his employees. Promising monetary rewards and deepest regard for those who posses qualities such as stupid ideas, “well-intentioned failure” and “hatred of the normal.” He recognizes that enthusiasm and bold thinking are the qualities that will ensure a company or team’s growth and success.
“Managers who punish well-intentioned failure eventually suck the greatness out of their people. Employees will do anything to avoid being yelled at, even if that means avoiding doing their best work” says Schwartz.
Maybe that’s what happened at work for me. I rallied for things I thought would help the department, against those things I thought would cause us headache. I asked questions. I spoke up in meetings. I put myself out there. Again and again. And I got my hand slapped over and over.
Eventually, after two and a half years, I got cynical. I stopped trying. I scraped by… status-quo, trying to stay under the radar because I felt trapped (I couldn’t quit after I found out I was pregnant). I went from passionate team member to mediocre employee. And I was miserable. I wished my bosses would get a clue. Towards the end, I got written up for a simple, honest mistake that was easily corrected once discovered. I knew I’d leave that place and never, ever go back after I had Henry.
And I wasn’t the only one. The entire department has lost valuable, passionate worker after worker because of the “angry, anal, vague and punitive” executives and managers. It’s toxic to a company. I know of at least twelve people, in the one department alone, who left around the same time as me or shortly after. It’s really too bad.
But me, I’m grateful my boss wasn’t Gil Schwartz. Otherwise I might still be in Corporate America. Granted I’d have a good boss there. But I’m over playing office politics. WAY over it. Now my life is so fun. I work with incredible, passionate women. I get to stay home and play housewife for my handsome husband. I get to see every little thing Henry does. I get to dream about being a farmer as I feed my chicks and plant my garden. It’s so peaceful. It’s so fun. It’s fulfilling. And I am passionate about it!
One last quote: “Winning is easy. Not knowing how to lose is the only thing that makes you a loser.” Thanks Mr. Schwartz. Speaking up did make me a good employee. And I’m taking that as my personal permission slip to enjoy my freedom from the fat man’s wingtip.