Here’s how this conversation could have gone, if Stan were a conscious manager. Stan: Hi Joanna, please have a seat. I’d like to talk about your flair. Joanna: Really? I have 15 buttons on. I, uh… Stan: Yes, you do, and that’s terrific. Why are you wearing them? Joanna: Um, because I have to? Stan: Exactly, because the company requires you to, right? And neither you nor I have the power to change that. We have to do it if we want to keep our jobs. But be honest, do you like wearing all that stuff? Seriously. Joanna: No, not really. Stan: I appreciate your honesty, Joanna. Brian, over there, gets into it, and good for him. But you’re not Brian and you’re not going to express yourself the same way. Joanna: Definitely not. Stan: Haha. No, that’s not your style. You’re a sophisticated, independent woman and to your credit you have too much integrity to pretend you care about flair. I like that, it’s real. And I see an opportunity here for you. So the job requires you to wear flair, but I don’t want you to do it because you have to. And I know you don’t like doing it because you have to. So what other reason could there be? Joanna: I don’t know. Stan: That’s a great answer, I don’t know either. So here’s what I’d like you to think about: how would you want to express yourself here that is uniquely you, AND fulfill the flair requirement of the company? Joanna: That’s an interesting question. Stan: I’m glad you think so. Let’s see where it takes you. Because one day you’re going to have a better job than this one, and if you practice finding where your self-interest can overlap with a company’s interest, it serves your entire career. Managers can tell when people are doing the minimum to get by, and it hurts everyone, especially you. It creates cynicism, makes you feel like you’re working for the man. I know you don’t want to do that, and I don’t want to be “the man.” The flair thing is silly, on one level, I know, but in a larger sense it’s a symbol of engagement. Don’t do the flair thing for the company, do it for you–whether that’s to practice being engaged, or finding flair you actually like and having fun in a boring job, or finding common ground with someone like Brian that you normally wouldn’t get along with, or whatever. There are 100 reasons you could find, but I only care about the one that matters most to you, and I want to help you find it. What seems important about all of this to you? Joanna: Wow, so you’re saying that I can serve the company and myself at the same time. I always looked at it as selling my soul in exchange for money. Stan: I get it, Joanna, and it doesn’t have to be that way. This moment can change every job you have for the rest of your life, forever, and the ball is in your court. Let’s talk again next week after you’ve had time to think about it.
I often talk to managers who operate slightly above Stan’s level, just enough to not be funny, but not enough to manage effectively. This scene is a powerful, archetypal example of the unnecessary conflict between self- and other-interest, the resolution of which creates real engagement.
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If you don’t intimately know how your employee uses their job to grow as a person, you are “the man” regardless of how good your intentions are.CLICK TO TWEET