Stupid Office Tricks

According to a survey by Opinium research most people don’t like grumpy colleagues, slow computers, office gossip, and management-speak. Those were the 4 items that annoy people the most when they report to work, according to a survey of more than 1,800 people.

My first reaction reading a Reuters story about this was: did you need a survey to tell you that people don’t like working with grumpy colleagues? My second thought came from researching my book about Dwight Eisenhower: As supreme commander of the forces invading France, Ike insisted on presenting an optimistic face to everyone. To his senior managers and his frontline forces. And he insisted that his senior managers be optimistic, whether dealing with each other or with the troops. He knew the power of good morale. Seems that when it comes to offices, so do most employees.

Now, to annoying item No. 2, slow computers. Really? Is your computer at work slower than the one you have at home? Maybe it’s all the corporate security that makes it difficult for you to play poker online . . .

That brings us to No. 3, office gossip. I’m sorry, but I flat out don’t believe this. Many people may claim they dislike gossip, but in my experience in numerous offices with multiple employers is that people love gossip. It’s the favored currency for normal social exchanges. I cannot come close to counting the number of times a colleague has started a conversation with a wicked grin and some version of the phrase, “You’re going to love this. Did you hear about . . .?” Either I am the world’s greatest magnet for gossip, or No. 3 isn’t really all that annoying. The people answering this survey must have confused it with their applications for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Finally management-speak. Phrases like “Think outside the box,” “Bring you’re A game,” and “Push the envelope,” received the scorn they so richly deserve. When managers use these awful, trite expressions they’re hiding their lack of leadership ability in a barrage of empty clichés. When someone encourages you to think outside the box, don’t you want to ask “Which box did you have in mind?” Maybe a better response would be, “Okay, and while I think outside the cube-shaped container, what are you going to do?”

Maybe the real problem is not that managers falling into this mindless jargon can’t lead. Maybe they just don’t know how to communicate. Whether it’s a failure of leadership or failure of communication, I again turn to Ike for a little guidance on this. Ike was able to lead because he stayed completely focused on his mission, and he always accepted responsibility for making the big decisions.

As for communication, Ike’s style was to be direct and honest. The one person he failed to do this with was British general Bernard Law Montgomery. What resulted from this flawed communication? Montgomery consistently under-delivered for the Allies, and he created and commanded the single worst failure of Ike’s forces, Operation Market-Garden. Market-Garden didn’t achieve a single strategic objective and cost the Allies more men than they lost on June 6, 1944. As he typically did, Ike accepted all of the blame for the failure. That’s leadership.

It also cuts off the possibility of one of the other hated pieces of management-speak in the survey: Blamestorming, sitting down and working out whose fault something is. That’s a productive way to spend time in the office, isn’t it?

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2 Responses to Stupid Office Tricks

  1. Jill Quist says:

    Great blog–couldn’t agree more with your responses to points 1, 2, 3. Couldn’t agree more with not needing a survey to tell me this stuff. Couldn’t agree more that it’s a failure of both leadership adn communication. And maybe there’s something to this Ike guy. Where can I get the book?

  2. Jill Quist says:

    BTW, blamestorming is a new one for me. Gotta love it.

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