Nonsense At Work

#102: December 2015 MindShift

Nonsense just is,
but sense must be uncovered, grasped and held tight.The NonsenseAtWork Monthly MindShift


December 2015

Emotional Communication Excuses Butterfly Heartburn

How not to join the dark side of emotional intelligence

emotional-intelligenceUnless you work alone, at the South Pole, your people skills matter. This is so obvious that we take it for granted, which is why the concept of emotional intelligence has struck a chord.

Actually, emotional intelligence should strike a very emotional chord, one with alarm bells.

We believe that people skills and emotional intelligence make for better managers and leaders. The problem is that we have not bothered to clarify what ‘better’ means. Specifically, better for whom?

Any self-respecting people puppeteer will furiously deny that it takes real people skills and emotional intelligence to manipulate others into doing unconsciously what the puppeteer wants. But this is exactly what numerous studies have now shown – manipulators are very good at reading people.

The dark side to people skills has always existed. We join the dark side when we assume we are too intelligent to have our emotions manipulated.


There is no art to cleaning fouled communication

trash-artHere’s the dark side of intelligence, one night at the museum. For some strange reason, cigarette butts, empty champagne bottles and confetti were arranged as an exhibit at an art museum in Italy.

For an even stranger reason, no one bothered to tell the cleaning lady that the trail of trash was high art. Being paid to clean, she did.

More than others, artists and curators understand that perceptions are reality. Their livelihood depends not on what buyers see, but on what buyers think they see. And thus on their ability to make buyers think that what they see is much more than what there is to see, if you see what I mean.

According to the news report, the museum joked that it had some “bad luck with the new cleaning lady.” I suggest that she had some bad luck with the museum. She seems to be the only one there who sees clearly.


Let them make excuses for you, not use you as the excuse

snakes-laddersPolitics, it seems, is everywhere. Some optimists assume that politics is about governing by building alliances to influence citizens. That’s the politically correct definition.

For us on the receiving end, politics is about power over others using smoke and mirrors. Politicians are either too polite to use naked force or too illusive to intimidate. You decide which.

The same applies at the office, where it is labeled informal politics. It is supposedly a good thing because it helps you to get things done. Actually, it is a way of claiming success without being seen as the snake on the corporate ladder. But with limited room on the ladder, climbers make space by turning others into snakes.

How can you avoid this fate? By building relationships, not alliances. By building the type of relationship where people make excuses for you, rather than use you as the excuse.


Why the office gossip has butterfly lips

butterfly-lipsWe lucky ones have made it through another hurricane season. What triggers a hurricane? Some people believe it is triggered when some far away butterfly flaps its wings. It’s like that giant whale flapping his tail fin to create the ocean tides.

Actually, hurricanes begin with hot air rising. As the hot air rises, colder air swirls in. The key word is swirls. It is the stirring of hot air that creates the hurricane.

I have seen the same effect at work. Someone hears a bit of office gossip, often just hot air, but cannot resist stirring. We know what happens then as the social energy rises at the water cooler.

The butterfly flapping its wings is a concept in chaos theory. Edward Lorenz called it the Butterfly Effect.

We should call those who gossip Butterfly Lips, because their flapping lips stir chaos at the office.


Giving thanks stops heartburn

heartburnThank goodness Thanksgiving is over. This year Thanksgiving gave me heartburn. No, not from all the rich food, but from the constant refrain of “pity the poor retail workers.”

You’ve heard it. What a shame it is that they have to work on the one family day of the year merely to serve insatiable shoppers.

Indeed, what a shame. What a shame that airline staff had to fly, that safety personnel had to protect, that nurses had to nurse, that cops had to patrol.  The list is long of workers whose families daily take second place to the demands of the job.

So why, please tell, single out retail workers? Come on, America. Admit it. Because only retail workers remind us how shallow we shoppers can really be.

And while we’re about it, admit that Thanksgiving is just a day. Every day should be a family friendly day. That’s how we stop hearts burning.



Want to show off your butterfly lips?



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