Grumbles

250px-MagooAndDog
"We listen, perhaps, to avoid fixing some feature that,
if taken away, might cause the whole freaking structure
to fail."

Work seems to naturally attract grumbles; the more physically demanding, the greater the grumbling. Psychologists and self-help authors might manage to make it to the end of their workday without finding a single disparaging thing to say, but the rest of us will end our shift with more complaints than we clocked in with that morning. The primary purpose of work break times might be to serve as a release valve, providing "workers" with the opportunity to mumble malevolently about each other, lest they blow up from the pressures building inside them.

"How was your day, honey?" might best be considered a rhetorical question, for that spouse damned well already knows the answer.
The response will fill the first fifteen minutes following homecoming with yet another chapter in an endless soap opera of a work life. The SOBs are gaining on us again. You won't believe what those bastards tried to do again. (You didn't really believe it the first fifteen hundred times.) You'll listen patiently, convincingly pretending that you remember who half of those named names are, what they do, and, most importantly, what they've always done before. Even an engaged listener might be excused for wondering how our society manages to hold together with so much stupidity driving.

I suppose that "the bosses" deserve every grumble aimed in their direction, for they earn the BIG bucks, and with the BIG bucks comes even bigger responsibilities, apparently. The responsibility to foresee the future and sidestep complications before they tangle up everything. The responsibility to understand who's working and who's shirking without any rat fink stool pigeon squealing them out. The onerous responsibility to read their subordinates' minds and provide for them what they quite naturally presume you have the power to foresee and provide, the sons-a-bitches, anyway.

I'm visiting with two executives from a small manufacturing company, listening to their litany that stands in for their Statement Of The Difficulty, a necessary phase every consultant learns to somehow survive. The room's quickly filling up with the verbal equivalent of grey water, a swirling mix of the usual complaints about others combined with presumptive solutions, when I asked An Innocent Question. An Innocent Question appears to be completely innocuous, as if it were merely a half-hearted attempted to help paddle the conversation in the general direction it seemed to be heading anyway. The Muse has long-ago mastered An Innocent Question, able to sort of slap a grumbling ramble into some potentially more meaningful direction. Me? I'll admit to dabbling in them every now and again.

"What do the folks who smoke out on the loading dock say?"

'I don't smoke," the CFO replies.

Silence ensues.

"What do you suspect they might say if you were to go out there and ask 'em?" I continue.

More silence ensues, heavier this time.

If I was making a point, which I quite obviously wasn't in this instance, it might have been that the perspective on the grumble shifts as one moves through and around an organization. What deeply troubles the smokers out on the loading doc tends to be about a thousand miles distant from what qualifies as troubles in the executive suite, even when, as in this case, the executive suite sits about a hundred yards from the loading dock. Under The Blind Men and the Elephant Principle, the same thing looks different depending upon which perspective one holds. Before setting about to "solve" some complaint, it sometimes proves useful to take a small peek at it from over there instead of jumping to a conclusion based upon just what's happening over here.

Of course, none of us can ever hope to achieve omniscience. We do get to inhabit our own perspective, no matter how many grumbles that perspective might induce in us. Besides, it seems that some other SOBs are forcing these grumbles out of us. From inside some physically demanding activity, any broader world seems to shrink into genuine insignificance. When someone seems to be standing on my head, I'll see little further than the sole of their oppressing shoe. Even walking a few yards to mingle with the smokers on the loading dock (who, every consultant understands, hold sole access to the closest thing so far known to adequately represent organizational omniscience) seems absolutely unthinkable, under the I'm Not A Smoker Rule of Organizational Myopia.

I don't want to get on anybody's case here. We are who we are. We stand just where we stand. Even frequent visits to the smokers on the loading doc won't guarantee an end to the grumbles, though it might render one more aware of the nature of those grumbles: what they are, how they're similar from each perspective, (that there are even other valid perspectives), and how they're not similar at all. These little steps out of personal perspective provide little more than chinks in a fairly impervious armor. The grumbles aren't really problems, anyway, but in some strange way, motive force. The more we grumble, in some curious way, the more productive, the happier, we might be. We listen, perhaps, to avoid fixing some feature that, if taken away, might cause the whole freaking structure to fail.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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