Chewy and I pass by an empty lot every morning as we run. There's really nothing special about it except for the signs.
Over a year ago the old house that stood there was razed and the new owners have just left the lot vacant.
On the mailbox and on a big tree near the sidewalk they keep posting No Parking signs. Its kind of odd since the house sits on a public street: you can't just legislate no parking by fiat. In an urban neighborhood people need to park.
So the signs come down mysteriously almost as soon as they're up and then they're replaced about every month. Strange.
This repetitive and pointless activity got me thinking about other things we do which defy logic in the workplace and how we are sometimes unwittingly complicit.
Things like open enrollment kick offs in a central location when half the organization is distributed. Or logging into the help desk to recover a password (uh, if i could log in…) Limiting internal candidates to one internal job application at a time. Requiring a college degree.
You can come up with more examples but you get the point.
There are many forms of “no parking” signs we use in the workplace to direct, control and manage others. We think.
No parking signs are ego
The whole message is “I'm telling you”. Its not really a negotiation.
Under the right circumstances its important to direct: the fire department has the right to paint a fire lane red and tow my car if I park there. I understand that.
But in thinking metaphorically about our work how many times a day do we intentionally or maybe without even realizing it just post our own no parking signs in the office? How many times do we just declare the way something is going to be or not be and that's it.
Think of the of the tone in your voice mail messages: are you really inviting people to reach out? What about your emails: have they become declaratory and directive? In meetings are you listening and interacting or tolerating and firing broadsides.
Ego is a wonderful thing.
It convinces us we're right when no one else seems to agree, that our needs are paramount to the organization and that people will in fact see the manifest genius in our No Parking signs.
Be careful. In the community of workers today information and determination is more available to all and we're much less dependent on following signs.
We'll wave as we run by.