Commerce & Care

Ho Ho Ho…

Th holidays have now safely passed – at least Christmas and New Year (for the love of Mike people, there is no plural in New  Year) – as we slowly return to our pre-festive routines. Friends are returning home after time with family or maybe a ski trip (I personally avoid holiday locations that require putting on more clothes…), decorations around the house are slowly coming down (I let them stay up for the weekend wringing every bit of cheer out of early January) and our normal activities resume. To wit, my golf clubs are in the car.

Soon we’ll sojourn back to the office, open email, return phone calls and in a day or two submit to the droning and drumming of the workplace as constant and present as the hum of a high voltage overhead power line. We will return to normal.

Or will we.

The beautiful thing about the holidays is that even the deepest miser at some moment realizes life can be better, richer, lighter. What drives these moments of insight, these flashes of the greater truth varies from person to person. But each of us realizes at some point during holiday time that Ebenezer Scrooge is not actually a role model. That there is more to life than simply commerce.

Believe me I enjoy work. The idea that I can trade my time and talent for reward – dollars! – has been a core part of my being since I had my first paper route (yes Virginia, I actually rode a bike and delivered papers without a car!) when I was 13. It’s been a long time since I was 13 and yet that fascination – that I get rewarded for my contributions – has never ceased to amaze me.

After a particularly good session with a client or leading a team through a workshop I often say to myself in amazement, “I get paid for this shit!” As my LI profile claims, I freakin’ love what I do. But with the added benefit of age (did I mention it’s long since I was 13?) I know one reason I love what I do is that it is not the whole of my life.

Like you I have other interests, other things that compel me to learn and try new ideas and pursuits. Instead of making career seem tame it makes my labor more interesting because I constantly bring a new perspective to things as I continue to learn about the world away from work. Like you, I constantly refresh myself.

Which brings me to my gift to you this new year: remember all the people you deal with in your work – remember they’re people too.

That momentary insight you realized over the holiday, when you accepted the essential goodness of people despite the constant hammering of media negativity? That moment can be kindling for your internal insight all year. The needs, wants, desires, fears, ups, downs etcetera that you experience? All the people you work with have them too.

In a digital age we’re tempted to put a label, hashtag or meme in our mind to represent others using Senge’s inference ladder to quickly dispense with the need to actually think about others in their full human dimension.

But you can be better than that this year.

Even as you have to take draconian action – feedback, dismissal, RIFs – that will impact others you can recognize and operate on the shared human values of respect and decency and even kindness. That’s right, I said it: kindness.

We love the holidays because despite the recognition of continuing pain and suffering throughout the world the season reminds us of our innate goodness. Take that gift with you – the recognition of our better selves – and apply it throughout your year at work.

You will find acting humanely is not inconsistent with acting profitably. Commerce and care are not incompatible.

Happy new year.


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