Wished a friend good luck with her new job earlier this morning and that phrase just popped out of no-where. Now I've been thinking about it all day. She works for the government, and wants to be a writer. She should be: she's clever, insightful, and she wants to be read. So she puts effort into finding an audience. After a few years of mid level clerical jobs, she's finally found a position where she can use her analytical and research skills. We wondered (through our primary communication method - discussion forum private messages) why it took so long.
It's easy to recognize when one is in a rut - crabbiness, impatience, frustration, sensing something is wrong but not sure how to fix it. And then there's the comfort zone - it's the safe, warm place that's a little dull and routine but ultimately good enough.
So when does the comfort zone become the rut?
It's when the fluffy cozy bits start to wear thin and the stubbly edges of the previously unseen rut start to scratch and scuff. It's when a favourite project ends and there's nothing interesting ahead, or a colleague throws you under the bus, or a manager ignores your contribution. Figuring out that you've failed to progress because you've been protected or lied to about what's going on outside. It's when you realize that the form-fitted mattress was filled with air and not substance. It's when you are shocked to realize the cushy title and corner office was just a padded cell.
Update - lent my copy of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers to another friend last night. Handing it over, realized I had dog-eared a page. Looked at what I had flagged. It was the section on the Korean Airline pilots and how cultural norms needed to be recognized and addressed before behaviours could be changed in the interest of air safety.
Now I remember. I read that chapter nibbling on some lovely charcuterie and sipping a rosé, sitting by myself one night in Paris. Just like the chief engineer quoted in the anecdote, many of us get squeamish when it comes to calling out corporate culture as a root cause of fear and failure.
The attitudes, assumptions and ingrained behaviour adopted by the pilots had now become a contributing factor to serial disaster. Even though this very behaviour was expected by peers to fit in and get along in the workplace.
"We took them out of their culture and re-normed them".
Taking individuals out of the comfort zone of a world-view shaped by bullying...exposing them to new ideas and methodologies...breaking stereotypes and dispensing with de-humanizing hierarchy...building an environment where it is safe to speak truth to power.