I’ve been accused of being a narcissist before. Not in those exact words, but I will never forget the conversation. I was 25 and a good friend of mine and I were talking. She finally said (in a rare pause of my banter), “Natalie, you always talk about you and never ask about me.” Wow, that one hit hard and I felt guilty and ashamed. I had never thought about it before. I wondered where my baby-boomer parents had gone wrong in raising me as a millennial snowflake (who was nothing but extraordinary) who didn’t know the true definition of meaningful discourse. Ever since then, I’ve put a concerted effort into making sure that I ask the other person I’m talking to questions about themselves. It’s a constant reminder in my awkward conversational brain – “ask them about their day, weekend, year…yeah—that’s perfect!” We often run into a narcissism problem in product development, too, and it can stem from fear and shame.
Think about when you started in a new job or new department and the flood of acronyms that you heard. It was like people were speaking a different language and they pretty much were. I’m not saying acronyms are bad – they do have their places as mnemonic devices and to shorten things – but when they develop into a lingo that is unrecognizable to anyone outside the fold we have a problem.
I find it slightly humorous that I find myself in the agile field sometimes. Agile was and is about disruption to the norm; what we had gotten used to. When I think about my internal inclination, one of the pieces I’ve been trying to become more okay with is not having to always be in the “norm” or follow all the rules. As a teenager (like many I’m sure), I just wanted to fit in and only stand out when it was overwhelmingly positive. I didn’t want to be the “weird kid” and I still feel that a lot of times. I was curious how this manifested itself in my work and relationships and really how I had fallen into agile.
In the wake of multiple tragedies in the world, where there seems to be no end in sight, I wanted to take a moment and address the lack of safety we’re likely all feeling. Personally, I feel like I cannot safely travel anywhere (which is an issue because I travel every week for work). There are dispassionate psychopaths around every corner, dictators fulfilling their own agendas through fear mongering, and hate trying to win. And while the lack of safety is terrifying, somehow we slowly become numb to it. It’s not that we don’t care but we’re no longer surprised. It becomes normal – not “OMG how did that happen?!” but “oh, that sucks…” It seems that the workplace is hardly a safe haven from these episodes either, for the workplace can all to often be unsafe.
“It was the perfect storm.” “That’s just the way things are here.” “That won’t work for us; we’re too different.” “It’s a catch-22.” “There’s too much history.” If you are hearing these phrases at your organization, chances are it may be suffering from learned helplessness. What is learned helplessness you ask? It’s basically when we have difficulty both identifying and unlearning bad habits. We can no longer see anything as an opportunity for change. We come up with reasons for why something can’t or isn’t working instead of coming up with ways it could work. We (sometimes) unknowingly derail any true progress because of the intrinsic helplessness we feel after being shut down so many times. We just cannot see a way out of this vicious spiral.