Working Wounded Blog: Independence Is Overrated

News Flash: July Fourth was Independence Day in the United States (OK, that's not exactly a news flash, I know …) while Canada celebrated its Independence Day on July 1.

With the Independence Day fireworks still ringing in our ears, it's easy to conclude that "independence" is the ideal destination for countries, organizations and even working stiffs. However you define independence -- not having someone tell you what to do or believe, working from home in your underwear or the freedom to make your own mistakes -- it's easy to jump to the conclusion that independence is the ideal state. The place we should all strive to be.

I disagree.

We should all be forever in debt to everyone who stood up or laid down their lives for our freedom and independence. It's fitting to remember this contribution not only on Independence Day, but on every day of the year. However, in 2005 I've concluded that many of us need a little less independence and a lot more dependence.

Yep, I'm pro-dependence -- which probably sounds weird coming from a guy who has created his last nine jobs, someone who has not held a job with the same company for more than 10 months for the last 15 years and a guy who is wearing only his underwear as he writes this.

I think that we are increasingly becoming a world where people fail to connect. It's been long documented that most people have stopped joining bowling leagues and increasingly it's rare that we could pick out our neighbors from a police lineup.

And it gets even worse at work. In the last year how many times have you communicated with someone at least 10 times and never heard their voice? Most of us communicate mainly via e-mail. That is a given. But take a moment and go through your "sent" folder. How many of your e-mails were longer than three or four sentences?

I think that technology, economic pressures and a misguided sense of what constitutes effective use of our time is driving us to no longer function as true organizations. No, these days we are more like constellations of individuals who are trying to find our way largely on our own. Making our own mistakes and failing to learn from the people around us.

As Peter Senge pointed out, the word for "company" shares the same root as the word "companion." The concept at the heart of both words? The sharing of bread. These days, ironically, in the struggle for more bread (sorry for the gratuitous use of the 1960s slang word for money), we are increasingly turning our working companions into acquaintances.

I'm not suggesting that we pursue dependence as a form of weakness. Rather that we reconnect with people to form closer bonds, to share our vulnerabilities and to really learn from each other. Happy Dependence Day!

Quote of the week:
"An important obstacle is the supposition that improvement in quality and productivity is accomplished suddenly by affirmation of faith." -- W. Edwards Deming

Weekly book excerpt:
From "1001 Ways to Reward Employees" by Bob Nelson (Workman, 1994)

"Results of a recent survey by the Council of Communications Management confirm what almost every employee already knows: that recognition for a job well done is the top motivator of employee performance. Yet most managers do not understand or use the potential power of recognition and rewards. This is true even though 33 percent of managers themselves report that they would rather work in an organization where they receive better recognition."

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