Mothers would not vaccinate their children against ravaging epidemics. Vaccinating children against polio made little sense when they were as likely to lose their limbs to land mines. Sending them to school might have exposed them to shrapnel at the turn of a corner. It was not the lack of affection that shaped this bizarre behavior. Investing in children´s future, like through vaccination or schooling, made little sense because there was no future. Two decades of civil war had wrenched off people any sense of tomorrow or control over their lives. Yet, affection, belonging and control are three agents that contribute greatly to a person’s relationship with others — this is where our interest in people management comes to play. An Italian friend of mine living in San Francisco told me earthquakes did not worry him. Yet, just in case, he would avoid sitting in his car under a flyover during traffic jams. He would rather wait before the flyover until traffic had moved on, opening enough space for this car at the other side of the flyover.
The recent border skirmish at Kashmir should naturally make people wonder whether their world could end tomorrow. Very much like my Italian friend´s reaction to earthquakes in San Francisco, the possibility of a nuclear holocaust, even if not imminent, shapes peoples’ behavior, drawing their attention away from their larger concerns.
This is about belonging to this world, about the lack of control over issues of paramount consequences. At work, a drop in any, affection, belonging or control, shifts the attitudes of people from a focus on progress to one of prevention. The first infuses people with a sense of empowerment to overcome obstacles and enhances innovation and productivity. Prevention, on the other hand, focuses on limiting damage; it hampers both innovation and productivity. After the Kashmir border skirmish, even if an election campaign increasingly draws more attention, it is quite likely that people’s focus, including those of people managers, has shifted towards prevention, which only makes matters worse, like sitting in a car until the traffic jam looks brighter.
At work, a drop in any - affection, belonging or control, shifts the attitudes of people from a focus on progress to one of prevention
Few managers have control over national events, but they do have some over people at work. That is what they are paid for. To bring back the focus on progress, it may help recalling the role of ecstasy in people’s lives (not the role of the recreational drug) but of the overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyful excitement growing out of personal involvement. People have sought ecstasy, perhaps all through mankind. Today we are reminded of that search through the effort put into buildings where peoples seek ecstasy, like Christian cathedrals and bullfighting rings, or into earlier Roman coliseums and Greek amphitheaters. The feeling of ecstasy is associated with happiness, which is why people seek ecstasy. People can also experience ecstasy on their own, at work. Indeed, those who have been fortunate enough to experience ecstasy at work, refer to it as growing out of work that one loves to the extent that one loses sight of the rest. Naturally, full ecstasy cannot be experienced round the clock, but it is something that people cherish and look for and which might make life less miserable at times of great distress like what was brought about by the threat of a nuclear holocaust.
From a people manager’s perspective, guiding people back to their ecstatic path requires an increase the sense of belonging, removing the dullness of their work, adding to a sense of purpose, and providing challenges attainable with their skills. It also requires reinforcing the sense of belonging, particularly among those who may have been singled out based on any parameter. People might not forget the demanding issues of real life, but they should be able to find solace in losing themselves at work, to the extent they will want to come back to it with a smile in their faces.