The Business Meeting and the Ego

My world and you need to change to fit it…

Why do some folks believe that the world should change to suit them?  They mire themselves in secret authority to try to convince the world that they alone know what is right and correct in all processes?

When confronted, you may ask them “you would like for ‘them’ to change the process so that your job is easier, but why should they?”  The culprit will flail around with righteousness, “doesn’t everyone see how correct I am?  Doesn’t everyone see that I should not need to work this hard?”

Conversations can be so difficult because of the conceptual depths of the conversation.  Sometimes there are so many sub-texts it makes my head spin.  Each person in the room seems desperate to hang onto their own identity and authority.  Each person wants to present themselves as powerful and all-knowing.  Very few in the room are content to listen and observe, those that are will often pose disdainfully, as if the meeting is a huge inconvenience to their own schedule.

Then there is the struggle: the sub-text of US vs. THEM!  Each and every meeting I have been in, over the entire span of my career had this sub-text woven into all of the conversations.  If it was a management meeting, the THEM = staff members and workers, if it was an administrative meeting, the THEM = the program staff.  You can always count on a THEM.

Often, the most pressing reason for this behavior (US vs. THEM) is to establish oneself as blameless; indeed a tremendous amount of energy is used to prove a victim status – if it is at all possible to do.  It’s appalling to see self-respecting managers work so hard to shift blame from themselves to others.  It is well deserved in the case of an authoritarian leader who enjoys blaming her managers.  If you work in such an environment, then pity is well deserved.  And in that case, blame shifting is a necessary means of survival.  However, for the most part, blame shifting is all about preserving my image of myself as an all-knowing and wise person who rarely makes a mistake.  This is the ego at work, and sometimes, I just want to say, “hey, can you bring your entire self to these meetings so that we don’t spend half of our time soothing your egos?”

The point is, how do we ever get down to the task at hand?  I learned a long time ago, to wrap up a meeting with a summary and a specific list of chores.  Sometimes, even this type of reiteration is not enough to jar people into focusing on the real issues rather than their own personal reality.  Therein lies the frustration, getting to the tasks at hand.  I would rather look to the chores that must be done than to have to attend to the myriad of sub-texts that are in the room, sometimes undetected, often unaddressed and always unproductive.

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