Recently, I remembered a moment from my days in Purgatory that wasn’t so much a harbinger as an explicit directive about things to come. Sure, the boss figure in this story (for whose protection names and timelines are omitted) didn’t intend to tell me to quit my job, but – well, you’ll see…
This boss was of the smug, blowhard variety; the sort of leader who liked to talk about what a good leader he was. Whose shelves might be lined with books about how to be an effective manager, but who couldn’t seem to figure out that “because I said so” is not a great way to motivate people. (If this sounds familiar, it probably is. It’s been my experience that he was far from unique among the ranks of middle management at large.)
In this case, the fearless leader was hot to trot about the latest bit of business literature he had come across. In a meeting, (as he often did) he drifted off on a tangential monologue about things having little/nothing to do with our workplace. Standing at the whiteboard in his office, he began drawing the following Venn diagram:
As he drew, he explained that this was a concept that he’d read (in a book), pertaining to the formula for achieving a meaningful livelihood. Of course I immediately got the simple – and admittedly poignant – point, but he proceeded to over-explain it. As he did, I nodded and smiled, in silence, suppressing a more genuine chuckle.
I smiled not because his moment of clarity was news to me, but because… hell, I love me some irony. Whereas I imagine he perceived us both to be sitting comfortably in the triple-layer sweet spot in the middle of the diagram, his enthusiastic rambling was having quite a different effect on me. All I heard was a reminder that I was in the wrong place.
Come to think of it, he’d probably be happy to know he was right.