Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Because I like to live indoors

Bottom line: if you control a person's paycheck you affect their food and shelter, and when they get scared they will lie to you. It's that simple.

Managers in various walks of corporate life like to tell themselves a different story: if we work hard to gain employee trust, if we are good to our word, if we provide well-understood performance expectations, employees will have no reason to deceive us.

But it ain't so. Yes, you should do all that, but it won't fix this. This is not just about being good or not being evil, because when someone is scared, when they think their rent or mortgage or food supply is threatened - even if it's not true - they will do what they think they need to do to survive. These are really primitive fears. If you think you're not like that, imagine having to choose between telling an employer some unpleasant fact you can avoid telling them, and your child going hungry.

When we're afraid, we spin stories. We tint our explanations to what we think our listener wants to hear, so we can make whatever point we're trying to make. It's not a hard line, that line from slant to lie, not when you're using language, which is challenging enough already, and not when you're standing in front of a manager, wondering in one gut-wrenching awful moment if you're about to lose your job.

People are touchy about their paychecks, especially these days. Perfectly understandable.  They figure it's maybe not a good time to  cause trouble. When they're talking to the guy who controls the money, they consider every word they say.

So managers hear what employees think they want to hear. And when employees get scared, what managers hear can get real confusing.

Is there a way out of this mess? I think there is, but it means, at very least, restructuring corporate control, and that's a sticky wicket because those in corporate power positions are just as afraid as anyone else of losing what they have. Wealthy powerful executives and less wealthy less powerful middle managers get scared about food and shelter, too, even if they don't say it that way. Yeah, it's absurd, but this is about perception, not about facts. For the most part, humans don't act from observation of facts, but from fear. And we do, very much, like to live indoors.

If there's a way out of this mess, I want to find it. Better yet, I want to live it. I want to work in that corporation where people are not afraid of their managers, where when management says their job is about service, they mean it and employees believe it.

Yeah, it takes risk to get there. When I had control of the corporate reigns, I took those risks. I didn't take them all. I tried to straddle the line between what seemed possible and what seemed sensible. That edge is a scary place to play, especially when you've got responsibility for other people's food and shelter - not to mention your own. Because I like to live indoors, too.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring Thyme

It must be the season of Spring
Ze flowers so brightly go zing!
Popping from treeses
Seducing - the teases!
Then it's over, like some kind of fling.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Quoting Me

So I'm surfing the google sea, there looking for things I've written but forgotten about, and I come across this lovely quote from the webpage of an old acquaintance that I swear I don't remember writing, but does sound surprisingly like me, and what do you know, it's not bad:
Basic Flying Rules: Try to stay in the middle of the air. Do not go near the edges. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees, and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.
Sounds like me, all right.

And this one, thoughtfully collected for me by someone I simply don't remember:
Dedication is not measured in suffering-units.
Which sounds very much like me. Flying, suffering - am I an expert on these things because I'm quotable? Sure, why not.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Enter Stage Left, Exit Stage Right

About six years ago I lost someone. It wasn't death that took her, but misunderstanding and fear. I did everything I could to keep her, but I failed. So I cried, I lamented, I agonized. I railed at God. I went on.

That's how it goes: we lose love, someone dies, is destroyed, leaves. We object, agonize, lament, rail at God. Then - somehow - we go on. Sometimes the pain is so wretched, so unbearable, that it seems nearly certain we'll die from it. But mostly we don't. We keep breathing. We keep walking.

Recently I lost someone again. This one is more fresh, so of course it feels more poignant, as such things do. The loss is just as hard, just as wretched, and seems just as permanent.

But you know, nothing is all that permanent. It comes on stage left, exits stage right. Indeed it was this particular friend in whose company I came to a better understanding of this lack of permanence, of stage left and stage right. Nothing was the same for me after that.

Loss of a person has the feel of a freshly dug, freshly inhabited, freshly filled grave. You look at the dirt, you think about your love, and you marvel at - and abhor - the moments between the life and death of that love.

Now it's spring and renewal (and resurrection?) is in the air, so I'll tell you the good news: about four months ago, the first friend contacted me again, and we are gently, kindly, sweetly, talking again. Somehow the dead have risen. To my eyes, it is a miracle.

Enter stage left.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Blogging at The Store

I was at the store (you know, The Store, that place that's quirky, friendly, and has lots of chocolate, which shall for my amusement remain nameless) and I met a sample server who we shall (again, for my amusement) call Sara.  Now, Sara loves her job, loves her employer, and is having a great time chopping up small bits of biscuit and jam for all of us hovering around. Someone is telling her that she should start her own blog about how much she loves her job and how cool it is to serve people samples.  So I take a photo for her nascent blog.

It turns out, though, that The Store does not I repeat *not* like their employees blogging about said store or any experience in said store, however love-filled they or it might be.

This got me thinking about companies and social media, as so many things do. There seems to be no middle ground.  Either the company says "thou shalt not blog" or they say "go forth and blog!"  The Store says don't. But other companies, including (but not limited to) the Nominal Evil Empire (nominal because there are other evil empires, including the one that says don't be, but this one has the cool logo) says "go and blog!" (They do, check it out.)

But hark: their instructions are something like "be careful, because if you mess up we will screw your ass to the floor so hard you won't remember what it ever felt like to stand up."  Okay, I made up that last part, but you get the idea.

So what should corporations do about social media?

You know what fabulous cats and great tango dancers have in common? They make a graceful movement out of every misstep. Not the right direction? Got an oops? No problem. That's what I meant to do all along.

What corporations should do about social media: clear and simple guidelines and a really excellent cat. Guarantee employees no retaliation as long as they follow the guidelines, give them a reason to blog, and open the windows and let the light in.  If someone stumbles, well, that's what you've got the cat, or spin-Meister for, to clear things up. Any corporation worried about having the windows opened has someone who can write that well on staff already. Just get them watching the social media output. (And imagine what they'll learn about their own company.)

In the end, a corporation's brand is its public image. It's Sara, standing there grinning, offering little samples of biscuits and jam, with people like me mulling around munching and chatting, feeling - for just a moment - like community, right there in the village market.

Hey, The Store: If Sara wants to blog about how cool it is to work for you, you should let her. Think of it as samples of transparency, the sort of thing that makes a company truly beloved.

Besides samples of food. Yum.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My stories, your skill, whataya say?

So I get this email that begins:

"Your [sic] a published writer, I am not.. I have many Sci-Fi stories (raw) and was wondering if you would ever consider a collaboration of sorts, (ex: my stories-your skill, or any combo)"

I have to re-read it, pause, consider.  Isn't this the classic writer joke?  I look for signs of humor in the letter, find none.

So easy to answer, but so hard to answer well. If you want to be, say, kind and considerate, what do you say?

My friend Kate says it reads like a Nigerian scam. "Honored Ms. Lyris, I am in possession of some stories and would appreciate your help getting them to see the light of day..." Except, of course, her use of language is better than either the scam artists' (is it really art?) or my correspondent's.

So I answer straight, simple, respectful.  Suggest he write his own stories. He writes back, grateful for my reply. Asks me to keep his offer in mind.

All rightie then.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Funny as in both

I had to tell it aloud to see if it was, and it was. Both.

I get this call on the old area code, which is significant enough to pick up right away.


A male voice I don't recognize.  "This is Joe."

"Hello," I say.

There's a pause.  "Is this -- " he rattles off my number, minus area code.

"It sure is," I say brightly.

Another pause.

"Ah, well. Misdialed. Sorry."  Click.

It's been like that these days.  Funny strange and funny ha-ha too.  Like this, not quite believable. Too strange to be fiction. This time, though, worth the words.  Even I was amused.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Unexpected

Amidst the storm and wind and cold and disintigrations, a minor miracle: she lets me cat-bathe her - appropriate, she being a cat - and doesn't run away. She even seems content. Purrs.

Endings. Beginnings. Surprise.