Fears of Individuals

It’s obvious why organizational leaders might have fears around the Work Revolution. But you might think that individuals in the organization feel they have everything to gain and nothing to lose in the Work Revolution. Right?

Wrong.

Individual contributors are just as fearful as leaders when it comes to making drastic changes. For starters, individuals in a typical command-and-control system tend to homogenize, to become indistinguishable and interchangeable with one another, as Barry Oshry explains in his book, Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life.1 The system is such that peers punish any kind of differentiation or individual excellence. They are pressured to band together, work just hard enough (but not too hard), and stick it out as the “Bottoms,” which ultimately translates to bargaining power, the only tangible form of power at that level of a hierarchical organization.

Now, just for the sake of argument, let’s say that an individual is strong enough to stand up to her peers; she decides to take the initiative to start a grassroots campaign of one sort or another. In this scenario, she is opening herself up to a long list of risks:

  • Risk of being seen as insubordinate, by taking action where managers didn’t have the will or foresight to do so.
  • Risk of stepping on toes, by taking action where another individual dropped his or her responsibilities.
  • Risk of making a mistake; if the initiative fails, it’s a very public form of failure. ...

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