November 19, 2010

Do you want cheese with that?

My sister and I had a really great conversation recently where we talked through her perception that I've become critical, negative and whiny. It was one of those hard/good conversations. The interesting thing to me was how surprised I was. Not that she'd bring it up, but because in most of my circles here, I'm one of the more positive, cheerful, encouraging people. I started to wonder if I'm surrounded by whiners and have adopted the communication pattern as a default.

Two days after the sister talk, our department interviewed a potential creative director. He asked us questions about our department and our company. The list of frustrations and negatives came pouring out. All the 'us' vs. 'them' mentality that the guys in the department have. I've worked on a team where the account exec made EVERY team member sit at the table. She ran a very tight ship, the meetings were over in an hour and a half, but it fostered a team. I tried to counter their perception by talking about that experience, but they kept on going. Then the creative director candidate asked, "What brings you into work each day?"


"A paycheck."

I chimed in, "I like to learn new things and I like fixing things and making things better."

A little later he asked, "What do you like about working for this company?"

Silent stares around the table. I waited.

"Good benefits." "A paycheck." "The people here in the studio."

My two-cents, "Everyone here works very hard. I respect the people in this department and love working with them."

Hmm... I can see why I've become a negative whiner! Anything else is so cross-cultural that I sound like a ditzy Pollyanna.


Sam said...

That's like at school. People talk about wanting the grades or wanting school to lead to a good job, but nobody ever talks about wanting to learn stuff.

Anonymous said...

In today's Doonesbury blog, a commentator came up with a great quote: "As one swami in my neighborhood in India says, "Hey, it's the Kali Yuga (Age of Darkness and Ignorance). What did you expect?"

Negative, critical (but uncritical) thinking is the norm for us -- and we are a much more positive Nation than most.

I'll ditto what Sam said about our lack of appreciation for learning. In contrast, our family has a legacy of appreciation for curiosity and learning.

When I went to Hanover, NH, in the fall of '53, I thought Dartmouth was going to be like Plato's Academy. Coming from Holland, Michigan, I was naive, starry-eyed.

The reality was shocking. As I summed it up later, "You could get a good education at Dartmouth, as long as you didn't talk about it."

In my four years there, I saw only one example of mass intellectual enthusiasm. It was in my second year Zoology III class. We were studying endocrinolgy. The front page of the New York Daily News that morning had a photo of Christine Jorgensen. An American man had gone to Sweden for the world's first sex change operation, and Christine had just returned to New York.

That morning in class, our Zoo III prof was confronted by a forest of hands demanding answers.

Mizasiwa said...

I find this facinating snickollet was talking about having hard conversations a few weeks ago as well. I would love for my family and/or colleuges to just be honest. Im so sick and tired of having to keep everything on the serface all the time its exhausting. And then you just know that eventually your going to blow up and then its going to be really ugly!! I have a friend whos been my penpal for the last 20+ years. She grew up in Dallas and i think shes in HOuston no? not sure - but she gave me a totally different perspective of the area than you have. I hope that this decision comes easier than you think ill be thinking of you!