Hi, and no, the title of this post is not a typo but rather an admission that I had not completed my thought in my most recent post.
On January 20, I shared my thoughts on an article in the Economist that discussed the upward swing in happiness post-middle age. I found this article so fascinating that I was eager to share it along with my reflections as a result of reading it. In my haste, I realized I omitted something that spoke more to me than any other part. In this post, I want to share my reflections from that part here. Below is an excerpt taken from comments made by Laura Carstensen, professor of psychology at Stanford University.
“ ‘But older people know what matters most.’ For instance, she says ‘young people will go to cocktail parties because they might meet somebody who will be useful to them in the future, even though nobody I know likes going to cocktail parties.’ ”
This gave me pause. The implication of this is the idea that people see other people as a utility to them. I am not naïve. I know this happens and it happens very often. And I do not assess it as good or bad, it just is. Yet I was taken aback in the realization that my default setting is not to see people as utility for me, but rather myself as utility for others.
Before I get labeled a martyr wanna-be, let me explain this. I believe my upbringing has much to do with this. My father’s attitude toward his work (primarily in the service of others) was always to deliver the best of yourself to the mission at hand. He once said to me, “When you’re in the service business, you give service.” This is more profound to me than what lies on the surface. I believe that we all are in service to one another. I believe the ‘pay it forward’ approach yields remarkable dividends – always has and always will. My mother, for her part, always demonstrated an approach to meeting new people as simply a joy in its own right. She never thought or spoke in terms of a person’s use or utility. For her, human beings are merely a gift to one another for sharing the joys and experiences of life.
The impact on me is the innate inability to see other people as merely tools to advance my own agendas. This might explain why many of my past pursuits of grandeur (as defined by others) have found themselves on the wrong side of successful. I figured that I would have to “use” people to get there and I simply was not brought up to think this way. As I said earlier, this is neither good no bad – it just is – and that’s ok.
In the book “Get Rid of The Performance Review” by Samuel A. Culbert, the author speaks to the relationship of boss-subordinate as one where the boss takes more ownership of his/her responsibilities to the development of the subordinate. This entails the boss being in service to the subordinate to help them grow in their careers. Indeed, as I strongly believe that a struggling student could be reflective of teacher or education system that needs evaluation, so too might the struggling employee be a reflection of a manger who, more likely than we are prepared to admit, lacks the faculties to develop the subordinate. As support for this supposition, who among us is not familiar with the experience (perhaps first hand) of an employee who receives a negative evaluation from one manager, is transferred to another manager, and then shines?
My overall take-away is that so long as all parties commit to reciprocity or an equitable give and take, regardless of position, so many breakdowns can be avoided.
Thanks for reading. Have a Great Day!