Dilbert.comIntriguingly, the Dilbert post on the manager reading a new book and the related idea of a personal strategic tapestry triggered two guest blog posts. One was from John Bennett with his own first pass on a personal strategic tapestry.

Today's guest blog post comes from Bill Mullins of Better Choices Consulting. I first met Bill, who has extensive experience providing strategic architecture services for government and commercial clients in the energy sector, when we debuted the Google Fiber report. Since then, Bill has often shared his in-depth and insightful commentary on the occasional Brainzooming blog post.

Bill picked up on my reference to much of this original Dilbert comic simply being mean and replies in light of the current workplace dynamics that overly protect comfort at the expense of tackling topics that need tackling. Here's Bill Mullins' take on meanness, empathy, and a questioning attitude:

Meanness, Empathy, and a Questioning Attitude in Dilbert by Bill Mullins

Bill-MullinsWe seem to live in one of those times where “speaking the truth to power” is not uncommonly viewed as “being mean” – as if there were, among the laws of the universe, a “No Discomfort” rule.

Some suggest that speaking up, to engage issues that are almost certain to provoke discomfort in listeners, “lacks empathy” – How, it is asked, can we criticize when we’ve not walked in the other person’s job shoes or lived their life story?

In the nuclear business a very great deal of noise is made about cultivating a “questioning attitude” among middle grade and front line workers – in practice, there are enormous barriers to speaking up – being labeled a “whistle-blower” is the equivalent of having the Scarlet A hung round one’s neck.

People who write about their professional experience generally want to share some experience they believe has legs, or get someone’s feedback on their own published thoughts. Do it for very long and you soon discover you can have very little idea of what impact you are having. That of course is true even when the author is hired to give a speech about the book some people will buy knowing full well they will never crack its spine.

Of course those who aspire to get rich this way are called entertainers, not authors. Those of us who actually read the books know to take some with a grain of salt (examples of what to avoid), some for inspiration, and some for method and/or risk insight. Sadly most audiences today are not into reading; tweets and images dominate exchange in lieu of discourse. Makes things all the harder on a management consultant as I’m sure you know.

But I digress.

With this Dilbert cartoon I find that the “mean” is the “baby” not the “bathwater.” Mean as in base, average, or at the lowest threshold of value. The worker is making a value statement; almost certainly knowing it will be lost on the boss – but he does it anyway.

What’s that all about? - Bill Mullins


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