Life Goes Beyond the Superficial
“Be curious, not judgmental.” Walt Whitman
“Everybody judging me (Judging me)
Knowing nothing about me (About me)
Causing insecurities (Insecurity, yeah)
Because of someone’s jealousy
Losing all my privacy
Wanting much more normalcy” ~ Erroll “Poppi” McCalla Jr & Beyonce
superficial: “being at, on, or near the surface; concerned with or comprehending only what is on the surface or obvious; apparent rather than real.” ~ dictionary.com
What can you glean from the superficial? There are times you want to keep to the surface like skim boarding or floating on a river, skipping a stone, or appreciating the foam on a latte or flat white. On the other hand, activities that are not mindless pastimes like listening or reading something important and factual call for more concentration and attention. A superficial view for this scenario is a poor choice because it limits you and is limiting to you. Without a complete understanding, statements can easily be taken out of context. And a superficial view, like dictionary.com reveals, is not real. It holds you back from taking away and understanding the significance of something. It puts an immediate stop button on your brain and your capacity to grow. And more.
Although not an exclusive issue among young leaders, I’ve noticed a growing trend among younger professionals that they make a conscious choice when reading, watching or hearing, to limit their view of information to a single moment, an emoji, or one/a couple of phrases which form a self-contained bubble. Skimming the surface, they then rush to make a judgement about it. Good, bad, right or wrong. And it becomes personal. Whoever said, wrote or did are good, bad, right or wrong. These young professionals are missing the big picture, perspective, and details. It is an incomplete view which potentially hurts their decision making, their team/department, and themselves. Does this sound familiar? Has this been impacting you, your company or team?
At a tech client, a young professional felt hurt by a comment she heard from a team member during a private conversation. She felt uncomfortable working with him after that, even though prior they had a good working relationship. She ignored the bigger picture that he had never said anything insensitive before and was seen by coworkers as a kind person. And, rather than thinking through the details of the situation, circumstances and history, and seeking answers by speaking further to her colleague to even corroborate what she heard, she chose to badmouth him to her coworkers in an attempt to consciously ostracize him. When the event snowballed to affect other departments in the company, the HR Director called me. The Director was at a loss of what to do. This is an example of superficial understanding taken out of context, a momentary skim which stands all by itself in a bubble.
In this story, the young professional indicated she wanted to be seen, to be recognized, her side of the hurt understood. This is real and reasonable if someone feels offended and upset. Yet, she moved against or at cross-purposes to her personal aim and damaged herself. She didn’t “call in”, she “called out”. Instead of having a conversation with a colleague she had always trusted, or bringing in a boss or HR professional to enable a conversation, she chose to hurt herself and countless others. Her reputation was damaged by being a spreader of gossip and a bully. People in the company did not want to work with her to save themselves from being her next target. People questioned the “offender” too. And the culture of the organization then suffered because of the unwillingness to work with the departments the two people worked for.
If this is not the way you operate, you may wonder like me, how did this young professional go astray? And, why do some young people lack curiosity to learn more of a complete picture?
One of the reasons could be, younger professionals have developed a habit. They’ve learned that if they have collected information on a surface level, then acted on it and experienced some kind of “win” supporting that behavior, it makes sense for them to continue it. A comment from the new show with Hilary Swank, “Alaska Daily”: “people don’t want to be informed, they just want to win the argument.” Like any habit, it’s a certain way of doing things that then becomes ingrained.
Another reason for jumping to judge could be a trend they’ve seen others practice. If it’s a popular way of acting by people they admire, it’s acceptable; or there could be a social pressure by colleagues or friends to perform a certain way. Social pressure is harder to ignore when you are younger.
A third explanation could be the quick processing Millennials and particularly Gen Z’s have become accustomed to which permeates their way of being. They’ve only known a life of immediate response, gratification or expectation through technology. With an expectation of receiving entertainment, food or content fast, it is consistent that in processing information, they feel an immediate need or compulsion to act fast. They may not feel they have the freedom to wait and learn more: a freedom to fumble. It is less stressful for them to act quickly; automatic.
The Effect of It
So now you are probably thinking “why should I care about superficial thinking”: as a leader who oversees people who may function like this why is this subject relevant for you right now? Because of possible consequences you could see as a result of superficial thinking. The instant judging piece could lead to bullying and shaming others, like in the tech company story. Shaming and bullying disrupt and impede, slow workflow, and create an unsafe environment for people to work. This also creates divisions within the organization and stalls or ousts any hope for collaboration within and outside a team, group or department. The quick response without forethought, compassion and understanding leads to sloppy work, mistakes and poor decisions. These things have a domino effect, like at the tech company, unless or until the toppling has stopped.
Being aware of the potential issues that may arise from superficial thinking and the reasons behind it, prepares you in advance so you can help safeguard your team and organization from its domino affects. Including training for leaders and/or non-management about the effects of superficial thinking is also important and should go into your ongoing training, learning and development plan as further prevention. If you are considering training as an option and want to talk about it, email me: email@example.com
There’s so much more to talk about around this surface trend. Hence, In the next blog we’ll talk about what to do once a situation like the tech company snowballs within your business, and why the culture in the tech company was the perfect yeast for the superficial mindset to grow.
Are there challenges within a team you lead? And, solutions you’ve used before aren’t cutting it for today’s issues? We can work together to gather the information and inspiration needed so that you and your team can become more productive, and proud of your work. Your bottom line will feel the results too. There are three levels of service options within Golden Monocle™. To learn more and discover which services suit your needs, contact me, Susan@SusanGoldbergLeadership.com .
My work as a leadership and communication expert has me go into organizations, as an outside unbiased view to look at the information gaps. Using proprietary and trademarked solutions including a team mapping tool, Collaboration Beyond Words™, I identify what an organization is missing that’s holding it back from thriving and continuing to stay relevant. Have practices become entrenched or no longer fit your plans for today’s workplace and goals? Contact me: Susan@SusanGoldbergLeadership.com Let’s talk.