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5 Quotes for Being at Work

Keeping It Simple — Keeping It Personal

This is a simple and informal way to be at work. It is as much about attitude as it is about action. The best way to use this is to personalize it and adapt it to your own personality and style. Experiment with it. See what works for you. Have fun with it.

“Start where you are with what you’ve got.”
— Jack Dougherty

Always — we are where we are. No need for “coulda, shoulda, woulda.” We all have the tools, skills, and insights we have right now. Once we all agree on this, we can begin.

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”
— John le Carré

Large organizations — government, corporate, non-profit — nearly all eventually evolve some form of bureaucracy. Bureaucracy can be good because it provides structure, and without structure there is chaos. But it is important to keep in mind that bureaucracy comes from the French word bureau, which means desk. So a bureaucracy is simply an organization of desks. It does not sound very vibrant, does it? That is because all organizations, large or small, are not an organization of desks, but of people! And once we recognize the beauty and strength of that fact, we are on our way.

“You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.”
— Albert Einstein

Large organizations require structure, which is needed for any creative endeavor. But there is a trap — when that structure becomes rigid from an over-emphasis on conformity, objectivity, and efficiency, it pushes the humanity out of the organization. The people, the workers, are what supply the energy for any organization. So when problems arise with people’s safety, morale, and commitment — it is often because their humanity, which is messy, has been removed from the objective organization. So a problem that was created by an over-objective bureaucracy, cannot be solved by another highly-objective, bureaucratic program. Been there, done that. Maybe instead of objective, we can try personal.

“There is no communication in this world except between equals.”
— Ken Burns

Though there are many examples of cultures and other gatherings without hierarchy, most western organizations seem to require it. But hierarchy doesn’t have to be about top-down functions. It can be simply that everyone has different roles to fulfill — everyone is different, but everyone is equal. With this gathering of equals, real communication can happen —open, enlightening, honest exchanges between people.

“The secret to talking is listening.”
— Aline McKenna and Cameron Crowe

So let’s go out, leave our desks, and talk to each other — to everyone. And by talking, I mean listening. It is not about getting your message across. It is about showing genuine interest in the other person’s experiences, thoughts, confusions, and insights — the fun parts, the inspiring parts, the messy parts — all of it. Let people know that they are seen, that they are heard. This is where the real work happens. So again, have fun with it. Experiment with it. Find your own style of listening and talking. Make it personal.