The elevator doors opened, and Evan found himself face to face with the elevator's eight occupants, all staring straight ahead. Nobody moved. Calculating that there was enough room for him to board, Evan stepped forward, slightly jostling the tall woman directly in front of him "Excuse me," he said.
The elevator doors closed behind him, and as the elevator began to move upward, Evan scrunched his shoulders, pulled his elbows tightly into his sides, and carefully rotated himself in place to face the doors. He inevitably brushed against the tall woman again, who responded by shifting about two inches to the southwest, which movement rippled across the other four southwestern occupants of the elevator.
Evan had claimed his space.
So goes the ritual of elevator boarding. It varies from culture to culture, but that's how it's done in the U.S. It's a fairly unfriendly, mildly competitive, and ironically isolating process.
Imagine a similar scene in a parallel universe. The elevator doors open, Evan notices that the elevator is almost full, and says, "Room for one more?" The tall woman responds, "Sure, c'mon aboard." The passengers in the southwest corner of the cab move over to make room and one says, "Yeah, c'mon in. Now we have enough for volleyball!"
Life can be so different — so much more fun — and we can make it happen. Here are some of the everyday rituals we can change.
- Two groups pass each other in a narrow hallway
- One or both will form single file to make space for the other to pass without stopping. Rarely do we stop, stand aside with a smile, and generously let the other pass.
- Pouring coffee at the coffee station
- Life can be so different —
so much more fun —
and we can make it happen
- Someone approaches as you're in mid pour. Do you finish pouring, and then set down the pot? Or do you interrupt your cup and offer to pour theirs?
- Entering the office or cube of another
- If the occupant is looking at the computer, or otherwise unaware of your approach, do you knock on the doorjamb? Clear your throat? Say hello? Or do you ask for directions to the Emerald City?
- Someone enters your office unexpectedly
- Do you stand? Say hello? Smile? Offer the visitor a seat? What if you've never met? Do you ask, "Am I in the right office?"
- Someone drops a book, some papers, their badge, etc.
- Do you do nothing? Do you pick up the items? Do you just point them out? Or do you make a self-effacing remark: "Hey, I thought today it was my turn to drop stuff…"
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Games for Meetings: I
- We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized
games. Here's Part I of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we can do about them.
- Email Antics: III
- Nearly everyone complains that email is a time waster. Yet much of the problem results from our own
actions. Here's Part III of a little catalog of things we do that help waste our time.
- Management Debt: II
- As with technical debt, we incur management debt when we make choices that carry with them recurring
costs. How can we quantify management debt?
- Indicators of Lock-In: I
- In group decision-making, lock-in occurs when the group persists in adhering to its chosen course even
though superior alternatives exist. Lock-in can be disastrous for problem-solving organizations. What
are some common indicators of lock-in?
- Risk Creep: II
- When risk events occur, and they're of a kind we never considered before, it's possible that we've somehow
invited those risks without realizing we have. This is one way for risk to creep into our efforts. Here's
Part II of an exploration of risk creep.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
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- Coming January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
- And on February 5: Unrecognized Bullying: I
- Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized. Three reasons: (a) conventional definitions of bullying exclude much actual bullying; (b) perpetrators cleverly evade detection; and (c) cognitive biases skew our perceptions so we don't see bullying as bullying. Available here and by RSS on February 5.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.