Equiliberated: Could context collapse make us happier?

16 Jun

I was reading one of my favourite bloggers @victoriabetton recent post on how context collapse affects even the most experienced and thoughtful social media user – Maintaining a Personal/ Professional Equilibrium.

This and thinking about context collapse for our emerging cohorts of Networked Councillors really made me think about the impact of context collapse on us as individuals and on corporations.

On a personal level the discipline of working to influence politicians across the spectrum in charities made me highly aware of the language I use and the examples I choose mostly in order to ensure that the listener didn’t shut down through feeling beleagured straight away. In addition, working with charities and being in a leadership position at a relatively young age (26 as a CEO of a network) meant that I stuck out and was highly conscious of those watching for mistakes which, possibly unfairly, might have been in a non-work setting.

So, I spent my career living in a blurred way, living my values inside and outside the workplace. Sometimes, making myself slightly vulnerable in the process and sometimes being seen by relatives and aquaintences as a PC-gawn-mad bore. But, I have been much happier. I was coached by my first Chairman in a highly effective manner (he was well and truly ahead of his time) to make a decision consciously… Do you put on a work persona? He said, as a manager it will help you take things less personally and give you more resilience. Or, do you be who you are? He said, people will connect with you and will know that you connect with them, but when it’s hard it is much harder.

Well, obviously I chose the latter course. In my view, what was the point of spending the greater part of my waking life being a persona? I am happier for it. Not every day. But most days.

Defining examples stay with me.  On one occasion I was challenged for boundaries when I visited one of my fellow board members from a service user voice group  in a Mental Health unit, I was the Chair of the organisation. I said, they are a colleague in my context…not a patient.

I have been called ‘uncompromisingly straight forward’ and the fact I don’t layer my communication with hierarchy can also be challenging in some situations. Sadly, mostly for me! But I like that about myself, and whatever the consequences I am happier for it. This doesn’t mean using ‘truth’ to manipulate or bully though. Most examples around this for me are where I have been working with others to a stated goal but in fact there are unspoken objectives and agendas. I am generally keen to find out what they are so they, unless unethical or unreasonable, can be met too.

Will the difficulty of keeping our passions, values and beliefs separate from those of the organisations we work with and for become too much? What will those organisations do if they cannot recruit the talent they need because people are ruling themselves out because they have complained that corporate didn’t pay its tax or is overtly sexist? I predict, it will adjust. It may be a happier organisation for recognising that its values aren’t shared and even… adjust its values to be a more successful organisation.

I think the future will be happier.



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