By Guest Blogger, Dr. Lee Meadows
I was challenging my mind by tuning into an old episode of ‘The Big Valley’ (I don’t expect many of you to catch the reference, but stay with the story) and the storyline involved Victoria Barkley, the matriarch and Jarrod Barkley, the heir apparent being stranded in a dying town. The mayor of the desolate place decided to impose a hefty ‘fine’ on both of them for some non-existent ordinance or be locked up. The issue being pay the fine or spend time in jail in a desolate town. After paying the ‘fine’ they befriended the Mayor and his cohorts, having decided to help them rid said place of a criminal element that sought control of the town. During one scene, three members of the criminal posse were riding down the middle of the town road, when Jarrod said to the Mayor, “You know, innocent people could be hurt by them riding so fast through the town.” He turned to the Mayor and said, “Don’t we have a law against that kind of wild riding?” The Mayor took out his notebook and said, “There will be in just a second.” I found myself caught in an uncontrollable laughter and trying to figure out what made that line so funny! Then it hit me, because that stuff goes on all the time!
I started thinking about the places I have worked and some of the characters I have encountered along the way and realized that I had encountered that phenomena more often than I care to admit. Like the time when I asked a shift supervisor the location of the requisition forms to order more copy paper.
“We don’t have forms for that,” He said.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Those forms just tend to clog up the toilet,” was his response. (I am not making this up) and he turned and walked back into the work area. Years later, I’m still not sure if he was from another planet or I was.
Naturally, when those kinds of thoughts ruminate in the back of your mind, what comes forth are example after example of someone in a, particular, role inside an organization who, when asked a perfectly normal question that is not designed to tear away at their brain cells, why the compulsion to make up an answer as opposed to not saying anything at all.
How many times have you asked someone why a certain activity doesn’t take place only to be told, “Well, that’s the policy?” I have learned that is the moment when you are supposed to walk away and let it go. Yet, as time, maturity and wisdom have come together to fill the hole in my head, I now ask, “May I see that policy?” Guess how many Voodoo dolls have been crafted, over the years, in my image when the person making the statement can’t produce a policy? How about the instances when someone is making up a rule because they don’t want to address a specific behavior?
“Donna, we have a rule against using the west copy room in the morning when the sun is rising in the east.”
“How long has that been a rule?”, Donna would, naturally ask
“Well, you silly, since the beginning of time.” At this point, Donna is supposed to feel like the fool.
What is most disturbing, Donna’s gullibility in accepting that as a true rule.
Maybe it’s laziness on the part of the respondent, perhaps it is the fear of someone finding out that you really don’t know what you are talking about, or the need to quickly fill a gap before the person asking realizes there is a hole.
The real sad truth about this whole making up stuff, is that the answer is so ridiculous that it could only be made up.
Dr. Meadows is a professor at Walsh College, teaching online and on-ground management and MBA courses. In addition, Dr. Meadows is a keynote speaker, training and development consultant, and motivational speaker for corporate and community groups and professional associations.
In 2006, Dr. Meadows published “Take the Lull by the Horns: Closing the Leadership Gap”. He is also the author of numerous articles on leadership, management, diversity, career paths and projections and education.