Sunday, November 22, 2015

Social Animals

People sometimes forget that Coffee Shops are public spaces. Normally you don't hear other conversations because they get lost in the white noise of chatter. There is even an app for that. I used ChatterBlocker when I worked in an open plan office. My choice of noise was rain (it puts me in a good mood), but you can select a combination of voices to drown out the other voices in the office. The thing is, an actual coffee shop isn't always busy. The noise isn't constant. You do sometimes pick up what others are saying even if you don't want to. Effectively the reason you would use the app in an office. If only one person is speaking in the office, it is very difficult to tune out from what they are saying and concentrate on your own work.

Add Noise to Concentrate

Recently when I was leaving Amsterdam, I overheard two people having a work related discussion. I smiled. Even though I worked at three different companies, many of the 'issues' were the same. The words being used could have been copied and pasted from a thousand conversations I had heard before. Even when I speak to friends in other professions, the words get used. Although we all end up trying to specialise with a specific set of skills, the irony is that the main skills required to do almost anything are very transferable if people are involved. That is because the main skill involved is dealing with people.

I enjoyed the Human Resources courses I did at university. I know a bunch of my fellow students didn't bother going. They saw the courses as fluffy, and didn't want to waste time they could be spending (drinking or) wrapping their heads around the technical stuff. I enjoyed the courses partly because they seemed very tangible. Very practical. Unfortunately... they seemed obvious. Because everyone deals with people, everyone knows and can relate to some of the areas discussed. The truth is, people with good people skills are actually very rare. You can find technical skill far more easily. You can often pay for technical skill, while people with people skills stay depending on your people

The successful often get promoted to their level of incompetence. They do a great job, technically, and so get more responsibility. Responsibility normally means reports. Line management. The fluffy stuff. It means getting to understand what makes us tick. It means getting to know people. Quite often the technical know-how stops mattering as much. What matters is the ability to understand, motivate and communicate.

So you recognise the moans in coffee shops. A boss who doesn't listen. A colleague who selectively ignores emails. Goals that aren't properly communicated. Office politics. Stress. Emotions going rampant - anger, jealousy, depression, fear. Team dynamics. Personality types.

Different Cup, Same Moan

In the jobs I had, the first few months there had less to do with what I was doing, and more to do with who I was doing it with. We are social animals.
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