Anyone who has spent any time in a large organisation knows the pull of the average. I know. It’s not what new employees set out to do. We all start with great expectations that we will be the ones that change things, the people who made a difference.
Of course some people stand out. But by and large, the organisation eventually swallows up your will and your desire to make a difference. Decades of organisational compliance have turned us into unquestioning corporate zombies. Before you howl in indignation – yes, even the newer technology firms. Sometimes they are more cult like than the older institutions.
But not everyone accepts their corporate fate, and you might well be a change maker. If you are realistic, you can approach a new job with your eyes wide open, and accept that if you are a natural disrupter of norms, then your days will be numbered.
It’s worth understanding why you will largely be on your own. There are some standard excuses that people give for not getting out of line. Wherever you work, these will fall into several categories. Be conscious of them, and you can develop coping mechanisms.
1. Fear of being a freak in the system
The desire to belong, to feel part of the team is a strong pull, and yet to create change in the system, you need to question things. That doesn’t go down well with the bosses and it makes your peers feel uncomfortable.
2. Pay grade contempt
By which I mean, the attitude that confines people to their place in the hierarchy and stops them from taking decisions or creating change. I’ve often heard words to the effect of ‘I’m too junior’ or ‘It’s beyond my pay grade’. Really? They might as well say ‘I’m too lazy to do anything about that’. And if their bosses are really preventing them from making decisions for the good of the company, then they shouldn’t be in leadership positions.
3. I’m impotent in the face of it
This is somewhat understandable. The sense that the problems that exist are so large and the company is so unwieldy that little old you can’t make any difference – well that can be debilitating. But of course you can make a difference, and in fact your infectious enthusiasm will encourage others to do it too. Especially when they realise that nothing really bad happened.
4. It’s not my fault – it’s theirs
But there’s no excuse for this one. This is the umbrella get out clause. The one that people pull out when they want to stand on the sidelines and do nothing but they are happy for their colleagues to take the rap. There’s always a reason for not doing anything. It’s either that the company has rules that can’t be circumvented, or – and this is my favourite – we tried it before and it didn’t work.
So, how can I be extraordinary?
You know what? Compliance is the enemy of innovation. Every great business starts with someone who goes outside of the standard rules and looks to make a difference. We’ve got to leave our fear and our ordinariness behind if we want to change things for the better, whether that’s within our existing companies or as you go it alone.
Just don’t be ordinary. Please.