I had lunch last week with a former colleague hailing from a life long ago. We’ve stayed in touch, live in the same city, and find the time to reconnect every now and then. She’s helped me in my career and I’ve tried to do the same in hers. And she is a kindred spirit in that she likes to tell it like she sees it. At this particular lunch, she was reflecting on a former employer. And she pronounced:
“It was a club with a perverted sense of itself.” This statement is interesting to me on a number of levels…
Let’s start with ‘club.’ Kind of an interesting descriptor for a place of employment, right? After all, clubs are exclusive, they usually involve some sort of application, an interview, and approval; then there is the process of initiation (and sometimes even hazing). Clubs have all sorts of rules its members must abide by; and you can be kicked out for not following those rules. Sound familiar? Now, take a literal interpretation: ‘Club,’ as a noun, is “an association dedicated to a particular interest or activity.” As a verb, it can mean “beat (a person)…” Wow, both those definitions fit pretty nicely too.
On another level, I love the idea that an organization could have a “sense of itself.” I’m predisposed to wishing an organization’s ‘self’ is merely a representation of the collective ‘selves’ of its employees. But I’ve also been around long enough to experience the Organizational Trump – the organization’s sense of self usually comes before the employee’s individual sense of self. Try to argue with me on that…just try it. How many clubs do you know of that (really) encourage their members to be different? Aren’t clubs at their very root about commonality?
“Perversion.” That’s perfect. Those on the inside looking out have a much different (warped) perspective than those on the outside looking in. And with a club, for every person on the inside there are countless others on the outside.
I could go on and on. But my colleague’s almost flippant comment got me to thinking: maybe she wasn’t describing her employer; maybe she was describing most employers.
Image Credit: David Reber’s Hammer Photography (via Compfight)