Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NPR - Common Sense

I saw this while walking to the St. Patrick's Day parade last Saturday. Somehow it's seemed so obvious that I wonder what event caused it. Probably a truck turned into the alley to smack the fire escape and get stuck. We all do this, leave common sense at the door, and do some really stupid thing, usually when no one is looking, or when or where we get can't get caught. Or the time we are put into the public light, and we stand there like an idiot, wanting to find the closest hole to crawl into for a few days while the ruckus goes away.

I remember when I worked for the USGS in Arizona. I had the opportunity to work with a bunch of excellent people and for a great supervisor for my few years there. His philosophy was the one you hear all the time, praise in public and criticism in private. When something went wrong, he would tell his boss, "We made a mistake and we'll fix it.", and then he would talk with you, "So, what did you learn and how do you plan to fix it?" Never blame or fault but always teaching.

Well, I borrowed that philosophy when I became a supervisor and later a senior technical manager. I only changed the phrase to, "Well, I wouldn't say that was the brightest thing you done lately." And I'd go on from there to ask what they learned to do better in the future. I told my staff and other employees, I expected mistakes, and the occasional big one will happen, but don't worry, there isn't anything that is so bad it's embarrassing enough to hide.

But sadly when I moved to the Washington office, I found the exact opposite. The only thing the supervisors measured were mistakes and used them in your performance evaluation. Being human wasn't the standard, being perfect was, except when they were caught making mistakes or missing deadlines, then it was a management issue, not open to employees to question. It's one of the reasons I took an early retirement, to get away from the demoralizing work environment.

It seems to me that over the last number of years if not decades, we're slowly losing simple common sense and humanity. Isn't it time we changed this direction and just be understanding? I'm not abdicating situations or events where it's serious, like crimes or traffic accidents, but those simple things in life we do or we enounter. This doesn't excuse not plugging our brain in when we go out the front door, such as driving while ...fill in the task..., but it doesn't mean we can't excuse those that do when we can let them.

It's just a thought, so are we human enough anymore to use common sense?

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