Moments of Madness

Something has changed. No alert was issued and no one heard the footsteps of a dangerous phenomenon entering our corporate systems. This happened when the world of tall glass buildings and biometric systems was busy coping with multiple business theories and management styles so that it could sustain itself. And yet, despite all the theories and principles being doled out by management pundits and gurus, very few were able to tap into the vibrations of an inevitable cataclysmic event; one that I choose to call ‘Moments of Madness‘.

All this happened when management fundamentals were evolving in an effort to deal with different challenges. For instance, many years ago, leadership in organizations was busy managing knowledge. But eventually, it was noticed that while people had the knowledge, they lacked the skill to use it properly. And, to fill that gap, the management started conducting workshops and seminars by the dozens.

Those who completed this training enjoyed the exalted position of having both knowledge and skill at their command. But before they knew it, there was a big thump on the door, and suddenly, managers were faced with yet another unique dilemma. Different situations were arising out of the crowd of people who were now both skilled and knowledgeable, but at skewed levels. And to meet this demand, modules of situational leadership were churned out.

One solution led to another problem and, one day, corporate managers woke up to a clamor outside their corner offices. When they inquired, the response was disturbing. Now the issue wasn’t about knowledge or skill; it was about managing aspirations. In any organization, positions were few and claimants were many. It was a nightmare for managers to walk into their office and look into eyes filled with the hope of more … more money, more advancement, better roles, faster promotion, and better work-life balance.

But there was no solution in sight. These managers were themselves involved in the same kind of chaos, with similar hopes and aspirations that were going unfulfilled. And if no one was interested in their aspirations, then they’d be damned if they cared about anyone else’s.

From here on, it was all about damage control. Unprepared for 21st-century problems, all management mantras started to fail, and what this situation delivered was pretty average ‘people managers’. As we all know, average can only perpetuate mediocrity. Non-deserving people who had no respect for the role they were entrusted with were promoted. Not only did this establish incompetent leadership, it also led to unrest among those who were competent and talented, dealing a double whammy to the corporate structure. The crumble was expected, and chaos was inevitable.

While all this was happening, there was another Godzilla of a problem lurking in the underbelly of the corporate world, something that I’ve referred to earlier as the ‘Moment of Madness’.

But what is this moment of madness? I think the best way for me to describe it is the moment when people started pressing the self-destruct button as if they had nothing to lose. Never ever in the history of corporate set up were people throwing in the towel like in current times. “I quit!” came to be seen as a release phrase; a way to release their pent-up frustration. Targets and performances became the new demons who showed no mercy. And EMI’s and material possessions stopped acting like the glue that held people to their jobs.

Social media has not helped either as each post tends to chip away at people’s self-esteem viciously. Think about it, every image except yours looks happy and creates an illusion of “They’ve arrived, not me”. People have started to react to small office situations like it was a life and death issue. People are dragging themselves to work. And no one trusts anybody anymore. It’s no wonder that organizations are failing. And people have become so vulnerable that – and I’m not exaggerating when I say this – every day they hit a moment of insanity where their world abandons reasons and tethers on the edge of chaos.

This is very different from employees being demotivated or unhappy with their jobs. A demotivated individual will still look for help. He will still talk to people and vent his frustrations. He will type his resignation in the dead of night, but he won’t click the ‘Send’ button. He may be unhappy and dissatisfied with his professional and personal life, but he’s able to view both separately and in isolation. Most importantly, his self-esteem is still not below critical levels.

However, when someone is sucked into a ‘Moment of madness’, they lose the ability to take a balanced perspective on things. Any failure, no matter how small or inconsequential, is considered a personal fault, and people are bearing the burden for things that are beyond their control as well. They’re unable to express what they’re feeling, and every setback turns into an exercise of fault-finding which is directed not towards others, but themselves. Tired, exhausted, drained, they carry their bodies to work and look forward to little or no gratification from their professional responsibilities. But, worst of all, such people have given up on themselves and label their entire life as a failure.

This is a critical moment and organizations shouldn’t take it lightly. Someone within the organization should be standing by to help their employees, their own people, through their moment of madness. The most critical factor is to always try and spot telltale signs of this behaviour, be alert to the change in patterns that people exhibit, and keep talking to them about things that are not just work related.

And when you find someone who has hit this dead end, hold their hands firmly, give them a heartfelt talk. And, when they feel like they’re not wanted, help them tap into their self-worth. Someone should have the guts to look these individuals in their eyes and tell them frankly and with just as much vulnerability, “Do not worry. We are in same ship. Let’s help each other out.”

I personally believe that leaders who can recognize this phenomenon and do something about it – day in and day out, without judgement, without their own madness leeching out through the cracks, without weariness getting the better of them – they will be the leaders with their ‘Moments of success’.

Long back, I entered a client’s office and noticed a poster behind his chair that read “People are fragile. Handle with care”. That was a good take away for me, one that has stayed with me since then. And maybe these are the times when this phrase holds truer than ever before…

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