A very good friend of mine has a theory about the people-dynamics in the workplace. I find the model extremely interesting, and general enough to be applied to many other situations in which there is human interaction, and some sort of competition, be it real or imaginary, for power, status, notoriety, recognition, etc.
My friend’s theory explains that the workplace is a universe of sorts, organized in galaxies, where we can find the different types of heavenly bodies.
The most visible ones, which immediately capture our attention and frequently dazzle us with their strong light and the speed at which they move up the company’s hierarchy, are the shooting stars. These are people who seem to have inexhaustible energy, the ability to simultaneously lead multiple endeavours, of mobilizing people, of unceasingly launching initiatives…However, if could observe them for a long enough period of time (assuming that they did not already move on to another universe!) we would realize how, after the first stages of frantic activity, they start to wear out and blur, until finally disappearing from sight.
In contrast to the ephemeral effect of shooting stars we find the sustained influence of the real stars, which shine with their own light and are usually surrounded with multiple other heavenly bodies, to which the stars give light and energy. The interesting phenomenon about the stars is that the ability for the light of one of them to be distinctively seen depends on the proximity of that star to the neighbouring ones. Even if all of them are shining with the same intensity, frequently the combined effect results in an aura of common luminosity within which some of the starts have their light dazzled or made totally indistinguishable.
In the workplace, the stars are those people which are true leaders, those who have got the abilities, the competencies, the charisma, the emotional fortitude, the credibility, the resilience and the strength for guiding and for energizing others, and for starting and sustaining initiatives, projects and actions. On many occasions, however, these true leaders realize that their light is not perceived, or not recognized in all its fullness. According to my fried, that is probably because, in that galaxy where they decided to operate, or where they were placed, there are other stars which are brighter than them or that, having the same luminosity, were there earlier, or are located in a more prominent and visible position.
At times, certain people appear to be starts judging by their words, their actions, their position, the knowledge that they have, their participation on key matters. They seem to shine brightly with their own light, but the case is actually quite the contrary. The light that they seem to irradiate is not generated by them but a reflection of the light of some nearby star. These bodies are the moons. The reason behind many failed professional moves or promotions, after a person is given star’s responsibilities in a new galaxy is that, unbeknownst to them or not, those people were not really stars, but moons!
There is another type of heavenly body, the asteroids, big residual rocks coming from the formation of the solar system that float adrift between planets and stars, in the same way that some individuals in the workplace who at some point in time had their role, their mission, but which now have been evicted, or have evicted themselves. These asteroid-people have usually remained as unproductive matter that should nevertheless be kept in check due to the risk of causing destructive collisions with other of the bodies in the office.
Finally, we must address the dreadful ones: the black holes.
Black holes exert the strongest attracting force, so much so that no particle, not even the light, can escape from them. In the context of the universe that we know, black holes devour all form of matter and energy.
And this type of people do exist in organizations. Some of them are small and their influence is limited, not strong enough to pose a threat for the starts. The rest of the heavenly bodies can keep their energy simply by keeping themselves far enough. But some of the black holes are big and powerful, and the bodies near them are irrevocably forced to orbit closer and closer, knowing that, sooner or later, the black hole will have deprived them of all energy, and will end up eating them.
It is not difficult to spot the Big Black Holes in the workplace. These people destroy energy massively: they make other people move in every direction, getting them exhausted, dizzy, and worn-out. These black holes destroy work, despotically stopping initiatives in which numerous people had already invested countless horas and illusions, or whimsically inventing new bureaucratic mechanisms to control people or obstruct their progress. They eat everybody else’s time.
Just look for the companies, departments or teams with the highest number of demotivated, exhausted, depressed and numbed people. The big black holes normally hold some sort of hierarchical or positional power in those companies, departments or teams.
Black holes can only be destroyed when a bigger black hole captures and eats them, or when, once they have depleted all life and energy in their galaxy, they end up eating themselves. Maybe these things do not happen exactly like this in the cosmos, but it is how it happens, time and time again, in the workplace.
What do you tink?