Don’t Tell Me Where To Swim At Work
I’m not a violent person, but if you tell me to do one thing in particular, I may become surly, to the point of hauling off and throwing inappropriate punctuation at you. That one thing is so obnoxious I immediately forget how much I hate “The Ranch” and instead, visualize you as Ashton Kutcher.
What could be so offensive as to cause me to lose all sense of comity and turn to thoughts as dark as wondering if the late Mister Rogers ever wore that cardigan without a shirt?
I bet you’re with me now. You’ve been there too. If you haven’t, you’ll soon understand and immediately empathize. Yes..you guessed it. Someone at work has looked you squarely in the eye, and with all seriousness, demanded you stay in your swim lane!
The very first time I heard that idiotic term was during my time working for a car company. Someone from another department complained to me that a member of my team was not staying in his swim lane and I needed to do something about it. Realizing I had just heard a grown person say something inane I asked exactly what the problem was? I was very sure the member of my team was an excellent swimmer and regardless of stroke, never strayed beyond his lane. Of course I knew what she meant but I wanted to make it known I thought what she had just said was the daily double of dumb: arrogant and stupid.
Not having much of a sense of humor she went on and on about my excellent team member not sticking to his job description to the letter in his quest to use his imagination and initiative to expand and improve his portfolio to the betterment of the company. What was really going on was this person actually felt threatened and sought to quash the efforts of someone who might earn kudos and maybe even a promotion for being an excellent employee.
Me being a good teammate, I promised I would do something immediately. I called the apparently errant swimmer into my office and related my conversation with the moron upstairs. I told him to learn the backstroke so he couldn’t see where he was going in an effort to further stray from him swim lane. I left him with the firm directive to continue to be as creative and imaginative as possible, within reason. You don’t want someone straying willy nilly into someone else’s area, but you also don’t want to kill an employee’s creativity, drive or enthusiasm.
Just keep up the communication so you know what your folks are up to and step in if you think it’s not merely a swim lane infraction but a dive into a completely new pool. Who knows? That idea may be an opportunity to work with the person or team who may otherwise feel aggrieved and, if successful, you both win.
But just blatantly ordering someone to stay in their swim lane represents the depths of paranoia, haughtiness and pathetic power play. You tell me that and I’ll not only dunk your ass, I’ll pee in your pool.
Oh, Ed. So very happy to see you have not changed a bit. You are still one of the most clever, perceptive and business-
savvy people I know. Keep up the good fight!
Aw, Betty thanks a lot. I was lucky enough to work with you and our other team members who were courageous and ballsy enough to cross the lane markers every day in order to drag that department into the 21st century…even in the face of losers and cowards who still, today, cling to their comfort zones.