Not long ago, I was venting with my sister about work. I complained about the brutal travel schedule, the frequent logistical hiccups, and the frustration of unnecessary teamwork. But mostly, I bemoaned the increasing lack of meaning and fulfillment. Despite being steeped in a field dedicated to developing people, I could no longer ignore the mounting evidence not only that my colleagues and I made no meaningful difference, but that what my clients really needed was deeper and more important than what we provided.
“It’s like all I do for a living is put glitter on shit!” I shouted into the phone. “Yep,” replied my wise sister, knowingly. “And you’re not really a glitter girl anyway.”
Indeed! And I’m not alone. All humans have a basic need for purpose and meaning — those who look like they don’t had that natural drive beat out of them in a family, classroom, or office. The lack of purpose and meaning is rampant in the workplace, which is one reason up to 85% of us are “disengaged.” We know that much of what we do all day is bullshit.
“Putting glitter on sh*t” means trying to make pretty something that is rotten and toxic. It’s dishonest. It’s dismissive. It’s a waste of time and money. It gets us nowhere. And people see right through it.
I believe most of the time, the glitter-wielders mean well. I certainly did! Putting glitter on sh*t is quick, easy, and often cheap in the short term. Glitter makes it look like something was done. It allows us to move on to another item in our inhumane mountain of tasks. But sh*t doesn’t go away on its own. It lays there, festering, until it seeps through the glitter and once again can’t be ignored.
The sh*t is the system, the big picture. It’s the wider context and environment around what’s happening in front of us, and it’s what drives individual behaviors and larger patterns. It’s the true source of most problems, and therefore the true source of most solutions. However, it can be harder to see and is more daunting to tackle. Shovels and bulldozers are heavier and more difficult to operate than jars of glitter.
The workplace is riddled with examples of leaders and organizations putting glitter on sh*t, and if recent national events have taught us anything, it’s that most of us can’t take it anymore! Here are a few of my “favorite” examples: Read the rest on TLNT!