My place of employment is closing. The problem is the mood is very somber and depressing. How do you work within that environment and not let it bring you down?
If you stand back, way, way back, the entire solar system is a sinking ship. We know the sun has just a few billion years left, and if we’re still stuck on planet earth, we’ll go up in flames with the rest.
Meanwhile, can we thrive here? Of course we can.
Whenever I hear of a group in trouble, or a project not going well, I think of the earth and the sun. If you frame a problem right, you can thrive anywhere. Even Sisyphus himself, according to Camus, had moments of joy here and there. I admit you can’t always thrive in terms of productivity, but you can thrive in spirit.
First, its when times are tough that leaders earn their pay. It’s easy to lead when everything goes perfectly. In some cases, a leader might be doing nothing at all, and ride on the waves of producvtity driven by the people who work for them. But when things go wrong, or there’s bad news, or the sun starts exploding, that’s when a leader earns their pay.
What goals can be set that people find interesting? What skills can people learn before the project is over? What sources of pride can be cultivated and directed at the remaining work? There are always ways to make the boring interesting, and the dull fun. It just requires someone who has authority to choose to use that authority to motivate and inspire.
I’m not suggesting denial. Everyone will process the end of a project or a company in their own way, on their own time. But for those who can find ways to stay motivated and excited about what they’re doing, they should be supported and encouraged to find ways to involve others.
Lets say there are 100 people on a project that’s ending. Everyone will be somber when it’s announced. But the following week, what if there are 5 people, working together, having fun, and being productive. The other 95 will start to notice, and many of them will want to join the 5, in spirit, if not in work. Not everyone will be capable of coming along, but you’d be surprised. If a key leader or two take up with the minority group, it can soon become much larger than people think.
At the end of the day we all face situations we can’t win and can’t control. The question then becomes: how will choose to face those situations? Like Sisyphus, choosing how to respond to what we can’t control might just be the most important and defining decision we ever make.