While I was reading ‘The Black Swan’ I commented to a colleague that it was very interesting but I was not sure how useful it was, how (or if) I could apply it to my daily life or work?  It was marketed as a ‘management’ book so, for me,  it needed to be useful.  My colleague politely reminded me “Harley, not everything in life needs to be useful”.  And so it is that I have been contemplating ‘usefulness’ recently.  One of the key obstacles that I face when managing change is peoples need to feel ‘useful’ and the web they tangle themselves up in to keep feeling it.

Surely one of the darkest feelings a human can ever experience is that of low esteem, the feeling of self uselessness?  While we are in work, no matter how pointless our job might be, we kid ourselves into believing that this (along with our family) is our purpose, our reason for being. No wonder why so many people suffer so much during the early days of retirement?

Because the fear of not being needed is at the root of nearly all resistance, ‘vision’ and ‘belief’ need to become the change managers’ two biggest allies. 

It is not surprising that negotiations become so ineffective when trade unions enter the debate because their fundamental stand point is that a job is a job and it is their task to save every single one of them, no matter how unwanted or useless they might be.  And yet, if a persons’ job is no longer needed, if the employee knows that they are no longer wanted, what long term effect does it have upon them (and those around them) when their trade union has temporarily ‘saved’ their seemingly useless and unneeded job?

Generally change managers (for good reason) are not permitted to negotiate with trade unions, but I for one would like to spend time with union leaders talking about their approach to vision and belief and the dignity of the human soul, and not their usual outdated Marxist notion of ‘rights’ towards a job, any job. 

In the 18th. century Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, introduced us into the world of Enlightenment.  At a time when the church and/or monarch ruled everything, he proposed “Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end”.   Kant knew that in essence there are more important things to life than work, family and politics. “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason.   There is nothing higher than reason”.   It is therefore important that we should start with things that please the senses and spend time studying seamlessly ‘useless things’, so that we can move on to understanding and eventually end up with reason.

I think my future lies with setting out to invent a new language for trade union negotiation.  One that allows trade unions to become more effective.  Not by imposing fear in the hearts and minds of those they ‘defend’ but vision and belief, based upon the new possibilities offered by receiving a large cash hand out and a chance for personal liberation. 

Trade unions have proven themselves to be essential in their daily work of protecting employees from the worst elements of poor and exploitative management but I sometimes fear that in Western Europe they focus too much on trying to save every job that will disappear anyway, rather than negotiating honest and fair settlements and then using their power and influence to help their customers get through the fear barrier of life after their current work. 

Have a good week,

Harley