autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

Reflection: On Buddha Nature and Ego in the Workplace

Today brings interesting thoughts; thoughts about ego in the workplace, the reality of the schism in my life between “how I strive to be outside work” versus “how I am when at work” and specifically, the fresh realization that I have allowed ego to pretty much run rampant in the boundaries of my career.

Case in point – I am presently working as a consultant for a certain client company that is, in my opinion, utterly rife with process immaturity and organizational dysfunction. So much so that, in the nigh four months I have been here, not a single one of my projects has managed to deliver the inputs I need or to otherwise meet even one of their (many) project-related deadlines. I have spent a considerable amount of time talking with my direct reports (both onsite and at my consulting company) about matters, trying to suss out (a) why this is, (b) what I can do to help change it, and most importantly, (c) how I can help my project teams be successful (i.e., get things done without all the headaches and pains and missed deadlines).

I suspect it is as easy for you, dear reader, as it has been for me (until this point) to say, “Well, this seems a very logical, reasonable, and worthy thing to do.”

But I am beginning to think this is exactly the problem. You see, it has at long last occurred to me that maybe… just maybe… my ego is getting the better of me when it comes to assuming that I should be trying to do any of these things. Looking at it closely, I find that:

(1) I was not placed here to resolve these issues, I was placed here to perform a very specific set of tasks.

(2) That I have been largely unable to perform these tasks, while frustrating and incredibly hard on my own sense of professionalism, efficiency, and productivity, is explicitly not because of anything I am or am not doing; the causes rest outside my boundary of authority, control, or responsibility.

(3) The situation “as it is”, obviously, is not to my liking; this does not, however, mean that I am somehow imbued with the authority, control, or responsibility to attempt to change it beyond mentioning that “this is as it is” to those who do have that authority, control, and responsibility.

And of course, point 3 is where my ego gets all bent out of shape. (grin)

I realize in this moment that I have caused myself a considerable amount of suffering by undertaking to try and do more than what is outlined in point 3; the simple fact is, despite good intentions and motivations, I really do not know that my thoughts on “what could fix things”, “what would be helpful”, and “what should be done” can or will actually achieve the hoped result.

Mind you, I assume they can and will based upon the years of experience I have and the reality that what I am positing is, in fact, standard and best practice founded (i.e., not merely “my opinion of what can work”), but where I think I have crossed the line from good intent and motivation to ego-driven behavior is that I have persisted in pushing at this in the face of fairly consistent non-response on the part of those with authority, control, and responsibility; an activity and choice that, if I am bluntly honest with myself, is not driven by good intention or motivation but, instead, by frustration and resentment at feeling no one is listening/paying attention… which, as much as it stings to admit, is the textbook indicator of my little ego getting all wrapped around the axle on this.

Oi, the insidiousness of ego forever surprises me (even as it shouldn’t by my age!); crossing the line between meaning well and “trying to help” is, I think, always the evidence of ego-in-effect:

“Let ME show you…”

“Let ME be the one to help…”

“Let ME….”

You get the idea.

Sitting here, now, laying this out on the page, I am really quite chagrined. Not as much for being caught with my ego cavorting about (after all, this is human and hardly something that is going to be purged away), but because it has taken me many weeks to reach a point from which I could see it at all, let alone bring myself to “get over myself” long enough to admit that this “is what it is” (my ego, my problem).

Harder still is the notion that my only real choice is to deal with all of this situation “as it is”, but this is only the case because I am still chasing my ego around the room while it screams over its figurative shoulder all manner of things up to and including variants of, “Why does this even matter when [reputable outlet X] clearly agrees that you’re right?” and “Why should *I* take the blame when *I* am just trying to be helpful?”, and “If *I* don’t care or try, doesn’t that just mean *I* am apathetic and only concerned with lining my wallet at someone else’s expense?” (This, of course, the fear hiding in plain sight under it all; the real driver of ego.)

And so forth and so on….

It may take me a while to really get myself and all this ego under control. Hell, I may never manage it; but I suspect that, judging from how, even now, I can feel that ego-y part of me prepping a solid pout and feeling of disappointment, this may actually have been a positive little moment of self-whittling. I admit, I feel some relief just to see and consider that the utter train-wreck of it all isn’t my fault… but at the same time, I find I feel very tired and very sad at the frustration, resentment, and effort I see all around me, all the time as a direct result of “how things are”. I also cringe to think about the time, money, and possibility that seems to be spent without reaching more than the next iteration of frustration, resentment, and effort. Meh… ego whispering about justifications and rationales that I know only matter or hold meaning to me. Gah! Such an on-going and relentless thing!

Will this actually be helpful for me for more than a moment? I reckon that, as with anything, only time will tell; but I am trying, really, really trying.