02 Leadership Viewpoints

Working with Imperfect People

Wabi-Sabi for the human condition.

If our opinion of our fellow man or woman is even half factual, it’s a miracle anything gets done at all.

‘So-and-so is dumb as a post, that one selfish as a leech, this one rude as hell and we all know who’s the lazy sloth. No wonder we are struggling in this project’. This sort of carping does not apply only to team-work. It has excellent reach. Even Picasso probably cursed his paint and brush suppliers and the makers of his canvas. I suppose there will be those who say I take too bleak of view of others and am only extrapolating it to everyone. But I have a lot more evidence of people knocking than praising others, especially in private conversations.

I would only confirm the suspicions of my idiocy if I thought I am not just perfect but considered so by all who know me. Why, their contemporaries are known to have found fault with the likes of Alexander, Washington, Napoleon, Gandhi and Mandela. Even now, these role models are by no means left alone in perfect repose (pun intended). What are the chances then that anyone and everyone who knows me more than casually does not regularly criticise me out of earshot? Less than that of an icicle in a forest fire.

Yet, I have a nice enough job and am tolerated at work and home. So, I am merely an exemplar of how, throughout human history, somehow we have blundered along together. And generally improved our well being and numbers steadily over the millennia. Together we’ve planted paddy fields and built space shuttles.

So, there must be something that gets us working with others despite our constant predictions of doom based on the shortcomings of everyone else. Perhaps it is a survival instinct, which subconsciously tells us that it is better to sigh and co-operate, for our individual good. And I suppose there has been enough of this to overcome personal animosities and larger bigotries. Maybe the idiot colleague oils the wheels, the selfish berk gets things done, the rude dude is only a perfectionist, and the lazy lobster has the good ideas. As for self-criticism, most of us probably dimly see our own shortcomings, yet we don’t just go jump off a bridge, do we?

It may be quite dull and nauseatingly goody-goody to start appreciating the better parts of our fellow humans, but it could be tried to see how it feels. Maybe the more-charitable-than-thou sensation is not to be sniffed at. And there is a school of thought that says that behaviour changes attitude, rather than the other way round. So who knows, it could, at least once in a while, make us less irascible.

Will vocal thankfulness achieve anything material? Come to think of it, I know I work better when some appreciation comes my way, either publicly in an artificial setting or from some sage person who is trying the aforesaid self-improvement. So there’s no saying what a bit of ‘that guy is half full’ may achieve. It may move the world a bit closer to perfection, effect some increase in the right traits.

The imperfect could be the best we ever get. Let’s accept it, perhaps even revel in it, and seek perfect work with imperfect people.


Shashi on LinkedIn

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