Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Working with mediocrity

After the last few years of working with mainly young enthusiastic AIESECers, I am in a somewhat different situation now. AIESEC members I worked with were there because they wanted to learn, to develop, and to do something useful. They may have lacked knowledge or experience due to their youth, but they had passion and willingness to do things in a good way (not all , but at least, majority of them).

Lately, I have been involved in the work for certain projects where I had to deal with people who did nothing more and nothing less than mediocre work. I clearly understand now that mediocrity is something I want to avoid dealing with as much as possible.

What does a mediocre person do (from my experience):

This person performs his/her task just up to the level what is said to be done, never more! No creativity whatsoever, just blind following of guidelines.

Real example from a meeting:
- Ohh, I was waiting for this meeting, good we have it.
I ask:
- So, why did you wait for this meeting? What do you think the purpose of this meeting is anyway?
- Ehhh... because we need to have it.

This person claims that he/she "has not seen my email in the mailbox for last two days and has discovered it just now".

The rule of mediocrity: never take initiative, try to escape any tasks as much as possible. After most of the work is done by someone else, ask for face-saving: "Is there anything else I could help with?"

Real, but modified example of me asking:
- Why would you like to make a project in the food industry? Why are you interested in it?
- Well, because I really like to eat! For example, I cooked a nice dinner yesterday.


Mediocrity is even worse than working with people with bad intentions. Bad people don't hide their bad intentions and it is therefore easy to get rid of them. But you can never say that mediocre person has been bad, because he/she has actually fulfilled the very minimum requirements or at least found good-sounding excuse not to have done it, which you are forced to believe.

I remember the days when I was a leader of different teams in AIESEC. I discovered that one of the best rules of management is focusing attention on those who are above mediocrity. I did not care much about the rest, although they were also the members of my teams. It brought results.

I actually made a rule for myself that I would eliminate mediocrity from my life. I simply try to get to environments and try to create my own environment where there is little space for that. I know it all may sound too harsh, but I just believe that I can spend my time and energy doing something good and useful for the people who put a real effort, who strive and want to learn.

Luckily, I have enough people like that in my life.


Linus Kendall said...

I relate a lot to this! But do you feel that your rule is achievable - that is, can you really eliminate all mediocrity, or do you just need to find a way to live / handle it?

Deniss Rutšeikov said...

No, I cannot eliminate all the mediocrity from my life. As well as I cannot eliminate foolishness, narrow-mindedness, hatred and similar.

Yet whenever I have a choice, I try nor to build, neither develop relationships with people characterised by mediocrity. No friends, colleagues, or business partners like that, no way. If I need to have some encounters with them, I try to limit them as much as possible.

When for some reason one has to be surrounded by mediocrity (work assignments or social obligations)... well then I would strive to make my way forward to achieve the situation where I would be in a position to choose my human surroundings.

Данияр said...

ДА. Вот это было интересно...
Когда смотрел фильм, кторый ты на НатКо прислал,и место работы показывал, я больше задавался вопросом, а как ты там с персоналом общаешься. Просто у наверно сначала, в течении работы в Айсике, у меня и некоторых других сложилось впечатление, что ...вот Айсек - это что-то вроде классной репетиции перед РАБОТОЙ. А потом понимаешь, что на этой РАБОТЕ, не все аткие интузиасты и гении, как ты представляешь. Да, наверно как-то так. Но самое главное, наверно, что айсекеры, да и просто активные, инициативные люди не смогут стать такими "маленькими человеками", вроде Акакия Акакиевича ...

Deniss Rutšeikov said...

Данияр, примеры, которые я привел, - не из моей рабочей, а из университетской жизни - у нас здесь много проектов, над которыми мы работаем вместе. К сожалению, большинство людей и в Казахстане, и в Эстонии, и в Норвегии приходит в университет за дипломом, а не за знаниями.

В фирме, где я работаю, наоборот, очень сильный и динамичный коллектив. Прежде всего, руководитель - и это неудивительно, потому что он был в AIESEC Норвегии в начале 1990х.

Но это, действительно, часто нелегко - сохранить принципы работы в AIESEC и в последующих жизненных ситуациях, когда тебя не всегда окружают инициативные а энергичные айесекеры. Но это возможно, имея силу воли.

Данияр said...

А, это университет....

А про работу не знал. Хм, наверно мой комментарий был навеян... недавними рассазками,тех кто начал работать...

Ну, тогда очень рад :))

Stephane said...

Nice to discover your blog Deniss :)

"I simply try to get to environments and try to create my own environment where there is little space for [mediocrity]."
Well, you can't always be in a great environnment right away, and if you are, that means someone else made it so.
To get to a good environment, the best way is to make it yourself.
However, I agree that people who do mediocre work will never fit in this.