Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

My top 10 pet peeves

August 31st, 2012 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I have to share a pet peeve with you.  This is not quite a rant, more of a caution.  Recently, I have become increasingly irritated with the ‘lists’ that are intended to help you improve yourself, your relationship with your boss, your relationship with your coworkers, your potential for success, or your life in general.  At least a dozen times a day I receive tweets with promises of the steps to follow to improve your situation at work or your career in general – “10 things to do to find a job”; “how to handle an irate boss in three steps”; “the 5 things that all leaders so.”  I find these lists irritating because they are misleading and short sighted.  If any of these complex issues could be solved in 3 steps, or 5 steps, or 10, we would all have the solution.  The tricky part to any situation or any individual career is that they are unique and, well, individual.  What worked for me, will not work for you.  It is as simple as that.

Lists are great in situations that are predictable and where the elements in the environment work the same each and every time.  For example, a step by step guide to baking a muffin is ideal.  I can use it, you can use and we can both be successful.  I have a friend who a few years ago committed himself to ’12 steps to hunk-dom.’  (This is not relate closely to my main point, but is a really funny aside so bear with me.)  He developed a well considered workout and diet plan.  We will never know if his 12 steps would have worked as he had a great deal of trouble following through.  But I digress.  

Life is complex.  As a social science researcher I spend a great deal of time trying to uncover trends or patterns in human behaviour.  And there are certainly predictable patterns that can be uncovered… when I expose people to the exact same experiences.  Slight variations in any part of the environment change the way in which people behave and the potential outcomes.  Even within the same circumstances there are small numbers of people who consistently behave differently – in a predictable way.  The bottom line is that a ‘how to’ list is not useful in the context of complicated situations such as the workplace.   

The message here is that all of the advice that we receive needs to be filtered through our own lens.  It is great to hear about what worked for others and it can certainly give us something to consider but the solution to our own circumstances is dependent on our individual history and our personal environment.   


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