As distasteful as it is to consider this analogy for real, many of us can find ourselves falling foul of the ‘boiled frog’ syndrome. You know that situation where the frog (you or I) jump into a pot of cold water and all seems fine and then bit by bit the water heats up on the stove and before we know it is boiling and we’ve boiled along with it….as I say it’s not a pleasant analogy but it’s very apposite in a climate where there is so much going on every day that we lose touch with the appropriate response, choices or actions.
If, like so many, you have been under a period of sustained change, stress, pressure and just about keeping your head above water it’s possible that when you hear some information that would ordinarily be shocking – for example really poor engagement scores across the board or 25% staff turnover, extremely high sickness rates – you no longer are shocked.
It’s not that you’ve become a bad person or lost your faculties…it’s more case of no longer being able to see or feel the emotional or intellectual responses in the same way.
This is, of course, a dangerous place to end up, particularly if many in the organisation have hit the same place. What causes it? Many things of course, but typically an over-emphasis on one type of response to all challenges, which usually comes from an extreme task focus with limited regard for the needs of people. This stress of an overstuffed task list or poor management practices to manage the workload pressures accumulates. At the root is often an over-ambitious view of what’s possible given available resource and capabilities coupled with a lack of creativity in how to find new approaches.
What to do about it? Well, firstly we have to face the situation as it is and realise we may have lost the awareness of the need to jump or change our practises. To support that, one option may be to invite people in from the’ outside’ to give you the ‘wake up’ call that will enable you to jump out of the boiling water before it’s too late…these may be people from other departments, other levels, other stakeholders, consultants, industries and so on. Building a practise of perspective building and reality checking is ever more vital in a world where the intensity of daily life is for many out of all known proportions.
And the added advantage of gaining the perspective – apart from not boiling alive – is that quite often that other perspective, input, viewpoint might just bring some fresh thinking that helps you make more transformational change if and where needed…
The alternative is that we continue going as we are and risk becoming a mere shell of ourselves – individually and organisationally. Or we become hard-nosed about the dispensable nature of people and talent and create an organisation that loses all sense of itself and its core human values.