Sardines, anyone?

Posted by on Aug 26, 2011 in News & commentary | 0 comments

We’ve been getting a lot of interest in our work based this recent article in the Wall Street Journal. The article recounts one of Paul’s finer episodes.  Back when he was in a cube, he was eating a lot of sardines for lunch.  And the cube-neighbor told her boss, who told his boss, who told Paul’s boss, who told Paul to stop eating such stinky food.

How, you may ask, is stinky lunch related to leading geeks?  Well, moreso than you would think.

Lunch, and the rituals and expectations around lunch, are an important aspect of work culture.  On some teams eating at your desk is a virtue, a sign of hard work.  On other teams it is seen as anti-social.

This story also touches on expectations of who talks to whom and and about what. Paul expected that his co-worker would say something to him if she smelled something amiss.  But that’s not what she thought.  There are any number of reasons why she wouldn’t have talked to Paul directly.  Perhaps she thought he would be offended by her “sticking her nose” into what he was eating.  Perhaps she was so outraged she didn’t trust herself to contain her fury.  Perhaps she was intimidated by Paul’s imposing build.

At any rate, the situation was handled with no real harm done.  The aggrieved party spoke up, the bosses passed the concern along, and Paul started eating lunch on the balcony, offering the sincerest of apologies to his neighbor.

The fact is, we, as leaders, need to become more on the lookout for and adept at handling situations of offence and grievance that might not be so easy to report.  Feelings of offense, hurt or outrage that might be hard to smell,  but much more damaging to the success of the team.

… She didn’t copy me on an email.  He showed up 25 minutes late to our meeting again.  He completely dismissed my idea and then turned around and said it in different words, claiming it as his own.  She was supposed to give me feedback on Tuesday, and I’m still waiting …

These are highly charged emotional events, and very few of us, not to mention the people on our teams, are well equipped to navigate them.  These mircoevents turn into stories about that person, and those people. They become entrenched as low-expectations and contribute to the hair-trigger sensitivites we develop for each other, especially when working across departments.

So, yeah. Sardines. Kind of embarrassing. But really, there’s a lesson here about human relationship in the work place.  And all of us at Leading Geeks are committed to seeing to it that we and our clients get more powerful at keeping work relationships healthy and productive.




For more information about how you can leverage geeks to get the technology you want, contact or call 310-694-0450.

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