Monday, February 17, 2014

Organization and Its Discontents

If the average Foreign Service Officer were to arrive at work one day to find a copy of Hustler and an application for leadership coaching sitting side by side on his desk, I'm 99 percent sure that he would opt to hide the application inside the magazine rather than the other way around.  Despite our mandatory leadership classes and talk about management precepts, there is a pervasive sense that to need to improve your leadership skills is a sign of weakness -- a misguided notion, I fully realize, though that does little to ease my discomfort while browsing management titles in the 'self help / business' section of the bookstore.  I mean, what if someone I knew saw me?  Think of the shame!  Okay, so maybe I DID buy "The First 90 Days in Government."  It's... for a friend.  Not a close friend, mind you.  I can quit any time.  (Honestly, I think pornography would be easier to explain.  Heck, it gets lonely overseas.)

I try to put my finger on the reason for this aversion.  Perhaps we are caught up in the same talent myth as the private sector.  Perhaps we're too proud to admit we are fallible and could sometimes use help.  Or maybe it's simple fear -- what if we use all the resources for self-improvement, but then we never do get any better?

Luckily, being already rather socially ham-handed and having little to lose along that front, I am committed to unfearfully striving for improvement despite the almost certain ridicule of others.  Or maybe just quasi-fearfully.  "What do you think could get in the way of me helping you change to achieve your goals?" the coaching application asks.  I dunno.  Social anxiety?  60 hour work weeks?  More snow days?  Though, to be fair, if it hadn't been for the recent government closure, I don't know when I would have had time to sneak into the office and print out the application form.  I brought a copy of Foreign Affairs to hide it in, just in case.