Friday, October 26, 2007

Death of Naivete

Being idealistic can have its downfalls. Expecting a certain level of vested interest from colleagues doesn't seem too crazy, but it can cause problems when working in a team environment. Group projects, team homework assignments, steering committees - all require a level of commitment from everyone involved, though motivations for that involvement may vary, and that's where we get the death of naivete.

In school we see this problem in group projects. Invariably the hard-working over-achievers get stuck with a lemon, and spend much of group time convincing said lemon what needs to be done. Worse, the group is forced to teach aforementioned lemon concepts learned in class because he or she wasn't interested in paying attention.

Retribution can be had through the process of peer evaluation. However, when that peer evaluation is only a small percentage of the final grade, one wonders about the effectiveness of a scathing review.

The Death of Naivete is when we believe everyone working with us holds the same motivations and interest in achieving organizational success. Let me clarify: everyone wants to see the organization succeed, but the reason they desire it is different.

Examples of those different motivations?

Idealistic : The good of the organization, the good of the clients/customers, satisfaction of a job well done,
Realistic: all of the above plus higher organizational profits, bigger paychecks, self promotion, etc.

Some motivations are to serve the self and some are to serve the organization.

As we begin to realize that another team member is not as vested or interested in the success of our project, our naivete begins to die a slow, agonizing death. We may become a bit jaded and increasingly frustrated that these few, who agreed to help the rest of us, were agreeing out of an interest of personal gain. Rather than hoping to see a successful project, they wished to obtain a bit credit for that success through as little effort as possible.

Perhaps their motivation has many facets, and the personal gain is just one, but we can't help but roll our eyes as they produce yet another excuse as to why they cannot participate in team activities, or finish their assigned portion of the work. Inside we scream, "Then why did you sign up???" Sometimes we add a sarcastic, "Duh, we're all busy yet we manage to pull our weight."

The most important thing to remember is that the Death of Naivete is a process. Like any death, we experience grief. A brief illustration:

Shock: What? Why are they not doing their part? Don't they want us to succeed?

Denial: They want to do a good job, they're just really busy. If we leave them alone it'll eventually come together.

Inward Anger: Why am I such a tool? I don't want the team to do a bad job, so I cover the slack, but seriously, stop being such a push over!

Outward Anger: Wait a minute, why am I blaming myself for this stress? That jerk is the one who isn't participating. I'm talking to their boss/professor!

Depression: No one cares about what we're trying to accomplish. They're just in it for themselves, and I can't persuade them otherwise. The world's going to hell in a handbasket.

Acceptance: Okay, so they aren't going to do their part. The other team members will share the burden, and we'll finish the project successfully. We can deal with any issues afterward.

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