While visiting relatives in our hometown of Tulsa last week, I found myself on kitchen duty with my brother-in-law one afternoon. Cleaning the kitchen during the holidays is somewhat like trying to hit a moving target, because the activity never really ends — it just reaches a lull between two peaks.
But we eventually conquered the task, and with a final triumphant flourish I closed the door of the dishwasher and bent down to start the machine. When I hesitated for a moment to familiarize myself with the settings, my brother-in-law stepped in and instructed me “Just select ‘Normal’ and then push the ‘Start’ button.”
And then we thought… Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just select a “Normal” button for our family or work, and then everything and everyone around us would function in some pre-ordained and predictable fashion?
Predictable, perfect, autopilot.
Imagine a brief pause here as we both ponder and savor this idea while looking up at the ceiling and thoughtfully rubbing our chins. Hmmm…
As enticing as it sounds at first, we decided we really wouldn’t enjoy a “Normal” button very much. We enjoy the differences among us and appreciate the uniqueness of each person in our family (most of the time). We love the surprises, the challenges, and the occasional chaos that come with the differences. We find comfort in the uniqueness of our family because it gives us a sense of identity and belonging. We have our own inside jokes and sometimes we even speak our own language. We’re probably the only family in which eggnog is called Steve. That’s just not “normal.”
And we like it that way.
Unfortunately, a lot of organizations are trying to press the “Normal” button. While companies often say they want innovative and risk-taking employees, they usually try to assimilate new employees as quickly as possible into a strict company culture. (i.e. “Normal.”) Ultimately, they value predictability and compliance.
When an employee doesn’t fit the mold, they may get poor reviews and be passed over for promotions, leaving management to wonder how they ended up with such an ill-suited employee. The employee is probably a wonderful and skilled person, but just doesn’t fit the organization’s definition of “Normal.” The sooner that both employee and employer recognize this, the better off both will be.
Do we really talk about this kind of stuff after cleaning the kitchen? Yep.
But I’ve already told you… we’re not Normal.