Wearing Cranky Pants

February 20 was National Mean Mommy Day -- I heard it on the radio. Pro or Con? I wondered. Well, Pro, obviously -- aren't we all better people because our mommies were a little bit mean now and then? Actually, it's when my kid mutters about how mean I am that I am most confident that I am dispensing "deluxe" parenting. I was all for Mean Mommy Day because we don't seem to understand the benefits of crankiness.

Isn't crankiness the inevitable by-product of high standards? When your high standards aren't met, what are you supposed to do? Be sympathetic? Offer chocolate? Cry? Certainly not -- any response other than crankiness would be a betrayal of those high standards.

There's a real up-tick in the crankiness factor at our company lately. When you communicate with your team and colleagues, keep this in mind. I think we're all anxious to display our high standards. And this is a good thing, but it certainly changes the atmosphere of communication. More of us are wearing cranky pants and we expect our standards to be taken seriously.

There is a track to success in some large companies that consists of floating along, staying invisible, putting the time in. When I first came here, I seemed to stumble over these floaters on a regular basis. I came from a career track that required a need for speed, a built-in urgency, as do so many of our new hires. I still remember my reaction to finding that the proper response to the smallest barrier to meeting a deadline was a rueful shrug, a bland acceptance of delay, and a uninterruptable flow towards the car, the freeway, and home.

Well, I remember thinking, as I sank cozily into this comfy view of things, this is something beyond family friendly -- this is downright leisurely, and I tried on a new, slow pace gratefully. Everyone seemed so nice. If someone on a team didn't deliver, we didn't confront, but we carefully, sensitively, found a way around this person's limitations. How very nice.

But after a few weeks of relaxation, I began to chafe at this slo-mo mode. My work is me, not some chore to be evaded, but part of my life-affirming journey. I really did expect other people on my team to do their work -- I was getting fed up with being sensitive instead of successful.

I was in yet another meeting when I heard an employee whose work I admired mutter "GPS" with a disappointed shake of her head. GPS turns out to mean "Glacial Pace Syndrome," and I learned that others among us are cranky about our more leisurely colleagues' casual view of their work.

It was then that I realized that there is a cranky movement afoot. There are people who really want to do something meaningful with that enormous chunk of time we have sold to our employer. So here's my idea: If you are uncomfortable with GPS, identify yourself to the people you work with so we'll know who we are.

Let's all get cranky about the barriers we encounter. Let's wince in meetings when something stupid and obstructionist comes up. An then let's speak with one voice and vote the stupidity down.

It's honest. And it's irritability that produces the oyster's pearl, after all.

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