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In praise of calm at work

What’s better: reacting quickly or taking the time to plan properly? Do you work 60 minutes non-stop or 10 x 6 minutes? Have you ever shot for the moon when a handful of simple initiatives would have been enough to achieve your goal? And how often do you send work emails late at night or on the weekend? A calm company is the sum of the choices it makes: now it’s up to you to make your own.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier-Hansson, founders of the collaborative project-management platform Basecamp, are fans of “slow working.” The duo are convinced of the benefits of calm — performance without getting hot and bothered. The two authors describe an organizational model for which the challenge isn’t to spend longer hours on the job but to squander less time. How? By cutting loose preconceived ideas that distract you from what is important and only increase stress levels. Below we spotlight seven clichés to combat.

We’re going to conquer the market!

Warlike metaphors are everywhere in a world obsessed by the idea of “dominating” markets and “targeting” consumers with messages “calibrated” to “hit the mark.” Are these metaphors really needed to “motivate the troops”? And don’t they run counter to today’s message, where it’s about building a better world rather than destroying the competition? Projecting a peaceful façade to the world while encouraging a combat zone in-house is a form of doublespeak that will soon leave your team feeling uncomfortable. One of the first steps in establishing a calm working climate is to jettison hawkish vocabulary and simply refocus on what you want to do, without overpromising or reaching for the stars. It’s a modest approach, it’s true, but one that’s honest and transparent — and certainly more engaging than a declaration of war!

We’re a big family

This is the kind of sentiment that sounds good when you’re wishing your staff a happy new year — or in a time of crisis when you have to reassure them that the company will support and look kindly on them. But you are a business, not a family (and you can’t fire your family). When you employ this metaphor, you unintentionally introduce the idea that the relationship that binds you is unconditional and, therefore, worthy of sacrifice: but that’s a stress-inducing contract. If you really want a unifying image, it’s much better to invoke the idea of a sports team, whose members join together to achieve a common goal. Although the image may be somewhat hackneyed, it’s more conducive to peaceful relationships at work.

We have to leave our comfort zone behind

Excerpt from Business Digest N°297, June 2019

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Françoise Tollet
Published by Françoise Tollet
She spent 12 years in industry, working for Bolloré Technologies, among others. She co-founded Business Digest in 1992 and has been running the company since 1998. And she took the Internet plunge in 1996, even before coming on board as part of the BD team.