A recent article made the assertion that being helpful was undermining your job performance. That strikes me as a pretty astonishing take. Not only have many—and hopefully most—of us been raised to see helpfulness as a virtue, it is just about the only way to get things done organizationally. Organizations already have a knowledge management problem. Senior staff start approaching retirement, taking their expertise and their insight with them. Creating boundaries that keep them productively focused may be a short term strategy for profit maximization. It doesn’t play out well in the long term. Here’s what does.
It’s the unwritten rules that arguably most influence the culture of organizations. And organizational culture spills over into customer experiences. What is not necessarily clear is where the unwritten rules come from. In many—if not most—instances, they are a reaction to the written rules. Sometimes the influence is constructive. When the written rules are bureaucratic, unthinking or unfeeling, the unwritten rules and resulting behaviours can also be subversive. And sometimes they’re just destructive.
“Why?” is a critically important question to ask. It’s a challenging one to ask at times, and sometimes it’s a more challenging one to answer. What is less expected is when the people asking the question are seen as part of the problem, and not part of the solution. That doesn’t mean that we stop asking why. But we may need to think carefully about the way that we go about doing it.