workplace rules and artificially knee-jerking them into place, part 2

In my previous entry, I linked to, “8 rules for creating a passionate work culture,” and I poked at one entry that I didn’t completely like. Another one rubbed me the wrong way, but it took a bit to sink in why:

3. Tend to the weeds. A culture of passion capital can be compromised by the wrong people. One of the most destructive corporate weeds is the whiner. Whiners aren’t necessarily public with their complaints. They don’t stand up in meetings and articulate everything they think is wrong with the company. Instead, they move through the organization, speaking privately, sowing doubt, strangling passion. Sometimes this is simply the nature of the beast: they whined at their last job and will whine at the next. Sometimes these people simply aren’t a good fit. Your passion isn’t theirs. Constructive criticism is healthy, but relentless complaining is toxic. Identify these people and replace them.

I absolutely get the reasoning behind this item. But I also think this item is too often misconstrued in a subtle way: “Get rid of the people who aren’t team players,” or “Get rid of the people who don’t agree with what we’re/I’m doing.”

I’m a huge Star Wars geek, but I don’t really care for the later 3 movies, much like any other Star Wars geek of my age. I firmly believe the main reason for this discrepancy is George Lucas (really, left in a vacuum his writing is childlike and his directing atrocious). In the first movie especially, I believe George Lucas and his entire team had many disagreements and had much adversity to go through to produce one of the best movies ever. Later in life, I believe George Lucas surrounded himself with “Yes Men,” or at least people who feared speaking up against the man because of his clout in the industry. This resulted in really awful later Star Wars movies with childish writing and awful directing which resulted in horrid performances by otherwise decent actors.

The point is, this item is meant to get rid of truly bad people who just whine and cannot provide anything of value themselves. It is not to surround oneself with “Yes Men,” and downplay people who may criticize or question with best intentions. In fact, doing this item wrong stabs at the heart of other items: 2. Communicate (and foster trust and safety) and 6. Celebrate differences.

(Some could bring up Steve Jobs and his causing fear amongst his employees, but I really think Jobs is an outlier in many things; essentially the right person with the right personality at the right time with brilliant ideas and input making the right decisions with a lot of luck. He shouldn’t be a model of anything except the idea that you can have success by bucking the established “rules.” That itself is not a new rule…)