Why is it that the bulk of us show up to work each day inside a well-worn box? We stay in our lanes and do the work we’re assigned. This routine keeps things running as is, maintaining a predictable homeostasis. Which is important, until external pressures (fiscal, governmental, legal) or internal pressures (changes in personnel, departmental reorganisation, a new computer system) disrupt business as usual.
When pressures mean change is in the air, we need the capacity to work beyond prescribed roles, to ask tough questions, to surface competing commitments. And that all points in one direction: finding more breathing room. Authority is vital to well-functioning organisations; yet, there are moments when we all have to be willing to partner differently with those around and above us. In a healthcare setting, speaking up and out may well save a life.
Through weathering disequilibrium, we tend to find new paths forward. Yes, direction and order is necessary; however, a knee-jerk reaction to anything that upsets that clarity may not always be the next best move. An orientation toward avoiding conflict is quite useful . . . until we face the very real need to sort out competing commitments and, in turn, relegate one commitment below another.
Our desire for acceptance and belonging is our deepest human need. No wonder we are reticent to step past certain lines, speak beyond certain scripts. The trouble, though, is that those decisions to hold back and hold in come at a very real cost. In our desire to create harmony, we tend to privilege politeness over progress. What would it take to choose key moments (say 5% of the time) to exercise a bit more agency? To rethink a norm in service to a larger good? What if you added that very capacity to your internal job description? What might change in you? Your department? The world?