It’s true in companies as much as in society: evil flourishes when good people do nothing to stop it. That’s particularly true when both building and destroying evil are not absolutely binary, but tend to creep in, their gray shadowy influence working by osmosis rather than immediate absorption. The little things, both positive and negative, slip in unannounced, unnoticed. You can be as mindful as possible, and still the busyness of getting through the day distracts you from the weeds breaking the soil surface that unchecked will choke out your roses.
We all wax philosophic about excellence, quality, continual improvement. Our focus is on managing up, building engagement and momentum, developing leadership traits, and putting our best feet (and attitude) forward.
But at the same time, regardless of our efforts to be our best selves and organizations, discord sets in. It’s human nature to be suspicious of change, after all, even beneficial evolution – which requires long-term wide angle vision and not myopic self-concern to appreciate, anyway. The lullaby of “we’ve always done it this way” is like a siren’s song that draws many a corporate ship on the rocks. And there are those among us, as Alfred from Batman noted, “who just want to see the world burn.”
How do you fight against an enemy you can’t see – a particularly passive-aggressive guerrilla fighter who pops out of the jungle when you turn away to sow the seeds of discontent and dissatisfaction? You have to pay attention to the naysayers and Cassandras, if only to get a sense of the weather. And you learn more from mistakes than victories – so you’ve got to lose. As if there were a choice. You don’t get the 10,000 hours of experience required to build expertise by making all your free throws. At the beginning at least you probably miss quite a few.
But it gets better. So long as you don’t think in terms of “forever,” like “Will I have to do this forever?” You really have to remember the old saw, “This too shall pass.” It may seem like an eternity, but it isn’t. Nothing, you included, good or ill, has unlimited time. Everything else has limits, too. We occupy a finite space that only exists right here, right now. There is only so much each individual can change – directly. But good, like evil, grows by osmosis, by contact.