Merriam-Webster tells us that “hollow” means “an unfilled space”. This morning, as I was driving up Lawrence Expressway into the office, my monkey-mind was dancing merrily along. It is unusual for it to kick in on a Thursday, especially when it is a Thursday-That-Is-My-Friday, but it was pretty active. I tried using the technique I gleaned from “The Buddha Walks Into A Bar” – when you feel your mind racing, figuratively stop, step back, and take a couple of deep meditative breaths, then see if you can determine why your mind is racing. The Monkey Mind is grabbing hold of something – what is that something?
I was seizing upon my sense of frustration at work. So, I explored that path a little further down the line. For me, almost all of my frustration at work arises from two sources. First, it arises from what I interpret as “hidden expectations”. Sometimes hidden expectations are deliberately hidden, as in bad actors on the corporate stage, but other times they are not intentionally hidden, but hidden but by failures in communication. With dedicated and focused communication, you can often clear of the miscommunications.
The “trigger event” for my Monkey Mind this morning was a request for a piece of data, which in itself is innocent enough. However, the request came from my upper management, whom I do not trust, and in came in as a request-without-reason, which is a communication failure. Some members of my upper management are extremely poor communicators. The request was structured like this “tell me all of the A who have B”. The thing that is frustrating with this member of upper management is they do not ask questions – they ask for specific data points and try to spin the answer to land where they want it to land by carefully crafting the question. It’s pretty apparent. As a dat analyst, answer shopping irritates me. Yes, you can craft an answer by the way you ask a question, you can force the data to tell you certain things. But, you are quite likely to end up being wrong in the big picture, because you didn’t let the data tell you what it wanted to tell you.
As I predicted as my Monkey Mind wrestled with it through the morning, this member of upper management got the answer to the question, then followed up with another question (to try and craft the answer better), and then yet a third question, since the data was not giving them the answer they were looking for. Professionally, to me, that is amatuer hour, and it frustrates me to work for amatuers. When you craft a question in search of an answer, you are making the analysts unwilling co-conspirators in whatever political game you are playing. Just find some courage and say “I am the boss, and I believe that we should do X, I realize the data does not appear to support it, but I willing to take the risk”. Of course, that would require actual courage.
The second thing that raises my work frustration is “out of scope” questions – that is, questions that don’t have anything to do with the area of responsibility a person has. Our organization designs and implements systems – we analyze data to support that design and that implementation. We do not analyze data to support operational decisions – not that we cannot, but that is simply not why we were hired, not what we do. In fact, the corporation has several other large groups that do exactly that – but, this member of upper management does not like to go to them because they cannot control them and craft the questions. It is a frustrating and negative situation.
So, what does that have to do with the word hollow? As I was driving into the office and my Monkey Mind was running through all of these things, and as I was using the technique to examine them, I got to thinking about work fulfillment. In order to combat the wave of negativity that was coming with the Monkey Mind thoughts that were such a source of frustration, I turned my mind to positive thoughts – about the good things at work, so I didn’t spin myself into an entirely black mood. Essentially I have a very good job – I have a great direct manager, I have peers that I both enjoy and respect, the work (when it is the work that I was actually hired to do) is enjoyable and fulfilling, and I am compensated well. If you think of the work experience as a sphere, my sphere currently has an empty place in it. That empty place is the place where I like, respect, and most importantly trust my upper management. That part of the sphere is hollow.