Do Nothing (at your own risk)

Doing Nothing

Doing Nothing

In a recent blog post, Seth Godin wrote, “I didn’t do anything. That’s the first and best defense every toddler learns. If you don’t do anything, you don’t get in trouble.”

And, he is right. The only problem is that we sometimes never progress beyond toddler thinking. Scott Adams has made a very good living describing the dysfunctional workplace that perpetuates this kind of thinking in his comic strip, Dilbert. We who work in organizations recognize the foibles of the pointy haired boss, the evil Catbert, and the rest of the crew because it is far too common.

Of course, we imagine ourselves as Dilbert, the intrepid engineer who sees through all the gobbledygook, even if in reality we are the boss or HR director. We fancy ourselves as a clear thinker when noticing other’s faults but have a blind spot when it comes to our own.

Unfortunately, some organizations perpetuate the ‘do nothing’ mentality by creating a culture that penalizes something and rewards nothing. We are afraid to raise our hand in school because we don’t want to ask that one silly question, so we fake it and muddle through the best we can. However, at work, we are afraid to raise our hand because the boss will shoot down our suggestion, marginalize us if we come up with a bad idea, or may fire us if we make a mistake. Only problem is, we can’t fake it at work.

So, we protect ourselves by not raising our hand, not offering a suggestion, not taking a risk.

However, with no risk there is no reward. We are not rewarded with a raise, a promotion, or even a nod, for doing nothing. But, we think that is the way to success.

But, survival is not success. Success is success. And, to have success we must do something. So, what do you want to do? Are you taking action? Are you being successful? Success is a journey, not a destination, so keep at it.

And, if you are in an organization that penalizes risk, you may need to find your success elsewhere. If you are the pointy haired boss, you are holding your organization, and yourself, back by penalizing innovators. Your success will depend on the success of others. So, free them to do the work they are intended to do. Thriving is better than just surviving.

Image Credit: MemoryCatcher on, licensed under Creative Commons