Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hands Off my Mental Health

The Economist Magazine reports this week that companies are no longer satisfied with coercing employees to get physically fit (mainly to save on insurance bills, not for any philanthropic reason) and are venturing into managing their mental health. Apparently this arises from "management gurus" who are discovering the "joys" of psychology.  I have never held much stock in management gurus, and the idea that they might be dabbling in psychobabble scares me. Especially here in America, where you are measured by the size of your smile and the eagerness of your greeting.
Personally, I do not want to be surrounded by a bunch of perky cheerleader types at work (or at all). In my experience, they waste time with gossip and meetings and rarely achieve very much of note. In fact, the Economist's article states that "history shows that misfits have contributed far more to creativity than perky optimists". I agree. Some of the most productive sales people and traders I have worked with were also the grumpiest. They barked and growled and got on with the job, leaving the cheerful (and often overly sensitive) wannabes in the dust. On the other hand, when you got the grumpy ones on their own for a drink or a meeting they were civil, informative and good fun.
Some of the worst time wasters I have known were the friendliest, chattiest people who wanted nothing more than to bend everyone's ears at meeting after meeting. Even now as a freelancer working from home I am often interrupted by bored fellow home-workers who want to wane away hours at the local coffee house gabbing. They can never understand why I am "always working".
So next time you see a grouchy curmudgeon at work, leave them alone to do their jobs. Do not bring in a psychologist or a management guru with a 'certificate' in pop psychology to examine their mental health. Instead be grateful that they are productive, hard-working employees.

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