Most of us start to feel a shade uncomfortable once we step away from our comfort zone, from whatever it is within our normal environment that we're accustomed to doing, behaving or surrounding ourselves with. We're creatures of habit, and feel that those habits came to us honestly, after much repeated practice. That, plus something out of the ordinary might challenge us, shake up our routines, and even point out weaknesses or flaws in how we look at ourselves.
What's Comfortable For Us
It's like my clowder of five cats at home, who each prefer to repeat the same behavior (wanting their food at a certain time, sleeping in the same spot, wandering the house [or yard] by following the same route), day in and day out, the routine pattern feels . . . normal. It feels right. It's what we've grown accustomed to doing and would likely prefer to continue.
Following the same patterns at work can be equally comfortable for us, as after a time the job repetition becomes easier and our continued success assured. The thinking is: Let's follow the same steps as we followed last year; just change the calendar and repeat the process; we can do it with our eyes closed. Have you ever watched a movie or situation-comedy endless times, to the point where you can mouth the dialogue (you know who you are!)? This habitual practice is the office equivalent of the administrative EASY button.
Are your annual merit increases processed using the same steps, the same forms and the same written communications? Only the date is different? Has your annual management incentive process become more bureaucratic (get those appraisal forms in on time!) than the originally intended critical assessment of objective accomplishments? Is your biggest worry the payroll deadline?
Have you overheard yourself telling someone, "We've always done it that way"? Ouch!
Like being burrowed into a soft leather easy chair, we relish the comfortable, the familiar. We don't like to be disturbed. There really is a phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Breaking The Habit
Now I admit that there's nothing wrong with a tried and true routine, especially when things work, but sometimes change for the right reason can be a preferable strategy. Like when things aren't working so well anymore. Or when the business environment surrounding your routine has shifted. This thought process is called "continuous improvement," among other buzz terms.
Every now and then, don't you get the urge to try something different, to break out of your mold and jump the shark? It could something simple, like going to Chick-fil-A instead of McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts instead of Starbucks, or maybe to implement an improved reward program at work.
This shake-'em-up attitude is called "tipping the cow," where sacred cows, our tried and true and forever ingrained behaviors or practices are suddenly challenged. This is heady stuff, cutting against the grain or marching to the beat of a different drummer. This is sticking your neck out for the betterment of the organization.
Now I'm not talking about change for the sake of change, or rushing off into the unknown because you read some article by compensation "experts." I'm talking about continuously striving to improve yourself, the programs you work with and the organization you work for. There is always a better way, and those who search for improvement will reap personal and professional reward.
But there are also risks out there for the unwary and the administrators. There are nay-sayers, passive resistors and doubting Thomas'. So have a care. But if you want to manage compensation, never mind lead or direct it, you have to stop playing follow the leader.
Ever see a line of elephants? Each holds onto the tail of the one in front of them.
Are you one of those elephants?
Or are you ready to venture forth and tip a cow?
Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.
Creative Commons image,"Cow Tipping," by Mike Licht