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I’m a piece of work. So are you.

How a culture of fear and silence gets built and operates. And, how one true piece of work, turns an entire company into a piece of work.

I’m a piece of work.

People who know me well would agree — opinionated, not afraid to challenge, little patience with stupidity, occasionally moody.

But… I’m also honest, caring, helpful, generous, and a good listener.

Here’s the thing.

You’re also a piece of work. We all are.

We’re a piece of work from the moment we’re born. And we remain a piece of work until the day we die.

Another way of expressing my point is by stating that we’re work-in-progress. That perhaps sounds a bit nicer than being a piece of work, which often has a negative connotation.

When someone tells us we’re a piece of work, it’s typically not meant positively.

I would, however, advise you that when someone shares that you’re a piece of work, you friendly thank the person for the excellent observation and move on.

Work-in-progress or piece of work, my point doesn’t change.

A day not grown is a day lost.

Erikjan Lantink

And you can only grow when you believe you’re a piece of work-in-progress.

And that’s where the shoe pinches.

Which is a literal translation from Dutch, meaning that’s where the problem is.

We meet people who do not believe they’re work-in-progress. They think they’re perfect, with no further improvement needed.

Those people are the real pieces of work.

They will tell you they’re still learning. They will tell you that they don’t have all the answers. They will tell you they like to be challenged.

Then you watch them interact with others, or you witness them presenting.

And you can’t help but think, “what a piece of work.”

Hard and potentially useless work.

You look at the audience and know they will not challenge him (or her). Never.

You hear the audience say the things they know will land well with Mr. Piece of Work.

You don’t hear them debate, argue, or object. You just see a bunch of soft sheep willing to do whatever they’re told. Afraid of any confrontation.

Worshipping their piece of work.

Adoring her (let’s do her this time, to be diverse) ego, her arrogance, her leadership.

Until somebody, usually the new one, dares to challenge.

The new one, without knowledge of the past. The new one who challenges when the leader tells her she wants to be challenged.

The new one.

Who, within five innocent and well-meant minutes, completes her onboarding and suddenly is not so new anymore.

Because she dared to challenge the boss. And received a condescending answer.

Followed by some well-meant advice after the meeting, informing her that she was not expected to challenge the boss.

That’s how a culture of fear and silence gets built and operates. That’s how one true piece of work, turns an entire company into a piece of work.

That’s how a company that claims to invest in people development turns into a frozen fortress of compliance, silent agreement, and conversation in the corridors.

Because work-in-progress, in reality, is a piece of work without a future.

In conclusion, I do not consider myself a true piece of work as described above.

Because, unlike the actual pieces of work, I realize I’m work-in-progress, and I keep working on improving myself daily.

Your turn: Piece of work or work in progress.

Do more of what makes you happy!

Erikjan

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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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