A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Office – Part 1 Denial

Not Funny Businessman

Recently I was reading yet another news story of how radically the world had changed in past few years and how it may be a long time before things get much better.

Another story was about how unhappy most employees are but how they cannot leave their current jobs because of the fear generated by the high unemployment rate.

These stories make me realize we are now living and working in a “new normal” very unlike what we had become accustomed to in days gone by.

 A New Frontier 

We have now arrived on an unknown and unpredictable new frontier where our desire to be safe and comfortable no longer matters in light of the global issues playing out around the world. Just consider some of the global changes that are happening as we sleepwalk through our normal days in our state of magical thinking believing we will just wake up one day and everything will back to our old normal.

We now live in a world characterized by:

  • Deteriorating environmental conditions
  • Population growth approaching seven billion people
  • Serious energy challenges
  • Unsustainable consumer trends
  • Governmental overspending
  • Institutionalized greed and corruption from DC to Wall Street and throughout the world
  • Rampant outsourcing of jobs we need at home
  • Endemic poverty
  • Entitlement attitudes
  • State terrorism and continued middle east madness
  • New emerging economies that could overtake ours soon
  • Revolutions and unrest in large parts of the world
  • Local, state and country governments bankrupt or on the edge
  • Unemployment levels and mortgages failures at record numbers
  • The gap between the “haves” and have-nots” growing wider each day…

Latte anyone?

A New Dawn

So if even half of what I have described is real, we can say goodbye (maybe for a while and maybe forever) to a work world and way of life that we have all become all too comfortable with.

Is leadership part of these problems or part of the solutions?

Are we all (perhaps unconsciously) colluding in a functionally blind game that insures nothing much of substance will result from our efforts?

To quote Dr. George Odiorne’s Law

“Things that don’t change remain the same.”

Surely there is some good news here that our leaders can point to as signs that we know what we are doing.

Anything, anyone?

Seeking Solutions

I read somewhere recently that there are over 10,000 books on leadership with more arriving each day.

If that is true (or even in the ball park,) and you add in all the:

  • Leadership articles
  • Academic research papers
  • Blogs
  • Newsletters
  • Daily quotes or lessons of inspiration
  • e-zines
  • e-learning courses
  • Executive education programs
  • Professional coaching certifications, etc.,

…then you have to ask yourself how much more information do we need to resolve the leadership crisis that has been so richly documented by a large number of respectable academic and media experts and companies?

I can also refer to the multitude of surveys that strongly support this argument by highlighting survey results about how unhappy, dissatisfied, frustrated, devalued, etc. the majority of the workforce is feeling today.

It just doesn’t add up, does it?  So much for all our previous efforts and “transformational” techniques, programs, etc.

Agree?  Or, is it those pesky others again?

Tired New Day

It appears that we are solidly stuck in the old paradigms of leadership, company, and culture building as if we are unaware of how radically the world (including work) is changing today.

 Dr. Ellis would note that this is predictable because he believed that:

“Insight is generally meaningless to human beings.” 

Since we all have areas in our life and work that we would like to change (many for some years) and that we have not done much, if anything, to change them, it would be hard to argue with this wise psychotherapists.

So what is going on?

Have we quietly retreated into our comfort zone cocoons where denial and self-deception protect us and tell us go through the familiar motions each day?

We may prefer to walk around the big dead elephant (of a radically changing world and workplace affecting every area of our lives) and act out a business as usual persona.  It is easy to do because our myopic beliefs are readily reinforced by our own experts and helping professionals who continue to rely on PR programs to sell us the same repackaged products and services.

New Tools

They know we have always been satisfied treating symptoms and pretending we have effectively resolved the company’s (or an individual’s) significant problems.

It seems like is is just more of the popular-activity-versus-results-game.

I say this because, if you ask these consultants, teachers, expert’ and coaches, etc. where are the new tools, methods, practices and maps designed to allow us to deal effectively with the complexities of today’s work world, they don’t have them.

They may not even believe they are needed.  Many of these folks have so much invested in their current products, x step programs, and models that they have not even thought about the fact that generally these products don’t work at a deep enough level to institutionalize the learning needed to insure success today and create fitness for future actions.

As a result, they cannot possibly help us succeed in our radically changed new world.

But do we really understand what is happening?  As a friend of mine’s wife would say, “Never under estimate the power of denial.”

“Denial has always been a problem, what is different today is that the cost of denial has become so high.  We are living in a less forgiving world than we once did.”  Richard S. Tedlow

To be continued… (See A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Office – Part 2 Losing Our Purpose)

Doug Ramsey is Managing Director at Designed Management, LLC
He helps with Performance Improvement, Change Mgmt Consulting & Coaching
Email | LinkedIn | Web

Image Sources: businessinsider.com

L2L Contributing Author


  1. Dr. Tom Cocklereece on June 27, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Denial is pervasive, difficult to see, requires humility to admit, and a challenge to overcome. http://wp.me/pNSXj-1x

    • Doug Ramsey on June 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      Thanks Dr. Tom for reading my blog and your astute comments. Very helpful and much appreciated.



  2. Mike on June 27, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    “…most of us as individuals, and as a world society as a whole, live at high-speed, and often with no clue to whether we are flying upside down or right side up. Indeed we are haunted by a strong suspicion that there may be no difference – or at least that it is unknown or irrelevant.” -Dallas Willard

    • Doug Ramsey on June 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm

      Hi Mike. Terrific quote and great insight re: our hyperactive life where work plays such a big role. A bit of a catch 22 when you think about it. We care for and nourish our minds and bodies many times at the expense of cultivating our soul.



  3. John on June 27, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Denial takes courage to overcome. Leaders are created when they display courage that inspires others. Everything is cyclical; relationships, ecomomies and none more than nature itself.

    Times are good, everyone gets real comfortable, things are easy and leaders do not play as a pivotal role. Greed and comfort breed vanity and content. Very dangerous ingredients for a relationship, a company, a government or an ecomomy.

    When the wheels start to come off it is denial that rules the day. Finger pointing and fear create uncertainty and hoarding and leaders are hard to find since no one is really looking that hard. Eventually, when the circumstances become dire those same leaders that speak the truth about doing things the right way and doing the hard work and sacrificing start to gain momentum by those with more courage than most. Those few excel, most others simply follow.

    There are many courses and papers and seminars on Leadership but how do you teach courage? We will need leaders with courage to get us to overcome denial and inspire us to do the hard work that will create success again and again.

    • Tom Schulte on June 27, 2011 at 10:37 pm


      Your comment on Doug Ramsey’s post is right on! Bravo! I like your style a lot. Would you consider being an L2L Contributing Author?


      Tom Schulte | Executive Director | L2L
      Editor & Publisher | The Leadership Collaboratory

    • Doug Ramsey on June 29, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      Hello John. Thanks for reading my blog and your excellent comments. We should talk when schedules permit.

      I hope all is well…



  4. Bob Petrie on June 27, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Doug – great post. Always nice to see someone pointing at the elephant in the room … especially the really big, dead elephant.

    I agree that from one perspective, things are bad – from the large number of “unhappy, dissatisfied, frustrated, devalued” workers to the massive quantity of fairly ineffective leadership books and resources.

    However, that means this is the perfect environment to quickly establish new, progressive models of leadership … models built on the foundation of sound, traditional techniques yet highly tailored to the unique aspects of doing business in today’s complex, radically-changing world.

    I look forward to reading part 2 of your post with the expectation of it being one more step in seizing that opportunity.

    • Doug Ramsey on June 29, 2011 at 5:47 pm

      Hello Bob. Good to hear from you and thanks for reading my blog. Could not agree more that we are at a point where when we define reality today, it is clear more of the same (models, tools, practices, etc.) is magical thinking and not helpful. Hope you like part 2.

      I hope all is well…



  5. John H on June 28, 2011 at 11:38 am

    I enjoyed reading this blog entry and agree that…

    “we have quietly retreated into our comfort zone cocoons where denial and self-deception protect us …”

    Your musings bring to mind the need for Character. I am reminded of the Japanese tradition of Bushido (way of the warrior) where seven virtues are practiced.


    Character in this sense is with a capital “C” where leadership is subordinate and the quality of the individual is at the forefront.

    • Doug Ramsey on June 29, 2011 at 5:56 pm

      Hi John. Thanks for reading my blog and your usual insightful comments. No doubt Character (big C) is a requirement to make a difference and bring new processes and practices to today’s world. I would also add another Big C – Courage. Of course, we both know we have to wake up to reality or it seems this crazy period is just another slow dance until the party cranks up again.



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