The Elephant in The Room

Why do you think we are so afraid to hit problems head on in corporate America? Why do you think it’s so hard for us to address challenges directly and not skirt around the elephant in the room?  The fact that there is even a phrase “the elephant in the room” in our lexicon is testament to the fact we don’t communicate well in this country.  What is it about this country’s business environment that prevents us from getting right to the challenges and issues that need to be addressed?

In my 411 on the right, I describe myself as the finder of the elephant in the room. I’m proud of this aspect of who I am. But, it’s come at at cost. It’s cost me promotions.  It’s cost me working relationships. It’s labeled me difficult to work with. Some of these accusations are legitimate. I can be direct. I can get caught in the objective or goal and leave a wake.  I have made poor decisions in an effort to get to the finish line. They’ve been learning experiences and I’ve grown because of them.

There also times, where I’ve been burned just for the very reason of identifying the elephant in the room. I’ve watched others get crushed for for it as well. It happens all too often in business, especially the bigger and more bureaucratic the business gets.  When people get lambasted, rejected, bullied, minimized or ostracized for calling out the elephant in the room that’s not a good thing.  It’s a bad thing.

There is an elephant in the room because it’s uncomfortable to address.  There is some stigma attached to it.  It smells and no one wants to touch it.  Many times however, the elephant represents progress, growth, improvement, change, and accountability.  By not calling out the elephant in the room, we avoid change, minimize accountability, stunt growth and abandon improvement all of which come with huge costs. It’s easier to avoid the problem. It’s more politically correct not to point it out. It’s safer to let some other sap call it out. It’s safer to pretend it’s not there than it is to point it out.  Overtime, as more and more elephants are ignore the culture becomes stifled, thick with anxiety and ultimately dysfunctional as problems are never worked out of the system. This will kill a company.

I like cultures where calling out the elephant is safe and celebrated.   They are refreshing.  Debate and conflict are in the open.  There is little need for alliances and political jockeying.  Ideas move faster.  Problems are flushed out.  Damage is mitigated, not avoided.  When the elephant is called out transparency exists and that’s always a great thing for companies.

I’m looking forward to hearing the communities opinions on this.  Has pointing out the elephant in the room hurt you?  Does your company embrace calling out the elephant?  Anyone have any good stories on this topic?  I would love to hear them.

Hear is to calling out the elephant!

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