Work-At-Home and the Persistence of Underachieving

For a long time, I’ve been well aware that workplaces are often not the hotbed of innovation. In fact, it’s much more likely that they’re the hotbed of inefficiency, territory-guarding, and the lifting up of mediocrity. This we all know and regard, unless we’re the people being lifted up at work for whom this description seems insubordinate and disrespectful of their “good work.” Maybe my jadedness comes from my own consternation at watching what I know are good and reasonable ideas held hostage or be usurped by dummies for too long. The system never really seems to be my friend.

What I’ll say about this work at home for me thus far is that its become the proving ground for people who can work fast but not necessarily smart. I work in nonprofits with and for other nonprofits. I’ve always felt like innovation and good ideas are at a premium but who knew I was actually living in the promised land then…now all I do all day is attend Zoom calls during which different groups are trying to put together the same list of resources…over and over…like Groundhog Day. Also, how complicated is putting together a list of resources?!? Why does it continue to take what is now months?

I’m going to throw out this theory: it’s because a whole host of people just don’t have good ideas or know how to get them. So they just “do” without working toward something specific. Is there no room to be excellent now? Is there no interest in pushing beyond the usual?

I think the issue here is myriad but most likely there’s no ability and no reward. If we could actually hold people accountable to ideas that are “fine and not awesome,” we could all get better. Instead we reinforce basic ideas that are not particularly helpful because we reward them so graciously. “You know what would be awesome…a resource list.”

For the record, a resource list is NEVER the answer, most especially when we’re talking about equity and social change.

How can the nonprofit work work beyond mediocrity? And do I really care?

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