We laugh at movies featuring the 35 or 40 year old who won’t leave the parents’ house and get a life.
We believe that the current Best Actor recipient once starred in a movie centering around such an animating theme.
But failing to launch (or even failing to recognize the oncoming signs of failing to launch) is not just the provenance of Hollywood scriptwriters and actors, it is a real occurrence in the real world of corporate boardrooms and small business back rooms.
Typically, this failure coalesces around an idea, an innovation or a project that doesn’t get enough organizational political support, organizational money or organizational time. This most obvious failure to launch shows up on the cover of the industry magazine, or as a hit piece on a blog or social media.
But failure to launch also happens quietly, under the radar, lurking like a submarine beneath the conflicts between people in the workplace. And it’s a moment that is so fleeting—so ephemeral—that it’s missed almost all the time.
The failure goes something like this:
Sharon and Bill have a disagreement about a project in which they are both invested. Sharon can’t see Bill’s point of view. Bill thinks Sharon is being obstructionist on purpose. But before Sharon and Bill can really get into it, they both pause—maybe at the water cooler in a conversation with another person, maybe in traffic on the way home—and they have a moment where the thought “Maybe I’m wrong here,” flits across their minds.
And just like that, it’s gone. Along with the twinge of regret and disappointment—as well as an oncoming sigh—accompanied by each parties’ resolve, hardening to “Do what is right. For the company.”
The question that makes consultants uncomfortable to ask—and employees and employers uncomfortable to ponder—is the question that on the face seems confrontational and too direct, but underneath is probing. Aiming at the dark heart of what happens in—and out—of the cubicle:
“Have you ever failed personally at resolving a business conflict?”
Or put another way, “When was the last time you failed to launch?”
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org