Friday, November 4, 2011

Let me tell you a story

She impressed you. She was professional, articulate, quick to answer, but thoughtful and enthused. That's why you hired her.

You parade her around the office, introducing her to her new colleagues, welcoming her as the new addition to the family. It’s a flood of new faces. It’s a touch overwhelming but she's going through the motions anyway.

Eventually you arrive at her cubicle, give her her login credentials, suggest some reading, requisition her a blackberry, drop off some forms she needs to fill out and head back to your office.

She sits down, still smiling, and starts soaking in the atmosphere.


You take it for granted, but the atmosphere feels foreign to her. She just spent the last 7 years earning her Master's. She honed her skills in the noisy campus coffee house, armed with an iPhone tethered to her MacBook, surrounded by others doing the same.

Now she finds herself surrounded by drab grey walls, sitting in front of a desktop computer, and telephone with a cord attaching it to the wall.

A cord?

But it’s not just the antiquated nature of her technological surroundings that puzzles her; no, the discomfort is much, much deeper. It’s so quiet - eerily quiet. No one is arguing, in fact no one is even talking. She misses the conversations about the big ideas. The important conversations.

She listens in as you speak to one of her new colleagues in the cubicle next to her. She is confused by the language you invoke, replete with acronyms and jargon, but what she finds even more confusing is her new colleague's complete and utter deference to authority.

Did he just surrender?

The entire thing is unnerving.

Yet she tolerates it.

She's new, her head swirling with the pressure to be liked, to be seen as a good employee, to otherwise make a good impression with her new 'family'. Her faith, or perhaps more rightly her naiveté, leads her to believe that a larger context will materialize, that eventually her surroundings and her motions will seem less foreign to her.

She is right.

Over time, she slowly learns behaviors from her colleagues and adopts their vernacular. She stops asking so many questions, she goes through the motions, she stops feeling discomfort.

She stops feeling anything at all.

You pass by her in the hall, you smile widely, she mumbles something and keeps walking. You can't help but wonder what happened to that articulate, thoughtful and enthused person you hired six months ago.

The thought is fleeting, you are too busy to look into it now, you are on your way downstairs to the security desk, you have a new hire starting today.


Ps - if you are looking to step up the open government conversation, I suggest clicking here.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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