whose rice bowl is it?

Organizational Effectiveness—Whose Rice Bowl Is It? (877 words)

whose rice bowl is it?

When an organizational effectiveness becomes constipated and paralyzed, chances are that too many persons in the organization have lost their way. This really is loss of focus and it rears its ugly head in many ways. One particularly appalling way is when one gets into another’s rice bowl, aka, sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.

In your organization, are there persons that stick their nose in the business of others? Sure there are! When these persons, as I call it, get into others’ rice bowl, the result is usually two fold. First, they do not have time to do their own work well. Second, they greatly upset the person in whose rice bowl they invade, thereby inhibiting organizational productivity.

Not long ago I found myself facilitating a three-day board of directors meeting. The directors had gotten so aggravated with one another, that the entire group had become immobilized, stuck, and angry—each, barely speaking to the others.  What happened? Many of the directors had been getting into rice bowls that they should not have; the rice bowls of others. Need less to say, nothing was getting done.

During this three-day meeting I continually gave the emotionally injured directors permission to tell others to get out of their rice bowl. Funny thing is, say to a colleague, “Get your nose out of my business” and you’d be considered rude. However, use the rice bowl euphemism and people get the message without prejudice.  In giving permission to tell others to get out of their rice bowl really worked for this group, and it might work for you. By the end of the meeting the individual board members truly felt a new empowerment to protect their area of influence, their rice bowl. Additionally, they understood why it would be in their best interest to stay out of other board members’ rice bowls.

There are three basic reasons for a person to get into other person’s rice bowls:

  1. Trust
  2. Jealousy
  3. Stupidity and ignorance

This painful triad only serves the master of failure. Persons getting into the rice bowls of others, along with those that have their rice bowls invaded can easily become organizational saboteurs. What is so darn menacing is that many times the saboteur does not even realize what they are doing to themselves and to their organization. This situation can occur as easily in for-profits as it might in non-profits.

Looking at the trust issue, I have observed far too many supervisors, leaders and executives that train their people poorly and then just can’t understand why their people do not perform. These overseers, as I like to call them, continually are checking up on their people—to the level of ridiculousness. The challenge is since they do not trust their people; they are constantly invading those persons’ rice bowls. The result is the overseer (it really is hard for me to call them a leader) does not have the time to explore opportunity because they are spending all their time fighting fires. As stated above, this dynamic applies both in the world’s on non-profits and for-profits, large organizations and small, and almost always in the corners of Lesser Lords.

Jealousy comes into play when a person feels threatened by another. This negative force of life occurs quite easily in organizations where overseers have not offered a clear vision and path for the persons within. Everyone needs to see they have the opportunity to do more, be more and achieve more. Threatened persons just perceive that everyone else is receiving the opportunity they should have. Their natural response is to stick their nose in others’ rice bowls with the hope of receiving the favor of the overseer simply be being involved. This is never a productive formula for any organization. Have you seen to it that there is opportunity for advancement in your organization?

Stupidity and ignorance stands on its own merits and really needs little discussion. Nonetheless, stupidity and ignorance runs rampant in far too many organizations. Some call it reaching one’s level of incompetence. This unconstructiveness really can be extinguished in most organizations with a modicum of effort. Back in the mid-90s when I conducted full-day supervision workshops for the Dunn & Bradstreet Foundation, one module I particularly liked sharing was about rewards. A point I would always make is that if one allowed negative behavior in the workplace, they were really rewarding the person exhibiting that behavior simply by virtue of allowing it. That isn’t what you want to do, is it?

What can be done about the offenders who so freely get into the rice bowls that they do not belong? Stop them in their tracks! Don’t tolerate it. Help them to see opportunity elsewhere. Train your supervisors and line managers well. In turn, they will train the rank and file employees better and hopefully more people will abandon the painful triad of failure; trust, jealousy, and stupidity.

In closing and regardless of your position in your organization, when your colleagues, and perhaps supervisors, put their noses into your business—I personally give you permission to say, “Please, get out of my rice bowl.” Even if they don’t, it will make you feel a heck of a lot better just for saying it.