Leaders: Everything Means Something

by. Matt Monge

There’s this weird little thing a few people have heard me say before. It’s a silly, awkwardly-constructed sentence, but it’s true nonetheless. Everything means something. Profound, yes?

I think we underestimate the impact of symbolism in the workplace. I’m working on a longer post on this (which may, in turn, transform itself into a section of my master’s thesis — Go Zags), but for now I just want to poke at the general idea a little bit.

What I mean when I say everything means something is that almost everything we say, see, do, allow, prevent, facilitate, etc — it all tells everyone else in the organization something. It means something. There is some sort of meaning attached to it, and that meaning may or may not be what we intended it to be, if we even intended a message at all.

This is applies to soooo many different things in the workplace, but just for the sake of example, let’s take an appearance thing. When an executive wears a suit, what does that say to you? Well, it depends on who you are, doesn’t it? To you, it may simply mean that the executive enjoys dressing more formally for work, which of course is totally fine. Someone else may infer that it’s a symbol of the level and/or status the executive has achieved since they are able to afford such nice clothes. Still another might think it’s a power dynamic thing. Another might think it’s just an effort to impress people. There’s an infinite number of meanings someone could attach to an exec wearing a suit. The exec who donned the dapper attire? He or she may not have given it a second thought. Just threw something on.

continue reading »