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Are You Living In Anomie?

Do you know what “Anomie” is? If not, you should! Read on to find out…

Scenario#1: A traffic light in a main intersection at rush hour fails. Suddenly, a lot of cars try to go through it at the same time, horns blaring, slow traffic, maybe even a couple of crashes. Insults are voiced, yelling goes louder. Tension mounts.

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Scenario#2: Someone gets up early on Monday to go to work as an automatic reflex, then sighs because the long five days ahead before Friday comes. During office hours, this employee daydreams about all the things to do once it’s time to punch out, then goes by the week doing the minimum necessary to justify next paycheck.

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The scenarios above are examples of Anomie. In the first case there is a lack of rules (the traffic lights fails, but also an absence of common ethics). In the second we see “a mismatch between personal or group standards and wider social standards, or from the lack of a social ethic, which produces moral deregulation and an absence of legitimate aspirations.” Is this too much drama? Well, according the definition, we can see anomic societies become unproductive and in the worst scenario chaotic.

If we borrow this concept from early Sociology and take it to a smaller scenario as a company or even individual performance, the anomie can take down a business or a professional career. It leads to disorder, and therefore a lack of positive results and eventually dissolution, as entropy can consume an energy system if it´s not controlled on time.

As you can never remove completely entropy in a system (in fact some level it´s required to make it work), you must be aware so you can keep it under control. Anomie it´s also a condition, not measurable as entropy, but visible which you have to handle inside your circle of influence before undesired results emerge and bite you or at least identify that you are facing and anomic situation as a first step to solution.

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How can you identify and anomic situation? Well as your read before anomie is the result of not having clear (or any) path to follow as a detailed procedure. Going deeper is not having a specific core of values or principles working as a guide in case you or someone in the organization face and unexpected event. You can build a personal or organizational guideline/protocol in which to rely every time.

As natural as the sun setting and rising, a living organism will show you the facts of themselves, beginning at the hiring stage (employees) or qualifying stage (clients). Do you know how to recognize them? Here are a few questions to ponder:

  • Are you working with people aligned with professional principles?
  • Are these principles in the right area?
  • Are they genuine or superficial?
  • Did this person make eye contact with you?
  • Is this prospect is a one time buyer looking for a bargain, or a client to be or a long time partner?
  • Are they seeking a mutual and productive win/win relationship?
  • What is their body language telling you?
  • Are they truly listening, or just waiting for their chance to speak?

Making a strict set of rules is what brings order in your company, because “a society with too much rigidity and little individual discretion could also produce a kind of anomie…” Once again, a strong and clear set of values will show you when to straighten the nose of the ship that veers off course.  If the Titanic´s Captain would have had listening as one of his values, maybe he could order to change the course when the crew warn him.

A set of core values is not only a chart of accountability, it is also to inspire others to reach their potential. Leadership is made by people who inspire others to follow them. The values must share the vital breath that brings meaning and purpose to life, that way people can see business and work as part of their lives and not only as the medium to make money to survive another week (in the long-term this is the seed of anomie). One of the mantras in management consulting is to write and share the Mission/Vision (an inspiring one) and politics, because these create the initial map to guide the company but also must show that those involved are getting in contact with a growing project in time.

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In ancient societies the myths had the function of inspiration which united people. Company values should be no different. These values are not fairy tales to impress employees and customers; they must work as guide of the business to be, steering the direction of everyone involved.

So, how are you feeling about your work? Are you counting the hours to Friday? Or are you diligently working towards its growth?

Javier Dominguez – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.