Afraid of the Dark? The Perilous Grey Space

There’s the light of the engaged: people who are committed into the organisation, driving it forward, valued and valuable. Then there’s the dark side: people who are uncommitted, detract from success, pulling us down. In this polarised view, It’s easy to deal with this: lose the losers, engage with the winners. Head to the light, abandon the dark. And yet in reality our problem is neither black nor white. It’s grey. And it’s vast.

The Perilous Grey Space

The Social Contract governs the relationship between organisation and individual: it’s the trade off of security, freedoms, reward and aspiration. It’s about balances of power and control, as well as intent and desire.

In the Social Age, the Social Contract is fractured: redundancy, restructure, uncertainty and change, all conspire to make our journey more disparate and disconnected. Indeed, the only constants will be ourselves and our communities, floating through a sea of organisations on a raft of technologies and contract types. In this new space, many of the old levers of power are broken, replaced instead by reputation based authority and earned trust.

Engagement and Silence

A consequence of this is that excellent organisations can attract the very best talent, but good ones can be in a harder space. Where the Social Contract is fractured, we can have people inhabiting the space, but not contributing to the evolution of the organisation. They are in grey space: quite possibly amiable and present, but not dynamically engaged and certainly keeping their options open.

It’s not a bad thing that so many people are in this grey space: indeed, they have been driven there in response to the systematic erosion of trust driven by the organisation itself, but it carries significant risk.

If we fail to engage fairly, we can drive them out. Worse, if we engage with ambiguity, we may keep them there, simmering away, neither leaving, nor fully engaged. When we are in the grey space, we are not fully engaged, but neither have we fallen away. These are people who may be dragged along, but only at a cost of energy and effort.

These are the people we need to engage, with fairness, with respect, and with purpose if we want to truly make the organisation Dynamic again.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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4 Responses to Afraid of the Dark? The Perilous Grey Space

  1. rschaefe1 says:

    Great visual and good points. I’m sure once a company goes from excellent to average… It takes a lot more effort to pull people back from the lost land…
    My only challenge is that it IS a bad thing when people are in the grey space.

    • julianstodd says:

      You’re right: it’s hard to drive up the hill from ‘good’ to ‘excellent’. I agree that it may be bad, but that’s the reality that so many are driven to by the action of the organisation itself! Thanks for visiting and sharing your reflections, best wishes, Julian

  2. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

  3. Pingback: Aspects of Social Leadership #3: Community | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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