Medicine has a wonderful, rarely used word called Iatrogenic. Iatrogenic means harm caused by doctor intervention, harm caused by doing. Rather than doing something, the doctor would have been better off doing nothing and simply leaving the patient alone.
We have a tough time with this one, leaving things alone. Most of us, especially experts, feel that there must be something we can do, so we do what we think is necessary. Only it isn’t always. If we’re intellectually honest, there are times when we ought to do nothing. You see this in both our personal and professional lives.
In parenting, sometimes the best response is no response. In marriages, sometimes the correct answer is doing nothing, showing no emotion, or taking emotional difficulties like a Stoic. The harm we cause to those closest to us is typically through intervention, either emotionally or physically. We think we’re doing good only we’re doing even more damage than has already been done. We continue to pour salt onto the wound.
As our children age, we walk the line between allowing them to make their own decisions and choices vs. us making them on their behalf. It isn’t easy, nor black and white. When do you do allow your kid to walk home alone? When is the appropriate time to buy the iPhone for your kid? How do I monitor what he watches on YouTube? What about Snap? How much time do they get to spend on it? Whom do they get to hang-out with and for how long? Do I really want to spend 3 hours a day in the car, carting them around to various practices? Can’t they simply take Uber so I can work more? If you want to witness pseudo-emotional damage to your child, take away her iOS device.
Worse, helicopter-parenting grown children, always hovering above them like a police copter, watching and questioning their every move. When we’re 18, we’re old enough to be sent off to war. While to anyone reasonable, you are still a kid, it’s time to decide for yourself (even though, like most 18 year olds, you’ll likely have no idea what you want). Intervention by an 18 year old? Look out. Though, to his credit, his intervention may be less damaging than the expert’s.
The workplace is the same way. Who among us hasn’t wanted to send the angry, spiteful email, and actually did it? What good came of it? Who among us hasn’t dreamt of telling that really pesky co-worker off who thinks he’s a hot shot? Perhaps the day came when you had had enough and you did tell him off. What came of that? Perhaps your workplace’s culture is toxic and, being a good citizen, you attempt to change it. You walk into the VP of HR’s office and hand her a list of things that will make this place better, essentially pitching her on how she can improve her division’s responsibility. How’d that go? Thank you. Please leave your ideas on the table two buildings over. Sometimes, intervention is best left alone.
It is nice to think we shape our environment, but our environment shapes us. There are few among us who can shape an environment or culture, such as Management Wizard Alan Mullaly did during his tenure at Ford. While it is people that create and cultivate toxic cultures, it is toxic cultures that eat people up. Incessant intervention rules the day within these workplaces. Think of the harm done daily: No growth. No development. No people curation. No creativity. No safety in expressing ideas. No innovation (NIH). No happiness. No open-mindedness. It is top-down, Soviet-style management. And there will be no discussion nor negotiation.