April 2, 2020


Many years ago I had a job interview for Booz Allen.   Almost the first thing the interviewer said to me was “You’re a bit of a butterfly aren’t you?”

They were wrong.  I was just following a normal pattern for someone with my appetite for change.

In work,  I’m motivated by evolution rather than stability, and every 3-5 years or so I feel the need to make a big shift.   I’m not unusual, that’s how most people like to operate at work.

My interviewer was possibly in a different camp.  I asked them how long they’d been with Booz Allen.   “20 years.”  Clearly in the ‘I like things to stay the same over a long period of time’ preference.  Or perhaps their motivational kicks came from working with an international consultancy firm – if the job involves the required level of variety, there’s no need to switch jobs to get it.

I’ve also met people at the other extreme, who are motivated by constant change and uncertainty, and who will pivot almost every year.

The point here is that even without a crisis, it’s worth understanding your own and other people’s appetite for change.  People will be de-motivated, under-perform and eventually leave if they aren’t getting what they need from the job they are in.

In a time of crisis and uncertainty this is even more important.  A few will thrive on it.   Most will find it uncomfortable, unsettling, but bearable.  A few will find it almost intolerable.

Bear this in mind as you shake down to remote working.  Of course the priority is to get things working and keep going.   But if this situation lasts, or you decide to change your way of working altogether it’s worth adjust things in line with these preferences.

It may well be that moving people into different roles will help them and you get through it better.

PS the man swapping hats with Charlie Chaplin is Harry Lauder, a music hall (variety) star in his day, and according to Gibbs family tradition, a relation of ours.