There’s a great paradox in the nature of people. Yes, we want to be part of a pack. We want to belong. Yet we don’t want to blend in. To seem the same as everyone else. We don’t want to be a number.
I remember all of the times in my life where I screamed “pay attention to ME.” Being a middle child, I had to fight for my identity. My oldest sister got to be in charge (although she would tell you that wasn’t a true benefit), my youngest brother seemed to get away with everything.
To make sure the world knew who I was, I put some stakes in the ground along the way. Some of those included:
In a white-washed world of standard guidelines, I think a lot of employees do the same thing.
Maybe they tell jokes in meetings, or wear interesting (and I mean sometimes lewd) outfits, or show up late every day, strutting in with an attitude.
Having been lost in the world of gray cubicles, they might just figure that negative attention is better than no attention at all.
So the next time you are delivering blanket praise to a team of employees, remember that they also want you to see each individual face in that crowd. Find ways to do that. Then maybe they’re stop wearing that lime green hat to work.