Black, White and Ambiguous All Over

Well let’s see if I can write about gray areas without using the term shades of gray, which while being a timeless phrase has been co-opted by a certain ubiquitous book series.  How about layers of gray?


Some of us are most comfortable in a clearly defined space; black is this, and white is that, and everything within the space is classified as one thing or the other.  But in our complex world it seems that more set ups, situations, and processes lend themselves to gray; plenty of room for ambiguity, fuzzy definition, unclear lines of responsibility.  Layers and layers of gray in which we must pass through, pour over, sift for many of our working hours.  What is the right thing to do here, now?  How about there?

Public domain image, 1920s office

Public domain image, 1920s office


Have the powers that be in your office been able to push through all this gray enough to provide you with a clearly defined job description?  This will help you to navigate through the gray, but if you are looking for a promotion at any future point you should not just stop at the borders of your job description.  You must continue with the task until you can find a natural hand-off point to the next logical person.


But what if I am in an office where ‘wing it’ seems to be the first bullet point of everyone’s job description?  I have an answering question – how comfortable are you with this wing it approach, this sea of gray?  If you simply cannot reconcile yourself to this environment and the anxiety is mounting, then your best answer is to carefully select a new more black and white environment.  (Yes, the market is still in turmoil, yes this is very gray – but this is short term gray with a big dose of anxiety but a payoff of a more structured black and white space at the end.  Or you can stick to endless layers of gray, you chose.)


What if your situation is terribly gray and you are game to be an agent to change it, to help create some structure?  Good for you.  Consider why there is so much gray – is it the type of business (say due to frequent change or growth and process hasn’t caught up), is it due to communication gaps, or perhaps there is a lack of cross-training and knowledge sharing?  Or any number of other underlying reasons.  Knowing why is crucial to improvement.  There is plenty of help available in many forms, and you will be in a better place to choose the right help when you understand the reason for the gray.


Your solutions will be found as you consider your whole situation – particularly your tolerance for layers of gray and your ability to control or affect the causes of the gray areas.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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