The Psychology of Digging Out the Workplace Weeds

I most definitely do not have a green thumb. I am allergic to grass, ragweed and numerous pollens.  I’m a creature of the urban jungle. Concrete all around me growing up, not plants.  So, I went to Home Depot this weekend, bought some plants, a large shovel and all sorts of soil.  The soil types available for purchase are quite dizzying and needlessly confusing.

 I learned to plant azaleas. That indeed was cool but not very engaging or entertaining. Everything  came pretty much ready. I mean I did have to layer four types of soil, but layering is layering. I didn’t spend four years in San Francisco for nothing–everything is about the layers there.

Because I’m a sucker for punishment, and due to its inherently high frustration level, I spent the majority of my time pulling out weeds. Apparently, in order for my pretty plants to thrive I need to get rid of the weeds. Growing up in the South Bronx I always thought dandelions were pretty. I could have sworn that dandelions were what constituted the beautiful mountain vistas in the Sound of Music. Apparently I was misinformed.  I’ll probably go to Casablanca for “the waters”, too (a tip of the hat the classic film buffs who get the reference).  How was I to know something so pretty was really such a nuisance? I mean, they were all over the vacant lot across from the block’s crack house. I thought it made it look classy. I did recently make it back to that old block and the dandelions were no longer there. Neither were the gangs or drugs. A good turn of events overall. Sorry dandelions.

 As I sat there digging out the weeds with my son, under the finally-blazing sun, I could not help but think of the overall state of the American workplace.  I also thought that a little Rolling Stones or Hendrix should have been blasting in the background. Oh, I digress. I found that one little weed could lead to a whole takeover of bad influencers. The good plants just get pushed aside by the weeds, suffering stunted growth, and possibly an inferiority complex.  Work cohorts actually seem to work a bit like gardens. Sometimes a set of employees become an obnoxious “weedy” clique and proceed to propagate their bad thoughts and work habits. Others get caught up in that noxiousness and become fearful and unproductive. Sometimes a weed bears flowers, which totally confuses me. How could something pretty like that be bad? Of course, in the workplace one must always be on the lookout for people’s real intentions.

Puerto Ricans have a saying in Spanish “mala hierba nunca muere.” The literal translation is “bad weed never die.” Although, what it actually means is that the bad, mean people never die young”. For the workplace, you may want to refine this into “the bad employees never leave/quit”. Why should they? Oftentimes, they have it good. Unproductive, lazy, bad attitude, ruining it for the other flowers–yup, you are a weed in the workplace.

What I found today is that sometimes you just have to take your gloves off and dig down deep into the weeds and rip everything out. It feels good, productive and definitely gets the job done. You just cannot be afraid to get a little dirty, scratched and bloodied to address bad weeds. I had to laugh when my son saw me struggling with the weeds and he said “mom, sometimes, you should just use the shovel.” Ain’t that the truth.

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