AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE — We’ve adopted a cat. (S)he’s called Sox and I don’t particularly like her. I know that makes me a bad person in many ways. But I am allergic to cats and I know that I am going to end up worrying about the cat more than anyone else. The tiny thing has already decided it likes me too much.
So, when the cat is scratching at the kitchen door, looking at me with forlorn eyes, it’s hard not to imagine it saying: “Let me in, I just wasn’t to be your friend.”
But we both know that’s not what it’s thinking. That’s called anthropomorphising — pretending animals have feelings and characters like humans. It’s one of the only big words I know.
If you have some time to waste today, go to Google and put in “[your company] believes” or “[your company] thinks” and see how many hits you get. You can certainly explain those away as simple headline-writing-itis. But inside organisations it gets even stranger. How many times have you seen, heard or said in a performance meeting:
“Well, Bill, the Company feels that you are…”
“The organisation cannot tolerate…”
“The business is delighted to announce…”
Now, the cat at my door I can understand. It purrs. It’s furry and has big eyes. But the organisation? Where do you find the pulse? Have you ever seen a company at the laundromat?
We give the company character when we shouldn’t. We try to make it personal… between me and the business. But that’s not the way it is.
Organisations are made up of people. They are people with shared objectives, and they are people bound together by their common link through the business. But an organisation cannot decide anything. It cannot emote, it cannot reject something, it cannot be daring and it cannot make choices.
People do that. You and me. And we should be more willing to take responsibility for our actions and the way we run organisations.
Time to let the cat in. She’s angry with me.