Here’s a question: how many of us consider wildly subjective factors when making management decisions? Things like justifying an employee’s odd behavior because his kid just left for college; or choosing one intern over another because his name is only one letter off from your favorite author’s and that seems like a nice coincidence; or rescheduling a conversation about the projections for next quarter because it’s Tuesday, and you’ve found that conversations on Tuesdays don’t generally go as well as conversations that happen on other days of the week. We all have different ideas and quirks that influence our approach to work. They make sense to us, and that’s all that’s really matters in the day to day.
Case in point: I attended a psychology seminar last weekend and happened to mention to a colleague that I’d noticed a lot of general agitation from clients, colleagues and friends over the last few weeks – ordinarily calm people were almost craving disagreements and conflict. She listened and said, “Yep, makes sense. Mars goes retrograde at the end of the month. It’s been getting ready to do it for a couple of weeks. Everybody’s cranky right now.” …What?
I have an general appreciation for astrology, but I had no clue about the disruptive aspects of Mars in retrograde (Mercury, sure. Mars, not so much.). Mars, in mythological terms, is the god of war. It stands to reason when he, in planet form, appears to go backwards in his planetary orbit, human feelings pertaining to conflict can get a little unstable.
Learning about Mars and its potential influence on general mood, lent a lighter and somewhat comic vibe to what I’d been noticing from the humans I work with. Call it what you will – externalizing control, wild rationalization or going completely mental – I suddenly had a frame of reference for the general crankiness I’d seen. I had a context and a cognitive frame that snapped my experience into an oddly logical place. This happened because it aligned with my worldview in that a) if changes in the barometric pressure can make a person’s arthritic joints ache, the stars and planets moving around may do something to us, too; and b) there is always something new and a little goofy to learn.
What does any of this have to do with workplace communication? Well, just that we never really know what forces are influencing another human being at any moment in time. All sorts of things may be contributing to our communication and performance. Joy, sorrow, frustration, disappointment, distraction, elation, and the like contribute to how people interact at work. Strange forces can be in play. But, if we remain curious an open to any information that helps us understand one another, we’re more likely to have a more interesting time of it as we try to get along with each other every day.