Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression is NOT sadness

In memory of Robin Williams' passing yesterday, apparently from a depression-induced suicide, I wanted to clarify something that can be very misleading.

We often use the word depressed colloquially to mean very sad.  But clinically, it does not mean this at all.  It is actually a lack of emotion.  It is a lack of energy.  It is a lack of interest, even in things that used to be interesting, important, or engaging.  There is a reason that the opposite of depression is mania rather than bliss.

You could see the manic states (which means high, uncontrollable energy, not happiness) in a lot of his standup and many of his characters (especially the voice of the genie in Aladdin).  And I would imagine that he was forced to fake the big grins he often wore. That must have been very difficult, fatiguing, and hard to maintain. 

This is a reason depressed people might turn to drugs or alcohol.  Especially people in the public eye who are forced to fake happiness or at least mask the depression.  For a comedian, I can't imagine how hard that must have been. 

My heart really goes out to him.  I enjoyed his whole body of work.  I laughed hysterically from the first time Mork appeared on Happy Days.  On the flight home from Singapore just last Thursday I sobbed uncontrollably while watching him in "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn." (In full view of the other passengers, who were not watching the movie and probably wondered). 

The world has lost a real treasure.

Team Building

Here is a team building exercise that you all should try. It is a guaranteed success. 

First, organize one of those silly team building exercises that many corporations seem to love – getting the entire company together, break them into small groups that have nothing to do with the employees’ real teams, and then do some link building, get-to-know-you activities like treasure hunts and ropes courses. 

Then end the day about an hour before your employees usually go home and watch the magic begin.  The real teams will congregate and start grumbling about how huge a waste of time this day was.  What ignoramuses our upper management must be to think this could work !!!!  They may even all go out to happy hour or dinner together to keep the gripe-fest going.  It may even last all week.  And THIS is the team building that is my guaranteed success.  You would be amazed at how unifying against a common adversary can bond a team together.  This is real bond-building, not the link-building that the ropes courses create.

But in all seriousness, there is a potential consequence that you need to worry about.  Who is it that they are bonding to oppose?  You can’t let this turn into longer term negative competition between workplace teams or disruption against organizational principles once they get back to their real work.  But that is not too hard as long as you follow a few basic guidelines.
·         Make sure that the groups inside the fake team building exercises are orthogonally created to their real work teams so there are no out-group identity schema created during any competition.  If you have any questions about this, please ask me about it in the comments because it is really important.
·         Make sure that the rules of the fake team building exercises are structured using good gamification principles to discourage any cheating, even in fun.  If you have any questions on this one, read my new book when it comes out in the fall. (Yes, this is a convenient plug.  So sue me !!).

Anyone feel like giving this a try?  If you do, let me know how it goes.  I think all of us reading this blog would be interested in your results.