Re-imagining the workplace: There is hope for the Engineer


Morgan Scott Peck’s book; The Road Less Travelled that was published in 1978, has the second chapter going by the title of ‘The Sins of the Father.’ Morgan was not only a best-selling author, but a psychiatrist born in America.

He establishes in this chapter that children have a torrid time under the care of their parents or primary care givers and one realises that he means well in all this and does not mean to make the parent feel like they have been a monster to their bundle of joy. He takes no prisoners though in his attempt to lay bare the vicissitudes of unconscious parenting and the effects this has on the life of the child growing up as the parent bundles.

The Engineer, and every other child are born curious and unafraid of anything except two natural fears; the fear of falling and that of loud noises. (Daniel T. Blumstein, 2020). This means that the rest of the fears are acquired through lived experiences and the main ‘culprits’ in all this are the primary care givers who happen to be parents most of the time and so Scott makes the father in this case, representative of the primary care givers.

The family is the first institution a child finds itself in, with the reality it presents. It is also established by research that the child comes with specific needs. It has physiological ones and certain soft ones that we rarely talk about because this knowledge seems to be viewed by many cultures as the preserve of the scholarly. Most of us first get to know about needs when we read Maslow and his hierarchy of needs and we go home excited about sharing with our parents and peers something they should have known before they gave birth to us to avoid the many challenges they throw us into because of the absence of that knowledge.

Five soft needs, that you can also call psychological needs are sighted and they include the need to belong, to be loved and the polar opposite need to be autonomous and self-expressing. There is also the need to stability, for security and the polar opposite need of uncertainty and growth and finally the need for the meaning of life at the centre of these four needs (N. Taranczewski, 2018). There is need for a deeper delve into these and maybe one day we will get the right time and space to break these down and benefit immensely from that process. Our duty today is to show how this foundation that a child gets has a bearing on the way they later perform in the workplace.

As the Engineer and every other child navigates the difficult space of family and the challenges that seem to not allow them to explore with balance, the five soft needs they come with, they lose it and enter ‘survival mode.’ (S. Chamine, 2012). We established this phenomenon in one of our previous articles that the child feels attached by vicious dogs and takes cover to protect themselves. So, we see that in the workplace we are dealing with an ’injured’ person who came to the world with just two fears but is now overloaded with a lot of others.

This is what we see at play in one of the most important institutions, the workplace. With all the tactics the engineer learnt to survive the onslaught of childhood, he resorts to those in the workplace when it seems to present itself as a repeat of the horrors of his childhood. He then goes back to his quiver and takes out the very same arrows he used to defend himself from the vicious dogs his parents presented in the form of love.

The sad part is that survival, by its nature takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of physical and emotional strength. We are not creative when we are on survival because we are running away from something or trying to avoid something. You can imagine that there will be panting there and a fast heartbeat and pulse and continuous checking for anything that could threaten our safety. We have a siege mentality that even a leaf hitting our head could lead to us collapsing and even dying.

It is that truth that compels us to seek solutions for this universal problem that affects the mind more than anything.

These fears are entrenched in our minds and the rest of the parts of our lives such as the emotions, the body and the energy receive this from the mind. (Sadguru, 2015). In his book, Mind is your Business, the Indian yoga guru, Sadguru takes an informed look at the importance of the mind and how the mind has the capacity to either make or unmake an individual. It is the survival mode that hits the mind by a biochemical process that involves hormones that get secreted when we are stressed and running for survival. We secrete stress hormones that make us sick and unproductive. (S. Chamine). For our purposes today we want to focus mainly on the fact that it affects the performance of our mind, our intelligence in a nutshell.

Brilliant geniuses such as the Engineer and many others have their brain worn out by the challenges they face growing up and later in other institutions such as the workplace. Instead of getting better, they get worse and what they would have done with brilliance in the past, they would struggle to do as survival wears them away and as fears grow in their lives. Alcohol and other substances do tone down the brain if abused (R. E Tanzi and D. Chopra, 2013) and these as established in the previous articles, are usually used by the Engineer and many others to survive and to cope with the vicious dogs of the workplace and other institutions such as marriage. This is the sad part that the stones that we use to cope with the dogs are the very things that destroy us. They make us pay with our lives to use them.

The good news is that it’s never too late to mend. An individual who still believes in themselves can rekindle the brain and take it back to what it used to be. Rudolph E. Tanzi and Deepak Chopra, in the book; Super Brain, explore this good news whose basis is the neuroscience principle of neuroplasticity. (P. Douyon, 2019) This is the best news the Engineer and other suffering people who forgot who they are and lost the sharpness of their brain, can read. They can go back and retrain their mind to regain its sharpness and perform even better than they did as young performers. Next week I share practical steps one can consider to start this process and rewrite their script. We are not done yet and if this can change a life and revive the workplace, therein lies our joy. There is hope for the Engineer.

Bhekilizwe Bernard Ndlovu’s training is in human resources training, development and transformation, behavioural change, applied drama, personal mastery and mental fitness. He works for a Zimbabwean company as head of human capital, while also doing a PhD with Wits University where he looks at violent strikes in the South African workplace as a researcher. Ndlovu worked as a human resources manager for several blue-chip companies in Zimbabwe and still takes keen interest in the affairs of people and performance management. He can be contacted on [email protected]

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