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We need patience, right now

Tim Mcguire United Feature Syndicate

For the umpteenth time I heard the workplace complaint that seems to afflict so many people today: “Nobody has any patience any more. They want things to happen right now and they just don’t seem to understand that if you let a little time pass the right result will often occur naturally.” The complainant added, “When they barge ahead, the results are always a mess, and a little patience could have prevented the mess.”

When my wife and I were selling our house this summer, four days went by without a showing. I was ready to abandon the entire sale process. A friend of mine wrote the other day about the way his 7-year-old drove him over the edge on a recent vacation. And if I had a dime for every person I’ve encountered exasperated by family or in-law encounters this summer, we could have a wonderful party — without the relatives! But it’s the workplace where the lack of patience is putting executives and employees on edge and creating crises where they don’t have to exist.

When I brought up the “patience problem” to a close friend he couldn’t resist telling me two old stories:

Two buzzards are circling over a dying animal. The first one says: “Just be patient, it will die soon.” The second buzzard said: “Patience, heck, I want to kill something.”

The second is a prayer that you are no doubt familiar with: “God grant me patience, and — darn it — give it to me right now.”

Those jokes may be tired, but they typify the reaction many of us have to patience. It may be fine for everyone else, but I want what I want, right now. Higher sales, improved performance and lower overhead cannot wait! Allowing things to follow a natural path is alien to many of us. We demand action and progress instantly! Waiting and letting things flow naturally has definitely become anti-culture. Who am I to fight the culture?

Our desire for immediacy, our insistence on alleged perfection and our intolerance drive impatience, creating a workplace where chaotic activity is valued more than solid results.

As I watched a televised baseball game last month I reflected on how patience is so essential to that game. A hitter must have it or he is lunging all over the place. And certainly, a fielder must have it or he rushes ground balls and throws the ball into the first base stands. So many errors occur because baseball players “rushed things” or they don’t wait for the game to come to them.

Those admonitions make perfect sense in sports, but at work we force the issue. We forget rushing things can result in errors, or that careful thought before we act will guarantee better results. We back people into corners without allowing them to resolve problems on their own. We create undue pressure because we can’t take the long view.

Bible enthusiasts are probably familiar with something called a concordance. It is a book ( that allows you to look up a word such as patience and then find every biblical reference to that word. When I looked up patience I found several relevant passages, but when I looked up those passages in my Bible I found it often used the word perseverance instead.

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