I love gray as a color for my t-shirts. Other than that purpose, I think it’s a sign of trouble more than anything else.
The trouble with gray is it leads to confusion. It’s neither black or white. So, where does one go when one is in a gray area? Gray leads to a lot of misinterpretation. History books, the news and personal journals provide an excellent source of information on why gray areas should be avoided at all times.
While watching the History Channel the other night I saw a documentary on the independence of India and Pakistan. When the British gave both India and Pakistan control over their respective territories, the Viceroy did not give a decisive ruling on Kashmir. Eventually, the whole affair became a gigantic gray area and a cause of conflict between the neighbors.
Closer to this country’s reality, take the recent hostage event. Since the rules of engagement for everyone were not clear, almost everyone wanted to get their hands into the mess. Those needed were not active, those that needed to shut up were noisy. How’s that for a massive gray area of responsibility?
Was it a case of simply shirking off responsibility? I wouldn’t really know. What’s clear to me is: If you don’t make solid decisions, you’re bound to encounter a lot of conflict. Eventually, someone will pay for someone else’s inaction.
Avoiding responsibility — even corporate entities are guilty of this, much like the case of the one I used to hold in high esteem. In my last company I joined, I was under the impression that it was on a progressive path. Unfortunately, thinking this way eventually became a great source of disillusionment for me. Eventually, I saw and realized that the worst that I previously saw in the company that sorely needed fixing had been put on the back of priorities of leadership. I saw good people waste their talent and good years there — too bad for them. What a waste of good resources.
In a weird way, I used to think that leaving a problem much on its own will — in the course of time — allow it to solve itself. However, as I’ve observed over the years, if it did happen, it would have been a fluke of some sort. What is clear to me now is this: Clarity of rules or controls are needed to expect the right behavior from people. Having unclear rules is the same as not creating the best opportunities for people. You cannot set up people to fail and then expect them to succeed. As much as people may dislike rules, they will need them.