We often speak of the need for someone to get out of their comfort zone. We want them to try something different and more challenging in order to build their skills. Judith Bardwick wrote a book Danger in the Comfort Zone which expands upon this concept. One day, my wife trying to recall the title of the book, referred to it as Comfort in the Danger Zone, which may be the way we need to think of it to guard against complacency.
The Danger Zone is not an area with signs that say; Keep Out, No Trespassing, Caution, Warning or Danger Zone Ahead. On the contrary, there may not be any indicators that the area in which you reside has any potential hazards labeled. There may be an assumption that you are self-aware and old enough to know better. The Danger Zone could be situations or relationships at work or in your personal time. It is a place where your behavior could compromise your life and your livelihood in a negative manner. The Danger Zone can be a moving target, or it may involve shifting circumstances.
In a Danger Zone, you may not recognize the hidden pitfalls that may exist. However, here are at least 4 behaviors that put us at risk.
Lack of continuous improvement
If we are negligent and refuse to continuously improve our skills, we may wake up one day to discover that we are not compatible with our customers. We lagged behind the times and the mandatory evolution in skills that keep us competitive and relevant. We discover the bar is raised and others, around us have emerged with greater skills and more up-to-date knowledge and technology. They are formidable competitors, who have forged ahead of us on the career ladder for promotions and job retention.
Inappropriate conversations in the workplace
There are certain conversations, language and behavior that is not acceptable at work. We have become relaxed and too casual in our conversations in the workplace. With the emphasis on diversity and inclusion, organizations are hiring people with a variety of differences, similarities and sensitivities. In the era of a more respectful workplace, we must be respectful of everyone. We must adjust conversations and interactions which are out of line with current morays and expectations. It is now apparent through high profile lawsuits, that inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated, and the consequences will be severe.
Let down your guard
There is a lot written about self-awareness in the workplace and in our relationships. One day I was joking with an employee and I watched, as he became very comfortable and casual in his speech toward. At one point he offered a swearword, as he would with his friends at the bar. I watched him as he left the room, happy about his conversation with the boss, not realizing what he done.
Later, he walked by my office and I called him in for a brief discussion. I began by apologizing to him for my role in setting up an environment where he felt too comfortable. “You said something,” and I looked him in the eyes, “that could get you destroyed.” You don’t ever tell me what I am full of in the course of a conversation. However, I’m sorry, I apologize for my role. But the lesson for you is to never put yourself in a position where you become so comfortable that you are not aware of words that are coming from you. I said no harm no foul. It was my fault.” There was no harm, but there was a foul, but I promised him that I would not use that against him, and I did not. Subsequently he was promoted to a District Sales Manager position and is still with the organization performing at a high level. You must always increase your awareness and be on guard.
Lose sight of the value of people at every level
When we are in the Danger Zone, we may tend to devalue some of the people around us. If we decide that some individuals or some group does not have an impact on our career, we may shun them and not go deeper in building a connection or relationship. We may develop a reputation of only socializing with certain people, who we think can help us. This shortsightedness can work against us, especially, if those individuals get promoted ahead of us and they remember how we treated them.
I recall a situation where one of my peers made disparaging comments about me behind my back. Ultimately, I returned as his manager and I received a curious phone call from him. He apologized for comments he had made, 10 years earlier. Whereas his confession was noble, I asked him a question that he tried awkwardly to answer. My question was,” If I was not coming back as your manager, would we be having this conversation?” Spare yourself these uncomfortable moments and negative career impact by treating everyone with value at every level.
We must not get too comfortable in the Danger Zone. Our continuous focus on improving our skills, shying away from inappropriate conversations, not letting down our guard and losing sight of the value of people at every level will be richly rewarded. These four points will assist us in growing our careers and strengthening our relationships.
Copyright © 2019 Orlando Ceaser
One thought on “4 Ways to Avoid Comfort in the Danger Zone”
Excellent advice, all the way around! It triggered several thoughts of several incidents that occurred during my work days. Some, where I was the offender and many that were observed in others. In most incidents I learned from my mistakes, fortunately. I recognize we are living at a time when language has taken a turn and now includes words we never would have even thought of using. On one occasion, a much younger co-worker used the “F” word and I told him there was a time when I used such language but I had reformed and recognized it was not very attractive so, if I asked if he would please help me from backsliding and not use such language in my presence. At a later time, he actually caught himself and apologized. I never heard him use another unpleasant word…in my presence.