Shades of Grey

So much better than black and white

We like a good guest post; especially one from someone who makes us think. Today’s is just such a post and we hope you enjoy it and reflect on it. If you would like to submit a guest post for the blog please drop us a line at but not before you’ve read this:

There’s a new guy working in my office and to be honest he makes me feel really uncomfortable.

The reason for this discomfit is fairly simple really; he sees things in black and white and isn’t afraid to say so. If something isn’t working in our department his response usually consists of:

well, why don’t we just do it differently?

I have more than once found myself responding to this question with a complex discussion of why things are done the way they are and why it has proven difficult to change things so far. It’s not that we don’t want to change things it’s just a lot more complicated than that.

And if a member of staff in a different department isn’t following process in the way we think they should be my new colleague will ask:

and are they being disciplined for this?

Again, I have found myself defending the members of staff and pointing out that there are different interpretations of the right way to act and that just because people are doing things differently this doesn’t mean they are necessarily wrong, even though we agree that we think they are.

So why does this all make me feel uncomfortable?

Well, because most of the time I find myself agreeing with my new colleague in theory and yet don’t quite want to take the action he advocates in practice. It makes me feel uncomfortable as it makes me questions whether I’m thinking correctly.

There are good and bad reasons for my approach:

The good reason is that life is not black and white but actually a multiple of shades of grey. Not everyone in a local authority thinks the same or acts in the same way and not every good idea can be implemented just because we think it should be that way. Life is complex and working in a large organisation like a local authority will necessitate compromise and flexibility.

The bad reason is that I fear I may have been in a local authority too long. Have I started to accept elements of mediocrity or been too forgiving of bad practice simply because I’ve got used to it?

I’m not certain of the answer to this question but I’ve made a decision. From now on I’m going to try and be more questioning in my approach. I’m always going to be a ‘shades of grey’ thinker but if something isn’t working, even if the cause isn’t mine, I’m going to work harder to challenge this and to think about it differently.

Oh, and I’m going to do everything I can to help my new colleague be a success in our department.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at:

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One Comment on “Shades of Grey”

  1. […] been ages since our last guest post (well, since 26 March anyway) and we were beginning to think that perhaps no-one else had any interesting or amusing […]

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