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Foundations - Assessing the great glass organization
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 10/22/2007

Joe Bouchard is a librarian at Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility within the Michigan Department of Corrections. He is also a member of the Board of Experts for “The Corrections Professional” and an instructor of Corrections and Psychology for Gogebic Community College.




Someone once asked me if the glass is half empty or half full. I replied, “I am not really concerned if the glass if half full or half empty. I tend to check if the glass is clean.”

This was not some sarcastic reaction to an inquiry about whether I was a more optimistic or pessimistic person. It was an assessment for the feel of the organization. And this was a special nod toward realism and context.

The glass represents any organization. The level of liquid in the glass represents a leader within the organization describing the morale level.

A colleague once added that the glass may be aesthetically pleasing. An attractive glass is certainly nice to look at. But pleasant outside appearances can detract from the level of liquid inside. An ornate glass can obscure any structural deficiencies. Superficial appearances do not guarantee solid utility. A seemingly flawless and even gilded glass may not necessarily hold water.

On the other hand, can a glass that looks ordinary, or even archaic, still serve as a container for a positive morale? Are we willing to drink from a very old glass that may still be functional but does not seem to fit with the times?

What about long term life of the glass? A strong-looking glass will not automatically be one that lasts forever. And events on the outside can topple the glass, rendering the reported morale level as moot. There are many circumstances outside of our control that can shatter the organizational glass. The level of optimism may be moot if the glass is fundamentally flawed.

So, how does this analogy apply to your organization? Can the single optimist flourish in a basically negative facility? Can the curmudgeons swim against the tide of an institution with a positive culture? Where are you in the context of your organizational glass?

Things are not always described with a simple yes or no. When we consider something, it is within a context. There are no vacuums. Attitudes are wrapped in circumstances. For example, the national mood was profoundly tempered by the events of September 11, 2001. Not to mitigate the tragedy, but it was a dirty glass day. No one was concerned about the amount in the glass. The state of the glass was more important. External circumstances that shake the glass will make turbulent waters within.

Should we be so quick to diminish the importance of the leader who announces the level of morale in the glass? It is conceded that great concepts are wonderful and great organizations are great to work for. Yet, can the optimal circumstances and environment be shattered by one clumsy leader? Can the informal leaders stain or damage the glass?

Sometimes it is not so easy to modify the level within. At times there is a closed organization that will not permit this. Consider this as a glass with a secure lid affixed.

It may be a chicken or egg question. In the end, however, opinions will differ between the importance of the state of the glass versus how some describe the level within. How is the state of your organization, and how do you view the “glass”?

Joe Bouchard can be reached at (906) 353-7070 ext 1321. These are the opinions of Joe Bouchard, and not of the MIDOC or Corrections.com.

Other articles by Joe Bouchard

Lurking beneath the surface, 10/1/07

We remember still, 9/12/07



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