Separation Anxiety
Getting away without anyone noticing
By Steve Cornibert
Date Published: 9/1/2017


I’m going to take a vacation, and I’m scared to death about it. It’s not going to Africa that scares me. It’s not the diseases or the animals that have me anxious. It’s not the strange foods or the lack of modern conveniences. It’s not that I’m going to be flying half way around the globe in a time when crazy doesn’t even make the front page anymore. No, none of that bothers me. It’s not like I’m spending the weekend in Camden or Leola, which is really dangerous. I’ve done all the planning and read as much as I need. The thing that does bother me is the one thing I cannot anticipate. What will I find when I get back to the office after 3 weeks? Will I come back only to find the place boarded up? Will 25 years of work go flying out the window without me to watch over the place?

Highly experienced (euphemism for old) and educated management expert that I am, I devised a plan. I decided that I would essentially quit working for the 3 weeks prior to the trip to see what happened. Oh, I showed up at the office, but really didn’t do anything except MBWA (management by walking around). I am taking a lot of afternoons off to play golf and to do all those things around the house that I never do mostly because I don’t want to and because my work gives me a great excuse not to. I simply walk out of the office and say, “I’ll be on my cell if you need me.” If the world fell off its perch, I could always cancel the trip. I am, after all, one of the pillars holding up the universe.

I have spent entire days giving the same reply to every question that I am asked. What would you do if I weren’t here? When I do get into a discussion about some issue, I refuse to proffer an opinion, preferring to say things like, “What could be the consequences of that?” or, “Who should be aware of this?” or, “If you couldn’t ask me, who would you go to?”

At the beginning of this exercise, people seemed to be quite surprised and, at times, annoyed. I call it an “exercise” only because calling it laziness doesn’t seem very business-like. They have, after all, gotten quite used to having me around and not having to make decisions that could be criticized by the boss. We are all more comfortable when our actions and decisions have been cleared in advance. There is less risk that way. 

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