Friday, July 1, 2022

Don't Rock The Boat (MY Eng #54)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells', 'flogging a dead horse', 'better late than never', 'storm in a teacup', 'between a rock and a hard place', 'darkest before dawn', 'empty vessels make the most noise', 'birds of a feather flock together', 'separate the wheat from the chaff', 'let sleeping dogs lies', 'open a can of worms', 'light at the end of the tunnel', 'trial and error', 'look before you leap', 'lightning in a bottle', 'on the same page', don't judge a book its cover', 'reinvent the wheel', 'shifting gears', 'throwing in the towel', 'jump on the bandwagon', 'passing the buck', 'breaking the ice', 'cracking the code', 'when it rains it pours', 'bigger fish to fry', 'ball is in your court', 'back to the drawing board' and 'square peg in a round hole'.

When skies turn dark and the waves get choppy, that's not exactly the best time to start making a ruckus on a ricketty boat made out of wooden logs.

Even the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg on what seemed like a pristine night out in the Atlantic ocean.

So whilist it's nice and dandy to have a friendly banter on gets to lie down for some relaxing sunbathing and keep a steady hand on the mast to look out for rough seas, all hands need to be on the deck once the storm hits. No point arguing who read the navigational charts wrong or followed the wrong star. No time for finger-pointing.

* * *

Yet, there are people who just can't keep their lid shut even when the tough gets going. They just enjoy the rush of emotional drama rather than actually figuring out solutions. There's a time and place to have an honest assessment of what went wrong and who screwed up. But in the middle of the stom, don't rock the boat!

Somehow, they think that yelling at the crew would make them feel guilty and buck up. That's not how morale works! Good leaders rule by respect, not fear. And no one respects a manager who's unduly harsh on underlings asked to do perform tasks that they're just not cut out for (covered in this last article - the futility of forcing a 'square peg in a round hole'.

In short, there's no point rocking the boat that's manned by an inexperienced crew. The middle of the storm is neither the time nor place to berate them for their flaws.

* * *

Recently, I had the unpleasant experience of being assigned under a project manager on a temporary basis (not at all by my full consent). No proper instructions on what I had to do, no respect that I'm standing in as a favour to keep the boat afloat while the usual crew is on leave with absence for a few months.

Somehow, I survived. Not sure whether I fared well or messed up more in my temporary role. I could have easily walked away, or mount a mutiny. But no, despite the hardship of adjusting to a new role under a taskmaster who had two officers quitting or being reassigned within a year, I held on till the end of the short voyage.

Because, unlike people with no clue of how to properly steer a boat under heavy weather, I know the sheer importance of not rocking the boat...

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