#mondaymotivation is a twitter routine where people and organisations get all whoop whoop about how GREAT the beginning of the working week is. I work with small organisations to help create their social media strategy and know it can be useful to schedule a guaranteed-to-trend hashtag but unless it's truthful it's more than wasteful, it invites criticism.
My local college has been serving the community for a century offering excellent education in a Ward that is the joint first most deprived in London. It was recently sold to the Council in fairly strange circumstances - who are now going to demolish it to build houses. We have been promised that the College is simply relocating - and no doubt it will.
Many locals have been incensed by this and their detailed research has uncovered some alarming information about what looks like financial mismanagement of some description.
All this is happening at a very high level and the day to day running of the College continues. Banners have been put up outside telling us to prepare for something wonderful and the social media is always good. But their #mondaymotivation post this morning was too revealing.
Another local organisation picked up on it and, to my joy, referenced an article debunking positive psychology. Then they referenced a blog that has been digging into the Colleges finances.
“The Management Accounts up to 31 December 2016 indicate that the College will fall significantly short of its income target for the current year. The overall shortfall is expected to be in the region of £1.7 million.
Governors expressed concern at the dramatic change in financial forecasts compared to what was reported to the Board in October, where the then Management Accounts forecast a year-end surplus of £256k.”
I have no idea about what's really going on at the College but, from a psychological stance, this tweet exposes rather too much about the uncertainty and anxiety that college staff may be feeling.
The image seems based on purposefully alarming carnival entrances designed to let you know that you're entering a world where the usual rules don't apply. It's menacing and sinister and if you walk through the gaping mouth you are consenting to enter a world that you have been blatantly warned about. You give your consent for anything to occur, especially things that are frightening and disturbing, like being eaten up. The features are based on something that is human but horrifically distorted. Clowns are ambiguous: they're supposed to be hilarious and they're notoriously creepy. They say one thing and mean the opposite. The origin of clowning is in satire, where the Fool was able to tell hard truths to powerful people as long as he kept entertaining them. And everyone knows the narrative of the deeply unhappy clown.
I'm not going to say much about the nose on the gif other than that Freud would have a field day with it, and that my more analytical colleagues would have something to say about an unconscious reference to being conned.
Positive thinking is clearly linked to denial. (Do a search for 'positive thinking denial'. The second image is of a clown with his fingers in his ears and his eyes tight shut.) Denial is a coping mechanism that allows us breathing space in which to adapt to new, unpleasant information, but refusing to accept that something is very wrong means that the world slips out of your control - like entering into a sinister carnival world. Cognitive dissonance makes the world seem confusing and threatening and, as any recovering addict will tell you, denial traps and isolates you, preventing change.
Positive thinking can result in the polar opposite of what we're told it's supposed to do, as it did today for the College. Their maniacally upbeat, ambivalently simple tweet has drawn some very serious attention that is way beyond what a social media team can be expected to deal with.
Organisationally, we always have to spin things to our advantage but this is a skilled and delicate job, one that requires complete awareness of reality and the avoidance of being seen to be misleading. Individually, attempting this kind of spin is more often than not denial at best, narcissism at worst. One way or another the truth shows itself, whether we know it or not.
*I've not addressed the spelling mistake because it may be that the person who wrote the tweet doesn't speak English as a first language. And it adds to the post's incongruence.
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