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Weekly Wisdom 4-6-2016

Post Date: 
Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Margins

What does it mean to live life in the margins? 

·   When I write a check for $19.46 and balance my checkbook (does anyone else still do that?), I enter it for an even $20. Margin.

·   In planning a dinner for six, I throw in an extra couple of chicken breaks, just in case.  Margin.

·   I give myself five extra minutes to ensure I make it to a movie on time.  Margin.

·   I do a lot of extra doodling taking notes during a meeting.  Margin.


From Anthro classes I know that living in the margins has to do with those in society who have a tough life. There isn’t leeway for times when things go wrong. Think subsistence farmers who only manage to grow enough food this year, there’s nothing left to build a reserve.  Or full-time fast food workers who earn so little they are vulnerable to illness or car trouble.


      Living in the margins can also mean that you take unreasonable risks in your life. Skateboarding and other extreme sports are seen as activities in the margins.

My thinking about margins started with this article:

The Biggest Mistake Made in Employee Engagement! 

By Marshall Goldsmith

Employee engagement is defined by marginal effort. In other words, what are employees doing that they don’t have to do? How hard are they trying? Compare two employees – one is working very hard, putting in extra marginal effort; the other is not. It would be a mistake to think that the second will perform as well as the first. Even so, this is not the biggest mistake made in employee engagement.

…Most flight attendants do a great job. On the occasional flight, there are two flight attendants, one is positive motivated upbeat and enthusiastic – while the other is negative, bitter, angry and cynical. I’m sure you have been on this flight before.

What is the difference? The difference is not what the company is providing. Both flight attendants may be making the same pay, with the same uniform, with the same customers, on the same plane, with the same employee engagement program.

What is the difference? The difference is not what is on the outside. The difference is what is on the inside.

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over.  Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

                              - Kurt Vonnegut


I write Weekly Wisdom as the Executive Director of Human Resources at Central Washington University. Having an eye for meaningful things, I include my own observations and thoughts, ideas I’ve recently encountered, and/or topics that are of current importance. I like to think that others will find reading Weekly Wisdom worth their time.  
     Staci Sleigh-Layman

Take the Next Step to Becoming a Wildcat.