Back in 1974, Jerry Harvey wrote an article, the Abilene Paradox: The Management of Agreement, to demonstrate the peril of agreement. Eventually he wrote a book on the same concept. I was exposed to the Abilene Paradox in several of my MBA classes. One of my favorite professors, Dr. Edward O’Connor, even brought in the movie made to demonstrate this problem in a variety of settings.
There have been some things at my work, beneficial to me personally but potentially problematic in the future for the organization, that make me fear we are taking a trip to Abilene. I see the Abilene Paradox as similar to the Hans Christian Andersen story about the Emperor’s New Clothes. Fear prevented almost everyone from pointing out what was obvious to them all: the emperor was quite naked.
This situation has caused me days of insomnia. Do I stay quiet or take the risk of bringing the problem to someone’s attention? Is this worth losing my job over? Can I face myself in the mirror if I stay quiet? These things gnaw at me. I tend to use my ability to sleep well as a measure of what I need to deal with both personally and professionally. Last night I started drafting my concerns to someone I hope can help. I slept deeply.