Minefield? Hardly.

The realm of human relationships in the workplace is supposedly just such a place.

But it isn’t. In a minefield you don’t know where the explosive devices are buried. You don’t even know any are buried there until someone steps on one.

In the workplace, though, if you don’t know where every mine is buried by now, you haven’t been paying attention. Just in case:

> Physical contact. A handshake is the limit. If you think your colleague really needs a hug, you might be right. Needing one from you, though, is another matter. Unless you’re absolutely certain a hug from you would be welcome, keep it verbal, not physical.

> Repeated, unwanted attention. It’s a myth that one employee can’t ask another employee out for a date because that might constitute unwanted attention. The fact of the matter is, nobody on the offering side of the equation can know if their attention is wanted until it’s offered. Have you asked and been turned down? Now you know. Don’t ask again.

> Any hint of romantic intentions in a power relationship. Power = compulsion whether intended or not, and it isn’t okay no matter what signals you think you’re receiving.

> Overt sexual attention: Don’t. If you find this surprising, or you disagree, you need more help than KJR can give you.

> Any hint of tribal disparagement. If you sincerely believe a racial, ethnic, political, or religious group has undesirable characteristics, you’re welcome to your belief. You aren’t welcome to express it. The same goes for your thoughts about human genders and what they’re like. You also aren’t allowed to express your thoughts in the form of a joke — no matter how funny you’re sure it is — or to use pejorative identifiers in conversation, or to use “Jew” as a verb.

> Don’t call grown women “girls.” If you’re a guy, it’s demeaning. If you’re a woman, you’re encouraging guys to call them girls.

> Anger mismanagement. We in the workforce are human beings, not robots … at least, not yet. Any of us, in a given circumstance, might find ourselves afflicted with TSD (tantrum spectrum disorder). People who suffer from TSD express their unhappiness on a scale that has rage at one end and annoyance or irritation at the other. Except that if the expression is anywhere beyond irritation it’s the people around us who suffer.

That’s about it. Except that it isn’t, because everything above this paragraph is about what you shouldn’t do. Which is fine and useful if you want to avoid running afoul of Human Resources, which surprisingly enough tends to get these about right in most organizations and circumstances.

But … and this is, if you’ll forgive the expression, a big but … while the above advice keeps you out of trouble and the company out of court, it has nothing to do with career success.

Quite the opposite, if you focus your attention on staying out of trouble you’ll ignore the factor that, more than any other, determines your professional success: how well you manage your interpersonal relationships.

If you’ve read the KJR Manifesto (Keep the Joint Running: A Manifesto for 21st Century Information Technology, and if you haven’t … seriously? What’s wrong with you?) … if you’ve read it you understand the two ironclad relationship rules: Relationships Precede Process and Relationships Outlive Transactions. That is, no business process can survive distrust among those responsible for making it work. And very few battles are worth winning if they do serious damage to your working relationship with the people you’re battling with.

I know people who think “being professional” means keeping their personalities in abeyance, sharing nothing of themselves with their teammates, and in general doing their best impression of Commander Spock, only without the hand gesture and “live long and prosper” expression of goodwill.

If this is you … if you think you have to rein it in so far that nobody knows who you are and what you’re really thinking and feeling … it’s time for a re-think. There certainly are times and situations where Spockism is the best choice you have. In particular, when those around you are becoming increasingly excitable, the contrast alone will serve you in good stead.

Also, see TSD, above: If you find yourself sliding beyond irritation to exasperation and beyond, Vulcanizing yourself is just the ticket.

But for day-to-day interactions with your staff, managers, and peers, strong positive relationships are far superior to neutral ones.

So be a person. Not only will it make you more successful, it will make your days more pleasant as well.

Do trends matter?

You know the answer: It depends. It depends on the reason for the trend. It depends on the hat you’re wearing. And, it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish while wearing that hat.

This being Super Bowl weekend (as I type these words) and as I live a mile from the Super Bowl’s epicenter, a football metaphor is mandatory.

And so, imagine you’re the offensive coordinator for one of the two teams and you notice a trend: Your opponent’s defensive secondary is sluggish on the right side of the field. Should you adjust your offense accordingly?

Well, duh. And you should be alert for signs the trend is ending.

This illustrates the first it-depends: The reasons for the trend matter a lot. If the secondary is sluggish because several players are badly hung over you can ride the trend longer than if there’s no obvious reason for it.

Okay, that’s all the sports metaphor I can stand. Time for the second it-depends — the hat you happen to be wearing.

Imagine your hat says “Investor.” You spot a trend, to all appearances driven by the Greater Fool theory — tulip bulbs, Beanie Babies, Bitcoin if you found last week’s KJR convincing — something is increasing in value for no apparent reason. Being unsure as to whether a greater fool will turn up or not, as a prudent investor you give the trend the same wide berth you’d give a radioactive skunk.

Replace your investor headgear with a cap labeled “CIO” and go back in time a few years to when Bitcoin was newer. Whether or not you personally thought it was going to be around for the long haul, you might have reasonably decided it was important for your company’s financial systems to process it like any other currency.

You also might have decided Bitcoin itself was a losing proposition, but the blockchain technology it relies on might still have offered your business important advantages in securing customer transactions.

Some trends are ephemeral. Others have staying power. Some businesses trade in ephemera. Others don’t.

Which brings up it-depends #3 — what you’re trying to accomplish.

Imagine a CIO who thinks in terms of trends rather than goals.

Our CIO supports a retailer that sells expensive fashions. The entire business is built on spotting and responding to ephemeral trends — preferences for hemlines, necklines, fabrics, and so on that have no real internal logic driving them. Customers just want to look trendier than the people they hang out with. The only thing driving the trend is the trend.

For this sort of retailer, web traffic probably spikes and evaporates as fashion shows and various awards ceremonies come and go. Handling extreme variability in processing demands is something The Cloud is quite good at. The retailer’s CIO, being a trendy sort, long ago put the company’s website on The Cloud. Chalk up a win for trend-following.

Now imagine a CIO who supports a life insurance company. Life insurance companies sell risk products (if you die you win, if you live you lose), investment products (if you live you win, if you die you lose), and hybrid products (if you live or die you win less but something). Purchase transactions and product lifespans last for decades, and part of the appeal of their investment products is that there’s no reason to pay day-to-day attention to them.

The demand for processing power is steady — a situation where Cloud economics just aren’t as interesting.

For the most part, new information technologies are interesting to the extent they provide important business capabilities.

But sadly, most of the analyses aren’t about business capabilities. They’re about surveys of who’s planning to invest in them, and how much.

To illustrate the point, imagine the Froschboscher Group’s annual Shiny Ball Survey reports that 90% of your peers plan to spend heavily on IDA — Intuitive Data Analysis, a technology that mimics the human capability of “trusting my gut.” Does this mean you should too?

That depends on your business, and whether the ability to apply Artificial Stupidity to a problem might prove useful to it.

And it might. If your target market consists of people who trust their guts when making decisions, being able to duplicate their decision-making could prove very useful.

The moral of this week’s story: When planning your company’s technology strategy, trends are effects, not causes. Your job isn’t to follow the trend. It’s to figure out what’s causing it.

If you can identify a potentially valuable business capability, by all means investigate the trend more deeply.

If you can’t, the trend is probably about as important to you as a Beanie Baby.