Human interactions, impacted and shaped by the economic, political, and social effects of the Industrial Revolution, used to highly value—and continue to reward—the skills of the chameleon.

You know the chameleon at work.

This is the person at a meeting who, when a person says “This is clearly black in color,” they nod their head approvingly.

This is the same person who, twenty minutes later at the same meeting, when another person offers their color opinion and says, “This is clearly white in color,” they also nod their head approvingly.

Then, a person walks up to them after the meeting that was supposed to be about colors (but was about acquiescence) and says to them, “One person said the color was black. Another person said the color was white. I think that they were both wrong and the color is grey. What do you think?”

And the person, the chameleon agrees that the color is grey.

You know the chameleon at work.

This behavior, this inability to stand up, stick out, take a stand, or state an opinion, for fear of being fired, flattened down, or left out, was a critical management benefit of our past Industrial Age. It was a function of a work culture based in top-down, command and control directions and the presence of a lone voice of authority to whom to appeal. This behavior was rewarded with promotion, bonuses, and extra trips. This behavior was so regular and so pervasive that it was lampooned by comedians; it lay at the core of televised situational comedies; and it was studied by psychologists.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the chameleons that currently in the workplace, the color is neither black, nor, white. It isn’t even grey anymore.

The dominant color of change, conflict, and innovation is plaid.

And when a chameleon must adjust to the presence of plaid—particularly the chameleon at work—it tends to not survive the experience.

The era of the chameleon is ending, but not nearly fast enough.