A guy stands up and unleashes a string of obscenities. Everybody in the room watches him with disgust and fascination (as in ‘Is this really happening?’), but mostly disgust. He rips into a young lady, attacking the way she talks, her competency and her intelligence. Like a mugging on a busy street, nobody rushes to her defense; hoping somebody else would do it.
When he’s finished, he surveys the room and meets the stares with:
“What? Someone had to say it.”
The guy was canned shortly after. But he was there for more than 3 years, free to unleash his rabid brand of terror on the folks who worked for him and the people around him.
In an earlier entry, I write about how to be completely harmless. It’s hard to respect people who never offer an opinion. I respect people who disagree with me much more than people who stay silent on everything to fireproof their bridges.
But having an opinion is not the same as being a jerk. Freedom of speech is not a free license to attack, degrade or ostracize. When people mistake being an ass with being assertive, they’ll usually have a handful of rationalizations at the ready. The usual straw men being detractors of free speech. If confronted, the same guy would offer up the B.S. sentiment of “It’s not personal.”
You just openly humiliated somebody. It’s personal man. In any other era, it would be go-time with broken bottles.
Sadly though, this type of behaviour is rewarded; especially with employment laws that require employers to ‘build a case’ before they can get rid of someone cheaply. When the guy was fired, the only question on everybody’s mind was “How the heck did he get away with it all those other times? How the heck did the company let him act like this for three years?” Like a hamster who hits a button and gets a treat, every time the guy got away with humiliating somebody in the workplace, it emboldened him to do it again, each time slightly more awful than the last.
Here are 6 hints you might be the office clown (and not in a fun way.)
1. Every dissenting opinion is an opportunity for you to show off your email prowess.
2. For some reason, you need to let everybody know of your victories, no matter how trivial; even when there really wasn’t anybody fighting back.
3. You seek the comfort of sycophants to unload your vitriol about others on. Your lunch discussions are almost always about someone else (or yourself)
4. You openly yell at and ridicule people. You act as if you’re just a passionate guy who’s open and frank. But everybody knows you don’t really give a ___. You just like the attention.
5. You start most conversations with “Don’t tell _____ that I said this…”
6. You complain about your job every day and you make sure at least 3 people know about it – everyday.
If you scored more than 3, congratulations! You win a moment to reflect on your asinine behaviour.
Now stop it.