A Guide to Dysfunctional Management and the Evil Workplace
September 6th, 2015 by William

I Feel I’m on a Life Support Machine and Everyone Keeps Pulling the Plug to Charge Their Phones

“I Feel I’m on a Life Support Machine and Everyone Keeps Pulling the Plug to Charge Their Phones.” This insightful gem comes from Presidential aide Amy Brookheimer, played by Anna Chlumsky, on HBO’s hilarious series Veep. It describes the feeling we get when we realize that everyone just plain does not care about our wellbeing. This just might be the most accurate quote depicting how we all have felt at one time or the other in our life and career. We’ve all been in a job where we felt we got zero respect. I guess you expect it in the workplace where competition for jobs and money are acute however, the way our culture as a whole is evolving it’s not just a workplace phenomenon but the zero-respect attitudes that seem to be manifesting throughout society touch us in everyday life as well.

The sad fact is that no one really cares about anyone but themselves anymore. I know that’s a strong statement. I’ve written about this many times before and the preface to my book, Puttin’ Cologne on the Rickshaw, details my view of how the world (and thus the workplace) is getting more and more dysfunctional every day. And by dysfunctional I mean the trend we’re seeing of more and more rude, disrespectful and selfish behavior. I heard a good term the other day to describe these rude people–they’re COWs. COWs are people who are thoroughly convinced that they are at the Center Of the World. I’m sure you’ve all come across these type people. I don’t believe it possible to go out in public anywhere and not come across many of these people. People believing they are the COW are everywhere.

Being a COW means that you’re so consumed by your own little world that you’re unable to function respectfully with your fellow man. It’s an all-consuming selfishness that’s taken over human behavior. Simple selfishness is being concerned, sometimes excessively or exclusively, for oneself or one’s own advantage, pleasure, or welfare–we’re all like this to some extent. It’s a normal human tendency. However, being “concerned” about our own welfare and turning that concern into aggressive behavior toward others is something altogether different. And I believe that’s exactly what’s happening in society today. We have become actively aggressive against one another in the interest of our own needs and, more so, in our need to press our beliefs onto others.

Of course this begs the question why are we becoming so disrespectful and rude toward each other? I believe it can be summed up in the concept of “perceived anonymity.” Through our technological advances we have largely become an anonymous society relying on email and social media sites to do our communication with the outside world. We tend to distance ourselves from real human interactions and relationships through the use of our technological tools. Using these tools provides us a sense of anonymity as we hide behind our keyboard. Unfortunately it’s only a perception of true anonymity. Our self-centered attitudes give us the courage to stretch common courtesies into actually being almost uncivil towards each other.

I’ve seen this in my career. People at work will fire off an email blasting a colleague without thinking about potential harm to their relationship. That wise guidance about sleeping on whatever you feel impelled to write is a valuable lesson many never learn.

Our on-line incivility is further fueled by how divisive our culture has become. Everywhere we look every issue is always boiled down to “us v. them.” And we must take a side–society makes us take a side. And if you take what others believe is the wrong side you’ll be labeled with some derogatory descriptive. Being able to absorb and attempt to understand both sides of an issue is a lost art.

I want to make it clear however that being connected to technology, i.e., smart phones, computers, TVs, etc. isn’t really the problem. The real problem is that we have created platforms on our technology that facilitate our self-absorbed rude behavior and further perpetuate the divisiveness.

The real problem is that we get on Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter and all the other social media sites and have no remorse about posting snide comments about our perceived enemies, i.e., all the people who think differently from us, be it religious, politically or even racially. We repost (share) an article we may have seen that attacks or makes fun of a political group, religion, or others whose leanings are different from our own. We will blast another political party or religious group that we don’t agree with as being “morons” or “hypocrites” with impunity. Of course we do this because we’re offended by their beliefs, never once realizing that our rants are offensive to others. But of course we could care less whether others are offended as long as we aren’t.

We have no problem doing any of this because of that illusion of anonymity coupled with our innate superiority complex. We are thoroughly convinced of our own importance to the exclusion of any other belief system. The problem of course is that our friends, who may not agree with either our beliefs or our comments, are really the only ones who read these posts and it’s tough not to take these comments personally. We completely forget that these are our “friends” that we’re blasting these posts out to–not our enemies. Who “friends” their enemies on Facebook? The whole reason we are connected (i.e., are friends) with anyone on a social media site is because we (supposedly) want to be connected to them. We want to share our lives with theirs. We want to be “friends” with them yet we’ll not think twice about posting something that may undoubtedly insult them.

I see all the time comments from people questioning how society has become so obsessed with not being “offended.” Everything seems to offend someone. I believe that the underlying reason is that we’re subjected to so much derogatory information on these social media sites that we naturally begin to build up a militaristic attitude toward any comment that attacks our belief system. We see our so-called friends blast our belief system in one of their ill-conceived posts and at first we just blow it off however, the constant deluge begins to erode our temperament to the point that we become offended by the least little thing.

It’s interesting to note that the dictionary definition of “social” pertains to, or is characterized by, friendly companionship or relations; seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society; living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation; involved in many social activities. Now think about your own Facebook experiences. They can sometimes be anything but “social.” Our “friends” will post articles that clearly offend us all the time. Granted we are inundated with newscasts or interviews that preach nothing but bad news and heated political debate. Seems everything is political these days as our society become more and more split.

It’s tough not to get worked up about the issues we disagree with. Anyone who believes different from us is the enemy and we label them idiots. But that’s Ok to some extent. If we keep our views private it’s OK to have a differing opinion. That’s what a free society and the freedom of speech is all about. The problem is we as a society somehow find it necessary to let the world know how we feel about everything. However, taking to Facebook and blasting out our views and/or dissatisfaction with those that disagree with us is not what these sites are meant for in my humble opinion.

From my own experience Facebook has been instrumental in my reconnecting with relatives that I hadn’t talked to in many years. Reconnecting and sharing in their lives is what it’s all about. I also know that many of my Facebook friends disagree with either my religion or politics. However, I don’t go out of my way to gutter snipe at them by exalting my beliefs.

Of course you can unfriend those that post offensive things. But doesn’t that just compound the problem? Isn’t that divisive? Isn’t that just as divisive as the comment or post made by a so-called friend? Hence how this rude behavior keeps multiplying. If this wasn’t the case then we’d not be hearing the outcry by just about everyone that they’re being “offended” by something or the other. We as a society seem to relish offending anyone who thinks or acts differently than us. Granted, most people need to thicken up their skin a bit because the whole “I’m offended” thing has gotten a bit out of line but that’s a subject for another time.

The bottom line is that these social media sites are for just that–being social–not divisive. They are for posting news about your life in a non-accusatory, non-judgmental way and conversely wanting to hear and see about your friend’s lives. Unfortunately that’s not how these sites are evolving. Too many people use these sites as a bully pulpit to spread their views on every conceivable controversial subject we as a society face. If you are so full of yourself and feel the need to tell everyone your unsolicited opinion on a subject start your own web blog bully pulpit and have at it. Nowadays everyone is looking for a bully pulpit, hence why Facebook is quickly devolving into the divisive tool that feeds people’s self-interest.

So that phrase, “I Feel I’m on a Life Support Machine and Everyone Keeps Pulling the Plug to Charge Their Phones,” has new literal meaning. Literally people are more interested in using Facebook and Twitter as a bully pulpit to preach their opinions than they are with truly being your friend or even caring about your feelings.

Ironically, I’m sure we’ve all heard the old saying that when at a party never discuss politics or religion. That’s because when we’re face-to-face we understand how offensive our opinions may be to others and we shy away from discussing them. We certainly don’t want a heated discussion at a party where we’re supposed to make friends and have fun. However, when on Facebook (where we’re talking to our friends and supposed to have fun) we have no problem with blatantly insulting them by posting a derogatory post about one or the other of our self-important beliefs.

Aside from insulting our friends, the real harm is that sadly our kids and grandkids are observing us the whole time. Great example we’re setting isn’t it? And it will only get worse with each passing generation.

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