Friday, January 13, 2017

Mantra: Of Course They Do

There is an expression that has always grated on me:

Not I, but God in me” - or paraphrases thereof.

There is another expression that I find very amusing:

The Devil Made Me Do It”!

I see these slogans as the two sides of the same bad coin; both promote avoidance of personal responsibility.

The first expression seems to me like false humility and the abdication of personal credit, but some people find it helpful and inspiring. Being reminded of it recently gave me the idea of finding some helpful and inspiring mantras for myself.

I thought of one very quickly:

Of course they do” - with variations and permutations of he/she and does/did.

This expression can be used to explain some people's behaviour in terms of unseen influences and subterranean sabotage. Here are some examples of what I mean.

Stella Gibbons' father's legacy
The father of the novelist Stella Gibbons was a violent alcoholic. He wasted much of his money and spent a lot on drink. However, when he died he left £2,000, which was a decent amount of money in the mid 1920s.

He could have split his estate between Stella and her two younger brothers; he could have left it all to Stella, who was very responsible and would have put it towards her journalism studies; he could have left it to the middle boy, who wanted to be a doctor; he actually left the lot to the youngest boy, the one least likely to make good use of it. He was rather unstable,“the years of fear and insecurity had wounded him deeply”, and he squandered the money in less than a year with nothing to show for it. The other boy was forced to leave school and take a mundane job.

The father left his money to the one of his children least likely to make good use of it?

Of course he did!

This may seem like a crazy decision, but it makes sense if we look at it in terms of good and evil, agents for the forces of darkness and the sabotage of people's lives. Evil is often the reverse of good. What would a good, caring and supportive parent and a sensible, decent human being have done? What is the exact opposite of that? 

Why should we expect anything else from people like Stella Gibbons' father? They do as much damage as they can. Of course they do; that is their job and purpose in life.

Awful bosses
I have both read about and seen for myself a variety of malevolent managers. I am not talking about simple incompetence and inexperience; I am not talking about bosses who occasionally behave irrationally and unjustly, make inordinate demands, backtrack, get their priorities wrong and make the odd mistake and bad decision; I am talking about people who have an effect that is almost entirely negative on everything and everyone around them.

The overall result, or goal in my view, is to damage or even destroy efficiency, effectiveness and productivity and, in the worst cases, reduce people to a terrible state. I have seen all this for myself.
Some managers behave as if they have had orders to offend, demoralise and drive away all the best people on their teams. Of course they do; that is their real job.

Some behave as if they are under instruction to raise as big a quota of negative emotions such as anger, resentment and frustration and cause as much stress and pain as possible. Of course they do; that is their real job.

As a specific example, there is the manager who ordered a team member who was leaving to produce a very detailed handover manual, then after he had made huge efforts to meet her demands said, “We won't be using this after all.” Of course she did. That is exactly what people like that do.

Many employees encounter such bosses in their working lives. Most see themselves as victims, and either stay put and complain or find other jobs. Most do not realise what is going on below the surface or that scripted scenarios are being enacted: same game, different players.

Those of us who are interested in unseen influences need to look for patterns and connections and look at the total picture. We need learn how to recognise these people on sight. This will ensure that we know exactly what to expect from them so that instead of getting upset when we hear about the latest outrageous action, we just say,  “Of course he did.”

Behind the awful bosses
I once compared notes with someone who was experiencing a lot of problems with his new manager. At the time, I was a witness to similar devastation elsewhere, also caused by a new team boss. It occurred to me to ask my friend what the HR person who recruited the manager was doing about it; he told me that this person had left the company shortly afterwards. This was very interesting, as exactly the same thing had happened in the case I was witnessing. 

I then remembered a few more such cases from the past. I formulated the theory that these recruiters moved around a lot so that they could let their own people in to sabotage various companies. The people involved on both sides are unconscious of what is happening though. Perhaps there are puppet masters choreographing it all from another dimension; we could certainly be forgiven for thinking so.

Next time, instead of getting angry because the person who recruited an awful boss escaped having to deal with the consequences by leaving the company for another job, just say, “Of course she did.”

We should know better than to expect anything else.