Jul. 3, 2012




        I was watching TV yesterday and listening to the commentators talk about different tragedies and noted that each of us was internalizing the statistics.  I used to use this in my business ethics class to make students place things in their proper perspective.


        Today we live in fear over all sorts of different possibilities.  I cannot tell you the number of times I've heard comments on the murders, rapes, and burglaries that are becoming so prevalent that we can't live our lives.  I've heard mother after mother say that they won't let their daughters play in the yard because of child abduction.


        Now, please understand, I'm not going to say each of us shouldn't be alert for possible dangerous situations. I'm also not saying not to keep your children aware of possible dangers.  What I am saying is that life has to be lived to be worthwhile.  I have seen a mother who lived on over 25 acres of land who wouldn't allow their children to play outside because of the chance someone would abduct them.


        To place this in proper perspective let us remember that there are over three hundred million people in the U.S. (311,591,917 (2011)) .  When we hear statistics on the number of people killed, raped, beaten in the U.S. we need to remember how this relates to the totals.


        I used to have my class do this exercise and I recommend that you try it with your children.  They had to take the newspaper every day for a month and highlight the "violent" crimes that occurred within 50 miles of their residence in red and those that happened beyond that in yellow.  This exercise has never failed to show my students that they are bombarded constantly with violence and crimes by the media that has no relation to their circumstances.  If you read about 30 murders but there are none in your community then you are developing an unrealistic fear. Articles  that flood the news day after day, such as some of the abduction cases , make us overly protective and ruin our quality of life.


        I have heard people tell me, "I wish it was like the old days when I didn't have to lock my doors."  Well, I hate to tell you this but if you live in most rural areas you still don't have to lock your doors.  Now, if you choose to live in a community  where you hear gunshots at night and the police are patrolling every hour, then you have to recognize your situation.(and I'd suggest moving). Ask yourself, and be honest, how many children have you known that were abducted, how many of your acquaintances have been murdered, how many people do you know that were beaten by police officers, how many women do you know that were raped, and on and on.  Now, I don't mean you met someone who's best friend was raped when they lived in Florida.  I mean ask yourself how many of these instances actually occurred within your normal space.


        So, you ask me, "What's this got to do with Bosses?"  A very good question.  If we don't compartmentalize our thinking these two things become very similar.  Let's use the military as an example because it is so clearly definable.  You enter the military and quickly become aware that the Sergeant Dumbo controls your life.  You live in a barracks with three hundred other individuals who are all controlled by  Sergeant Dumbo.  These are the same people you work with daily.  On Monday Private Jones comes into the barracks complaining that Sergeant Dumbo has restricted his liberty because he didn't have a haircut and it isn't fair. On Tuesday Private Smith comes in and is complaining that Sergeant Dumbo made her button her shirt and she can't understand why he has to single her out. On Wednesday Sergeant Dumbo dresses down Private Williams in front of the entire platoon. 


        When I ask you about Sergeant Dumbo what answer can I expect to get??  Why???  Sergeant Dumbo hasn't done a single thing to you. He hasn't made your personal situation any better or worse.  So, why is it that you think he's unreasonable.  You are internalizing other people's problems because you know you are within Sergeant Dumbo's sphere of influence. There is no logical reason for you to consider Sergeant Dumbo any more evil than any other Sergeant but instead you adopt a defensive attitude to protect yourself even if there is no rational justification for it.


        As a parent and Manager we have to keep this in mind to make sure we don't exacerbate the problem.  I have had students who were terrified to move away from home because the "outside" world was so evil.  What a terrible way to face life.  Caution should not be developed to the level of fear so that our lives are crippled and we not only don't smell the roses but fail to recognize they are at our feet.


Another "Grumpy Old Man" muse.