Seen today on Twitter:
A lady cleaner jacks her job in after getting a dressing down from her horrid boss. I don’t know the details, or whose fault this really was. Maybe “Julie” behaved very badly. But maybe the cleaning lady had driven Julie to distraction with her wrong ways of cleaning.
But, let’s now assume that whatever Julie’s reasons were for flipping her lid like that, it was indeed very unfair on the cleaning lady and could have been handled much better by Julie. Julie shouldn’t have bawled her out like that. Well, that means that Julie is now in some trouble, even if that trouble is only the fear of trouble. (Only!) Julie now faces being investigated by her superiors for perhaps provoking this contretemps and for making the bank look bad on Twitter.
I think the key change here is that your typical worker in a country like ours does not any longer have to take this sort of crap (assuming this was crap). Two hundred years ago, what percentage of the working population could be unemployed for a month without staring death by starvation in the face? And what is the answer to that same question now? Very different, I think we can be sure. And I think this is a very big change.
A century and more ago, this cleaning lady and all the people at her economic level, i.e. most people, just had to put up with this sort of humiliation. But not any more. Upping and leaving isn’t necessarily any fun, but for millions of workers now, it is now doable, if the alternative is made too horrible to endure.
As a result of this profound economic change, there is now a huge industry, populated by people who trained as actors and actresses (I have a couple of friends of this sort), which instructs middle managers in how to combine two things which can be hard to combine, namely being kind and polite, and yet still saying what is wanted. The danger is that if you are too nice, you’ll stop communicating clearly, which can then be torture of another kind. So you have to learn to be as kind as possible, while still being clear about what you want from your underlings and colleagues. Because such skills can be easier to describe than to master, these middle managers often have to practice doing all this, by playing out scenes, wrongly and rightly.
And note this. The process of them learning to be nice while remaining sufficiently clear and assertive has itself to be done in a way that works, but is also nice enough for them not to up and jack in their jobs because it’s all too damn humiliating and also a load of bollocks.