Been an interesting week from the standpoint of human nature. I’ve spent the last five days at work in what is, in essence, a Project Leader training course. An entire novel could be written (and most likely has been) about what an experience that can be. But there have been examples popping up all throughout my life. Perhaps I’m just in a place this week where I’m tuned in. Who knows. Either way I figured I might share a couple.
One such example took place over the span of maybe 40 minutes while I happened to be back at my desk during lunch break, and is an absolutely fascinating example of how diverse, and to a degree, stupid, we are as a collective people. It’s also one that I’m sure occurs to most other people in large companies on occasion.
It began when I received an email from someone from the far reaches of our corporate web with whom I had never communicated before. The email itself was a plea for some assistance in an area I had no knowledge on. Checking the email more closely, I found that this person, in an attempt to get some needed guidance, threw it out to an entire global group. Right off the bat, I found this interesting, as generally when I have such a large scoping issue, I try and talk to people I know within my facility first, hoping they might know who I should check with to get the right answer. This person seemed to think it was better to just ask *everybody* at once, and hope that someone with knowledge responded. I’m sure in their mind this was the easiest way to make sure they got the right answer, but essentially they were putting off the work of actually doing research to make *sure* they were on the right road, and were opening themselves up to wandering down whatever path the first moron who responded chose to send them on.
Anyway, not having an answer to her query, I deleted her email and promptly set about forgetting about it. Within moments, another email popped up from some other random cog in our company (whom I likewise didn’t know), offering some guidance. I deleted again. Then another followed. Then another. And another. And so on, and so on, and so on. Being the nosey guy I am, I read them all. After the first five, all of which were offering some form of brainstorming assistance, we finally got one from somebody who had apparently had enough of being kept in the loop for a conversation they had nothing to offer.
“Perhaps you could confine your answers to those who requested the information rather than replying to ‘ALL’. Thank you.”
Simple, polite, and seemed to be conveying a message that many (myself included) were already thinking. And it seemed to work, as about five minutes went by before we got any more responses. But boy did they come.
“Please remove me from this distribution list.”
Okay, a little more direct. And to nit pick, they didn’t need to be removed from the distribution list, but rather they wanted the conversation to carry on *outside* of the distribution list, but whatever. Then…
Very direct, kinda rude, but livable. The humor of course being that since the first polite message, we haven’t heard from people about the initial subject. Instead we’re just getting people telling *all of us* that – basically – it was rude to keep emailing all of us. Fascinating. This kept on, with varying degrees of hostility.
“PLEASE STOP SENDING ME THESE EMAILS!!!”
“Me three. :-)”
“I have nothing to offer to this subject. Please don’t include me in further discussion.”
“Stop the insanity!”
You can see where this was headed. All total I received 29 emails from various people throughout the company, one of which actually came from someone at my facility who (up until that point) I thought was a sensible human being. After the initial request and the five helpful follow-ups, the last 23 were from people asking that the chain be stopped. Some were exceptionally rude, some tried to be cutesy, but all were perpetuating the circle they seemed so intent to see broken. It was a failure of basic common sense that I found mind boggling.
We’re a silly little species. We pride ourselves on our ability to think and feel and on the fact that – unlike the animals – we have the power of introspection and whatnot. Yet for all our intellectual and emotional bluster, the simple process of consideration is completely foreign to most of us. We actually get *angry* – and subsequently respond with anger – without taking the five seconds to *consider* what the initial intent of the other person was and respond accordingly.
The power to see things from the other person’s point a view is a skill that I would venture only 1 out of every million people on this planet choose to use with any consistency. I’d call it a lost art, but I really don’t think such an art ever existed. Psychologists like to say that this “me first” attitude is a result of today’s faster-paced world. But I’m pretty sure the first slave owners didn’t do much in the way of considering how their decision to grab people off of their own continent and ship them across an ocean was going to affect the lives of those people.
These emails made me laugh. Reading and deleting them cost me about five minutes of my life, that yes, I’ll never get back, but unlike most of the idiots that responded, I never once found myself angered by this loss. Even if I had, I don’t think I would have treated the people responsible as if they were despicable pirates who were poaching in my personal Garden of Eden. I’ll laugh at them for not having the brains to figure out how silly their requests were, but that’s about it.
Of course, I still hold doors open for strangers, so what do I know?