Pull up most social media, news, or blog sites, and you’ll find that people are mean to each other. How is it possible that we treat each other this way, and what does it mean for you as a leader?
Recently, the White House Press Secretary was asked to leave a restaurant reportedly because of her job. As you probably saw, pundits on both sides of the aisle took to the airwaves to give their opinion on the matter and either justify or vilify the actions of the restaurant owner and the Press Secretary.
Politics has always been a nasty business for the sake of their agendas. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill is an excellent example of this. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, he would say some of the meanest things. In an interesting twist to the story, however, Reagan never got upset or acted begrudgingly because of O’Neill’s actions. It’s one of the anecdotes that you’ve probably heard too many times – “Before 6 o’clock, it’s all politics, but after 6 and on the weekends, we’re friends.”
Tune into any media outlet these days, and you’ll not see any “friends” after 6. If anything, you’ll see that the vitriol only gets worse.
How we got here is a simple answer – We stopped treating each other as PEOPLE.
Why that happened is a little more complicated.
It’s fitting that I mentioned Reagan at the beginning of this article because, in a small way, he is responsible for where we are today. On August 5, 1981, after an illegal strike of FAA employed air traffic controllers, Reagan fired 11,000 of them for refusing to return to work. Reagan’s action was the first time in history mass firing was used to balance business needs.
If you accept that “everything rises and falls on leadership,” then you understand that Reagan’s decision to fire 11,000 federal employees to get the planes back in the air was taken as tacit approval from business owners to follow suit of treating people as a commodity instead of a human fit their business needs.
How do we reverse this trend?
Treat people as humans rather than an avatar. Social media, news outlets, and caller ID give us the ability to swipe someone out of our life without giving them the dignity they deserve just for being a human.
Communicate with people in person. Humans are designed to have an optimal life by interacting with people directly. In our digital age, we see each other as a profile picture or ideology. We judge each other based on memes and comments and not the person they are.
Obey the golden rule. When we genuinely treat others the way we want to be treated (in person and online), we can be friends before 6.
Just like business leaders followed the example of the nation’s leader, your followers will look to you for tacit instruction on what is acceptable behavior for them too.