Vicious gossip is rampant. Backstabbing is normal, and confrontations occur on a daily basis.
I could be talking about the latest episode of The Bachelor, Survivor or The Apprentice but I’m actually talking about the lives of regular people.
As you may know, I am a big fan of reality television. I like to get my weekly fix of The Amazing Race and The Biggest Loser and I feel like they’re my virtual friends. What I don’t like is the impact they’ve had on our reality as a society.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that reality television isn’t very real. But the sad truth is that our lives are becoming more and more like reality television every day.
I was speaking with Ali, who was a participant in my Amazing Assistant course recently. She explained that her boss is a tyrant, and yells at people all the time. One day she was away from her desk and her personal cell phone rang. He came to her desk and smashed it to pieces. His response was, “You are not to have your personal cell phone here, and it is not to ring. This will ensure it doesn’t happen again!”
Now, in fairness, this story is not North America-based, and the laws/rules/culture are different here.
Then I got the Steve Jobs book for Christmas, in which I read that regardless of the laws and rules, that type of behaviour does in fact happen here, and it happens regularly.
The enrollment in my programs on Gossip, Difficult People, Bullying and Confrontations are way up. People need to learn to communicate in an environment that is hostile because that is the reality we face!
Why, you ask? I believe that reality television is one of the biggest contributing factors. It has made it seem “normal” to confront, bully, backstab and do anything required to get ahead. Some people think that real-life is the same and they behave according to what gets rewarded on these shows.
So what are we going to do about it?
For starters, we need to establish some boundaries. We need to control our own behaviour rather than try to control anyone else.
So here is a list of things I think we need to be more aware of, and more committed to doing:
– Stop the gossip. That means to stop listening (change the subject, walk away, defend the person), and stop sharing gossip, too. Yes, that is difficult, but we need to start at home.
– Realize that behaviour which is not confronted will not change. If someone is saying or doing something that is not acceptable to you, how will they know that unless you say something? It is easier to be quiet and just complain to your co-workers, but you need to put boundaries on how others will treat you as well.
– For Ali, you can imagine that she was very upset. Taking some time away from the situation is good. So the next day she should have said something to her boss like, “I understand the rules about cell phones. I see your point of view. However, the personal destruction of my property is unacceptable. I think it is only fair that you replace my phone.” (Remember, different culture and laws here). “I will not use it at work in the future.”
– When you are observing someone behaving inappropriately to someone else, decide if this is something you should be witnessing or not. Sometimes the right thing to do is walk away (and save the other person the embarrassment). Sometimes, you may even want to intervene. Often, just sticking up for the other person is enough to make a bully back down or—best-case scenario—become more aware of their inappropriate behavior.
– Take the high road. Be professional at all times.
– Remember that just because other people do it, it doesn’t mean the behavior is okay.
Reality television needs to stay in the entertainment category and not in the reality category.