Every now and again I encounter (or am forced to deal with) people who I regard as having no real sense of common decency. What I’m referring to are people who are selfish, rude, arrogant, opinionated, and don’t take heed of other people’s views (to name but a few of the characteristics of the type of people I would typically despise). I work in academia, which has a reasonable number of fairly arrogant, self-centered people, but I’m sure they can be encountered anywhere.
I typically encounter these people in meetings or via email exchanges amongst a group who are trying to deal with some issue. The problem I have is I hate letting them get away with expressing some opinion or view that is – in my opinion at least – objectionable. I will challenge them and will try to do so politely (although I don’t always hide my disdain particularly well) and in a manner that is as logical as I can be. I will sometimes even acknowledge when it turns out that the view they’ve expressed has some merit. The reverse rarely happens though. What I’ve noticed, however, is that I’m often alone in doing so. When I discuss the situation with others, their view is often (if not always) consistent with mine, but they can’t bring themselves to get involved as it’s just too much effort and, often, too stressful. One person I spoke with recently was so upset after a meeting they seemed to be suggesting that they would rather not go to such meetings in future.
I’m starting to have some sympathy with this, as I came home on Friday with a headache that really hasn’t gone away and I think it is largely because of a series of email exchanges I had with one of these people that, although not explicitly unpleasant, was fairly annoying. My solution in future is, potentially, to avoid such confrontations. I could easily do so, as everyone else seems to do this without any problems. The issue, however, is that these people will then get away with this type of behaviour and will, in some cases, actually negatively influence what we are doing. I also hate the idea that such people are able to progress simply because any form of interaction with them is so unpleasant that many just won’t bother. I suspect that I will not be able to avoid interacting as I think I will find it difficult to stand back and let them get away with poor behaviour. I just sometimes wish others would do the same. If enough did so, we would probably improve our working environment substantially.