Monday, November 24, 2014

Forget "Fair & Lovely." I want a thick skin to fight the assholes ;)

Thanks to the friend chatting with me about my favorite topic--the pathetic state of higher education--I was reminded of an event from eight years ago.  Almost to the very date.

On November 22, 2006, I got a lengthy email from a faculty, who shall remain nameless but who continues to "teach" at the university where I work, in which he defended his unprofessional and rude behavior with the following sentences:
maybe I have experienced so much criticism from all angles that I did lack a bit of courtesy; however, if you are going to exist in an administrative/director position at any level at any university I suggest you quickly develop a thicker skin...faculty are frequently, mostly without intention, discourteous and disrespectful.
Eight years later, I continue to be shocked that one would write, among other things, "faculty are frequently, mostly without intention, discourteous and disrespectful."  How awful that "discourteous and disrespectful" are considered to be standard operating procedures!

I now think that I should add this to my list of unfinished business; I have a nagging feeling I have plenty more to add to that list :(

We all suffer misfortunes in life, no doubt.  But, it is one thing if a tree falls on your home in a windstorm, and another when a fellow-human behaves discourteously and disrespectfully.  And, worse, believes it is ok to behave that way.  As Aaron James calls them, well, there are too many assholes!  Now, before you jump on James for using that word, keep in mind that he has a doctorate in philosophy from Harvard and is a tenured professor ;)

Before James writing about assholes, there was Robert Sutton, with his memorable The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.  Sutton's book was published soon after my own November 2006 encounter with the asshole.  Warning again: before you quibble with Sutton, note that he was a tenured professor at Stanford when he wrote that book ;)

Sutton authored a brief note in the Harvard Business Review on why he wrote the book, and why he used the word "asshole."  He lists seven reasons there, of which:
The most important reason that I wrote this book is that demeaning people do terrible damage to others and to their companies. And even though there are occasions when being an asshole helps people and companies “win,” my view is that if you are a winner and an asshole, you are still an asshole and I don’t want to be around you!
Exactly!  I have no desire to be anywhere near assholes.  They may "win" and consider me to be a "loser," but I go to sleep with a clear conscience aware that yet another day in this short life I was not an asshole and, more importantly, stayed away from those who are assholes.

BTW, Sutton notes that a TV show about workplace assholes might be in the works!  If that happens, well, it will be a never ending show, won't it! ;)


Ramesh said...

Not clear where this post is going. If you are objecting to assholes, please consider that the venerable part of the anatomy is an essential organ and without it, well ...........

Anne in Salem said...

Well said, Ramesh!

Unfortunately, academia is not the only bastion of such behavior. It seems anywhere there are humans, there is disrespect and a lack of courtesy. I assume, Sriram, you will not be shopping on black Friday, if for no other reason than to avoid the discourteous and disrespectful in the world.

Sriram Khé said...

Oh yeah, assholes are everywhere, and not merely in academe. No question about it. Sometimes I think my life has been all about filtering out the assholes ;)
Shopping on Friday? Are you kidding me? Never have done that in all my life here in the US!

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