by David Schleicher
A friend who did work overseas for the government explained to me how she would deal with those days when she had to venture into the middle of a conflict zone. “I’d take a box of Oreos, a wad of cash, and a gun.” She found there were many times the cash was needed and more than one time when the tension level was eased with the cookies. As a result, the gun stayed in its holster.
All too often, we encounter–or see in ourselves–someone who carries nothing but cookies, or only cash, or goes to the gun as step one.
Few question that being a jerk can be damaging and–at the top–even deadly to an organization. The platitude that “one person can make a difference” often has proven itself true as a narcissist drives a country or a company into the ground. Today’s question is a more difficult one: when does your niceness become dysfunctional? All cookies all the time?
The amiable-looking fellow above, Neville Chamberlain, is as good a starting place as any. A British Prime Minister, he reached a 1938 agreement with Adolf Hitler that made some concessions in an effort to quench the dictator’s thirst for territory. What Chamberlain got in return was not peace, but his photo in the dictionary under the word “appeasement.”
Attempting to buy peace (whether with cookies, cash, or by looking away at territorial grabs) with a megalomaniac merely delays a war, in the process deluding an organization into believing it need not be preparing for one. Likewise, if you’re viewed as someone who can be easily rolled because your highest goal is keeping the peace, those who most seek you out will not be prospective clients and business partners, but bullies. (The same applies to your personal life.)
Treat people how you want to be treated is a rule as old as time and a precept that is the universal to the major religions. As few of us enjoy being bullied, it makes sense to start with collegiality and kindness (the Oreos). Sometimes it takes another level of negotiation to get things accomplished (equivalent to the cash). If all else fails, don’t forget that you came prepared with your metaphorical gun.
Figuring out who you are dealing with is half the battle: someone who views you with hostility but is open to change? A gatekeeper who needs lunch money before letting you in? Or a narcissist who will exploit every opening?
Next time you are dropped into hostile territory, don’t go it alone…pack all three.
(c) 2017 David Schleicher. Permission granted to share in entirety with attribution.