On being ... pathetic

By Ingrid Sapona

Maybe it’s just me -- but sometimes I can’t help but think life is just a game of connect the dots. I often hear or read something that seems quite random and odd and then a day or so later I hear something else that seems random and odd and all of a sudden my mind sees a connection between the two.

Here’s an example. One of the local newspapers runs a column on Sundays titled: 10 things we learned this week. The column always highlights random facts, statistics, and tidbits that don’t make the mainstream news. This week’s column, for example, informed me that today is National Boss’s Day. Though that fact itself wasn’t meant to be one of the 10 things, true to the column’s title, that certainly was something I can say I learned by reading it.

Anyway, Boss’s Day was mentioned as a way of introducing other work-related tidbits, including the fact that a recent Florida State University study revealed that 30 percent of employees who consider their bosses “abusive” confess to having “slowed down or purposely made errors” on the job. I found that statistic surprising and somewhat unsettling. (But maybe it’s not that odd, given that the story also noted that apparently six percent of those who didn’t have abusive bosses also confessed to purposely slowing down or making errors.)

Then, one of the papers this morning ran a Vancouver reader’s essay titled, “A contrarian’s rules for living”. In this essay a gentleman elaborated on various ways he copes with 21st century phenomenon that he finds annoying -- things that I venture to say annoy many of us. Some of the ideas he mentioned are things we’ve all either heard others say they do, or have done ourselves. Things like trying to circumvent automated phone systems by either immediately dialing zero or by pretending you have a rotary phone and “remaining on the line” in hopes of speaking with a real person.

Not surprisingly, another phenomenon he rails against is telemarketers. Most people I know have their own way of dealing with telemarketers. Some screen their calls using call display or voice mail. Others do as I do, which is to basically not give them the time of day. I usually listen to their first sentence and then -- as politely as I can -- I simply say, “Thanks, I’m not interested” and I try to I hang up quickly -- before they have time for a rejoinder.

Our Vancouver writer’s approach is very different: he tries to waste the telemarketer’s time. Sometimes he asks them to call back at a time he knows no one will be home, other times he asks them to hold on for a second and he puts down the phone and walks away to do other things. I must say, these are techniques I’ve never heard, or thought, of -- probably because they seem a tad nasty and beyond what seems called for to deal with telemarketers.

When I first read the statistic about the behaviour of some workers who have abusive bosses, my initial reaction was to feel sorry for them. In trying to understand their behaviour, I couldn’t help but think that they must be pretty down and out. I guess they see themselves as powerless to change their boss or their work situation, so they resort to doing something they think will give them a feeling that they’re somehow getting back at “the system”. Similarly, I think our Vancouver essayist would argue that his rude behaviour toward those making telemarketing calls is just his way of getting even with businesses that resort to telemarketing.

Though I couldn’t put my finger on it right away, I couldn’t help think that there was something to these stories that made them seem connected. Clearly, in both situations someone feels taken advantage of and they probably see their action as a way of exerting control or asserting themselves. But in both cases their actions are misguided because it won’t help them achieve the desired result, be it an improved work situation or relief from telemarketing calls. Indeed, if anything, I’d say that in both situations their actions are more likely to fuel the abuse or mistreatment they see themselves as being on the receiving end of. Rather sad, I’d say … and a bit pathetic too.

© 2007 Ingrid Sapona


Post a Comment

<< Home