Making It Better for the Next Person

Is the world off kilter, or is it just me?

My idea of how experience might influences behavior:


Running the gauntlet

Here’s what seems to happen instead:

Bad experience —–> anger —–> resolution to be fair when it’s your turn to lead —–> repeat the injustice when you get the power.

Instead of “I hated the short maternity leave when I was having my baby, I’m going to make it easier for the next generation,” I’m hearing “I didn’t have any leave, I don’t see why you should have it.”

It doesn’t sound like leadership, it sounds like revenge. Maternity leave is just an example. I’m seeing this vengeful behavior in mentoring, regulating job loads, hiring practices, loyalty, even fidelity. Is this improving life and work?

I understand how it happens. It’s well known that children of alcoholics often becomes alcoholics themselves, simply because it’s all they knew. Children with abusive parents often become abusive adults because it’s how they learned to handle power.

Must we now see this effect in business? Employees with bad supervisors grow into bad supervisors themselves. Time to break the cycle. It won’t happen at the top. You’re going to have to take your anger and change the outcome. Retribution is like stabbing yourself a thousand times to punish the other person. You can start to change the world today. By being fair, even when you were not treated fairly.

-Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who works with companies to develop a business culture in which people can thrive, not thrash.


7 thoughts on “Making It Better for the Next Person

  1. “You learn what you Live” is what came to mind when when I read this post. It resonates very clearly with me personally. I see the patterns of anger and abuse repeated over and over again. Until we are self-aware enough to recognize in ourselves the echoing of another’s cruelty, pettiness and abuse that shaped us in the past, and short circuit it by disowning those echoes or allowing them to die out in our souls, we will be cursed to dance to their rhythms. Self actualization and awareness are the only cures for these ills and so often it comes too late for those with whom we interact.

  2. That people can respond to things either constructively or destructively seems to me to be a design problem. Place children into situations that are designed to be zero-sum games and they learn distrust, competition between themselves, and selfishness. “I can only win by making you lose”, “only three ‘A’ grades will be given in this class”, “there’s only one champion”, “don’t help your friend pass a test; that’s cheating”. That sort of thing.

    Competition appears to be a good thing; it can be fun and it gets people to achieve things they wouldn’t otherwise (or so we believe; I have some doubts but that’s a very long discussion). When designing a situation meant for learning or for productivity, though, competition has to be woven into it very subtly. What is it that’s actually scarce? It’s not at all true, for example, that success on a test or in a class is a scarce resource. And success on a test or in a class is not the real goal any more than establishing who is the best salesperson or who can assemble the most widgets. The goals are to learn more, sell more, make more overall. It’s often more constructive to introduce competition at a higher, more collective level than pitting individuals against one another. Can a class (or school, or district, or state, or maybe eventually a species) learn more and better, and is peer coaching an effective tool? Can a company as a whole achieve a goal, such that everybody gets the reward? Can a political entity like a nation improve itself in the sense that all its citizens learn that they “win” by helping assure that others “win”?

    Companies can absolutely be designed this way; I’ve been part of more than one of them. I’ve read about schools that are at least trying. Politics seems to be harder — there are examples, but there always seems to be an enormous fight.

    I think my own experience says something about why that fight repeats itself endlessly: it’s very hard for me to resist being pejorative about people who don’t understand these things. They’ve just learned what they’ve been told to learn, and they’re just asking the questions they’ve been told to ask, and it’s really not their fault — and being considered short-sighted, foolish, dangerous and stupid by the likes of me isn’t going to help at all.

  3. So many thoughts arise from this post; the one single thought I will take with me to the journal pages is that when something from my story, my past, my experiences, comes to the surface as a way to disallow or discourage a societal or legal change, I must write and write and write. I will endeavor to forgive myself for the thoughts of memory lingering to color my today thoughts. I am truly learning that the stuff I hang on to only makes my life, my me unwell. Perhaps I cannot get totally on the bandwagon for the new concepts, yet I believe I must take the awareness that comes up and find a new thought path for me. It could be, perhaps like the maternity leave issue, of a past attitude or belief that I am clinging to, even in the depths of me, that will not give me the life I desire. It is my intention to work to let those old thoughts take flight and leave room for a more gentle attitude to be present in me. My negative thoughts usually have an impact only on me…my job is to have a journey that is healthy and peace filled. With time I do find that I am able to add my voice to the process of change-making when I can release my old personal baggage.
    Thank you, Quinn, for the giving me another piece of information to take to the journal pages for personal exploration.

  4. This will turn into a ranting but I can’t help it: I know exactly what you mean! We’ve been having – here in Finland – a continuing argument about student benefits for the last ten years. Practically all education from elementary school to university is free, no tuition fees at all except for some private schools (which are really rare). As an added bonus all students are entitled to student allowance for studies after secondary education (about 250€ per month depending on the level of education plus some allowance for accommodation). There’s also a government backed student loan of 300€ per month. University studies last here much longer than in many European countries and recently this have been seen as a problem by the powers that be as it means that Finns tend to begin their working life late on life in comparison to others which is seen as bad for the economy (not enough workforce even when the unemployment is hing). This, they say, is because students tend to work while they’re still in school. This, some say, is because contemporary students are not willing to take the loan and want to have too high living standards. And here we begin to hear those ‘when I was a student in the 70s we didn’t even have a student allowance, all WE had was loan from the markets’ -arguments. *sigh* Never mind that back then any university graduate was guaranteed to get a permanent job. Never mind that if you’re not lucky enough to get a place in student accommodation you can end up paying rent of 500-600€ per month in the open market in university cities. The maximum allowance including the accommodation is about 500€. Even if you take the loan of 300€ it’s still pretty much impossible to survive solely on that. No, it’s just that students these days are too lazy, not grateful enough for what they have, too greedy, too inconsiderate of the hard times the previous generations had to endure. I personally know some parents who have refused to help their student kids financially even when they would have ample means just because ‘it’s good for the character to see how hard life really is’ and ‘I got no help from my parents (never mind that they really did not have the means).’ Now they’re talking about introducing tuition fees so that students would appreciate the education they’re getting more – even if research shows that Finns of all ages value education and opportunities in education extremely.

    I think this kind of thinking is perhaps the main thing hindering social equality and the well being of the society as a whole. Every where in the world. If I had it hard would it not be most natural to wish others to be spared from the similar hardship? Does a rape victim wish others to be raped too? A harsh comparison, I know, but isn’t there double standards here? That some forms of unfairness and suffering are okay, even desirable?

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