The Age of Shame

There’s an epidemic of massive proportion moving across this country at the speed of light. It has swept up the high and mighty – politicians, actors, corporate chieftains and many a lesser soul. Careers have been ruined and reputations destroyed. Why? All because of a pattern of bad behavior that is no longer being tolerated in today’s society. Claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment and racism are reaching a crescendo with no sign of abatement. We have officially entered the Age of Shame.

Entrepreneurs need to pay particular attention to this trend. We have an opportunity to do great things, but we can easily be derailed by our own actions. This is really very simple. We must be respectful of others at all times – period. We don’t make inappropriate comments to or advances on anyone else. We don’t take actions that could be construed as discriminatory of others. We treat others as we would want to be treated.

There’s a dangerous downside to the Age of Shame. The frenzy of accusations has created a lynch mob mentality. No longer are we innocent until proven guilty. Now, convictions are swift in the court of social media. There are no trials in the current “me too” environment. We can easily become ensnared in this cycle unless we take extra care to avoid it.

Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Mark Halperin, Bill O’Reilly and Matt Lauer all have something in common. It’s called arrogance. These men thought their station in life entitled them to boorishness and worse. This sense of entitlement led them to become arrogant and fostered a belief that they were bulletproof. As entrepreneurs we may realize a great deal of success. The best way to inoculate ourselves from arrogance is to remember this. The more successful we become the more humble we should become. It’s easy to develop “swagger” with success. I’m not a fan of swagger. It’s too easy for it to become an in-your-face gesture which in turn can lead to the arrogance we must guard against.

We can avoid the Age of Shame and its corresponding pain, and replace it with our own Age of Gain. We have much to gain if we do it right. We can display the highest level of integrity and model the type of behavior that others can admire. We are color-blind, gender-blind, sexual-preference-blind and national-origin-blind. Our objective is to focus on pursuing our mission and vision utilizing all of the talent that we have available. Once again the simple calculus is that we are respectful of others at all times.

The notion of respect is easy to understand. When our team members, our customers and our vendors feel respected, they are much less likely to take offense at something we might say or do that could be misconstrued. In other words, we buy goodwill that allows us the benefit of the doubt. Harvey Weinstein didn’t get the benefit of the doubt because he was such a tyrant. On the other hand, if everyone we know sees our motives as pure, an unintentional faux pas may be overlooked.

Character really counts these days. Rightly or wrongly there’s a lot of judging going on. Walking the straight and narrow truly matters. Being completely honest isn’t just a hallmark – it’s absolutely necessary to survive in the current environment. Keeping our reputation intact is essential to navigating the minefield of shameful accusations and hyper-reactions that we are witnessing daily.

When we are respectful of others at all times, we are less likely to be a casualty in the culture war that is raging. In so doing, we can sleep at night without worrying about the consequences that we might otherwise face.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 75 – O-Fer.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

June 1, 2014 – Frankfurt Am Main, Hessen, Germany – Sexual harrassment at work: A businessman is touching his female co-worker’s leg. (Credit Image: © Frank May/DPA via ZUMA Press)

A$$holes and Angels

Life is full of contrasts which span our personal and professional lives. Happy and sad. Victory and defeat. Sunny and rainy. Dogs and cats. A$$holes and angels. Wait a minute – a$$holes and angels! What the heck?

As humans we have a lot of issues. Sometimes we are able to deal with these issues and at other times we are not. When we are successful in meeting our challenges we tend to be more measured and pleasant. But when these challenges become seemingly insurmountable brick walls there is a chance that our personality changes – and not for the better. Feelings of insecurity and inferiority may manifest through biting and snide remarks, ugly facial expressions or downright hostility.

A guy walks into McDonald’s and orders lunch. He just was chewed out by a client and he’s not a happy camper. The person taking his order is a little slow or distracted and he snaps, “Your service is terrible.” Obviously he’s well on his way to winning friends and influencing people. Angelic behavior? Probably just the opposite. Little encounters like this happen all of the time. Unfortunately when unchecked, a pattern develops where lashing out in this manner can become a habit.

In an entrepreneurial organization rudeness and disrespect cause a great deal of tension. It produces negative energy, creates conflict and can destroy the chemistry of a team. Leaders who ignore it are giving implicit approval of the perpetrators. It’s one thing for there to be disagreements between team members. This can be a healthy process toward a successful end result. But when the disagreements turn uncivil and personal the healthy part of the process has come to an end.

I have a pretty high tolerance factor for dissent. I encourage my colleagues to offer different opinions and ideas. And I don’t mind a lively discussion that stimulates new ways of thinking. However, I’ve been told that there are times when others begin to feel uncomfortable because of the intensity of some conversations. The line may have been crossed where the comments have become too biting and even personal. So, I’m learning how to interrupt such situations and nip them in the bud before they digress into the world of the unproductive.

This all easily translates into one very simple premise. There is no place for a$$holes – anywhere in life. When unacceptable behavior is observed it needs to be stopped immediately. If there are several team members present it may be best to take a break in the meeting and consult with the offender in a one-on-one manner. There’s nothing gained by embarrassing an individual publicly. Everyone has a bad day once in a while and a kind and empathetic word may be all that is necessary to diffuse a brewing tempest and prevent it from escalating.

It’s much more troublesome when a member of the team has become a chronic a$$hole. Such a person may walk around with a permanent scowl on his or her face. Colleagues may go out of their way to avoid this individual. No one looks forward to meetings that include him or her, and encounters with this person often end with feelings of hurt, anger or humiliation. Chronic a$$holes must be dealt with swiftly and firmly. As soon as it becomes apparent that this person has chronic issues he or she must be advised that his/her behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. When this person is a high performer it makes dealing with him/her that much more difficult. But for the sake of the team action must be taken including removal from the team as a last resort.

Life (and business) is tough enough without having to contend with a$$holes. Dispensing with such behavior as soon as possible will help restore the equilibrium of a team.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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