Incivility And The Message

During a recent political rally, a candidate for the nomination of the President of the United States encountered trouble with a microphone while addressing a large partisan audience.

“And, by the way, I don’t like this mic. Whoever the hell bought this mic system – don’t pay the son of a bitch that put it in, I’ll tell ya… These people. No, this mic is terrible. This stupid mic keeps popping. Do you hear that, George? Don’t pay him. Don’t pay him! You know, I believe in paying but when somebody does a bad job – like this stupid mic – you shouldn’t pay the bastard. Terrible. Terrible. It’s true. And you gotta be tough with your people, because they’ll pay, they don’t care, they’ll pay. So, we’re not going to pay. I guarantee I’m not paying for this mic. Every two minutes, I hear, like: ‘Boom, boom.’ Anyway, I hope it’s okay for you out there but is really is–.”


Instead of ignoring the nuisance mic and proceeding on with his political points that would define his candidacy, the candidate turned his attention to the mic, blamed the “mic guy” for bringing this “stupid” mic system, and proclaimed to the world that he wasn’t going to pay him for it.

It seems like pretty harsh treatment for something that may, or may not be the fault of the person or company that installed the mic system. Perhaps the connection had been jostled loose by the speaker himself, causing the malfunction. Or electronic interference from security or system overloads may have caused it. Whatever the reason, the mic represented no barrier for the candidate to address his audience. His bombastic display of rudeness aimed at “these people” only accomplished one thing; a look into the character of someone with little regard for other people.

Lynton Crosby, an Australian political strategist, has what he calls “the dead cat theory.” When a politician wants to change the subject of a conversation, he throws a dead cat on the table, and everybody starts talking about the dead cat. Any provocative subject can act as the dead cat, as long as it’s controversial, and is guaranteed to change the subject of the conversation.

Unfortunate things that may be irritating or unpleasant occur all of the time, and often do so unexpectedly. But how we react to the situation speaks volumes about our character. By immediately casting blame on someone else for their own inability or unwillingness to cope with adversity, significant or otherwise, is just an excuse for not having the conviction or confidence in themselves. Diverting attention away from their actions by means of uncivil, rude or petulant behavior, is in effect denying the validity and value of their position.

When people don’t act with civility, but revert to bad tempered outbursts, they obscure and lose the power of logic and clear thought.

This is as true in business as it is in politics. Mistakes happen; errors in judgment occur; bad choices are made; even in the most successful businesses. These human failings don’t stop successful companies from focusing on their goals. Adjustments, corrections, even modification to the business plan may be required, but shouting excuses to the world or causing public humiliation should never be part of their strategy.

Those companies that experience sometimes formidable obstacles, that is, challenges that every business faces from time to time, and solve the problem quickly and quietly are the ones that survive and soar. The people who whine, complain and blame the challenge as the reason for non-success, will never achieve the stated goals of their existence.

Publicly humiliating employees, co-workers, competitors or any other individual only distracts everyone in the workplace, foments distrust, a breakdown of loyalty, an unwillingness to give full effort to the corporate success, and an unfortunate drift to mediocrity by everyone. Mistakes can be corrected, but bad behavior leaves indelible scars.