Elizabeth Knox Online

As a government employee, I often heard outside consultants and contactors referred to as “greedy bandits.”

Photo from Creative Commons, sourced from Candie_N, via Flickr

Photo from Creative Commons, sourced from Candie_N, via Flickr

And now as an outside consultant and contractor, I hear government employees referred to a “lazy and ignorant.”

If you work in operations, you’ll eventually hear someone complain about management: “The guys upstairs don’t know what it’s actually like to do work.”

And if you work in management, you’ll hear: “The guys out on the line don’t know what it takes to run a business.”

And don’t forget: Drivers from your neighboring state, people in any political party other than yours, people who went to your rival school- all of them are complete idiots.

It amazes me how easy it is to think someone else is an idiot. Not you. Just them.

Why do we think they’re idiots?

  • They have different perspectives than we do as dictated by their different priorities. (You’re looking at macro, they’re looking at micro. They have to look at micro to get their job done.)
  • They made a decision we wouldn’t have made.
  • They made a decision we made yesterday. But when they do it, it’s wrong. (Think of the last time you merged onto a highway. Were you particularly courteous?)

But they probably aren’t idiots:

  • Separate the person from the situation. Even if someone makes a bad decision, calling them an idiot is a “global” accusation. It doesn’t deal with the actual problem. Is the person non-responsive? Is she overly needy? You’re basically writing off the entire person (or group of people) instead of trying to solve a specific problem.
  • It’s a way of blowing off steam. You’re frustrated, and you feel tied into a problem. You don’t see a way out, and it’s easier to talk trash about a person than it is to find a workable solution.
  • They’re as complex as you are. Do all your beliefs line up perfectly with the broad labels people apply to you? While someone may belong to a certain club, attend a particular church, be from a specific city, you wouldn’t want someone else to boil you down to a category that easily. So don’t do it to them.

Don’t think of yourself as above other people even if they make decisions you wouldn’t. Remember that – like you – they were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). And while you may disagree on some points, there are things you can learn from everyone — if you’re willing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

Shall I tell you the secret of the true scholar? It is this: Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.


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