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Really why give offence?

Really, why give offence? A man I know (let’s call him Freddy) had organised fund-raising events for his social club on an ad hoc basis for a couple of years, raising several thousands of pounds for the club. 

One day, a senior member of the club (let’s call him Bill) informed the Management Committee that he had approached someone new to organise the next such event. He did so without consulting anyone, least of all Freddy, who protested to the Management Committee, when he found out.

Within days, a simple piece of crass bad manners was mismanaged into a crisis that could result in a major row, with the loss of at least one valuable member of the club. It was a typical example of how focusing on process can produce the wrong outcome. It highlighted the difference between bureaucrats and managers.

It should have been very simple. The Club Chairman (Paul) could have simply told the offending member (Bill), in private, that he had been out of line, asked him to apologise to Freddy, and returned to normal business. The reasoning could have been something like this: who ran this event before? Did he do a good job? If so, shouldn’t you ask him first?

With the right approach, Freddy might even have agreed to give someone new the chance to organise the next event.

Instead, the Club Chairman, Paul, started having private conversations with several unnamed persons to establish whether there was any formal appointment of Fund Raiser (there wasn’t). This had the effect of pitting Freddy against those unnamed persons. It also manoeuvred Freddy into the position of supplicant, making it seem like he was pleading to run the next event, when actually the club should have been thanking him for doing a good job previously.

Freddy dug his heels in. He received a qualified apology from the Management Committee for their role in not considering Freddy when Bill made his original proposal. But he received no apology from Bill, and now he wanted one. Otherwise he might resign from the club.

With the best of intentions, Chairman Paul was following a bureaucratic procedure, assembling evidence by talking to a wider circle of people. In doing so, he involved more people than necessary, increased the likelihood of conflict, and magnified the original issue into a major conflict. What was missing from his mindset was common sense.

That incident prompted me to consider how people manage their relationships, especially in these covid-lockdown times.

On the timeline of one of my social media networks, I saw one person with 30 (almost consecutive) posts, each with that person’s photograph and a link to a published article by someone else. Effectively he was saying, “Go somewhere else and read what someone else has written.”

Another person had 11 posts on the same page, also with accompanying photograph of the author. Scrolling down the page I was faced with seemingly endless exposure to those two people. 

But will that gain them the reputation as sources of interesting material? Hardly. Who has the time or inclination to explore 30 suggested sites just to find an article of interest?

It actually diminishes the person’s credibility. He or she is seen as someone who is simply spraying out a random collection of links for the sake of attention. He or she has no obvious connection with the recommended articles. The term ‘content farmer’ springs to mind.

And you should see their photographs. Or perhaps not. I’m not sure how some people choose their profile pics. Do they ever get feedback from trusted friends? Every headshot makes a statement. There’s strong body language in the poses. And we are not always the best judges of our own photographs.

The two in question are OK as single images, which serve merely as identifiers. But when there are 11 or 30 of the same posed images in a row, you start to form an opinion about the people themselves. That’s when the choice of photo becomes relevant, and when it’s advisable to get feedback from trusted friends.

Once you alienate people through over-exposure of this kind, they will automatically dismiss anything you post in future. It’s overkill. And a nuisance.

So what do these two narratives have in common? Simply this: always take a moment to consider the likely impact of your actions and whether you might unwittingly offend someone unnecessarily.

Really, why give offence?

Phillip Khan-Panni
Phillip Khan-Pannihttp://cvsthatwork.com/
Phillip Khan-Panni is a retired professional speaker and trainer, Fellow and co-Founder of the Professional Speaking Association and the author of 13 books, mostly on communication skills. Formerly Senior Copywriter at Reader’s Digest, London, and CEO of PKP Communicators, his career highs have included starting a Direct Marketing agency, MD of a magazine publisher and Express Newspapers’ most successful Classified Ad manager of all time, where he tripled revenue in under one year. He now lives with his wife Evelyn in Naas, just outside Dublin, Ireland, where he writes CVs for senior people and is active in Toastmasters International.

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