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Don’t Be a Douche!

This morning, like many mornings, I hopped off the train and entered the throng of people buzzing about. Around 30 seconds into my walk to the office I passed a well-dressed man heading the other way with wires hanging from his ears. Just as I was beside him he burst into an obnoxiously loud diatribe about “the way he saw it”.

In a packed hallway full of people quietly heading this way and that, the outburst was both jarring and off-putting. Did the 200 or so commuters need to hear his perspective at that moment? Perhaps more importantly, I was walking behind an equally well-dressed woman who I heard whisper under her breath…”douche”.

Now the interesting thing is that this well-put-together man may not have been a “douche” at all. But he was certainly behaving like one. The question that came to my mind was whether or not he was aware how others were perceiving him. Then my mind wandered to what he did for work. Was he successful? He certainly looked the part. Was he a leader in his organization? If so, I began to wonder how his colleagues and team members felt about him if he was exhibiting these same types of behaviours in the workplace – which was highly likely.

If the woman in front of me was any indication of how this man was being perceived by others, how many people in his organization were silently resentful of his arrogant displays? How many people weren’t giving their all to the organization because they felt it was the “Paul” or “Dave” or “Bob” show? How much productivity was being lost because of this? How was the performance of his division/firm being affected simply because of his “look at me” act? Of course, I didn’t know the answers to any of these questions but I certainly had a hunch that there was a pattern of behaviour in this stranger’s life that was eroding trust in those close to him. All of this happened within about 3 seconds.

If the man was well aware of his impact on others and was simply trying to feed his own sense of self-importance, that was a serious issue. Not an insurmountable issue, but one that may require more therapy than coaching.

If the man was either unaware of how his behaviour was being received by others or if he underestimated same, it could simply be a matter of self-awareness. And self-awareness is something we can all work on. Given that I always give people the benefit of the doubt, I erred towards door #2 with my assumptions. And suddenly I wanted to work with him.

The simple point is that even rather self-aware people demonstrate behaviours that erode trust, without knowing they are doing so. Now it’s entirely possible this dude was just a garden variety asshole. But based on my experience, this isn’t the likely conclusion. The guy had probably just fed himself some BS about how he looks to others when he’s in business mode, and this BS very likely formed/reinforced some bad habits. It’s most likely the guy was a decent human behaving like an asshole without knowing it. I was desperate to tell him so…

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Brent C. Wagner