Why am I bringing the subject up, you might ask, and what does this have to do with your operation? The answer to both has to do with my recent visit to a local branch of a state government department—no, I’m not going to say which, other than to suggest that it was one in which I had to go through several layers of staff to get permission to do something that affects no one but my own comfort—during which time I began to wonder just what level of Hell I had wandered into.
From the first encounter, I was serially subjected to an attitude and accompanying behaviors that, had they occurred under my roof, would have led to a counseling session and loss of privileges worthy of the situation. “So what,” you ask. “Were you able to complete your task?” Yes. “Can you cite an instance of actual interference?” No. “Was there anything about the entire episode that was actionable?” No again. Yet, when I left, clutching my duly stamped and authenticated $250 piece of paper, I had no sense of accomplishment. Instead, I felt I had emerged from a romper room in which childish behaviors were not just endured, but encouraged.
As I’ve reviewed the experience in the days since, the subject of manners—or rather in this case the lack of—has captured my imagination. In its own mysterious way, this has caused me to review my thoughts on what they are and why they’re important…particularly in settings of power where arrogance finds easy purchase.
For nearly all my life I have looked at manners as having to do with my actions as they affect others…sort of a “make nice” effort to keep things mellow. But in response to my recent encounters, I’ve come to believe less that they’re about “you and me” and the more about how they’re actually about “me and me.” Yes, there is the social lubricant aspect, but I think that underlying this is a deeper appreciation of ourselves and the tenuous distinction between what it is to be master and servant.
There was a time when the term “civil servant” was applied to all who occupied public positions, but I’m not sure how well that sense of obligation fits today’s public sector environment. Given the pervasiveness of arrogance I felt my recent experience, I suspect that it reflects the character of the person in charge, or if not, then his or her neglect.
In an era of tight budgets and increasing—and not necessarily popular—regulatory controls, manners in our public and private lives deserves more attention than ever, and it’s up to those in authority to set the standards and correct deficiencies.
Do you see this as a subject befitting this column, or am I out of my tree? Either way I’d like your thoughts both on the subject and how you deal with manners in your operation.
Upcoming Forester University Webinars
January 12th, 2012
Planning & Executing an Effective Pavement Preservation Program
As roadway networks and commercial vehicle loading continue to increase and Municipality taxation power remains limited, the need to effectively maintain and improve our pavement infrastructure is paramount. Join David Hein, V.P. of Transportation for ARA, to explore the key concepts of an effective pavement preservation program, program implementation needs and guidelines, and common roadblocks to successful implementation. Read more…
January 26th, 2012
5 Steps to Creating a Successful Public Outreach Campaign
Change starts with people. Whether your focus is stormwater pollution, energy conservation, pavement restoration, or recycling, a successful public outreach campaign resonates with your target audience and leads to long-lasting behavior change. Join Erica Hooper of SGA to explore a proven 5-step approach to crafting a successful outreach campaign based on real-world examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Read more…