Is it just me, or are people getting awfully touchy these days?
Within the past week, I have received calls from three consultants and other professionals who had received screaming phone calls from their clients threatening lawsuits for things they absolutely weren't responsible for. Without getting into specifics, here's what the clients said:
"I did something stupid and it's your fault because you kept distracting me with e-mails that required me to think";
"Even though you pointed out several reasons why this was a bad deal, and I ignored your advice and went ahead with the deal anyway, you are liable for anything that happens because you didn't do enough to prevent me from going forward";
"I know I authorized you to agree to certain things with the other side, but I've changed my mind now and I want you to undo this deal and get me my money back, or else."
It would be a simple matter to just dismiss these people as cranks, crazies or people with anger management issues, but I think it's symptomatic of a much bigger problem in American society today ... one that affects all business owners.
People today -- at least in the United States -- are a lot different than they were when the Greatest Generation ruled society. Fifty years ago, people were inundated with moral and ethical training from their diapers -- they belonged to churches, synagogues and other religious bodies (and actually went to them regularly). They attended religious schools that drilled civil behavior and personal responsibility into them. Shared community values were rigorously and fearlessly enforced by clergypeople, teachers and others whose authority in such matters was not questioned.
Also, the Greatest Generation knew what true deprivation was -- they had survived the Great Depression in the 1930s, World War II in the 1940s, and the Cold War in the 1950s -- and remembered times when they lied awake at night wondering if there would be food on the table, or if The Bomb would drop. They were a lot tougher than we are, folks, but they simply couldn't be rude or uncivil to anyone that had shared the "common causes" of those days with them. Obviously, things are a lot different today. Many people think it's better now than it was back then, and they certainly are right about some things. We are a much more inclusive society now than we were in the 1950s -- women, African-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Asian-Americans, gays and other ethnic minorities have a lot more clout today (politically, legally and socially) than they did back then. Also, when was the last time you truly worried about when your next meal came from?
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