Can we please get these bullies off the pulpit?

bully shout

Like most other reasonable people across the country, I’m appalled by the power struggle in Washington, D.C. that has shut down the government.

From an ideological standpoint, I couldn’t agree less with the Tea Party’s anti-government platform. I don’t understand their incomprehensibly vehement opposition to expanding health care coverage. Or their economics arithmetic in general. And that’s OK – it’s as it should be, really, in a functioning democracy.

What’s not OK, however, are the tactics and rhetoric they’re using to wage their campaign against Obamacare. Their behavior – the threats and intimidation, fear mongering, slander and vitriol – is classic schoolyard bullying.

Having just signed an anti-bullying contract that my daughter brought home from her public middle school earlier this week, I can tell you that New York City holds its students to a significantly higher standard of conduct than these folks appear capable of mustering.

In the real-world (i.e., non-Congressional) workplace, of course, these antics are considered CLB’s (career limiting behaviors), and they’re deadly. Individuals who lack emotional intelligence, who are unable to find common ground with their colleagues, who finger-point, harass, obstruct and attempt to sabotage organizational change initiatives soon find themselves with plenty of spare time to . . . well, to run for public office, apparently.

Which brings us back to the problem at hand. Because in Congress, there are no principals or managers to put a stop to the bullying. And so here we are, with nothing less than the health of our democracy, and now possibly our economy, at stake.

I don’t have any ready-made practical solutions. My coaching fantasy, though, would be to create a boot camp to help these angry hard-liners get in touch with their kinder, more empathetic selves.

We’d work on skill development, too, like active listening (no filibustering allowed!) and multiple perspective-taking, which I’m certain would go a long way towards fostering more constructive, civil dialogues in the capitol. And would also stand them in good stead when the political pendulum inevitably swings back and they find themselves on the hunt for a new job.

Here’s the syllabus I’d give them to get started:

George Saunders’ advice to graduates – The author and Syracuse professor’s beautifully articulated reflection on what he believes matters most in life – kindness – that went viral (but not likely in Tea Party circles).

From OM To OMG: Science, Your Brain, And The Productive Powers Of Meditation | Fast Company | Business + Innovation – Because increased compassion is just one of the many benefits of daily meditation (even two minutes makes a difference!).

Six Principles for Developing Humility as a Leader – John Dame and Jeffrey Gedmin – Harvard Business Review – Not just a Tea Party problem, but still.

The executive’s guide to better listening – McKinsey Quarterly – Governance – Leadership – Enough said.

Any other ideas? I’m all ears!

1 Comment

  1. Bob Bruner October 6, 2013 Reply

    Your blog articulates well conceived thoughts about management and politics.

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