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I read an interesting ‘alternative viewpoint’ on the Seven Habits philosophies recently. It was an article written in 1994, early in the days of The Seven Habits (at least as a famous philosophy), which I discovered through good old Google. It was a bit of biography and a bit about the Habits, and in fairness appeared to be balanced, criticising and complimenting in equal measure. Do you remember those days? So long ago.

The part that caught my attention was an interesting, albeit negative take on people being taught to take personal responsibility and I quote:

“The problem, they say, lies in the message that is being subsidized by management: that individual workers are responsible for their own destinies, and that the way to achieve security and serenity is through continual self-improvement. For a big corporation that is mowing down whole suitefulls of middle managers, critics say, this can be a handy way to get employees to start thinking that if they are laid off, the fault lies somewhere in themselves. “If the individual worker is made to feel the responsibility for his or her condition, the social contract is no longer there.” (Quote is that of Jeremy Rifkin, author of ‘The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labour Force and the Dawn of the Post- Market Era’. Article is by Timothy K. Smith.)

That’s a bit negative – and, given the cost of the company providing the training, a very expensive strategy. Who trains people just as you’re thinking of sacking them? Makes no sense but hey, you can’t fault finding a bad motive in any principled act, eh?

The benefit of teaching people to take responsibility in the event of a redundancy threat, is to remind them that they are not reliant on others to do everything for them. They are reminded that benefits are not the only option. And they are reminded that ‘being miserable’ is not the only, and certainly not the best option. Furthermore, such advice can be taken anywhere, including one’s personal life – unlike most in-house training.

Our experience influences how we see what happens to us, but it does not have to dictate how we feel about it, or how we act as a result.

I was also amused by a second quote where someone (non-Mormon) who’d studied Mormonism for 34 years – needed a job, I guess – read some Seven Habits material and dismissively concluded ‘I can see that was written by a Mormon’ – adding, by the way, that he didn’t know why he felt that. What he had been shown was the book Principle-Centred Leadership, which included a list of suggested traits of the principled leader – fairness, integrity, honesty, human dignity, service, quality, and excellence – and these Were the terms that led him to his conclusion. Which begs the question what principles the critic felt were acceptable outside that church. Methinks he studied Mormonism with a view to proving why he was right in hating it. (I am NOT a member of the church, by the way.)

My question today, therefore is – do you ever see something absolutely normal, and conclude that there is some motive behind it that doesn’t serve you?

If you do, I bet Christmas is fun……