Friday, October 22, 2010

Is there another side to the story?

I recently read a newspaper article about Steven Slater, the Jet Blue employee who quit his steward job in a rather dramatic fashion. After an encounter with an over-eager passenger getting luggage from an overhead bin he uttered a ‘profanity laced tirade’ into the speaker system, activated the slide, grabbed a beer and slid down the tarmac to freedom. What I found fascinating about the story was the initial public reaction and then the new details that emerged.

First, Steven was the frustrated employee who got a gash on his head by an over head compartment when he tried to stop a rude passenger from opening it before it was safe to do so.

Then he was a hero who gave the bad passenger a piece of his mind after her actions had cut his forehead open. This was the part that got the most attention in the press as people cheered his antics and praised him for being so dramatic and gutsy.

Then slowly another story found it’s way in the less visible places in our newspapers. Steven already had a gash on his head when he started the trip and had been snippy to a number of customers throughout the trip. What emerged out of that was that Steven seemed to be carrying some ‘baggage’ onto the plane from something that had happened prior to his shift.

Who knows the whole story. There inevitably is a lot more. Had Steven planned his dramatic exit earlier? What was going on in his life that he had an open gash on his head? What was going on for the woman who opened the overhead bin earlier than what was safe?

What this story does point to is a number of aspects of human nature and conflict.

First, we want a neat world in which there are heroes to praise (the hard working employee who stands up for himself), and villains to hate (the rude obnoxious passenger, and the employer who doesn’t protect employees). Complicating the picture by having heroes also be villains, and villains be struggling human beings just isn’t all that compelling, and gets buried inside the newspaper rather than the front page.

Second, we want to justify bad behaviour as a response to the bad behaviour of others. We are 100% responsible for our actions and our reactions. This is when it is difficult to live our RJ principles.

How would the world change if we believed there were no heroes and villains, that there was always two sides to every story and that bad behaviour is never justified?

by: Jan Schmidt

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