I love when Theory crashes into Reality just because we haven't figured out how to react when the perfection we are trying to achieve in our society—how things "should be"—runs up against the inevitable rawness of human nature—how things "really are"!
This ongoing clash of irreconcilable differences has been highlighted this week by the following three items which caught mine and everyone else's attention:
• The Theory: A provocatively dressed beautiful female should be able to walk into a football locker room, filled with 53 men whose testosterone is running wild, and not be greeted with behavior amounting to—maybe—"sexual harassment."
The Reality: While not defending the admittedly brutish behavior of the football players, isn't The Reality that when you put yourself in a situation where you look like a piece of meat to the animals they will react predictably!
• The Theory: Three American hikers should be able to hike in the dessert between Iraq and Iran and not have to worry about being arrested and held prisoners for 14 months and face trial for espionage.
The Reality: While I hope all three Americans are released unharmed by the Iranian government, aren't their actions in the same category as those of mountain climbers who climb Mount McKinley during the storm season and then are stunned when they are caught in a deadly blizzard? With the whole wide world to choose from why hike in the dessert near Iran?
• The Theory: You should be able to post on Facebook that you are going out of town for a few days and your house will be empty and no one should rob you.
The Reality: Shouldn't we all realize that not everyone who can get to our Facebook Wall is really our friends and that sharing all our intimate information with the entire world could harm us or our we still 13?
Curiously, while we can readily recognize the absurd behavior of others, we seldom are able to see it in ourselves. The Theory vs. The Reality Issue is also alive and well in the workplace where I saw it in action in these situations over the last two weeks:
• The Theory: After laying off 30% of the workforce, reducing the pay and benefits of the other two thirds, management expects their Employees to be loyal and not leave the first chance they get and if they do leave then they are ungrateful bastards!
The Reality: Really? Until you give Employees a reason to be loyal, The Reality is they won't be.
• The Theory: The owners expect everyone to care about the company.
The Reality: who owns the company? Not the Employees. The Reality is until you treat Employees like Partners in the business and not Peons, they will only do the job you rent them to do and that job doesn't include caring about the company.
• The Theory: You expect your company's 100 Hispanic workers to learn to speak English so management can communicate with them rather than the management team learning conversational Spanish? After all, dammit, if they're gonna live and work in this country they should speak your language!
The Reality: Seriously? As long as you can afford the lost performance, lost productivity and lost employee morale that your position of failing to communicate generates then keep standing on that principle.
Unfortunately, as much as we want to deny it, we are forced by Reality to live in the world as it is, not as we want it to be. This doesn't mean we shouldn't try to change the world, but it does mean we should use some common sense when faced with Reality or we will pay the price for ignoring it. And this is where it gets good—in the workplace we can easily turn Theory into Reality if we choose to do so!