Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Tale of Egocentrism

adjective: egocentric; adjective: ego-centric

thinking only of oneself, without regard for the feelings or desires of others; self-centered.

Seems self-explanatory. "Thinking only of oneself." We all know people who do this. Hell, each of us probably have moments of egocentrism on a daily basis. It's a human condition. As earthly land-mammals go, humans are probably one of the most selfish.

However, just this week I was involved with a situation that allowed me to experience one of the greatest moments of egocentrism I've ever had the pleasure to witness. **Disclaimer: I have changed the names of people, places, and events to protect my own ass.

I work for a particular business. Let's call it a theme park. At this theme park, we have employees. However, our employees are on contract rather than on payroll. Recently one of our contract employees, we'll call her Rebecca, was having difficulty committing to her contract. She was often showing up late, or not at all, and when approached she told us she had a different full-time position that was interfering with her hours at the theme park.

In a move I assumed was mutually beneficial, the theme park decided to not renew Rebecca's contract for the following contract season. Rebecca seemed relieved, being able to focus on her other full-time position, and my employer (call him Todd) seemed relieved to "go a different direction."

This week Todd approached me with some sad news. He had seen Rebecca at Fareway. As it turns out, Rebecca has been diagnosed with cancer: pancreatic and colon. I had just enough time to say, "Oh, man. That's too bad. Has she started chemo yet," when Todd puffed out a huge sigh and said, "It's probably a good thing we didn't renew her contract."

I was shocked. Not that someone would think such a thing. I'm sure, given time, I would have realized the good fortune in not having to struggle to find a last-minute replacement for Rebecca if she decided she couldn't do her job or, heaven forbid, she died. This kind of thought process runs through each of our brains at one point or another as we live through the process of someone we know fighting for their life. Thoughts like, "I'm glad it isn't me," are completely normal and very human.

No. What shocked me was the fact Todd made this statement out loud. Not just to me, but to other employees who had joined the conversation.

What could I do? I am, after all, only a cynical and sarcastic creature. I'm not elevated enough to understand other, more tactful ways of approaching such a horrendous statement. With as much sarcasm as I could manage I said, "Well, way to go us! We saved ourselves from the burden of employing someone with cancer. Yipee."

Todd stared at me then, his mouth agape, and said, "Do you need a couple of extra days off this week?"

This wasn't a threat. There was no undertone suggesting that I be punished for seeing differently than him by losing my hours. No. Todd believed my sarcasm was rooted in my being overworked and over stressed. He couldn't even connect the dots that he had essentially patted himself on the back for Rebecca getting cancer and my reaction.

Completely oblivious.

Think about this the next time you open your mouth to make a statement. It isn't that I don't want you to speak your mind. I just want you to be aware of how you are going to be perceived if you speak exactly everything you feel.