Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Empowering vs. Enabling

Empowering vs. Enabling: What role do YOU play?

Everyday, I try to scan through the various social media outlets where my colleagues gather and distribute volumes of information. Before ever arriving at some venues, I have a pretty good idea of what I'm likely to find there. Others are not so easily “defined”.

Yesterday, while visiting a popular Flight Attendant group on Facebook (5000+ members), I read a disturbing post from a union officer. His suggestion that colleagues are losing their jobs at the rate of 4 per month from taking bad advice from OTHER FLIGHT ATTENDANTS left me gobsmacked! The statistic is daunting enough. The circumstances, at least to me, are just short of surreal. His premise is that our peers are being terminated because they follow the advice of other Flight Attendants whom they consult on the jumpseat, in the crew room, on Facebook, etc! Although the precise reason for the terminations was not cited, the officer implied that they all had something to do with a FA telling scheduling that they “can't or won't work a trip”.

How is this situation possible? We aren't discussing speaking to your supervisor because a friend told you, “oh, sure, those shoes are acceptable.” We aren't talking about a step of discipline because you read on Facebook that it was OK to have 5 separate sick instances in 6 months. We're talking about LOSING YOUR JOB! (In a college Psychology class that I took in the late 1970s, “job loss” was considered a PIVOTAL “life event” right up there with “death of a loved one” and “divorce”. Have times changed so much?)

Ultimately, the unfortunate colleague taking advice without research or verification is responsible for whatever results. It is the responsibility of each individual to verify facts using the resources available before they make these monumental and often calamitous decisions. After all, it's his/her job that is in jeopardy.

But what role do we, Flight Attendant colleagues, play in the process? For all their many benefits, universal instantaneous communications portals like Facebook play a role too. When we glibly say something to a colleague like, “I would just tell scheduling there is NO WAY I'm going to fly THAT trip”, do we ever stop to think of the potential impact that statement might ultimately have? How easy is it to build your “online reputation” as a “bad mo-fo” by disseminating such high-handed, shoot-from-the-hip advice? Why do SO MANY do it?

Because it makes them feel powerful, awesome, respected, important.... ARGH!

Isn't it just as easy to say, “before you say anything to scheduling that might cost you your job, READ YOUR CONTRACT”? Yes, it feels good to be the disseminator of information, to be recognized as a knowledgeable resource, but do you want that positive feeling at the cost of potentially aiding and abetting someone in the loss of their job?

EMPOWER the questioner to find the answers using the resources available to all of us. Don't ENABLE them to skip that KEY step and potentially put themselves in a position to lose their job.

Who do YOU respect more: the EMPOWERer OR THE ENABLER?

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