Yesterday a Jet Blue flight from Pittsburgh to JFK created a lot of attention when flight attendant Steven Slater deployed the emergency shoot after landing. Apparently a women passenger shouted expletives at Steven while prematurely getting her luggage. This escalated into an altercation ending with Steven swearing over the open mic, declaring he was quitting his job, grabbing a few beers, opening the emergency door, sliding down the shoot and going home – only to be arrested hours later.
This has been reported widely in the media. It seems to be making a hero out of him. Here is headline from CNN Frustrated Employees applaud flight attendant . Maybe all the attention is the result of every waitress, janitor and service person screaming out for a little respect. Customers forget that they are dealing with fellow human beings, treating servers as if they own their time. On the other hand, company employees forget they are dealing with real people not just getting a paycheck. The TSA is famous for this and right after you get that shakedown you are sent into a airplane tube full of humanity. Mix this altogether and you have a pressure cooker for bad behavior to manifest. I am willing to bet that both Steven and the passenger he had the altercation with felt disrespected.
When I read the Jet Blue story, I felt this growing feeling of liberation myself. It was like a great movie ending; the abused flight attendant finally standing up for himself, flicking off the world, grabbing a beer and sliding out of the plane, heading for home, free as bird. Wow! But you have to look deeper. There are scarey similarities to something much more insidious. We need to be careful of what is really happening in our society. Last week, in Connecticut a man called 911 saying he had just killed his co-workers because his company was racist. He was the only black man in the company and was being mistreated. I don’t believe he had any history of this kind of behavior. He was obviously feeling very disrespected. Just like Steven, he lost it, he snapped, he had enough, he quit his job, and he sent a dramatic message to the world. The only difference was he decided to take eight of his co-workers with him. No one is calling him a hero. I’m sure there is a fine line between these two stories. How fine is that line and who will cross it? How many more are to come?
The opposite of this disrespect is respect. The best of humanity comes when we respect each other. When we respect each other we become servant leaders. It is the greatest honor to be in service to others. It is what life is really all about. People that do it well, deserve our greatest respect. It is when this respect is absent, anger fear and apathy move in. This why the cheering on of Steven as a hero concerns me. I see something different. My eyes see pain in his actions, systemic pain in our society. This incident is a symptom of the apathy and disconnection we are experiencing as a whole. I am concerned we are getting to a boiling point where more people will make this same choice. Steven is just a warning sign. Behind all this disrespect is fear, anger and apathy. We have to change the tide before our society ends up in a disrespectful spiral that will be hard to recover from.
If you want to see a glaring example of the problem listen to the disrespectful way our two political parties talk about each other. If America was a marriage, mom and dad would be getting a divorce.
Take a minute and try this… stop thinking about your problems, your needs and your wants .(I know, this is going to be hard.) Think about someone else, a fellow employee, family member, a friend or that person who is serving you today. Pay it forward to them today… Ask them how they are doing, give them a compliment or leave a bigger tip. See what happens. You will probably find it makes you feel better. Your stress will reduce, your energy will get a boast and you will feel a little happier. It is a strange thing that happens when you give… you get. This will also have the benefit of doing a little something to help the world raise the bar on Trust – and we need IT bad. Thank you for being on the Trust Tour! Did you start yours yet?