In a memorable moment in television history, Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, who plays the dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen, told a reporter that one of the greatest moments of her life was when Beyoncé came up to her and complimented her on the important role she plays, especially the way she portrays the character in the show for women, as female leaders still have to fight for recognition in the world. All this happened before the last season aired, when Emilia knew exactly how the good-hearted “breaker of chains” would be transformed into the show’s chief antagonist. But she couldn’t tell anyone this information yet. Smiling to the reporter, she recalled, in addition to the immense honour she felt at the time, that during the conversation, she had only one thought in her head: please don’t hate me after watching the last season. Many call it the most powerful turn from good to evil in the history of filmmaking. You could say that this is just the world of film, but the pandemic has shown exactly that changes of this magnitude and direction can happen to ordinary people and managers. Many people showed the whites of their teeth in 2021, and there could be many surprises in store for 2022!
Doing good is noble
It’s interesting how much we like to categorise, as well as how much we want to believe what others tell us. Very few people judge and form opinions based on real actions, and for that, many people pay a heavy price in life. In business, this is perhaps even more true, as many people play a role for the sake of success or even money. And we all know that it is much easier to play these roles when everything is pretty much going our way, and there is no extra stress in our lives. We can mobilise our energies much more to adopt different poses for certain goals. This is true whether you are a company, an employee, or a manager running a huge business. The phenomenon can be observed wherever people are found. And there is nothing wrong with that. The question is always what is left of this whole role-playing game when a situation arises. When we can’t sit comfortably in our chairs, when we really have to make serious decisions. There are companies that do charity work. There are people who are always helping others. There are bosses who always look out for their subordinates. Moreover, systems that identify different personalities or behaviours even categorise people according to these criteria, and a misjudgement can even reassure us and make us believe things about ourselves that are not true. Do all companies do charity because they care so much about the world, or are there business interests behind it? Do people really help others because they care so much about their fellow human beings, or are they motivated by selfish considerations? Are bosses really nice because they like us so much, or because they depend on us for their bonuses? These are questions we don’t ask when there is peace around us, because after all, who cares. Charity is a good thing, and it is always good to donate to those in need, helping is always a noble cause, and who doesn’t love a cool boss, whatever their purpose?
To pretend or not to pretend?
I often wonder how many stories come out where the same things happen, but no one notices. How many companies, people, or bosses do these things “secretly” and do not make a big deal of what they are doing? Many times, have I found out after the fact about an otherwise grumpy boss who would talk down to me to my face, but would otherwise advocate on my behalf when I was not around. That’s a good thing too, because you always like positive surprises. As the world becomes more social media savvy and technology advances, so too does the mindset of new generations about how they view the “seen” and the “unseen”. The generation that has grown up in the shadow of social media knows better than to believe what they see. But at the same time, it is also interesting that they are the ones who still want to keep the fake things in their lives even when the truth is already clearly revealed. There is a big battle going on in people’s minds about which way is right. Should we always be ruthlessly ourselves? Or should we be completely honest, even if it means hurting people? Does a company assume that its ownership is greedy and, by not giving to appearances, simply forget about deceiving everyone? Or should a boss who grins for their own bonus give it up and stand up to the team, saying they don’t care what happens to people anyway as long as they deliver the results that will earn them money? If one were to ask these questions in, say, 2019, one would have to really think about the answers, and although I have no official research in hand, I have to say from my experience of life that up to 80-90% of the people I know would have opted for a sham. And I don’t think I live in a much worse than the average environment; it’s just human nature. Just as I am sure that most people would either not have answered these questions, or would have given evasive answers, saying the life situation is not relevant.