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This one was inspired by a conversation I had in the locker room today. Spo

While dressing for exercise the gym, I told Someone about a recent podcast I heard exploring the so-called modern complaint that ‘people nowadays don’t want to work anymore” and it’s due to folks being lazy and demanding. It turns out this exact belief and complaint has been said throughout time, many times throughout U.S. History, and even earlier – almost back to the beginning.* He read letters to the newspapers and articles going back to the early 1800s. The real matter is whenever there is a change in how people work, people want to work but they want to work in the new system/mode. Folks fixed in the old ways can’t see or won’t see this. “People don’t want to work anymore’ really means “People don’t want to work how I want them to work”. It is a reflection of changes in the work settings and workers’ wants.

As I talked, a man next to us, I think he was in his 70s, heard this, and chimed in. He remonstrated young people are indeed lazy and no good and they just don’t want to work. He cited several friends with restaurants who can’t hire dishwashers and wait staff because… people don’t want to work anymore. I tried to repeat a summary what I had just said; he repeated his conviction his way of thinking was right. Oh the pain.

Recently, a belief of mine fell apart and become invalid. It was a long-time cherished belief one, based on year’s of experience. Then some new data came along. It was presented by someone with whom I don’t have an overall good relationship and it was given to me in a less-than-supportive way. My ego had a triple-attack:

a) being told it was wrong.

b) told by someone I didn’t care for being ‘right’.

c) her style was not one in which I like to hear to make me open to learning.

I said to the person presenting the matter she was right and I was wrong.

It is human to bristle and go defensive – or ballistic – under these situations. It’s no fun being told you’re wrong, especially by someone who is a jerk. Hopefully my Ego isn’t so rigid or fragile to react badly to these emotional onslaughts. I was recently reminded this has been called ‘the totalitarian ego’. It’s as if there’s a miniature dictator inside, trying to keep out threatening information that could topple its control. When it isn’t on the attack mode, it protects us with comforting lies and rationales. In some cases we becomes hostile at the mere thought of being wrong:

“The totalitarian ego leaps in to silence counterarguments, squash contrary evidence, and close the door on learning” – Adam Grant.

It keeps away/out others that threaten its mode of action; the totalitarian ego keeps around it only the people who validates it.

Mind! We all do this to some degree. The point isn’t not have it but to pause between reaction and response to try to ‘hear’ for genuine critique and that our way of thinking might be wrong. Alas, Babylon, Americans have a grown away from the once-upon-a-time thought ‘admitting you were wrong’ was a sign of manly virtue. Now the opposite is lauded: being implacable if not downright pig-headed in light of all reason and data. One can not learn and grow if you feel you are right. Unfortunately it seems fewer people want to grow, they want to be right and certain. Sad.

I thought the podcaster’s history and examination of ‘why people don’t want to work anymore’ was valid. If I were an employer I would try to go with what attracts workers now: more flexible hours and home/office time balance. I would advocate for employees obliged to deal with the nasty public – and not try to force folks to ‘take it or leave it’ which to their surprise but no one else’s they ‘leave’.

I practice saying with my patients I was wrong, and what we tried wasn’t the correct way after all. When a patient points out an error I try to say yes that is so and what can I learn from this? I hope this is seen as a strength and not a weakness. Doctors often are frightened to admit to an error.

I am curious to see if the mentioned female patient will return after our last encounter. If she does, I hope our bond is strengthened for it. If she doesn’t return, so be it. I learned something anyway.

*Examples from post bubonic plague England in the 1370s-1380s were sighted. Laments in documents remonstrate the peasants don’t want to work anymore.

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