Saturday, November 2, 2013


Having grown up in Albuquerque, I was always interested in watching "Breaking Bad" I was not planning to write a post touching on the subject, but after reading some of the notes I got back on my post recently about "Finding Compassion" I felt moved to look into the ways we can address the issues of those in our daily lives, "Breaking Bad." There are many books on this subject such as "the Sociopath Next Door " that cover this topic in great detail. The question for us, is to how to respond to evil without responding in kind, damaging our spirits, or feeling pulled into that energy by osmosis. 

 We have all seen these people at work and in life, the one’s willing to do virtually anything to crawl over the other person’s back, like a crab. Occasionally we all have been victimized by one. Even in my own life I have given a person a great opportunity, and then seen kindness met with disloyalty to me and relentless attack upon others before Week One was even over. Judging from the posts I have read in the many Linked in Groups dealing with management and workplace matters, it appears a transitional and uncertain economy has made the ethical conflict between ends and means even more relevant. 

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always..." - Gandhi

With the passage of time, Gandhi believed that is was impossible for mean and evil people to prevail. In the short term, the scotched earth tactics too often appear to work. It’s difficult to feel good about ‘karma” ultimately solving the issues, when a situation cries out the word, “injustice” . Thinking of Sandy Hook, Boston, and all the other evil events that have defined the terms in recent months, its hard to take that long term view in the wider world, especially when "truth and love" seem to be losing all the time. So when we confront the smaller scale injustices in our life, its difficult to believe we are going to see that balance restored. Its easy to advise our peers and children to "take the high road" while in reality things do not change quickly or at all. Especially when for the many it is a defining part of their daily life. 


In our professional lives, most of us in leadership roles, are (hopefully) the type of manager that loathes having to terminate people., even when its obvious there is no alternative. To paraphrase the Disney philosophy, we would all rather "Catch a falling star," in hopes we can make them "twinkle again." We should approach our work that way, we should think long and hard about those choices. The only times I have not agonized greatly , was the rare occasions I have been directed to assist people from the workplace, when they advance themselves at the expense of others.

There should be zero tolerance for people who are dishonest, disloyal, and despicable. Sadly there are those with issues of their own, who lead the cheering section for those who undermine their colleagues for reasons that define petty and venal. It destroys our teams, and introduces the dynamic where people gang up on others who cannot or refuse to play. Part of the genius of "Breaking Bad" was that Walter White's journey was one of ongoing sociopathic manifestation. And given the ongoing cultural thirst for viewing the "Dark Side", its not a shock that to note, that some feel a thrill joining the winning pack Others are afraid to non acquiesce, in what they know is wrong.  

When behaviors are based on insecurity , intermittent social retardation, bitterness or perceived injustice, there is hope of redemption. There are often broader cultural issues at play, that need to be addressed by leaders. For there are reasons these dynamics develop, that are rooted in some unfortunate history. Often the real cause is an unwillingness to confront a person driven by an out sized sense of entitlement, or even craziness and evil. For a time they may appear to be "performers". But to leaders who are observant and concerned about building an engaged, empowered, and better performing teams, the conclusion usually comes quickly.

Those of us addicted to the sports page, know the term, "a Cancer in the Locker Room". And in the saga of  Terrell Owens , Chad Ochocinco and "A Rod",  we see the effect on Team Chemistry. We read of Harry Truman firing the legendarily talented Douglas MacArthur, despite great personal and political cost. and see what the best coaches and leaders realize.  The sooner that "the cancer" is cut from the roster, chances are the team will drastically improves. It worked in the Korean War, and the courageous decision President Bush made in replacing his leadership team for Iraq, in favor of General Petraeus.
The sooner infighting is ended, justice and sanity restored, the sooner that peace returns, even the most troubled dynamics shift energetically. Taking action  is an imperative. The only other alternative, is to allow the reign of drama to prevail. There are some senior executives who famously have believed these conflicts are not only fun to watch, they improve something. The results historically say otherwise. No group of team members can provide superior service in an environment, when the atmosphere is full of drama , intrigue and sanctioned drama. 

In the really unfortunate moments, it's difficult to process that anyone would treat another so hideously. It defines lines we each confront and define between means and ends in our ethical choices. The willingness to sacrifice almost all sense of integrity’s limits for a job, or to wound others to advance, because you are enabled to do so, takes a form of ruthlessness. When that energy controls an organizational dynamic, an asset tanks. It triggers the exodus of those who are talented, work hard and play by the rules. Success comes and goes, but ethical choices last forever.

Was Gandhi right? History shows more often than we realize, The power of a bully in the world ends quickly, the day a line is crossed, and people are no longer shocked. When the truth finally outs, it ALWAYS Manifests in explosive ways. The end of the McCarthy era came when a man named Louis Welch asked one question, “At long last, have you no decency? When people finally compare notes, they cease to be scared, and they are done. Just reviewing the list of minor players recently imploded such as Michael Weiner, Bob Filner, and Paula Deen, testify the laws of cause and effect do work. And there’s the example of Richard Nixon. Losing the Presidency in a conceivably stolen election, created Watergate and the famous dark side. In his final speech he uttered he said it all, But those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.”

We have an inherent disadvantage when dealing with the ethically challenged, as moral outrage and righteousness do not always equate to a victorious street fighting style. In looking back to the Civil Rights Era, the example Dr. King and his Movement set, was all about handling great injustice with grace and integrity. Having the moral high ground allows us to believe that truth does win out - just as Gandhi said. 

It's simply easier to do what is right. Human beings  fail, and with 20/20 hindsight, those moments are remembered as added wisdom comes in later life. And in those times we may each have failed, it is never too late to begin a process of atonement, Apologize. Set the record straight. .Make  restitution. Actually.  Be,  Sorry. And go on , never to sin once more. 

It’s never too late to seek redemption . People are willing to give a sinner a second chance . And we all have needed one.
I have linked a clip of Walter White's outcome. I think the Mahatma was very right.