The Arrogance of Busyness

The Arrogance of Busyness

In a couple of previous posts; The Language of Value and Busyness, Feeling and Value I have talked about the need we have for personal value and some of the problematic ways we often unconsciously go about finding that value, some of those ways involving our busyness.

Today I’m more or less just pissed about people being so busy they treat others in a way that with even a small amount of reflection would be seen as arrogant.

Being busy has become an acceptable reason for bad manners, poor communication patterns, poor follow up and quite simply a lack of basic respect for another person.

We don’t need ’emotional intelligence’ to figure this out; a good read of Emily Post or Ann Landers, or a good scolding by our parents, telling us ‘that’s not the way you treat people’ should be enough.  Or perhaps have a read of Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten.  If these don’t make us question busyness as a reason compromising behavior to others, well then you likely are just arrogant!

I am surprised much too regularly by people who write off just plain bad behavior ‘because they were busy’.  Not responding to emails, missing appointments, changing long scheduled meetings or phone calls, forgetting commitments or simply not sending a 2 word thank you email in response to receiving something they asked for.

It seems like if you tell someone you were too busy (to behave respectfully), you are (or should be) excused.  We no longer even have to admit to the bad behavior, just say you were really busy and all should be forgiven and forgotten.

This is because we have come to define being busy as one of the key metrics in allocating personal value.  The busier we are the more valuable we are.  So when someone is so busy they can’t behave with basic respect, that’s not really what is happening. What is happening is that your specific situation has been allocated to an acceptable and reasonable place in someone’s value chain, and the bad behavior is thus, acceptable and reasonable, given this allocation.

It’s a clever rationalization. It’s a reasonable argument. It’s an excuse. It’s bullshit.

If you get hit by a bus tomorrow 99.99% of the world won’t notice.  Your organization will chug along just fine, someone will soon be doing your role in the organization and other people will be doing the stuff that made you so busy.  Some measure of value this busyness is…..

What will be missed is the way you treated people, happily missed or sorely missed.  Which camp will your behavior fall into?  Think about this the next time you tell someone you were so busy you forgot to treat them with basic respect.

3 Comments

  1. Reply

    Thanks for writing this Tom… one of my favorites. Going to add Robert Fulghum’s book to my summer reading list…

  2. Reply

    I completely agree with this assessment. Professional and personal lives are overtaken with busyness. I think Sandra Boynton said it best in her song entitled “BusyBusyBusy” published for children but really about adults. “…we have to hurry far away and then we hurry near and we have to hurry everywhere and be both there and here…and we think there is a reason to be running neck-and-neck and it must be quite important but we don’t have time to check.”

  3. Reply

    Another great children’s book that gets adults to think about this concept of busyness is “Someday is not a Day of the Week.” The first time I read it, I had an emotional reaction for just the reasons you cited in your last couple of sentences, Tom. What kind of legacy are we creating through our day-to-day focuses and actions, both personally and professionally?

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