The “did you just do that?!” analogy

dinner partySo I had a good conversation the other day. I got talking with a most excellent colleague and he used a wonderful analogy.

Before I explain the context, here’s his analogy:

The dinner party

Picture the scene: you live in a nice house in a leafy suburb. The house next door was recently sold and new neighbours have successfully moved in. You invite them around for dinner and they gratefully accept. Nice.

They arrive, offer up an agreeable bottle of wine and a tasty looking box of chocolates. You take their coats, usher them in, show them around the house a bit and are then seated for the meal.

A nice three course dinner ensues, with good conversation amidst a cheery atmosphere. The plates are cleared away and you escort your guests to the lounge whilst you scamper off to the kitchen to make coffees.

You enter the lounge, coffee and chocolates tray in hand, to find one of your guests crouched in the middle of the room, trousers and pants around his ankles, having a shit on your carpet!

So, here’s the thing: What do you say?!!!

Before you waste your breath, consider the following: If your neighbour doesn’t think there’s an issue with what they’ve just done (which, clearly, they don’t)….then what is the point in saying anything at all? What good will it do?

Bringing it back to your work environment:

Okay, so what on earth has this got to do with work? Here goes…

If you work in an organisation in which ‘management’ constantly tell you that ‘we really care about you’, that ‘we want to empower you’, that ‘you are our most important asset’ and ‘together, we are stronger’…and yet then go and do something which is soooo obviously NOT the right thing to do (i.e. goes completely against the rhetoric that they have been playing on a loop) then…what do you say? And what would be the point in saying anything?

They have metaphorically ‘dumped on your carpet’ and they either don’t get it or do, but don’t care. The first is ignorance, the second is arrogance…and, before you assume the ‘frontal assault idiot’ role it would be a good idea to think about which is the case.

To counter ignorance requires education, which will only truly occur through normative learning .

Arrogance, well, that’s a different thing. It brings to mind the rather nice (and widely applicable) quote:

“Change the changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable.” (Denis Waitley)

Can you counter arrogance? You can take the rather hard route of trying to ‘knock them off their perch’ or you can ‘pick up your toys and go play somewhere else’….though, on reflection, most arrogance is likely due to a deeper ignorance.


I find that I can’t help myself from saying something when my ‘neighbour shits on my carpet’. I’m not sure what good it does…but I feel better for saying it.

I take the time and effort to rationally explain my problem with their actions…but fully accept the limitations within.

p.s. I’m going to a dinner party tomorrow night! Don’t worry Jonesy – I’ll be on my best behaviour 🙂 


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