Many people acknowledge the fatigue or frustration from too much work. Few have yet to confront busyness as a form of meanness.
Busyness is the cause or justification for much of the discourtesy that has become chronic in our public space, and in our workplaces. Out of busyness we settle for expediency rather than a richer exploration of opportunities and impacts. Busyness increasingly precludes personal contact, or radically foreshortens human interaction. And just as it intrudes on our social and family life, busyness also curtails or stunts interior life.
The paradox is that while we adhere to busyness to get done the most possible with our talents and ambitions, we in effect cancel out much of the opportunity for doing what is great and fulfilling. We tend to regard busyness as a virtue for its potential efficiency, when it is largely a trap locking us into the churn of never doing enough, never catching-up, never attaining what truly satisfies. The busyness we embrace for aggrandizement or success is all too often the straightjacket that keeps us diminished and unfulfilled.
Too Busy To Be Right
It seems innocuous, almost an excess of something admirable, however busyness is the cause for many of our ethical problems. Business people will admit that busyness is the bane of their existence. It is much more than that; our managerial equivalent of what the philosopher Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil.” From her provocative study of tyranny in the mid twentieth century, Arendt concluded that systems of suppression rely on small acts of submission or complicity by the silent majority. Fear may play a role in this mass docility, but as often as not it is much more everyday things like work or entertainment that induce moral insomnia. Evil gains momentum not because people assent to it en mass, but rather because they are too distracted or drained by other, seemingly more pressing priorities.
Busyness confounds judgment. The heavy liability from this is that we tend to miss the moral moment, juggling balls rather than appreciating those of ethical or human significance. The squandered asset is that we fail to hone the insight, conviction and imagination to nurture and develop greatness.
Reflect for a moment on the experiences and feelings of a specific day. Honestly audit the following variables. Then repeat the exercise from the point-of-view of people you engaged, auditing the variables from how they would see or experience you:
Invisible Meanness Variable
• Normalized Discourtesy (Too rushed to be civil)
• Personal Invisibility (Not being seen or heard)
• Change Fatigue (Resisting even necessary change)
• Meeting Abuse (Leaving no time to think or work)
• Lost Weekends (Never having “recreation for re-creation”)
• Firefighting (Continuously being jerked into emergencies)
• Correcting Defects (Undoing miscommunication mistakes)
• Indispensability Illusions (Blackberry syndrome)