10 Apr

Why is everyone behaving so weirdly?

This month I’ve been asked – a lot – for my thoughts on things like:

  • Handling entitled employees
  • Why HR are handling a spike in harassment and bullying complaints
  • And how Executives can re-ignite accountability in their teams

I know these are not new, but right now it’s quite a lot and it’s all at once.  

Don’t you think that’s weird?  Why would we suddenly be seeing entitlement, bullying and lack of accountability spikes? And why all at once: why now?

Collapsology would suggest that this is an early indicator of societal collapse – the collapse of industrial civilisation as a result of environmental, but also energy, economic, geopolitical, democratic, and other crises. 

Yikes! Well, I don’t think we are going the way of the Dodo just yet, but I do think we are experiencing social deterioration. 

Social Deterioration is making us weird

This is far greater than “I can’t remember how to do small talk” – it is more like “I have created my own version of how to be”.  We’re seeing this everywhere already – in fact, disruptive, careless, violent, resistant – aka weird behaviours are on the rise.


Lord of the Flies is one of my favourite books. It charts the demise of prim and proper schoolboys who – when cast adrift on an island – decline into anarchy, chaos and very nearly cannibalism.

Pitcairn island’s early history shows that this behavioural spiral isn’t entirely fictional. Their early settlers too saw a decline into lawlessness and murder as a result of prolonged disconnection and a relaxed, organic approach to how to work/live together.

Weird behaviour, right?

  • In Lord of the Flies it took about 2 months.
  • On Pitcairn it took about 6 years
  • We’ve had been socially disconnected for 2 years.

Could we be experiencing the same thing?  

And if that’s what lies beneath these weird behaviours, what’s the solution?

Rulebooks….

Huh?

Look, I was voted most likely to go to jail as a schoolkid so I’m very surprised to be advocating rulebooks but hear me out.

We’ve only had three evolutions of the work rulebook in the last 50 years.

  • How to work in an office – c1980. This extensive set of rules governed how we worked together – governing how to play nicely. The rules were set in stone and are extensive – in fact pretty much one for every scenario you could imagine.  This book was meant to last.
  • How to work in an Agile business – c2009. This book of no rules rules was written by companies like Netflix who set out to decodify rules and replace them with principles to work by.  This book is meant to be regularly reviewed and changes are expected.
  • How to work from home – c2020.  Almost every professional on the planet had to write their own one of these thanks to pesky covid.  And this book was only meant to be temporary, remember that?!

And now we’re coming out of 2 years of disconnection and wondering – which rulebook are we using? Are any of them fully adapted to 2022? Or do we need a new one?

Trick question.

There are only two rules around here:
There are no rules
Obey all the rules

Of course you need a new one. We aren’t ‘just going back to the office.’ We burned that book in 2020. We aren’t ‘fully working from home’ either, and anyway that rule book was only meant to be temporary – it wasn’t designed to withstand the passage of time.

We do need to put clear rules around a third way of working.  Because without new rules, we’ll see more weird behaviours.

  • Rebellion – those old rules don’t apply
  • Entitlement – except for the rules that suit me
  • Bullying – stop trying to make me follow old rules
  • Intolerance – why won’t they just follow the rules

If you’re experiencing any of these, your team needs a new set of rules – ones that their leader can truly get behind. Your teams can build their own culture deck to re-set how they play nicely again.

If you don’t do this you’re likely to experience a battle of the books – individual, hyper-personalised rulebooks versus the traditional one size fits all rulebook.

Without an explicit new agreement will we sink into rebellion, lawlessness, murder and even cannibalism? I’m sure we have a rule about that somewhere….


Rebecca is Australia’s pre-eminent advocate for B-suite leadership – the expert in developing hi-impact B-Suite leadership at both a team and individual level.

Speak to Rebecca about:

  • Individual and group coaching
  • Team effectiveness and training
  • People & Culture Advisory

You can reach her on rebecca.houghton@boldhr.com.au

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