Dear BlogosphereHey Paul has an ethical question for you. Consider the situation of two coworkers. For the sake of anonymity, let's call them my mother and Amy. Long ago my mother did something to wrong or severely annoy Amy, though she has no idea what this travesty was. Ever since then, Amy can't stand even the sight of my mother. She will not willingly converse, wave hello, anything. According to my mother, Amy's disgust and discomfort are apparent in her facial expressions. Alas, they still work at the same place and from time to time they are forced into one anothers' company. For instance, there may be a meeting they both must attend. They may both show up early and have to wait for the remainder. Now Amy, left to her own devices would never be the one to start a conversation or even initiate friendly hellos. My mother however, just can't help herself. She has to say hello. Ask how Amy is doing, etc. She does this knowing full well how much Amy hates having to make small talk with her. But my mother find joy in torturing this woman. So she pushes further and ask how her son is doing or what her weekends plans are. Anything to force Amy to chitchat, knowing she can't get up and leave as there's a meeting about to start. My mother even laughed as she described the woman's discomfort at having to engage in conversation with her.

Hey Paul contends this is tormenting Amy. Bear in mind, Hey Paul thinks Amy is whiny little bitch (even though we've never met) and Hey Paul finds it exceedingly hilarious that his oh-so-holy mother find such joy in tormenting this woman. However, my mother insists she's just being polite by making chitchat. Hey Paul counters that while it might be polite to simply nod hello, it is sadistic to push the conversation further knowing full well how much discomfort the other is in. My mother has no real interest in Amy's weekend plans or in her son's latest goings on, she just enjoys watching Amy squirm. That's sadistic. Funny, yes. Polite, no.

Your input would be greatly appreciated.
torment v. 2. To agitate or upset greatly. 3. To annoy, pester, or harass.

n. 2. The deriving of pleasure, or the tendency to derive pleasure, from cruelty.


Blogger Evan Jones  said...

This is an easy one. The key factor, as I see it, is that your mother has no idea what it was she did that caused Amy to take offense in the first place. Essentially, Amy is demanding of your mother that she be treated in a highly unusual manner. Let's say that you suddenly decided that everyone in your lab should bow down to you when you entered. No matter how right and fit such behavior might seem to you, it is doubtful that your fellow lab members, or inferiors, as the case may be, will decide to go along with it. You simply don't have the right to make such a demand. The case of your mother and Amy is far less trivial. Amy is demanding that your mother behave in a manner that amounts to an admission that she has done something unforgivably wrong. The joy your mother experiences in making Amy squirm is hers to enjoy. Amy does not have the right to remove from your mother the option of being polite, which is what such small talk amounts to, no matter how little she truly cares about the answers to her inquiries. Your mother has no obligation whatsoever to live by Amy's special rules. If Amy has a case against your mother, then she must make it. Otherwise, she should stop making a spectacle of herself in the workplace.

Monday, May 22, 2006  

Anonymous Anonymous  said...

Hey Paul, that’s presuming you took down a complete unbiased report. If that being the case, one can only assume that Mom knows how to rise above bad behavior, be kind to even unlovable 'one-a-be' enemies to invite a surrounding at the moment to better, and to hope that one day forgiveness or at least good behavior will come. As for the statement, "Oh so holy mother” Well that could seem biting and rude to say, but on the other hand a mom should take this as the highest compliment. It is nice to know there are a few trying moms striving toward a higher standard. -MOM

Saturday, May 27, 2006  

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