Merge's Blog

How do you behave when others are not watching?

Last week, YouTube watchers were horrified to see a chubby middle-aged grey-haired woman stroke a tabby cat on the street, and then after furtively looking around to see if anyone was watching, suddenly grab the animal by the scruff of the neck, throw it into a trash bin, slam the lid closed, and continue on her way.  It took another 15 hours for little 4-year old Lola’s owners to find her, and that only when they reviewed the footage from the closed-circuit TV in front of their house.  It happens at about the 0:20 mark in the video footage below.

Animal lovers around the world were outraged, and the woman was eventually identified as Mary Bale, a bank worker in Coventry UK.  She was initially quoted as saying, “I really don’t see what everyone is getting so excited about – it’s just a cat.”  She later apologized to the owners, “this is completely out of character and I certainly did not intend to cause any distress to Lola or her owners.”

Whether or not you believe and accept Mary Bale’s apology, you have to wonder why she acted the way she did.  Psychologist Leila Collins suggests, “People who are cruel to animals usually feel a lack of power in their own lives. They may feel helpless, lack authority and want to exercise control over something or someone who cannot retaliate.”  Bottom line, the true measure of one’s character is how you behave when others are not watching (or when those around you have less power than you).  I have seen far too many people in the workplace who behave one way (better) in front of their superiors and conduct themselves differently (poorly) in front of their peers and subordinates.  These people are not leaders.  Good leaders treat ALL people (and animals) with respect and professionalism, no matter what their relative status in the organization.

What do you think, both about Mary Bale’s actions, and the parallel to workplace behaviour?

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