Tom Lee is a communication consultant who works out of his suburban home, inventing models of leadership shaped like rainbows and bicycles, and occasionally dressing up and heading out to talk about the importance of communicating with employees.
But when he communicates with employees himself, facilitating focus groups, he must struggle not to roll his eyes as they blab their pitiful, sad-sack tales of woe.
Because here's what he really thinks about employees, as revealed in a blog post Friday, about Steven Slater, who he dismisses as a "just a whiner" and a "boor" whose momentary popularity reflects nothing more than, "society has lost its moorings." (Actually, Tom, society apparently lost its moorings when it celebrated a similar boor—a bus driver who went rogue in 1947.)
"Let's stipulate that flying is not the joy that it once was," Lee snarls on his blog. (Flying was never a "joy," Tom. It was only civilized.) "We can all agree on that, and we can parcel out the blame in equal measure to airline management, short-fuse passengers, the legacy of terrorism, corporate travel purchasing algorithms, and perhaps even airline deregulation."
And once that blame is parceled out? Tough shit, mates.
"Yes, being a flight attendant has its pressures. But it is nothing compared with the monotony and the dirt and the danger and the dehumanizing neglect that millions upon millions of workers around the world experience day in and day out."
So American employees ought to take whatever American companies dish out on account of they ought to be grateful they're not working in a coal mine in China?
"If a Steven Slater goes bonkers because of a little stress, on an airline with leather seats and expansive leg room for passengers no less, it is a sad reflection on him. He deserves not folk-heroic celebration or even Woody Allen's fifteen minutes of fame. He deserves lifelong obscurity as a nobody, for that is what he is. Next case."
Fifteen minutes of fame is Andy Warhol, not Woody Allen, Tom. And as long as I'm correcting things, I should acknowledge that you don't actually describe yourself on your blog as an employee communication consultant. You're "an American authority on strategic leadership and workplace engagement."
I reckon an authority on those subjects ought to think a little more deeply about this Steven Slater phenomenon, and what his elevation to folk hero really means.
Which is, that lots and lots and lots of people wish they could do exactly what Slater did, and they take vicarious pleasure in this take-this-job-and-shove-it fantasy. Whether or not this is a sign of these particular times—well, you're the American authority on workplace engagement. You tell me.
Oh, and one more thing, Tom: