If you already sucked as a co-worker or friend, COVID will not change much

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This is opinion-driven and not fact-driven or “data-driven,” but if COVID has shown us anything, it’s that a lot less stuff is “data-driven” than we presume.

Here’s how I will attempt to lay this out:

  • Begin here: A lot of times, people simply do not know what they want. I was having a conversation with one of my friends just yesterday, and she was saying that one of her friends did the whole middle-class marker perfection deal. She married a finance guy, she had three kids, she legit has a f’n Golden Retriever, nice 4/3 house in the San Francisco suburbs. Amazing. You see this woman on Instagram and you think “Wow, so-and-so is killing it.” My friend’s friend, this beautiful woman with dog and children and multi-million dollar home, cries daily and broadly hates her life in pockets. Tells my friend “I thought these were the things I was supposed to do, but they didn’t make me happier.” This happens to a lot of people, and we just don’t really discuss it, except maybe in therapist’s offices.
  • Now go here: On top of that, the fact is that people prioritize what they want to prioritize. We tend to almost hide behind reasons for doing things, but look, if you want to go drink, you will find a way to go drink. If you want to work out, or not work out, humans will generally find ways and justifications towards what they actually want to do. If you go back to the woman in the anecdote above, she probably spent a period of her late-20s and early-30s being pregnant and doing those arcs of things (showers, childcare, beautiful Gram photos, being tired, etc.)
  • Take a brief tour here: Being able to tell others how busy you are is akin to a heroin high for most people. (Honestly; here’s the research.) Busy is currency. At work, this is necessary for a sense of relevance + “I don’t want to get laid off and I can’t get laid off if I am constantly telling everyone how busy I am, because busy underscores that you are vital.” Personally, it’s about — for many — actually being busy (yes) but using busy as a shield to continue to do the things you actually want to do.
  • Now bring in COVID: COVID consistently allows you to talk about how busy, slammed, crazy, different, etc. everything is. Professionally, everyone is grappling with a new reality — and/or a jobless reality. So if your boss comes to you with something, you can easily say back “Well, everything is so crazy, but I will get to this! You know I can be counted on, Chip!” Chip feels good now, because you acknowledged his project. And Chip thinks everything is crazy too, so if nothing ever happens with his recent “ask,” it will probably be fine. Stasis will become normative aside from the big, “keep-the-lights-on” projects, which Chip and you are only tangentially involved with anyway. Personally, the default response of the moment on social, email, and text is “When this blows over, we need to hang out!” But when it blows over, there might be an initial wave of hanging out (you’d think, unless people are terrified of still getting COVID) and then people, naturally and logically, will revert to their core friend groups and primary responsibilities. I mean, what else is going to happen? You’re going to suddenly make time for 50+ people in your phone constantly? It’s not even humanly possible for most.
  • COVID has been a tragedy, a polarizing force, an economic wake-up call that won’t get answered, and much more: But honestly, above all that, I think it’s a way for people to hide even further behind “busy” or “crazy” or “OMG so much happening” and continue being a sub-par friend or a sub-par employee for months and months more.
  • Oh, about this “sub-par” friend stuff: I did just acknowledge that people will fall back into natural friend groups and natural habits, and there’s nothing wrong with that. (Nor do I have any way to judge you, as we’re both just human.) So I don’t really mean “sub-par friend” per se — what I mean is, if you were a crappy friend to people, which can admittedly happen as you have kids and become more selfless towards the kids but selfish towards your pre-kids friends, you will continue being a crappy friend. If you were a crappy employee who didn’t get much done, you will continue to be a crappy employee. This pandemic is not going to revolutionize people. We don’t really know everything that will happen, but I wouldn’t think “broad-scale human change” is on the list.

What say you? Any validity above?

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money: http://thecontextofthings.com/hire-freelance-writer-ted-bauer/

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