Before I begin this post, I have to point you to Ann Handley's Annarchy, her personal blog. She is a fantastic writer and this is one of her best... check it out here and then come on back to my 2 cents to find out the answer to a question I pose:
Is rudeness good marketing?
Of course rudeness is not good marketing. But perhaps in politics rudeness pays off.
That's what one might think by watching our legislators in action on Capitol Hill. I was surfing the channels last night and stopped to check C-SPAN. I ended up staying there for almost an hour, because what I saw was more compelling than "Private Practice," "Bones" or "Criminal Minds."
I sat mesmerized as Neel Kashkari, interim assistant secretary for financial stability at the Treasury Department, endured stinging insults and needless rudeness while he testified before the House Financial Services Committee. While I was watching, Maxine Waters, a Democratic Congresswoman from California, asked Kashkari a series of questions and then continuously interrupted him as he tried to respond. She asked pointless questions that really defied sensible answers, like "What is your resistance to helping homeowners stay in their homes." Sort of sounds like "How often do you beat your wife?" There is no way to answer such a loaded question.
Then a Congressman from Louisiana, whose name I can't recall, took over. His focus was on $3 million bonuses supposedly being paid to executives at bailed-out insurance giant AIG. He asked Kashkari repeatedly if he agreed with such bonuses. Kashkari tried to explain he didn't know the details so he really didn't feel he could comment. The Congressman kept interrupting him mid-sentence, shouting "Just answer Yes or No!" It turns out the $3 million bonus situation isn't quite as simple as it sounds, but that didn't stop the Honorable Congressman from Louisiana.
I swear -- it was better TV than most of the scripted dramas on TV now. But I am astounded at how rude our elected officials are.
It's lucky I'm not a government employee being called in to testify before Congress. I don't care who it is -- I won't sit there and endure such rudeness. If you don't like what I've done, tell me in a calm way. But if you ask me a question, let me answer it and don't try to force me to say something other than what I mean to say because it fits your agenda.
I would have calmly said to the Honorables, unless you lower your voices and speak to me properly and let me respond to your questions, I'm outa here. Contempt of Congress, notwithstanding. What was contemptible was the way the Congresspeople were behaving.
Some 30 years ago I risked getting fired when, after about 2 weeks at a new job, the boss had me in his office and asked about something that had happened on my account before I was there. He started yelling at me -- this guy was known as a screamer who invoked fear in all his employees. As he hollered, I calmly got up, softly told him I was going back to my office until he was ready to speak to me in a civil tone, and I left his office, closing the door behind me. I really figured I was history at that agency. But by the time I got back to my desk, he was on the intercom asking me to come back. He apologized and said I was right, and he never ever raised his voice to me again. I and others noticed how he treated me with a new respect from then on.
Back to the Congressmen. A colleague in the office today explained their behavior pretty well. It's not Congress -- it's TV, to borrow a phrase from HBO. Our elected officials know they're on C-SPAN and that the hearings are also likely to make the evening newscasts. So act outrageously, badger the witnesses and you'll get your time on the news. It's marketing, after all, my colleague reminded me. These guys are playing to their constituents back home, so they can look like they're tough and doing their jobs watching over our money.
And on TV, rudeness gets ratings. Ask Simon Cowell of "American Idol."
I understand the Congress' frustration and annoyance given the current economic mess. I understand the need to be tough and forceful. But it seems to me that much of the rude behavior is more about posturing and showmanship to market themselves as tough stewards of our tax dollars.
But the same results can be accomplished in less time and with less aggravation for everyone if calm and decent manners prevail. To my mind, that holds true both in public life and in business.
Do you agree?
Yes or no?
I said, YES OR NO?!!!