For the Good of…

We’ve all met them, the seemingly well-intentioned people who raise questions about this and that in the workplace. “Why is George doing it that way?” “Why do you think Suzanne changed the production schedule without telling accounting… or advertising?”

And if you’ve noticed, or watched carefully, you’ll have discovered that each of these seemingly innocent questions is asked in a public forum from which George or Suzanne is absent. Further, if you just happen to ask the questioner why they raised the question, the answer is almost invariably a variant of “I was just thinking of the good of… [fill in the blank with the appropriate word, such as “the staff,” “the customers,” “the students”].

Just as Lenin and Stalin, Hitler. Mussolini, and all-too-many tyrants in modern times have justified their actions on the basis of being for “the good of the people,” so too are these work-place questioners not at all interested in the good of whomever they cite. They seldom bring up their questions in any situation where the “accused” has a chance to explain; they almost never go to the accused and ask for an explanation. And the bottom line is that they’re not really interesting in solving the “problem.” They’re interested in causing trouble for another individual, preferably without leaving too obvious a set of fingerprints and without ever confronting the individual in question, always looking innocent and professing their altruism in raising such questions.

So… when you hear one of these kinds of questions, and especially if you get an explanation that the questioner is “only looking out for everyone’s good,” start asking exactly what the questioner really has in mind. Does he or she want to discredit the subject of the questions, or covet their job, or get back at the other person?

History and experience suggest that people who are interested in doing good do just that. They do; they accomplish; they work at make things better. Trouble-makers ask questions that stir everyone up without ever pointing toward a solution. There’s a very fine line between an honest question and one designed to incite trouble, but asking who benefits personally from a question and who is harmed is a good start to sorting out one from the other.

Even so… be on your guard when anyone cites “for the good of…”

5 thoughts on “For the Good of…”

  1. Iron Sparrow says:

    Thanks. Good reminder to watch out for that behavior in myself.

  2. BlackMarbleConsulting says:

    A clear observation about people cloaking their actions in the cloth of "helpfulness." It is always a slippery slope. If you look to McCarthyism, the Red Scare, or any attack on a "them" by an "us," there is usually another motive and it is the accumulation of power or credibility by those who may not merit it.

    I find the current national debate on marriage, which is ultimately from the perspective of the state, a private contract between two individuals, interesting due to the fear that me marrying my partner will somehow "devalue" marriage. After all, it must be for the "good of marriage." If "they" are so concerned about marriage, outlaw divorce.

    Thanks as always for bringing up a valuable point!

  3. Iron Sparrow says:

    I'd prefer not to rehash the conversation Mr. Modesitt already started about your particular concern (, but I think that debate is more complicated than the way you're framing it.

  4. BlackMarbleConsulting says:

    I hadn't seen that post, thank you for redirecting me. I will review – as always, I find those who post here thoughtful and courteous. I appreciate it.

  5. Brad R. Torgersen says:

    Good comments, L.E.

    In the Geek World, this is called Concern-Troll behavior.

    Someone who makes insults, snide remarks, backhanded compliments, or otherwise tries to take someone or something down a notch, all under the guise of "benefit" or faux worry over this or that problem, perception, and so forth.

    I can think of a sterling example of this, dating back to the summer. And I suspect that this post by L.E. is aimed at that particular 'incident,' though I can't be sure so I won't try to put words in L.E.'s mouth.

    Suffice to say, the internet has bred an entire army of Concern-Trolls. People who mock and deride other people and/or projects from behind a veil of false helpfulness.

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