I've written a lot about negative behavior I'm seeing on social media and in news stories. I'm often amazed when I read some of these stories because the person causing problems turns out to be someone in a leadership position.

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Geoff George via Compfight

Years ago I read a story about a mother who hired strippers for her son's 16th birthday party & invited 80 guests. She tried to hide things by papering windows, but hadn't counted on some of the participants letting the word out on what was going on.

There was a story of a man that was vice president at some company who decided he had the right to use a racial slur on a 19-month old baby on a plane and, feeling his assumed position of authority, slapped the child as well. He then tried to lie his way out of it by saying it didn't happened, not knowing that the person who reported it was a FBI agent.

There was a senator who decided to make a name for himself by accusing someone up for confirmation for a post under President Obama of accepting money from foreign governments that are hostile to the United States, a move so brazen that one of the leaders of his own party upbraided him openly for his behavior and accusations.

The most recent thing to happen was the new, then fired, director of communications at the White House who decided to go all "New York" on the press and supposed peers, while having his wife file divorce papers, all in the space of 10 days; talk about a high profile mess up!

I've written about the behavior of people who comment on online newspaper stories, people who write vile comments to women on YouTube or Instagram, and people who say all sorts of things on Facebook. All of these are things that I not only have never said, but if I did I certainly wouldn't do it in public. I was taught to try to show courtesy and restraint when I get mad at others (I fail at this sometimes), especially those older than me, unless they've crossed the line. It feels like a lot of people never heard this while growing up.

I wonder at what point people started believing they were entitled to their bad behavior. When did it become okay in people's minds that they could say filthy things in front of children or their parents or anyone else, in the mall, on social media, or, for my purposes here, in the workplace? When did it become acceptable for leaders to use foul language in front of their employees, sometimes using it to verbally abuse an employee in public?

At what point did people feel that having to deal with the consequences of their actions wasn't fair treatment because of this myth of freedom of speech? Why do they feel it's not fair they get fired from their jobs (the VP did) or get arrested (that mother did)?

Why are people shocked when someone who didn't like what they had to say comes back at them the same way, or with violent intent? When did common sense leave, or when did they forget that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (Newton's Third Law of Motion)?

People who don't control their behavior will get some kind of reaction back; everyone knows this. There's many ways it can manifest itself, but it will almost always be negative. Except in the heat of the moment and possibly the military (the jury's still out on that one), there are very few positive things that have been achieved by abusive people in today's world. There are always consequences for bad behavior. There's always going to be someone bigger, tougher, or meaner to deal with if you tick them off.

I've known people who've been followed home because in the spur of the moment they decided to flip the middle finger at the wrong person. A lady once got out of her car to chastise my mother about something that she was actually doing right, and Mom leaned over to the glove compartment, acting like she was reaching for a gun; the woman ran to her car and sped away. Mom was faking it but you just never know (good for you Mom lol).

In my opinion, people are not entitled to their bad behavior unless they're ready for any consequences that might result from it. I've often told the tale of knowing someone who lost 90% of his business in a week because one of his clients found a blog he had where he recorded videos of himself cursing a lot while trying to be a comic and mentioned it to all this guy's other clients. He wasn't being abusive to anyone, but even he acknowledged to me later on that he probably should have thought about it based on the kind of work he did.

If you think you have or deserve ultimate free speech, say something to the wrong person, in the wrong way, and see how well they respect your right to say it. No one has the right to be disrespectful others; it could get you fired, sued, hurt badly or killed; is your right to be a boor worth that?

If you're a leader, choose the other way; encourage people to want to work for and with you. The results will always be better, and maybe your good behavior will trickle down to others and make this a better world... one can hope! 🙂