Have you been tempted to wrestle with a pig?

The queue system where everybody waits their turn to get helped or served is a great idea. But queues have a habit of revealing human behaviour.

Some time back I went for some routine blood tests and had a chance to observe the behaviour of a person one would have thought would know better. Having arrived at the blood lab just before 08:00, I saw there were already a few people sitting waiting to have their blood taken. The staff soon arrived to start their day but had no idea of who had arrived in what order. This is something left to the people waiting to be helped to determine.

I was the last of the group to arrive so I stood at the counter with my form to hand to the nurse.

While I was standing there, an elderly man, probably in his late 60s (I estimate), in a business suit arrived. I would assume that this was not the first time he had had his blood tested so also made the assumption that he would know the drill in terms of waiting his turn.

He sat down and then, when he swathe nurse was not looking, hopped up and slipped his form into the middle of the pile so that it would appear that he had arrived before others. The nurse was completely unaware of this and started calling people through for their blood tests in an order she assumed was appropriate.

She called the name of one particular man, but he pointed out that another lady had arrived before him and suggested she should go in first. The nurse then explained to him that the lady in question was waiting to have an x-ray and was not having a blood test, which resolved that.

The nurse then called the name of the man who had slipped his form in near the top of the pile. Our sneaky gentleman duly hopped up without a word or a glance at anyone else, quite happy to have jumped the queue. I would guess that this was not his first queue jumping attempt.

The point I’m making is not about the small mindedness of a person who had grown up during a time when good manners and politeness were taught to everyone, but about the possible reactions the rest of the people could have had.

Those who had experienced the queue being jumped chose not to say or do anything. There was no, “But I was here first!” which could have resulted in a mudslinging contest.

It made me wonder about the pressure such behaviour puts on others and how those “others” choose to respond. The emotional maturity of the other people was surprising. None of them allowed the selfishness of one person to determine their emotions and behaviour.

Those people might not have realised it but they could teach some leaders a lesson or two about controlling emotions and not allowing others’ behaviour to dictate theirs.

This incident made me recall the advice an advocate friend of mine once gave me in my younger days when I was venting about someone whom I believed was being unfair. I was threatening to say and do all sorts of things but was quickly stopped in my tracks by his advice to, “Never wrestle with a pig because you both get dirty and the pig loves it.”

Next time you find yourself faced with a difficult person at work who demonstrates small mindedness or selfishness, don’t be tempted to wrestle with the “pig”. That way you will maintain your good name and reputation and not allow someone else to lower it for you!

Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches business leaders and managers of all generations how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the “Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter“.

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