"Just kidding!" We hear this on the playground as children
and in the office as an adult. Usually it is followed by "Geez,
don't you have a sense of humor?" Over the years, though, I have
learned that "just kidding" is one of those phrases that
means exactly the opposite of what it says. The speaker wasn't kidding
at all, but only using the phrase to deflect how incredibly insensitive
and rude they are actually behaving.
I know this might sound like an over-reaction, but years of work experience
have shown me that people who use the "just kidding" (JK)
gambit are troublesome to everyone around them. In their wake they
leave a path of anger and hurt and can sow the seeds of their own career
destruction, if they don't learn to modify their behavior.
Say you are talking with a group of friends or co-workers and make
some sort of statement. It matters little the substance of the statement
because a JK person often needs little impetus to inject their response.
Out of the blue you will hear, "Well, that's the stupidest things
I've ever heard" or maybe even uproarious laughter. Then, when
you show your disapproval with a look or your words, you will hear, "just
kidding." They weren't kidding, though, and everyone knows it.
What this person is trying to do is deflect the focus from their rude
behavior and somehow make it your problem. They are insulting you and
then trying to pretend that that wasn't their goal in the first place.
It is a childish attempt at control and manipulation and anyone who
exhibits the behavior should be confronted and reprimanded.
In fact, I consider JK behavior to be the primary indicator of someone
who is lacking in the social skills so necessary to work and life.
If I see someone exhibiting this behavior, I would serious questions
working for them or with them in any environment. Life is simply
too short to spend your time with ill-mannered, and I would say
cases, out of control, personalities.
So, do you see yourself or any of your co-workers in this description?
I know that I was not always the most socially skilled member of society
when I was younger. Even when older, we all have the ability to make
social faux pas, but these occurrences should be rare. Take a long
hard look at your own behaviors. Do you often find yourself saying "just
kidding" or exhibiting the equally annoying "exasperated
sigh" as I did at one point in my career. (See The
Exasperated Sigh, June 3, 2005)
If you do, you need to start banishing this behavior from your life
immediately. Do whatever it takes. Snap a rubber band on your wrist
whenever you feel inclined, or fine yourself every time you do it.
Whatever it takes. If you don't, the consequences to your career could
be dramatic and drastic.
Why ban this behavior? Simply, you are insulting, and perhaps even
angering, everyone who is on the receiving end of this behavior. Regardless
of how you might try to justify the behavior, you are making enemies
at every turn. You are creating a group of people who don't want to
work with you, for you or even around you. You are creating a group
of people who won't care, and perhaps even rejoice when you are fired
or marked for layoff. "Just Kidding" might seem such a small
issue, but it effects everyone and everything around you. Furthermore,
if you think the effects in the office are bad, you can only imagine
the damage such behavior does to your relationships with friends and
"Just kidding" behavior can arise from a number of points. We can
do it when we feel insecure or frightened. It can creep in when our
guard is down due to illness or fatigue. Regardless, though, if you
want to insure yourself a happier life and a more productive and
successful career, you need to banish the phrase "just kidding", and
it s surrogates, from your vocabulary today. If not, I can guarantee
that those around you will make their displeasure very clear through
their actions. You will drive away those people whom you need the
most and destroy your career in the bargain.
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