Paul Butler | Conspiracy at work

Paul Butler
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As the days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months, and the months turn into more months — I’m just hoping this COVID-19 trial doesn’t turn into a year, or worse still, years!

As the mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing becomes our ever-increasing norm, I just pray for a safe vaccine to come as soon as possible. Call me naïve, but I believe this virus is real. Call me gullible, but I trust our scientific community. Call me a male Pollyanna, but I do trust that our government leaders are looking out for our best interests, despite all these restrictions and shape-shifting guidelines.

It therefore is a shock to me when some people seem to think it’s all a hoax — a government conspiracy of global magnitude to suppress the masses and gain Big Brother control.

A dear friend of mine even recently said to me, “Look at Sweden — they’re not doing all that we’re doing in the U.S. and they’ve got completely different results to us. They’re just letting their people do what they want. It’s all just a conspiracy — what if the deaths had nothing to do with a virus?” 

So, I had a look at Sweden’s numbers on a site I’ve come to trust —, and lo and behold, I found that Sweden is actually not doing that great.

At the time of writing we have a 3.0% death-to-case ratio. Conversely, Sweden has a 6.7% death-to-case ratio. It seems to me, using junior high math that I’d be more than twice as likely to die from this pesky pandemic if I lived in the land that gave the world Abba and Ikea. How on God’s green Earth can this all be a global conspiracy? I fear the same people who think this is all a conspiracy of political proportions are the same people who believe the moon landing was a hoax.

Conspiracy-thinking seems to be innate to humans — a twisted belief there’s always someone out there (wherever “there” is) who seems to think that someone (whoever “they” are) is out to get them. It comes as no surprise then to see this same behavior in the workplace.

A phrase from yesteryear was “The Man.” We’d hear people say, “You’re working for The Man.” Another was, “The Man is always watching you.” Who’s “The Man”? This type of stinking-thinking creates barriers between owner and employee. On the basis that management is the hands and feet of ownership, it’s of no surprise for this victim mindset to spoil relationships between supervisor and the supervised.

Back in the day when we’d actually work in offices, we’d see the cancer of conspiracy theorists play out at the water cooler or around the company coffee pot. In hushed voices, they’d talk about “The Man” and about how the organization was making billions whereas they hadn’t had a pay raise since last year’s inflation-adjusted annual performance review. A glance of the eye or a nod of the head would single out fellow workers who were on the side of management — minions set on course to do the work of the evil empire.

Zoom didn’t take this away, but rather moved it onto private chats or subtle messages of defiance seen in a camera being off for one speaker and on for another — their own version of virtually saying, “Talk to the hand.”

Conspiracy theorists outside or inside of the workplace are not helpful — they’re harmful. Yes, I believe it’s healthy to question and verify (like I did with the Sweden statistics), but the best thing we can all be doing right now, whether it’s as global citizens or workplace workers, is to trust our leaders, do our part and work hard.

The world will come out from under this dark cloud, but I am concerned the conspiracy theorists will continue to carry their own weather with them back into the workplace. I’ve found the best method of dealing with the chat of conspiracy is to point out what the owners and management are doing well — to express gratitude for the work we get to do and to get to the bottom of rumors before they spread like wildfire.

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