Why don’t we learn? The evidence is overwhelming. Mattresses tied to roofs of moving vehicles are prone to blow off. On any given weekend it’s easy to spot mattresses on the side of the highways. No one is sleeping on them or even paying attention to them. The mattresses have blown off the roof of a car or out of the bed of the pickup, never to be retrieved. Laws of physics do apply when it comes to driving with a mattress on the roof.
When the mattress is overhead, the driver is clueless the front of the mattress is flapping like horses lips in the wind. Sometimes the driver and the passenger have their arms out the window as if they can hold onto the mattress while going 60 miles per hour. That probably won’t work. Any one sitting in the back seat is saying prayers.
Dead mattresses are a metaphor for what happens at work: If it seems like a bad idea, it probably is. If all the evidence is that you will regret the action, you probably will. If you know you shouldn’t do it, but you do it any way, what were you thinking?
Here are but a few examples that dead mattresses can teach us. All in the category of, you know better but you do it anyway.
- Badmouthing your boss or colleagues. Are you sure everyone hung up from the conference call? Or, did someone overhear your comments? The criticism always gets back to the person you don’t want to hear it.
- Telling a racist, sexist joke or spreading inappropriate emails or texts. People get fired for such actions.
- Blaming others for your errors or claiming credit when it is not due. Come on, bad form.
- Lying on your resume. The truth always comes out.
- Getting drunk with your boss. You will regret it later.
- Stealing office supplies. Stealing is stealing is stealing.
- Posing a danger to others at work. Ignoring safety and security protocols is reckless. So is sexual harassment or bullying or showing up with a contagious sickness. If you see something that could be a problem at work, change it or report it.
Jut like a mattress on the roof, when it comes to bad judgment at work; don’t try it. You might think you’ve developed that super-duper twine that will hold the mattress in place, but you’re bucking the trend that has been in place since the car was invented. You are not different. You may think you won’t get caught, but you will.
So the next time you see king size mattresses and box springs tied to the roof of a VW Jetta, don’t get behind it and ask yourself is there anything that can be learned from this spectacle.
At the very least, like mattresses lashed to roofs, at work remember the best indicator of future performance is past performance.