People Are (A)social Beings

The new normal is yet to come. We’re still at a stage of deep shock, deluding ourselves that everything will be as it used to be before the pandemic in a few months, even though the forecasts by CDC’s director or Bill Gates make it clear that in the case of Poland, things may go back to normal at the turn of 2021 and 2022 at best. It’s good to stop and think what the consequences of the externally forced organisational change will be – and ask ourselves which of our habits, practices, and behaviours should become a thing of the past, and draw some conclusions from what we’ve learnt about the world.

And there are at least two things we have surely learnt. The pandemic has shown that humans are highly social beings. One of the biggest problems with the pandemic was – and still is – the need to restrict human contact. This proves that many employees miss their casual, everyday in-person interactions with their colleagues. This interaction, this “social adhesive” bonding individuals and generating trust, has turned out to be a major factor stimulating not only collaboration but also regeneration – everyone who’s had eight hours of video conferencing instead of eight in-person meetings at work must have appreciated the regenerative quality of interaction breaks. At the same time, the pandemic has made us realise how much time we spend on totally unnecessary calls and meetings, and even the greatest of fossils and technophobes have found that it’s quite possible to handle a lot of stuff by e-mail, work on a shared document online, and come out of a video conference unharmed. I hope that many of these emergent models of collaboration will stay with us for good – but I’d like to be also clear about the fact that the long-term effects on on-boarding, mentoring, or team building will be negative too, it’s just that we can’t see them in full bloom yet.

The pandemic has also shown that humans are asocial beings. The extent of stupidity and the stubborn denial of scientific consensus is alarming. Let alone the fact that the internet is oozing with conspiracy theories, that there’s an emerging alliance between those convinced the pandemic is a hoax and the fierce opponents of 5G, a technology the reptilian government is to use to control our civilisation. Anyone with access to the internet is now an expert on any subject, ready to share their insights and wisdom with anybody they stumble upon online, but this is the least of our worries. The worst thing is that it’s impossible to enforce any socially responsible common behaviour – like wearing face masks, washing hands, or social distancing – in Poland in the long run.

People simply don’t care if they infect someone. They come up with some ultra-complex theories on the harmfulness of face masks and have gladly revived the Old Polish ‘custom’ of avoiding soap and water, which we can tell by the returning increase in the number of cases of diseases caused by unwashed hands to the level from before the pandemic. The conclusion that can be drawn from the above in the context of management is quite pathetic: as a developing society, we’re definitely not at a stage where acts against the common good are considered inappropriate and shameful, and that our trust in institutions of knowledge and the state has eroded as much as or even more than in developed countries.

The text is part of the publication "The New Normal. Reality in the times of the global Covid-19 pandemic. A commentary by the faculty of Kozminski University".

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