Sunday, August 22, 2010

It takes two to tango

The amount of coverage that has been given to JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater is not surprising to me at all. What is surprising to me is that no one has hit upon what I believe is at the core of the hostile encounter.

Some articles blame Slater as an individual, more articles and pundits speak to the trend in air-rage, some blame the downgrades in service. While I understand the thinking behind all of these, I don't think any of them have identified the core dynamic that is occurring repeatedly.

It is my belief that what we are seeing is a variant of the Stanford Prison Experiment, wherein flight, airline and airport personnel from terminal to terminal have been placed in a pseudo-prison guard role and passengers are nearly prisoners.

The authoritarian undertones from flight, airline and airport personnel is palpable. Quite often, the communication borders on contempt. Things that could be phrased as polite requests for cooperation are worded as mandates from an all powerful machine. The security checks further the metaphor and end result is rebellion.

The solution to this problem does not lie in spot fixes like returning peanuts to flights, but rather in analysis and increased training across the entire air-travel eco-system from organizational behavior professionals. Air travel workers need to be able to recognize confrontation and hostility and be trained to both avoid and defuse it.

In the meantime, try a little bit of niceness (OMG! I used "nice" in a positive way! I'm on record for hating the word!) and stop blaming passengers for responding to cramped spaces combined with overt and rigid authority with hostility - it's human nature.


Prison guard mentality - Garbage

Steven Slater's dramatic exit - I hate to admit it, but I like it

Maybe, just once, someone will call me 'Sir' without adding, 'You're making a scene.' - Homer Simpson

No comments: