Can people change hard-wired behavioral traits? It’s easier to change habits than those deep-rooted traits that come out of nowhere. I know of only two people who were successful. Both were the result of very serious near-death experiences and neither one lasted more than a year or two even though they received positive feedback on their “new personality.”
During a recent shopping trip I ran into a woman I knew from my former job. She had been downsized and was now working in retail.
Just a little background — She was quite a character. Likeable but she couldn’t handle stress. Things like deadlines turned her into a short-tempered maniac. She would scream or be sarcastic to her co-workers or boss. She was an equal opportunity screamer. She didn’t care who you were. She just knew she needed to get something done and you were threatening that by your exasperating stupidity.
After an incident she would end up with her manager in my office. She was always contrite. She knew she snapped at people but in real-time she couldn’t stop herself. I believed she was sincere but that didn’t make her a favorite of anyone.
I tried to teach her different techniques to change the behavior. They worked for a while and then bam! She was back in my office with an unhappy manager.
Over the years I saw a lot of her. Don’t get me wrong. She was a good worker except for that one little thing that drove everyone crazy. It didn’t happen often but when it did, it upset the workplace.
Back to now – she was working the check out register. There was a customer with their goods on her counter but she was doing something else. Finally she told the woman that she couldn’t check her out as she was leaving. The other cashier was backed up and the woman had only one item. She begged her to check her out.
“I have to go on my break!” she scolded. Now in her defense, in retail your break may be strictly scheduled. However, explaining this took longer than the transaction.
I wasn’t in a hurry so I moved into the next cashier’s line. Then I heard her call someone to take her place. Again, she was screaming about her break. It was exasperating with all these pesky customers!
In all this time she never looked up into the faces of the customers or she would have recognized me. I keep silent watching the show.
Finally the beloved husband said we should go over to the cashier on the other side of the store. She heard that and said that was where she was going (still not looking up).
At that moment someone new came and checked us out in less than a minute. In the meantime she was doing a full-blown retail version of code blue to get all the store employees to help with the registers which were backing up the wazoo but she didn’t check anyone out.
She left slightly before we did and as we walked through the store we could see her at a register at the other side of the store. I wonder if she ever got her break. Perhaps with some Valium.
So what are your experiences? Does a leopard change it spots? Better still, do they stay changed?