What does a childhood experiment with a gasoline fire have to do with workplace interactions? Let me tell you about my experiment.
Hi folks. Steve Hammond here from HorselessRanch.com.
When I was old enough to be briefly left at home, but still far from exercising good judgement, I wondered what a gasoline fire looked like.
Getting an old 3-4-ounce, waxed Dixie Cup, I poured a small amount of gasoline into the bottom and threw in a lit match.
The gasoline flamed up a few inches above the cup and not much spectacular happened – yet. After a moment of observation in this scientific experiment, I began to notice that the heat was melting the wax on the outside of the paper and was catching the cup on fire. Realizing that this would spill the contents out on the driveway (which was at the top of a hill), I decided I had seen enough and needed to put the fire out.
Now the smart thing to do would be to cover the fire to cut off the oxygen. That’s not what I did.
I made a critical, immature error. I used the method I used for putting out a spreading ground fire. I stomped on the cup. (Ahhh!)
Burning gasoline went everywhere. I caught my pantleg on fire. I caught the bush beside the driveway on fire. Burning gasoline began running down the hill headed for the street.
In a panic (and after checking to see if any neighbors were observing), I proceeded to kick and slap my pantleg. Getting that fire out without injury, I proceeded to the bush and began swatting the leaves until that fire was out. I then ran down the driveway and decided that as long as the fire stayed on the concrete, I could let it burn itself out. Nothing left to do except clean up the evidence of my stupidity before my parents got home.
You know, I’ve observed a small disagreement at work, similar to a small fire in a container, break into a big problem because someone decides to stomp on the problem, rather than take a gentle, calm approach. Before long, the problem has spread far beyond what was necessary.
What does a gasoline fire experiment teach us about workplace interactions? Don’t stomp on the fire. Smother it while containing it.
Well, that’s it for today.
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