The Crab Bucket Mentality

Joan Marques - Ed.D., MBA.
Burbank, California

The other day I was viewing a documentary about Jesus, and although I am still not sure what to really think of this historical figure -- from his ambivalent existence up to his claim of being the Son of God -- the documentary thought me one general lesson:

No matter how good your intentions are: If you leave your old environment, gain knowledge and experience, return as a changed person, and try to share the knowledge you gained with your old friends and relatives, they will have a hard time accepting it.

In Jesus' case he was even chased out of Nazareth when he tried to communicate his newly obtained views to the Nazarenes.

The main eye-opener for me here was, that the unwillingness to accept directions from an old acquaintance that grew in some regard, is not something that is limited to just one society. Itís a human mentality.

In the past I used to think that it was a typical frame of mind of the residents of my home country in South America, where I often heard fellow countrymen, who returned from a study or work experience abroad, complain about the obstructionist attitude of the ones who now had to follow their orders. There was reluctance, actually blatant refusal, to cooperate with these returned citizens.

It seems that people are more willing to accept instructions from strangers than from old acquaintances. In the documentary, Jesus obtained his great success after he left Nazareth and started spreading his inspirational message in other cities where he had been totally unknown before.

But isn't that a sad reality overall? Even more when we consider, that it does not only apply to countries and cities, but also to work environments! If you start somewhere at the lower or middle ranks in a certain workplace, and you use your spare time wisely for studying, you can rest assured that in most cases you will have a hard time earning a promotion, and an even harder time being accepted as a new supervisor in a familiar environment. Most people just don't want to accept orders from a previous peer.

However, contradictory to the examples above, it seems to work better in work environments if you leave for a while, and return after a year or two with your newly obtained knowledge and visions. You may still encounter impediments from old colleagues, but the chance is bigger that you succeed. On a larger scale, especially when returning to your old town, the story usually works out less favorably.

Now, that being said, it may very well be that this mentality manifests itself stronger in small towns than in metropolitan areas where most people don't know each other, and thus, don't keep track of each other's whereabouts.

This article is not teaching anything new. It's just meant for us to keep in mind, and to reflect on our own circumstances: Did we encounter the same troubles in our career? Or were we the ones who gave our old buddies a hard time when they gained knowledge while we were busy doing other things?