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Friday roundup: Time is on my mind edition

Posted by Robin Abrahams  August 17, 2013 05:38 AM

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It feels like August, doesn't it?

People are often commenting that the times seem out of joint. "I keep thinking it's Thursday." "It doesn't feel like spring." "How can it be June already?"

But somehow all those little timejumps have aligned and right now, it feels like August. The city is still emptied out, the farmers' markets are rich and ripe, the mornings hint of autumn.

The High Holy Days are very early this year--Rosh Hashanah is September 5. And we had to schedule this year's Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony early, too--September 12. (It's usually the first week in October.) Front-loading all my autumnal festivities and ritual obligations like this is unprecedented, and October is going to feel like one delightful long afterparty.

I've been following the Hugo Schwyzer debacle this week. Schwyzer is a community-college professor and writer about feminism and gender issues who had a fairly epic meltdown on Twitter in which he admitted to all kinds of horrifyingly unethical behavior. Many people had had problems with him before now, but he kept getting speaking and writing gigs and interviews and all that good stuff.

So, in the wake of his confessions, there are huge blowups and recriminations in the feminist community as to why this guy got as far as he did, and who let it happen, and who tried to stop it, and who didn't get listened to. It's provoked a serious conversation about racism in the feminist movement that I hope can only lead to good.

The seriousness and goodness of those conversations I attribute to the immense intelligence and goodwill of the women involved.

What Hugo brought to the party was the gift of setting people at each others' throats.

And that I find so interesting. Have you ever had one of those people in your workplace? Who shows up, and gets on great and seems so promising and likable, except suddenly nobody else is getting along?

I've met all kinds of HR people, from the clerks to the executives to the professors who study organizational behavior, and they will all sooner or later start talking about how you keep the dragons out. It's the central, unsolvable problem of human resource management. One of the better attempts to solve it is The No-Asshole Rule, but if I recall correctly, author Bob Sutton is addressing more overt types of misbehavior--bullying and that kind of thing, which is bad enough but at least doesn't gaslight people. HR people don't worry about how to keep bullies out of their organizations. They know how to do that (assuming they're allowed to--some bosses like to hire bullies). They worry about the snakes, the gaslighters, the pot-stirrers (I don't really mean "pot"), the almost-liars. The ones that it's harder to spot, and almost impossible to get rid of.

A new year is coming up, if you're Jewish, or just highly conditioned by the academic calendar. Make a resolution to work only with the good people this year, as much as in your power to do so. Life is too short to tolerate snakes in your garden. 

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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