Darth Vader in the workplace

Darth Vader was a whiny little b*tch!

Yes, you read right. Darth Vader was a whiny little b*tch. How dare I? Well, I dare, but before hitting Dislike, or otherwise, read on to understand. It may just be that you may get a morsel of food for thought.

So, to the one person in the known universe who is not aware, Darth Vader is a character from the original Star Wars films. Ten year olds the planet over loved/feared his cool mask, deep authoritative voice (courtesy of the brilliant James Earl Jones), and his ability to force choke co-workers he disagreed with.

In essence, if you remove the cool stuff which he had (granted by the Empire), he essentially is a very disturbed, obsessive, angry young man who wants to lash out at anything and everything. You probably know people in your own life who – if they were living in a galaxy, far, far away, would fit right in if they had access to armour, spacecraft and the 501st Legion. Instead, you may find them in your local bar, or dancing on or around the right side of the law, or as your boss, or bosses boss.

Which brings me to today’s shower thought. ๐Ÿ™‚

How often when we are dealing with people, either interpersonally, or professionally, do we deal with the person, not the role?

I love science fiction (and some fantasy, Terry Pratchett being the top dog in my humble opinion) because it allows us to shine a safe light on things that happen in the real world – without anyone’s core convictions or beliefs getting trashed, which would immediately cause them to withdraw, double down, and not pay attention.

So, that said, back to Darth Vader, who lived in a galaxy far, far away, and where the following few paragraphs will have no relevant impact on anyone’s day to day life or thought processes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Before he becomes Darth Vader, in the early 2000s films we meet him as Anakin Skywalker, a young kid, who is very talented, gifted, and wants to do great things. (In the real world, talented, gifted kids never take a wrong turn of course).

In the course of the first film, he takes off with two Jedi, who promise to help teach him. The older Jedi is seen by Anakin as a benevolent father figure, the other younger one, as an older brother type.

Due to the politics of Jedi order, because he has a lot of fear due to his upbringing so far, there is concern that he should be trained due to his natural power, and his unpredictability. The Older Jedi takes it upon himself to help train him, and the scene is set for the rest of the films if you are to watch them in chronological in-story order.

The older Jedi dies in battle, the younger one takes over his training, and things go so well for a while, until they go south.

So, in this galaxy far, far away, a long time ago, a group of quite powerful individuals found a useful tool, and decided to harness the talents of the individual – rather than address the individual as a person.

As a young kid, Anakin could have benefited from a few courses of Play Therapy perhaps, rather than be indoctrinated into a group of warrior semi-monks who focused on suppressing all negative emotions in order to focus on calmness, or positive emotions.

The only individual to genuinely see the scared kid inside was the older Jedi who took him in in the first place. Everyone else saw him as someone who could be a useful ally or enemy in the future. Even the wise green Jedi! (Sorry Yoda).

So, jumping forward a few decades in the story and we have a very powerful Darth Vader striding through the galaxy doing his thing, the cunning Emperor Palpatine directing and focusing Vader’s natural anger and power to where he wished. Palpatine, to be fair to him, always focused on the person first – although his motives were anything but obvious. He genuinely did want what was best for Anakin/Vader – even though that aligned with his own plans. For a scared kid, who never was thought how to handle these emotions, this was a natural refuge. The scared kid, grows up to be still scared, but now uses other tools like angst and anger to mask it, and so becomes the ‘whiny bitch’ of the top of this article.

Everything else, the position in the Empire, the access to resources and power that comes with it, all then end up serving the purposes and aims of the scared kid inside. Which, in fairness to Star Wars, is what Luke saw in the ‘Return of the Jedi’ film and allowed Vader to redeem himself somewhat. Don’t get me wrong, the scared kid inside can throw tantrums, lash out and hurt people – such as the destruction of the planet Alderaan, for example. Seeing the scared kid inside doesn’t mean a mandate that you need to forgive their actions.

Which circles back to this little thought exercise. Flash forward to a galaxy closer to home, to a more present day. The people we see and work or interact with. Take a moment. The boss who always is trying to undermine or empire build within an organisation. The team member who never opens up, or who perhaps works themselves to the bone in order to be seen as valued. The person who goes out of their way to become indispensable to an organisation.

When next dealing with someone whose actions (hopefully not as extreme as destroying a planet) cause hurt, or even constant inconvenience to team members and colleagues – take a moment to try understand who is underneath it, either trying to ask for help, or trying to build defenses or offence to protect themselves or others from something that may have happened in their past, or they fear could happen. It drives a lot of behaviours and veiled truths.

Rather than the power of the Force to back them up, people will use their rank in an organisation, as well as processes, policies, procedures, legalities to ensure that the core concerns they have are met. Once these are satisfied, then they can usually act more rationally.

So, the next time you are going on a call with THAT colleague, and your brain hears the ‘Duh, duh, duh, duh duh duh’ music that accompanied Darth Vader, (or similar feeling of dread/annoyance) – take a moment and see them as the scared kid they are inside. (It is usually fear that causes most behaviours that we would call ‘challenging’ – of one sort or the other).

Trying to understand that before choosing your own course of response will help you firstly handle interacting with them better. It will also, perhaps, if you are as wise as Palpatine, eventually help you align your goals with theirs, so you are both pulling in the same direction.

(I use the word ‘wise’ purposefully here, where I used the word ‘cunning’ to describe Palpatine earlier. It is still wisdom at play. We make a judgement call based on our own values and beliefs as to whether his actions were ‘wise’ or ‘cunning’. In the story, Palpatine wanted to usher in an era of peace (with him at the helm of course), to stop the constant squabbles, and wars of the past, so from a ‘big picture’ point of view, he would have felt he was doing the right thing.)

Have a great day. ๐Ÿ™‚

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