You Can’t Destroy Without Destroying Part of Yourself: 4 Thoughts

The Department of Defense recently released a report indicating that the pilots of drone aircraft experience a multitude of mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress at the same rates as pilots of manned aircraft.  Initial response from many corners can be summarized in the following:  But, they weren’t even in the actual combat zone!

Yes, they were.

The drone pilots could have been in Hawaii directing drone strikes and they would likely experience the same symptoms. Even with honorable intentions they witnessed the carnage of their actions.

Whether in our professional or personal lives we often believe we can detach ourselves from destruction that may be caused by a decision we made.  Here are some thoughts about how to lessen the destruction for all of us:

  • Always consider the impact of the decision, whether positive or negative, for everyone involved.  At work this is a 360 degree review of fellow employees, vendors, customers, and the overall organizational culture.  At home this means a 360 degree look at partners, children, other family members, friends, and the larger community.
  • Since everyone experiences a decision differently, estimate how it will impact those who have the most and least to gain from the outcome.  Even the toughest of circumstances you will be able to honestly tell someone that was negatively affected that you considered this in your decision.
  • Have some form of support available for those who will be negatively affected, including immediate and long-term options.  Those affected may reject assistance but the thought of it is often reassuring and your good intentions will be shared at the water cooler.
  • If you are the person making and/or implementing a decision anticipate that a full range of emotion will be projected on you, however unfair that may seem.  If you prepare for this from an emotionally intelligent perspective you may be seen as or even more effective the leader than before.
  • Take care of yourself, especially in environments where stress is likely to exist.  People always look to the top in these situations and they want to know you can handle the impact of your decisions, as well.

The good news in the drone research is that everyone who witnesses destruction is affected by it, even if it is thousands of miles away.  We are a human community where most violence occurs in situations where people feel poorly prepared to deal with the consequences, not on the battlefield with trained warriors.  As leaders we need to understand this, act in a thoughtful manner and provide support as others find their own way in response to a decision we make.