‘Snake Oil’ From the Bully Pulpit

bullying2Recently, a well-respected workplace learning peer posted an interesting and conversation-inducing discussion about dealing with a ‘snake oil’ person within your personal learning network (PLN).

Personally, I found this blog post very insightful. I respect the message the post is attempting to communicate but a thought crossed my mind, “How prevalent is the issue of having a ‘snake-oil’ person in a PLN  become?” It doesn’t seem to be a significant issue within my PLNs.

Since it is not an issue for me, I reflected on how would I define a ‘snake oil’ person within my PLNs? And, do they exist in my PLN or other learning environments I participate?

Let’s first clearly define the intent of the traditional ‘snake oil’. It is someone who conducts themselves with a high disregard for transparency and little value for integrity. They simply attempt to gain a person’s confidence (‘con’) to ‘buy into’ something that they don’t really want. Today we refer to these individuals as confidence people or the common term, ‘con-artists’.

‘Snake oil’ is someone that has a complete disregard for transparency and little value for integrity.

It would be a surprise if anyone referred to us as ‘snake oil’ people. Being recognized workplace learning professionals, we take great care to make our positions clear. We strive to ensure those that interact with us know what they can expect and are never surprised by what we say or offer. Those we surround ourselves with act in the same manner. This is transparency and integrity and I value this type of behavior.

Allow me, however, to define how I would describe a ‘snake oil’ person within a PLN. My position of ‘snake oil’ is not about people who claim they’re experts (I have no problem with this declaration as long as they can back it up) but rather, with the people attempting to ‘bully’ others into thinking a certain way because they believe that they are the ultimate subject authorities. Regretfully, I find this behavior happening more frequently within various PLNs and Tweetchats. This ‘bullying’ also comes in the form of what I refer to as a ‘disguised derogatory position’. This is when the ‘bully’ want to always be seen as “right” and will set people up for failure to prove their point.

‘Disguised derogatory position’ is when the ‘bully’ must be “right” and set people up for failure to prove their point.

take-controlIt is difficult to explain unless you actually see it in action or experience it yourself. By this example, the bully shrewdly discounts/disparages your position/beliefs in an effort to make themselves look more plausible as THE subject authority. It is easy for them to do this online since they don’t have to confront you in person. This is considered ‘mild’ intimidation. This is what I consider the ‘con’, or the ‘snake oil’, and it is unacceptable. It must stop!

I am a strong enough to weather this type of behavior but there are many that simply submit to this behavior, never challenging the bully. Ultimately, even if a snake oil/bully gets into my PLN they will eventually show their true colors. Eventually, the PLN will be astute enough to call them out.

Every (reputable) consultant knows that their reputation is everything and I, and those within my PLN, share the same philosophy…so, anyone who wants to be part of my PLN must respect this culture or they will be asked to leave for their unprofessional behavior and conduct.

Subtle ‘bullying’ must stop…We don’t accept it with children then why do we accept it among professionals?

bullying-statisticsThis subtle ‘bullying’ or intimidation must stop. If we don’t accept it when it happens to children then why do we accept it among professionals and adults? We are all professionals and must respect the opinions of others even though they may differ significantly from our own. Speak up and stop this disingenuous,

inconsiderate, and insidious behavior by those that attempt to bully others.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts on what you believe to the ‘snake oil or ‘bully’ in your PLN or professional environment. And what have you done to stop it?

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  1. #1 by LearnKotch on December 4, 2014 - 6:27 am

    Thanks for a great and insightful post Ajay – it made a lot of senses and in some way you got me to understand the original post (well sort of but I am still confused). I also liked your poll at the end of the post – a great little initiative that I will now add to my posts – thanks for your inspiration.

  2. #2 by Ajay M. Pangarkar CTDP, CPA, CMA on December 4, 2014 - 11:43 pm

    Thank you for the kind words Con… I appreciate it very much. I can appreciate what the other post was attempting to communicate, however, it was upon reflection of how I interpreted it. I actually experienced what I wrote in this post and seen it happen to others by common colleagues…that I will not include in my PLN or even follow.

    Also, I enjoyed you posts too. Hopefully, our paths will cross in person one day 🙂

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