Torontonians’ shoes in winter are a messy sight: wet, muddy, and filled with the salt used to melt the snow. So when Miel Vasulka, a fifty-six-year-old Torontonian, walked onto the subway last week, she was not pleased with what she saw: A much younger man was sitting with his shoes right on the empty seat in front of him.
Ms. Vasulka decided to teach the man a lesson in civility: she placed her body on that seat, right in front of his feet. (Initial reports claimed incorrectly that she sat on his feet.)
Well, the man did not like that, not one bit. What happened next is captured in the video below, now gone viral. And, apparently, Ms. Vasulka has become a folk hero of sorts.
Now, these types of encounters unfold very rapidly. You have to make instant decisions about your overall approach and demeanor, what you’ll say or do next. And while this specific interaction is not workplace-related, I invite you to consider, while you are watching, the parallels to similar workplace dynamics that you may have experienced.
Furthermore, as you watch, it might be worthwhile to ponder:
- Could Ms. Vasulka have achieved a better result had she used a different approach?
- Would your reactions to the video be different if the roles were reversed—if Ms. Vasulka was the one with her feet on the seat, and it was the man who approached her? How and why would your reaction be different?
- When (if ever) is it appropriate to take an approach of “teaching someone a lesson”? What might be constructive ways of doing so?
- What advice would you have offered Ms. Vasulka that would have prevented the escalation and open the possibility for a genuine learning moment to happen?
As always, please drop a line, anytime.