Common sense

Let’s face it: Some people have no common sense. Other people have some common sense and then there are those fortunate people who have an abundance of what is often referred to as “horse sense.” Like other personality traits, common sense is present on a continuum, with certain people having more than others. Life experience enhances common sense in many people, originating from a “been there, done that” frame of mind. Some people, however, appear not to learn from their past experiences; instead, these people experience situations similar to past events as if they were unique. I am in favor of intellectual pursuits, including obtaining as much education as one can possibly achieve, but I know many highly educated people who lack common sense. (Sadly, though, I know many more people who lack both common sense and intellect!) Over the years of co-owning a business with my spouse, we have had many employees who lack common sense, as well as some stellar employees who possess considerable common sense. Lacking common sense has led to some rather humorous experiences at Magnus, including: (1) the employee who traveled with us to work in Detroit, in February, without bringing a coat, due to the fact it was warm when he left sunny south Florida: (2) the employee who routinely ruined letters, bills, and other important correspondence because he didn’t know how to insert a letter opener into an envelope (David never saw as much humor in this as I did!); and (3) the employee who never washed her dishes after eating lunch, then wondered why there were so many dirty dishes in the sink. (I could go on and on, but these examples suffice in illustrating my point.) An ever present feature of many people’s absence of common sense appears, at least in my opinion, to be derived by an absence of concern for other people as well as for one’s surroundings. Going through life as if one were the only person on the planet, without regard to anyone or anything but oneself, leads to an over emphasis of one’s self and an absence of the ability to reason, “What if…?” and generally speaking, is a partial explanation for many people’s inability to see the forest for the trees. Where do you lie on the common sense continuum?

It has been interesting as an employer to observe the common sense, and intellectual sense, of employees – at all levels. As Melissa pointed out, a high degree of education often has no correlation with common sense. In fact, in the many years I have known Melissa, I have observed that some of her colleagues at the highest intellectual levels seem to be lacking in everyday, common sense. I concluded that their everyday lives are often different than the lives of most of us. Nonetheless, the degree to which our employees, who are mostly, at a minimum, holders of a bachelor’s degree, have common sense that has varied widely in degree. Most are within the “norm” of a bell curve and have benefitted from some guidance and the experiences of having a “real job.” Others, who obviously were good enough to get hired, never seemed to grasp things that we consider “common sense.” It could be that part of what is “common sense” to us is not truly common sense to all. But, it does become frustrating to see individuals who struggle when others don’t. Often, the clues are there for them to observe and follow examples set by others. Sometimes, they are not but, rather than consider that it might be cold in Detroit, or ask how to use a letter opener, they plod along cluelessly. We have learned to try to screen on this variable in that it just seems “common sense” to us that people have it. But alas, it is not.

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