Bunker Mentality

In a previous position, I was the marketing director for a workers compensation self-insurance fund. During a meeting of the fund’s trustees there was a contentious and loud discussion about the wording of a response to a lawyer’s demand. Just as tempers were beginning to flare, one of the meeting participants cried out, “Hold on, I’ve got the solution.” As the room quieted, he continued, “Let’s send a note composed in formal business block, reading, ‘Drop dead. Strong letter will follow.”

The room erupted with laughter and the issue quickly came to a resolution.

Humor, happiness, joy and relaxation: essential to our personal well-being are equally indispensable to business success. In tough times, people often adopt a “bunker” mentality: the instinct to focus solely on the situation at hand putting all, so-called, distractions aside. At such times, often a joke, a smile or enjoyment of life is greeted with derision as a betrayal of the seriousness of the situation. In actuality, getting out of the bunker may be the one of the most effective ways to overcome adversity.

The isolation of the bunker leads to “bunker thinking:” a lack of diversity in ideas and thus, solutions. Time spent away from the bunker provides the opportunity to develop alternative, sometime inspirational, solutions.

In the biopic movie about Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne, a good example takes place during a scene in which he attends a vaudeville show. Inspired by the dancing showgirls, he changed his offensive scheme and won a national championship.

You don’t know what will create inspirational ideas; however, you won’t find such revelations within the bunker.

With daily crises, the bunker is always a busy place, with time only to react. The old saying is true, “when you are up to your rear end in alligators, there isn’t time to bail-out the swamp.”  Finding time to plan courses of action is essential to success. Getting out of the bunker allows for time away from the constant demands, when, with a relaxed mind, strategies become clear.

The negativity of the bunker mentality discourages efforts to make things better: “why try when things are only going to get worse?” People in a bunker spend a lot of time bemoaning their situation: “poor me, things are, oh, so bad.” Joy, jokes and happiness foster optimism. In the absence of large successes, celebrate small ones; exchange jokes; share happiness: by doing so, an atmosphere is created that will lead towards success.

In the movie, Animal House, when the fraternity was about to be kicked off campus and its members expelled from college, instead of wallowing in self-pity, they hosted a toga party. If not a toga party, other things can be done to escape the bunker: participate in an industry event; take an afternoon off to do what you enjoy; take a vacation; celebrate good news; learn new jokes and always, keep on smiling.

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