Dealing with Mean People – A Silicon Valley Manager’s Perspective

I suppose it had to come — the inevitable “What made that poor boy do such a horrible thing?” brooding and hysteria after the Virginia Tech murders. Already people are seeking to blame culture, video games, racism, conjectured bullying / criminal exploitation in his past, and so on, as if that makes it all understandable. Sadly, no matter how you slice it, nothing will balance out with the horrible crime this kid’s committed — the murder of innocents — and to spin wheels trying to do so misses the point. No action like this is redeemable.

Instead of focusing on a hateful monster, we should ask a different question. Why, when the world perpetrated a terrible evil on one man, who witnessed murder on a mass scale, suffered deprivation and want — who literally witnessed the face of evil during the Holocaust — did he give his life to save his students? Professor Liviu Librescu did not give in to meanness and cruelty, although his life was shaped by the meanness and cruelty of others. If anyone should have had a “reason” to be bad, he was the one. Yet he is the model of all that is good in people. He was literally “good” in times of evil.

Speaking as a manager, I’ve seen my share of hostile angry employees. Silicon Valley is extremely competitive, and some people don’t thrive in the pressure cooker of high-stakes startups…

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