The 1981 movie, “Neighbors” is the story of one man’s quiet suburban life which takes a sickening lurch for the worse when a young couple move into the deserted house next door. From the word go it is obvious these are not the quiet professional types who *should* be living in such a nice street. As more and more unbelievable events unfold, our hero starts to question his own sanity… and those of his family. That’s what IMDb says, anyway. Doesn’t sound familiar, does it? It stared Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. Still doesn’t sound familiar? It didn’t even generate $30M in gross revenue. The problem was that Belushi played the up-tight guy, and Aykroyd was the zany, unpredictable character. The director decided to have the actors play the opposite role that they should have been in. And audiences couldn’t relate to this switch. But to me, there is a really good lesson that can be learned from the movie.
The part of story I like is when Aykroyd comes to meet Belushi, and Aykroyd talks Belushi into chipping in for a spaghetti dinner that will be delivered to them. Aykroyd excuses himself; Belushi becomes suspicious, and sneaks over to peek into Aykroyd’s house. He can see Aykroyd cooking spaghetti, and shockingly, Aykroyd dumps rat poison into the pot! Belushi freaks out. When the “delivery” spaghetti arrives, Belushi refuses to eat it, and calls Aykroyd out for cooking it, and poisoning it. Aykroyd comes clean, and says that his spaghetti is the best in the world, and that the “rat poison” was just his secret ingredients.
I may have some of those memories confused, but I think it’s basically right.
I’ve told this story to a few of my employees in the past. Why? Because it exemplifies the importance of communication. Belushi became suspicious of Aykroyd, and Aykroyd was seemingly acting very suspiciously. The longer this went on, the more suspicious Belushi became. If there had been clear communication, suspicions would never have been raised. Of course it would have been an even worse movie if there had been good communication!
The longer any kind of episode like this goes on, the deeper and deeper the suspicion and distrust becomes. When there is no communication, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It has a snowballing effect. This goes for all types of relationships, but I find that this story really helps in situations where staff seem to be acting suspiciously. When I have used this story to open up communications, its effect has always been immediate, and long-lasting.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good communications in the workplace. If you believe something is wrong… communicate. I have never seen good communication worsen a situation.
In short: talk. More.