by Toby Cowern
Selco and I hold ourselves to what we refer to as the triple-A standard on the information we share. What is the triple-A standard? Accessible, Affordable, and Actionable. We strive for that with everything we do. Selco and I both believe there’s always something you can do to improve your chances of a better outcome.
A story of my Nan and how she taught me about the “P.L.O.M.S.”
Not plums, the nice, juicy fruit that you enjoy. P.L.O.M.S
I was introduced to the concept of P.L.O.M.S by my Nan when I was very little. My Nan was of the Second World War fighting generation, as was my Granddad. My Nan stands at 4′ 11″, so I stood head and shoulders above her as a teenager. Still, you did not want to mess with her.
She was the first fierce woman I ever encountered in my life. And she knew how to own a situation. One day, as a sort of slovenly youth of 11 or 12 years old, I moped about something. I remember getting grabbed and pinned up against the wall by this mighty midget.
She said to me, “Don’t you get ploms!”
For my Nan, P.L.O.M.S stood for poor little old me syndrome. And quite simply, in her generation, nothing good could come from feeling sorry for yourself. You either snapped out of it or got slapped out of it. Those are your two escalation levels. Either somebody grabs you and shakes you and says, “Stop it.” Or, if that didn’t work, you’d get a wallop.
Mental fatigue aka P.L.O.M.S. still exists, but the world has moved on
There is an exceptionally more sensitive population now, typically participating in the “Victim Olympics.” There is massive empowerment in being a victim. Therefore, people are very reluctant to move out of that victim dynamic. When they drop into P.L.O.M.S, it’s easy, and dare I say, highly desirable to stay there. The “snap or slap” is no longer effective.
As the fatigue of the pandemic bites, we’re seeing people jaded and frayed. People are struggling and apathetic, and hard to motivate. And that is entirely normal and perfectly understandable. But what that is, is a compromise. It’s a compromise to operational effectiveness. So what you then start to get is people struggling to fulfill fundamental roles due to lack of motivation or self-pity. (ie: the P.L.O.M.S)
The effect of mental fatigue on group dynamics
People massively underestimate group dynamics. Selco and I reference this constantly and even did a webinar about communities with a large focus on personalities. For those of you suffering from fatigue (and maybe the P.L.O.M.S) you have got to start making objective decisions. Otherwise, you will begin to compromise situations. This is particularly true in a group dynamic or family unit. The farther in advance you can manage expectations, the better.
Here is an example:
Let’s say your group starts to run around-the-clock security. Everybody needs to be on guard for 45 minutes to two hours. Each person needs to take their turn. And, in nearly every group situation there is that one person who will make this challenging. You can do your level best to coax that person around and get them on board. However, you might have to decide what is and isn’t going to work. Forcing the issue will only compromise operational effectiveness.
You choose to take that person off duty because you don’t trust their ability to engage properly. As soon as you take that person off duty it sends a clear message to that person. It also sends a clear message to everyone in the group. However, if you force that person to perform security patrols when they are not engaged, there could be a compromise to the group’s security.
The above example may be a bit extreme. Let’s take something as simple as cooking duties. The person who routinely cooks for the group has hit the point they can no longer come up with three meals a day, every day. You might say something as simple as, “Take a day off.” Quite often, all people need is what I refer to as a micro-break and a little taste of normalcy. After a bit of pressure release, they bounce back and get back on board.
In either situation, it’s time for a judgment call. A solution is needed.
Every one of us is susceptible to the Poor Little Old Me Syndrome
The vast majority of us do not have a military-trained force clustered around us. And even if we did, that doesn’t exempt us from these problems. Not all military branches are created equally, not all service standards are created equally, not all individuals are created equally. We will tire, will will become fatigued and we will struggle. We may even indulge in some self-pity that would cause Nan to smack us.
Ask yourself: “What are the situations I can push, manage, improve and grow?” Then develop a model to negotiate across the entire group or family unit. (Remember, even if the group is accepting of those decisions, there will be consequences.)
Knowing when it’s time to make objective decisions is often overlooked. When everybody’s tired, fatigued, and struggling, and one person is struggling more than the others, the situation can become dangerous. Catching these issues early on and managing them is crucial. If you feel you don’t have the management skills needed, make sure someone in your group does. Allocate that position to the person who is capable of this type of group management.
Have you (or someone in your group) been struggling with mental fatigue?
Are you dealing with mental fatigue right now? I strongly suspect family units and large groups are tired and fatigued. Know that it is quite common. Many of you may think it’s just you, but it’s not. There are many others who are overwhelmed with it all and have indeed got a case of the P.L.O.M.S. Please share your stories in the comments. Let’s reassure each other that we are not alone.
Toby Cowern has an extensive background in the military, emergency services, risk management, and business continuity, combined with applied wilderness and urban survival skills. He discusses personal safety, security, and the crossover of military skills to the average civilian.