Experience is a good teacher.
I learned a lot from getting my hand burnt – and from that experience, learned how to avoid accidentally placing my hand back onto that corporate stove again.
But problems are like chameleons, and come in various forms, so you end up repeating the same mistakes several times over, which is why the saying goes, a fool who persists in his folly eventually becomes wise. By repeating the same mistake, you learn what all forms it can assume, and how to avoid getting snared into them.
That being said, there are some mistakes you are better off not making. Getting addicted to hard drugs or marrying the wrong woman are mistakes you ought to commit if you are actively trying to ruin your life.
That too being said, the ones I’ve mentioned in this article will sound trivial, because they are, although they made me feel like the whole world was closing in on me at the time.
Honesty is the Best Idiocy
Those who are honest and forthright are deemed virtuous, but that virtuousness will get you in trouble. People don’t want you to be frank – they want you to make them feel like they have control over you.
They expect you to feign commitment, joy or obedience to them, no matter how badly they treat you.
Honest interactions aren’t valued – its the expected interaction that are.
You are expected to comply, and working at a job entails expectations you ought to fulfil. They aren’t just based on the work you were hired to perform, but also how you present it to them. You can’t just do your work and go about your day once it’s done – it has to be noticed.
That means, you have to go out of your way to show you are working, sometimes even exaggerate how much work you had to do.
I hate behaving like that.
I am not the type to feign emotions, which is why I felt very uncomfortable reading 48 Laws of Power. It was advising me to put on a show in an attempt to impress those in positions of power.
It’s not that I didn’t make an attempt to understand the dynamic, but that I was a very bad actor. I knew I had to play the game by their rules, but my stubbornness got the better of me.
But that stubbornness went away once I got whipped into submission. I had to endure it because my job depended on it, and became stubborn free within seconds.
Granted, I made mistakes at work which was mostly responsible for my troubles. Those mistakes were committed out of sheer negligence or naively assuming the corporate system will function like it should in theory.
Work hard, get noticed, and get promoted is the theory, while work smart, showcase more and get promoted is what takes place in practice.
I only paid attention to whatever work I was assigned, not to the expectations of my managers.
If you are employed and don’t receive work, you have to inform the managers that you weren’t getting any. They aren’t paying you to spend 8 hours at the office; that only happens in socialist shitholes like Venezuela. You can’t just sit idly by and hope the manager understands why your performance is low whenever they pull out the monthly performance reports.
Those reports recite a different story, and it’s your duty to understand how that works, if you want to retain your job.
I joined the IT field as a trainee right after graduation. As happy as I was, being one of the lucky few who bagged a job right after college, I wasn’t prepared for what was in store for me after I joined the company.
When you join any organization, you are expected to fulfil two roles:
- Train yourself and provide proof of training, i.e., through certification and engaging in whatever community is present at your workplace
- Raise your performance stats by completing tasks assigned by your superiors, or resolving technical issues faced by your clients.
I switched profiles from presales to consultant – the only trainee to do so in my company. I didn’t like the profile that I was assigned to first, and spoke to the HR regarding my dissatisfaction, who were generous enough to transfer me to another department. I’ve heard lots of horror stories regarding the HR, but mine turned out just fine.
That move of mine tarnished my image a little, since it looks bad when you switch over in the beginning itself. You’re seen as weak and incompetent if that happens, and arrogant, as an added bonus, if you initiate it yourself.
When I joined my new team, I was put into training, and within few weeks, COVID-19 became a pandemic, and everyone had to connect from home.
So for four months I sat there, staring at my laptop, fretting about what I had to do next. I wasn’t receiving any work, even though I was assigned to a project, because the guy who was supposed to train me didn’t do so. I wasn’t familiar with the software, and he didn’t want to risk it by letting me handle any of the issues.
He also didn’t want to risk teaching me anything either, because then I’d have been more than capable of handling issues and accidentally take over his domain. Of course, I had no intention of taking over anyone’s area of expertise, but there’s nothing wrong with being a little cautious right?
And as you can imagine, things didn’t play out so well for me.
My practice head got involved, and decided to push the zero performance worker (i.e., me), into another sub-department.
Why Did This Happen?
First, I didn’t accomplish task No.2
I did complete my training courses, but since I wasn’t given any issues to handle on my own, my performance stat remained at zero. I didn’t even reach out to my managers, because I believed it was their job to assign issues to me which it is, and that if I wasn’t receiving any task, it was because there were no tasks.
Turns out, I was mistaken, and I paid a costly price for that assumption.
Secondly, I am blunt when I speak.
I don’t make any attempt to hide or camouflage myself. If I didn’t know or do something, I’d say No. I never gave explanations or resorted to lying about knowing things I clearly didn’t invest any thought or practice into. This attitude of mine never resulted in a good outcome, because people usually deal with others who always make an attempt to impress them, while I just gave one word answers and let the white noise fill in the rest.
They regarded my quick and blunt responses as a display of arrogance, when all I was doing was answering their questions to whatever extent I could.
The Corporate World
I was also blunt in my assumption of how the corporate system functioned, and that put me in a tight spot.
But the fact remains, that you get what you put out. I didn’t put out anything because I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. I didn’t want to tell my managers that I wasn’t getting any help, or any work for that matter – I was too scared to approach them.
I was scared because I didn’t know what to say to them, or to the asshole who refused to share his work with me.
I didn’t show any sign of performance, and that was the metric they judged me by. It is my fault, for not paying attention to the way the system was designed to operate. I foolishly thought things would come to me, when it was me who was supposed to go chasing after them.
Why Being Blunt Is a Problem
First of all, most people aren’t blunt. They hide behind bricks cemented out of euphemisms, and know how to portray themselves in a good light.
If you are blunt in your approach, chances are you are blunt in the way you perceive the world. The world operates on its own terms; not the ones you want it to. We often make the mistake of interpreting events in a way that makes sense to us, instead of paying attention to what they actually resemble.
If you find yourself unjustly placed on the receiving end, it is because you didn’t pay attention to the expectations placed on your superiors. If you want to play it safe, then you ought to view their problems are your problems. If the team performance is lagging, you have to raise yours no matter what, even if it’s at the cost of others. When you shine, that makes them shine, and thats all that matters to them.
It’s a dog-eat-dog, not a dog-eat-veggies world.
Its survival of the fittest, no survival of the meekest.
And thats how the game is played.