Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Getting Ahead by Keeping Quiet

Some conjecture about garnering success in business, at least when you're on lower ladder rungs.

In contemplating my own frustrations in my career I wonder if I had done a lot of unnecessary talking about my ideals at work. I'm not a rude boaster by any means and have never taken to preaching to people or annoying them with my views, but a part of me wonders if my talk of ideals actually provoked irrational people into sabotaging my efforts, like while I was a bartender.

One thing I mentioned before in being a bartender is that my managers intentionally manipulated my shifts to make sure that I didn't become competent at my job. They shouted at me when I engaging in costumer service. If I were away but for a second, they would take drink orders away from me even though they should have called me. I was even once banned from using a cash register during a meal rush, even though it was one of my duties, as the manager didn't want me to get the practice in. Overall it's obvious that the deep degree of interference they tossed at me was to prevent me from developing as a bartender, even though I was "promoted" to that position. They even kept me on the worst shift possible with no prospects for better hours. The whole thing was a joke.

Back at that restaurant I happened to be vocal about my aspirations for the restaurant industry. I spoke with great enamor and proved I was passionate by being a very, very, very ambitious employee. I utterly proved that I wanted to get ahead in the restaurant industry and be successful, and while I did discuss my interests, ideas, and ideals, I didn't push them in anyone's face, lecture, or anything. I just put myself out there and minded my own business.

In contrast, however, all of the people I worked with were totally disinterested in the restaurant industry. Not-a one of them wanted to stay in it. (It's was a chain restaurant, where it's common to find people just working for paychecks, as opposed to the more passionate people in fine dining.) Most, if not all, explicitly hated their jobs, and it definitely showed in how they took shortcuts, did less than their best work, delegated like mad, and so forth. They hated their job and couldn't perform that well as a consequence of that intense disinterest.

That means, in comparison, they can see at least on a subconscious level that my passion enables me to outshine them in ability since my interest pushes and pushes me forward while their disinterest drags and drags them back, and it's not like I'm trying to compete with them or anything; I just minded my own affairs and tried doing my best.

As such, they felt inferior and insecure in comparison, and knew on some level that I would surpass them since I was vocally and in practice all about bettering myself. Rather than work to better their own selves . . . or simply step aside, since I'd pick up the slack . . . they purposely tried holding me back by stealing orders, sabotaging my costumer service, and so forth. I think they even semi-purposely set me up for "problems" by improperly ringing things up and then blaming me for it.

I'm dealing with hypotheticals here, but just maybe . . . if I were silent about my ideals, would I have gotten further ahead?

One thing I've noticed about irrational people is that they tend to have the propensity to be able to admire the end results of things while detesting or ignoring the means. My Paleo diet has caused people to nag me with their health concerns, and then those same people ignorantly compliment my improving health. My attempts at autodidactism were met with condescension and interruptions, and then those same people are impressed at how intelligent I've become. A hairstylist once even complimented me greatly on the softness of my hair, and then argued against the means when I told my washing routine. Nonsensical.

Surely you have many events in your own life like this. The common thread is that all these people have their own conceptions as to what means are "supposed" to lead to what end results -- whether it be in health, schooling, or hair -- and when they see a set of end results reached by some means they ruled out or disagree with, they kind of phase out, won't accept reality, or even go so forth as to get really upset.

In society this problem can lead to the broad conflict of people constantly fawning over end results while attacking the means. For instance, back in the Paleo example the person who nagged me about it happened to eat the opposite diet, the Standard American Diet, and it had obviously made her very sick. By being aware that my Paleo means were achieving my health she became aware on a subconscious level that her means weren't working, and internally that generated guilt and self-doubt. Rather than address the issue in herself, she turns her emotional energy out onto me as if I were the source of her problem, when really I just make her aware of it. In other words, instead of addressing her issues, she's going after the referent in reality that makes her aware of her problem and experience all those bad emotions; she wants the referent to "go away" so the emotions will go away too, and so she attempted to get me to stop eating Paleo.

Tying this back into my bartending problem, I think that being so explicit about my ideals made my managers feel self-aware of their own shortcomings caused by their own vices, and instead of addressing their issues they . . . you guessed it! . . . went after the referent in reality that made them feel this way. They needed my ambitious work behavior to "go away" so that their negative feelings would go away, which meant disrupting my costumer service, making false claims about my ability to handle the cash register, stealing drink orders so I couldn't practice, and so forth. So long as I couldn't engage my ambition full-force I wouldn't become a good bartender . . . and they won't have to worry about having their voluntary inferiority highlighted. I wouldn't "beat" them in this imaginary competition they construct in their heads.

So maybe it was a mistake to do that talking about my restaurant interests. The talk made them aware of the means to my ends: My high work ethic, innovativeness, etc. If I had not spoken of my ideals, then perhaps I could have gotten further ahead. My hypothesis is that by concealing my means through silence they wouldn't have any intellectual boost in being able to compare my means to theirs and consequently feel "bad" about it, so perhaps I could have advanced by them getting pleased over and over by the end results I achieve, without getting them the chance to be offended by my means. They can come to whatever conclusion they want about my ability.

It's terrible, but I think a lot of people just really cling to what their conception of "means" is, so when they see something that contradicts them they go after the thing that's making them feel that way, rather than checking their conceptions for falsehoods. It's a human tendency to want to turn a torrent of negative emotion onto an external object rather than direct it internally, for the latter is incredibly painful.

The only reason I ever wanted to share my ideas is because I wanted to bond with other people and thought they'd be happy to have my advice on how to make their work easier and more efficient, but unfortunately I've witnessed hostility over and over again, towards practical techniques, ways to keep motivated, and so forth; it's all pearls before swine, and the swine are angry you dare cast pearls!

It'll be a long while before I'm able to report back on it, but I think from now on I'll try getting ahead at work by purely putting my ability on display, without ever indicating the thinking that goes behind it. Since the odds are that most of the employers I deal with are irrational, that means I can "secretly" get ahead by productivity means they'd be offended at -- such as using a stopwatch for god's sake -- by only keeping the end results before them, and nothing more. If they asked I would even go so far as to say my means are a secret, unless I knew enough that the person was a serious listener. Too often will my means get laughed at, and then person will be mystified as to why no one can perform like I can.

The question to address in the future, however, is when *can* I talk about my ideas? The point here in this quietness is not to be dishonest or evasive, but simply to keep on the down-low that which would stir up irrational employers; it isn't hurting them not to know the ideas, and it's their problem for being hostile to innovative thinking. But at what point could I begin talking about my ideas, to help spread them around for other workers' benefit? My thought is a certain hierarchy of authority, such as in management. When it comes time to have workers under my jurisdiction is when I shall talk. We shall see!


Perhaps getting ahead in this world is all a matter of practicing rational ideas under employers' noses, without them ever knowing. You, reader, will at least observe my ideas, for I will not withhold them from you. It's just an unfortunate thing that so many people are hostile to innovation and good ability; you've really got to be careful about who you speak to, or else an anxious employer could hold you back out of fear.

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