Punch in and shut up

Robert Stacy McCain leads off the Case of the Aggravating Actress with a grandly general — and pretty damned accurate — summary of the way workplaces are supposed to, well, work:

People must be judged strictly on their ability to get the job done. It doesn’t matter whether you “like” somebody or not. It’s not about friendship or popularity. The key to survival is to focus on the task in front of you — cranking it out day after day on deadline — while ignoring all merely personal considerations.

This is one of those big Life Lessons that young people have to learn the hard way, if they are ever to succeed at the highest levels. The real world isn’t like high school. A childish fascination with “popularity” is counter-productive in most real-world work environments. People who attempt to manipulate their way to undeserved success by playing office-politics games will ultimately produce harmful effects to the organization.

I generally don’t claim to be especially “successful,” deserved or otherwise, but I probably have less fear of being sacked than most of the population, simply because I have a good grasp of the nose/grindstone interface: I crank it out, day after day, and my deadlines are only slightly less inexorable than McCain’s.

Have I always been this conscientious? No. However, I have more than a passing acquaintance with the consequences for failing to be.



  1. hatless in hattiesburg »

    12 January 2013 · 3:13 am

    yes things *should* be this way. but the problem is that the manipulative types do gain undeserved success (money, power, fame, etc.) by playing office-politics games, and do not care about the “harmful effects to the organization” that behavior causes.

    ethics just don’t pay too well on this planet…

    (see also matthew 6:19-21)

  2. fillyjonk »

    12 January 2013 · 8:57 am

    On the other hand, there are workplaces where being an out-and-out a-hole to the other people (as opposed to trying to win the popularity contest) WILL get you sacked. I saw it happen to someone at my workplace.

    But McCain does have a point – we’ve lately seen a sharp uptick in e-mails and reminders-at-meetings from highers-up to fulfill our responsibilities, things that make people in my department look at each other in puzzlement and say, “There are people on this campus not doing those things already?” So perhaps there are some cases of someone getting the job (and being retained in the job) on the basis of popularity, who just can’t or won’t cut it in terms of actually productivity, and it makes it that much more annoying for the rest of us.

  3. Charles Pergiel »

    12 January 2013 · 12:26 pm

    I B thinking that LL’s early life has some bearing on both her success and her failure. Dealing with crazy people caused her to learn to act. Living with crazy people, well, she had a bad role model.

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