Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Politics of Bull Shit

sounding straightforward enough

A long time ago, and in a galaxy far away, I went out to apply for a job. The job involved taking a preliminary 3 day training course followed by some written and verbal exams. If you passed you were in. Sounded straight forward enough.

Prozac poster boy

Now in the job world nothing is straight forward. Though our 1st instructor was quite good, and a born teacher, No 2 was something else. He liked to use movies to demonstrate points about the real world. Sometimes he talked in cartoon voices. Sometimes he acted a bit off so the class would think he was crazy and be intimidated into towing the line. He liked to talk about the fights he used to get into before he got so good at martial arts that he had to worry about seriously hurting his victims. He was a Prozac poster boy.

Anyway the upshot came on the afternoon of day 2. We'd been released for lunch and had to be back within one hour. All of us showed up for our afternoon instruction except one guy who decided to take an extended lunch break. He found his way back through the door about an hour and a half later with a sheepish grin on his face.

introduction to doubletalk 101

Before he can take his seat the instructor calls him out on it "What are you doing back here?" After a little humming and hawing from the guy the instructor puts it to him point blank "Listen you're out. You can stay for the rest of the course if you like, but you can't take the exam. You'll have to re register and take the course over again before you can take that exam, and that will be in about 3 month's time." So what does the guy do but take his seat and stay for the after noon.

Now as it turned out the instructor was only yanking his chain. After the guy had settled in and shown some enthusiasm the instructor started dropping hints. "Very good" and "If you keep this up I might let you take the exam". So the next day at lunch I walked off and never bothered to go back.

go on and waste the rest of the day - I dare ya!

I had some problems with the situation, besides the obvious. For one thing the kid who went to lunch was put in a bad spot. He was more or less obliged to make a poor decision in order to prove that he had a good attitude. Assuming that he took the instructor at his word, staying meant that he wasted the rest of the day, and all of the following day. Though it might have made him ore familiar with the material, for the next time round; that minor advantage has to be weighed against the major disadvantage of loosing a day and a half. He might have spent the time better: doing personal errands, exercising, even looking for another, better job. So he was forced into poor time management. Time management is something that's supposed to be encouraged in employees, along with common sense and good judgment.

though I do expect staff to read my mind, I haven't made it up yet - because I make it up as I go along

Now the obvious problem was that the instructor was fucking around with the kid. He told him that he was out, only to back track a little later. The kid correctly understood this, and managed to anticipate the instructor; because he knew that it was unlikely that the instructor meant what he said. So the wrong decision based on the information became the right one based on game playing. Well and good except this creates a situation where people will be constantly second guessing themselves. "When he said 'do this' did he mean it, or was he just trying to see what I would do?" If the instructor decides to be an asshole, and he was already over half way there, then he had the kid in a damned if you do or don't situation. In other words he can alternately tell the poor sap that "I didn't mean it" or "but that's not what I said" depending on how the kid responded, or how mischievous the instructor was feeling at the moment. So even if you guess right you can still be wrong.

this place is just crazy enough for dumb to be smart

Now the instructor was supposedly a trusted member of the organization. Was he representative of the corp culture? Then imagine how bad the work situation might have gotten 6 months in. Then the poor kid might've wound up wishing that he had taken the day and a half off and had found something better. In fact I was tempted to ask, during the training session "Suppose you're working late and you hear someone outside. They're trying doors, rattling around the windows, and opening the dumpster. What do you do: phone the cops, go out to investigate, or assume our friend is trying to keep us on our toes and then put on coffee and open the main door so he can come in for a visit?"

remember to leave dumb & crazy at the office

Sounds far fetched but it's an example of the level of confusion that was being created. In fact it wasn't so far fetched since the guy was quite capable of dropping in for a prank if he happened to be coming home from his girlfriend's, from being out with the guys, or out at a club; and realizing the office was on the way home with a new employee working late. Perfect set up for some fun! Remember that a decision is only stupid if it's wrong; and with a guy like that anything's possible! So stupid could be right if you've guessed correctly. Just don't get conditioned into guessing dumb cause it'll mess you up outside the office!

the wheel was crooked, and there were other jobs in town

So if the instructor was representative of the corp culture, then taking a job there was walking into a nut house. In fact had I been one of the exces, and sitting in on the antics, I'd have told the instructor to go home and asked the kid to stay. "We'll get rid of the jerk, and see how you work out from there." That way the kid is on notice, and a serious office trouble source has been eliminated. I don't know how it worked out because I walked on day 3, but I imagine that the kid eventually wound up as the instructor's assistant. He seemed to be receiving on the right wrong frequency.

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