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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, April 24, 2004

The rules of work

The rules of work

I was just watching TLC's Not what to wear, where twin Filipina sisters dressed 10 years younger than they were. Their coworkers had nothing but negative comments on their clothes. Which was a problem, since they were accountants for ad agencies.

See, the first rule of work is look the part. Nothing marks the losers from the winners than the people who show up dressed work appropriate. In some places, you have to wear a suit, in some places, you have to wear a Spiderman T-shirt. But you need to look the part. Apperances matter, more than you would think. A lot of programmers, who are wickedly bright, can't get promoted because they never mastered basic hygene. You can't send someone to meet a client who reeks of not taking a bath.

That may seem minor, but it isn't. It's bad enough that no programmer think they suck, but to smell bad?

The second rule is be loyal. Now, a lot of people were waxing about how Tami Silicio did this great thing. Few of you, because you agreed with her actions, thought about how she was disloyal to her employer. This is a woman who'd already sued Halliburton (more on that later), and who's employment prospects were shaky, at least as an overseas contractor.

Now, if you're her boss, how can you trust her? You've already given her a chance, and this is how she repays you. In the greater scheme of things, her's was a moral act. But as an employee, she's completely untrustworthy.

Here's a simple solution: quit. If your company's morals don't match yours, quit. All of you rushing to Silicio defense, should consider another case of personal morals in the workplace. Many pharmacists are now refusing to fill birth control prescriptions because they consider it a form of abortion. Now, imagine you're going to get a refill, and the pharmacist now is making a moral judgment on your life. You'd be outraged, demand the pharmacist be fired. He's not there to make moral judgments on how you live, but to fill your prescription.

My feeling is simple: quit. Work in a place which allows you to pick and choose who you serve. Forcing your employer to accomodate your political beliefs is unfair to them and their customers.

Third, your company has a culture. Try to change it and you'll be fired. I once read a letter from a guy who said he could revolutionize the Internet, but that everyone he worked with was stupid. After I kept reading, I realized the guy was as loony as they come. The public rarely sees such letters, journalists always do.

Unless you're the CEO, you either deal with the culture as is, or you quit. Or be fired. Companies, as a rule, like friction free workplaces. So guy screaming about how this process or that process sucks, usually with no tact, is going to get noticed and then fired. There are ways to change things, usually involving politics and negotiations, otherwise, if you stick up, you'll be pulled out and tossed aside.

Being right is less important than being smart. People are right about a lot of things, few people are listened to. The person who fits in, establishes themselves as ethical and responsible, is the person who can say no and mean it. Credibility is everything at work and few people bother to establish it.

Fourth is protect yourself. Someone claimed that Joe Wilson and Richard Clarke were whistleblowers. They were anything but. They secured their incomes, pensions and new jobs before they ever said a word. Clarke waited until he left before he said a word about counterterrorism in public. Suing your employer will, in most cases, get you blackballed in that industry. Tami Silicio, in normal times, would have been unhireable as an overseas contractor, because she sued Halliburton for violating her rights.

Being right is one thing, few companies will hire someone who sues their employer in a given field. Companies are litigiation shy and want to avoid anyone who will unleash the lawyers. Even firing people is fraught with legal challenges.

If you know this, you don't then place yourself at risk. Unless you're hired to make policy, you have to live by it.

While some whistleblowers are genuine heroes, most have an axe to grind in one way or the other. While people sang the praises of Colleen Rowley, it is no mystery as to why her information didn't make it up the chain of command. She not only didn't coopt her bosses into endorsing her viewpoint, she dressed like a mouse and was socially isolated from her peers. Now, in the real world, you can be as right as rain, but if people look at you as a freak, no one will take you seriously. No one was going to risk their career for her.

Richard Clarke and Rand Beers were a lot smarter. Beers just quit and went to work for Kerry. He threw up his hands and walked away. Clarke took a different job, kept his notes and waited. So when he wrote his book, all the White House could do was call him a liar. They couldn't take any money out of his pocket. They had the effect they wanted, but they protected themselves in the process.

When Sherron Watkins ratted out her bosses at Enron, she was depicted as a hero. But when people talked to her coworkers, it became a case of who would drop a dime first. Watkins was described as an always screaming workplace bully, little better than her bosses. She was roundly detested by her peers.

What people need to consider is that truly ethical people will quit a job before they violate their sense of ethics. If someone expects to keep a job after violating their employer's trust, which in some cases needs to be violated, they are naive or delusional.

The fifth rule is that you aren't working with your friends. Too many people expect that their "friends" at work will support them. Well, if you get in trouble, they are usually the first people to run away. Always have a social life seperate from work, with different people. It's OK to get along with your coworkers, but your relationship is economic. Expecting them to be loyal to you over the job will often lead to disappointment. Your life should be seperate from what you do, unless you are in a band.

Why? Well, see all the glowing pieces on Google? How they fix lunch and dinner for their employees? Well, why do they do that? Because the fuckers never leave the place. They have people pushing 10-12 hour days easy. You cannot have a life and work for them. Any place where you can wear what you want and play with toys is going to ask for your soul in exchange. You will have no life as long as you work there. You will become socially and morally stunted.

I don't care if you can become rich, you will lose part of your humanity in the process.

posted by Steve @ 3:13:00 PM

3:13:00 PM

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