Parallel Paradigms—our place in the universe and in the workplace

Some claim that humans are so much more than we seem to be and that our true nature and our true potential are being hidden from us. Such claims happen to parallel the paradigm I see in the workplace.

For example, many of us are multi-talented individuals with the potential to provide value far beyond what our employers are willing to allow us to do for them. This is even more true for individuals who are computer programmers like myself; however, when we demonstrate amazing abilities—even as a programmer—we almost always get ignored and/or slapped down.

Everything I am about to call out is beyond what can be explained by ordinary psychology and business incentives; otherwise, I wouldn't be writing about it. For example, the appropriate level of skepticism would be that I lack sufficient people skills and assertiveness, but that is not the case. For example, I am immune to bullying and peer pressure, and I am not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the CEO of my company.

I can often diagnose the root cause of the problems facing a business better than management can. I have done this on my own initiative for at least six companies, but such efforts almost got me fired every time (although management sometimes pretended to be appreciative). A few years later, after I was proven right in each case, management was still unreceptive to guidance from me. Even when all of management was replaced for their failure, and I presented my original analysis that could have saved them to the new management, they were just as uninterested as the previous management.

To be clear, I am identifying incentives beyond what is ordinary. For example, I can deduce the ordinary incentive that new management and old management are both just as likely to kill the messenger, and what that looks like in this case is the old management being afraid that my message (that things are less than perfect) will get to their boss and/or their political rivals within the company. Likewise, new management is afraid that I might figure out that things are less than perfect under them, and that such a message might get out. Their short-term fear overrides their ability to think more strategically.

If management were capitalists, they would be most interested in the potential to increase profits, which means they should have embraced my analysis in each case. So we see that management does not consist of capitalists. That is the first reveal that the system does not work as we are led to believe. (The most interesting reveals will come last.)

Lest one think I am exaggerating, consider that when I was a teenager, I didn't know my place, so I sent a letter to the US Secretary of Defense explaining how their imminent plan to deploy the new MX ICBM in a "dense pack" could be defeated by the USSR, and the US government cancelled that plan 3 weeks later. Now imagine how much more savvy I must be decades later. Just as I saved the country in that instance, I sometimes provided similarly strategic guidance to save the companies/divisions I worked for. Nevertheless, the direction employers have been moving in for decades is that they are only willing to feed us programmers little tasks in a highly bureaucratic manner as if we are factory workers. If we have any ideas for how to improve their business (or even their software), we get ignored and/or slapped down.

Now consider that my analyses are never based on secret information. Anyone in the company who had sufficient savvy and who put sufficient thought into it could make the same deductions I do—and sometimes they do, but surprisingly, those higher up who have access to the best information are never the ones who make the best deductions.

If management, who gets paid the most, were promoted based on their ability (relative to those under them) to analyze business issues, then they would be the best at such analysis, but they are not. So we see that management does not consist of those who are the best at business. That is the second reveal that the system does not work as we are led to believe.

There are many non-essential soft-skill jobs compared to a few decades ago. For companies that develop software, these jobs used to be performed by programmers in their spare time. Such jobs include scrum masters, team managers, product managers, business analysts, and product owners. These jobs are less intellectually challenging and are typically 80-90% women. Multi-talented programmers like myself know that we can do all of these jobs better than the people doing them, and that these jobs are non-essential. By separating these jobs from the programmers, a lot gets lost in translation, but programmers don't like this work as much as the more intellectually challenging work, so we are content to let others do it.

We are told that soft-skill jobs are essential and are staffed by those who are best at these jobs, but that is not true. That is the third reveal that the system does not work as we are led to believe.

Programmers are fed small tasks 24/7 by these soft-skill individuals. Anything else programmers do is ignored and/or slapped down, and programmers are thus prevented from achieving anywhere near their full potential. Likewise these soft-skill positions offer no opportunity for those individual's to reach their full potential either.

I can think of business ideas (big and small, technical and non-technical) as good as those for whom it is their job. I can think of programming ideas in areas that are not my specialty, and often my ideas are better than the experts in those areas. I can think strategically, creatively, entreprenurially, empathetically, architecturally, financially, etc.—often better than those who get paid to do so. Many of us can do better than those faux-capitalist managers, but there are very good reasons that we don't want to be managers ourselves, and we will see one in the final reveal.

It's not just me. Dozens of programmers create the software where I currently work, but if one of them has an idea to improve the business functionality of that software, he will be ignored and/or slapped down (and yet, I work in a more pleasant environment than most). 

However, we are told that individuals are groomed to provide the maximum possible value, but we see that is not true at all. That is the fourth reveal that the system does not work as we are led to believe.

We see that men and women are all being drafted into a system that nerfs their potential.

The final reveal is perhaps the most interesting.

The net effect of the law is that companies are terrified of being sued into oblivion if they fail to enforce double standards. For example, a woman can tell a joke about men, but a man cannot tell a joke about women. If a man gets in trouble for this, and if his manager has courage, integrity, independent-thinking, and authenticity, then the manager would call this out as a double standard and as PC fascism in the workplace and not support it. Of course, the company must then slap that manager down harder than his employee, or else a prosecutor would use that manager as proof that the company violates the law by allowing an environment hostile to women.​

A manager who had integrity, independent-thinking, and authenticity, but who lacked courage, would still have to be an actor to survive and excel in such an environment; whereas, psychopaths are already great actors and lack courage, integrity, and authenticity. They are good at faking it because they practice faking it, and because to them, agreeing to double standards is like saying meaningless magic words that get them what they want. Psychopaths are psychopaths because they lack empathy or conscience, so they have no problem throwing employees under the bus. Also, psychopaths love power, so they want to be promoted more than anyone else wants it.

We are told that our system rewards courage, integrity, and authenticity, but we see that it actually encourages and promotes psychopaths. That is the fifth reveal that the system does not work as we are led to believe.

We have a system run by psychopaths pretending to be nice people who care and who claim to just be following the law, the culture, and the prescriptions of Harvard Business School, the think-tanks, and the experts.

Imagine trying to reach your full potential in such an environment. It seems pretty nice and normal to the casual observer, but that is more illusion than pretty much anyone realizes. It is actually more toxic than just about anyone realizes, and it was forces outside of these companies that made them that way.

These have been just a few of the many possible examples and reveals. Perhaps you can think of others.

Related Articles:

James Damore -- PC Fascism in the Workplace

What is Wrong with the People.

How a Successful Business Person Thinks

The first time I saved us all

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