Saturday, March 26, 2016

Faking It

Siddhartha Mukherjee, describing his boyhood in Delhi, tosses off this:
In the nineteen-sixties, my father, having clambered through the ranks of a Japanese multinational (it was a folie a deux; he spoke incomprehensible English and his managers didn't understand any), had built himself a sizable two-story house. . . .
This immediately put me in mind of other such stories I have heard, of people who faked their way through corporate or bureaucratic life for years, without any idea of how to do their jobs. Are these stories real?

In the old days there were lots of stories about male executives whose work was all done by their secretaries.

These days there are lots of stories about people who go to team meetings and spout lots of buzzwords and impress their bosses with their can-do attitude, but never actually produce anything. How real is that?


G. Verloren said...

I'm convinced there's some measure of truth to it.

If you're in a middle management position, your job is effectively to get other people to do their jobs - you don't actually produce anything yourself anyway. Thus, most employers measure the value of such a manager not on their own personal merits, but on the output of the people below them.

If you have a bit of luck and the people under you are competant and productive on their own, all it takes is a bit of fast talking to claim the credit for their labor and thus get paid to do nothing. Even if productivity is merely modest, you can spin it positively by talking about intangibles and abstracts - sure, raw numbers might not be changing, but drive home that you have "a good feeling" about your team and talk about how impressed you are with them and how much you believe in them, and that's typically enough.

And if your luck isn't so good and your underlings are subpar, you can still maybe turn things around by being critical of their work and recommending they be fired and replaced - you make yourself seem to be competant and taking the initiative, while at the same time getting to "roll the dice" again with the new hires, and maybe luck out with competant and productive individuals whose hard work you can then take credit for.

And even then, if that tactic doesn't appear to be panning out quickly enough, you can just quit before any of the blame blows back to you, then go work for someone else, leveraging the first job's failure to your own benefit by framing it as valuable prior management "experience".

Susi said...

Uncle was a lawyer & VP @ a large insurance Co. He said he checked into to office @ 9, played tennis until checking back in@ 11, Lunch, then tennis and recheck before going home. I asked what he Really was there for? He said that by the time a problem got to him it was considered unsolvable by all lower level managers. He was the final problem solver. When he got that problem he earned his pay.

pootrsox said...

Based on my daughter's experiences in a large insurance company, it's accurate!