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Scott Adams in WSJ: The Perfect Stimulus--Bad Management
Old 11-06-2010, 10:17 AM   #1
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Scott Adams in WSJ: The Perfect Stimulus--Bad Management

Scott Adams hits it on the (pointy) head again.

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. . .Though most of my immediate bosses were entirely reasonable and competent, the organization at large was riddled with hamster-brained sociopaths in leadership roles. Surely, I thought, this must be a problem that exists no place else on Earth. Otherwise we'd all be living in caves and holding long meetings on the feasibility of using sticks as stabby things.

. . . I think we all understood that working in a cubicle and being managed by Satan's learning-challenged little brother was not a recipe for happiness. The way I describe it may sound pessimistic, but consider the alternative. Imagine a parallel universe where employees enjoy going to work. They feel empowered and fulfilled—so much so that they don't care about the size of their paychecks and never want to leave their jobs. That's exactly the sort of nightmare scenario that would destroy the economy. The last thing this world needs is a bunch of dopey-happy workers who can't stop humming and grinning. Our system requires a continuous supply of highly capable people who are so disgruntled with their jobs that they are willing to chew off their own arms to escape their bosses. The economy needs hamster-brained sociopaths in management to drive down the opportunity cost of entrepreneurship. Luckily, we're blessed with an ample supply.
. . . .

You see this same dynamic with countries. The United States is a nation founded by people who couldn't stand the leaders of their old homelands. I'm no geneticist, but I suspect that the "screw it, I'm out of here" attitude can get passed on. We're probably the most disgruntled, self-loathing, hard-to-satisfy people on Earth. It's no wonder our GDP is awesome.
Israel is another perfect example. The entire nation is full of people who were displeased with their last situation. And Israel's economy is one of the most vibrant in the world. If every Israeli became satisfied at once, they couldn't keep the lights on for a week.
I have always assumed there's a correlation between imagination and risk-taking. You wouldn't leave an unpleasant but relatively safe situation unless you could imagine a better outcome. So the people who leave a company first tend to be the visionaries who can best imagine entrepreneurial success.
I think the bolded part might apply to the concept of ER, too. Those who can imagine a different, better existence outside of w*rk are the ones most likely to jump off the careening train.
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Old 11-06-2010, 10:25 AM   #2
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Our system requires a continuous supply of highly capable people who are so disgruntled with their jobs that they are willing to chew off their own arms to escape their bosses. The economy needs hamster-brained sociopaths in management to drive down the opportunity cost of entrepreneurship.
He obviously spent some time at my former workplace.
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Old 11-06-2010, 06:39 PM   #3
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Scott Adams hits it on the (pointy) head again.
What a wonderful, wonderful article.
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Old 11-06-2010, 06:56 PM   #4
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What a wonderful, wonderful article.
And he's right, too!
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Old 11-06-2010, 07:01 PM   #5
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This may win Adams the Noble Prize.

(Yes Al, I meant to spell it that way...)
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Old 11-06-2010, 07:51 PM   #6
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This may win Adams the Noble Prize.

(Yes Al, I meant to spell it that way...)
At least a Pulitzer prize.
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Old 11-06-2010, 08:39 PM   #7
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This may win Adams the Noble Prize.
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At least a Pulitzer prize.
Does he have to be nominated by his boss?
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Old 11-06-2010, 11:18 PM   #8
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In HR it is well known that when an organization offers an incentive to leave, or an 'early out', the folks who take advantage of it are the people you want to keep.
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Old 11-07-2010, 06:09 AM   #9
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Great populist satire, Scott Adams forte and profession.

No denying his quote below is accurate, but on both counts. While there are most definitely "hamster-brained sociopaths in leadership roles" that make our work lives miserable, most are reasonable and competent.

And most 'workers' are reasonable and competent, but there are many more hamster-brained sociopaths in worker roles, and having them as co-workers can sometimes make our lives even more miserable than bad leadership. Some hamster-brained co-workers get themselves fired - thank goodness. But many have learned how to identify where the acceptable lowest common denominator of technical and behavioral performance is, and walk that line forever - to the constant dismay of leaders and other co-workers alike. Those of you who bemoan leaders, tell me you've never had a co-worker you'd like to strangle. I've certainly had employees, peers and bosses who were 'sociopaths' or the like.

"Sociopaths" and other PITA's walk among us, in all walks of life...

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. . .Though most of my immediate bosses were entirely reasonable and competent, the organization at large was riddled with hamster-brained sociopaths in leadership roles.
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Old 11-07-2010, 06:59 AM   #10
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+1 Midpack. Some people may race up to their level of incompetence but there are plenty of others who are so F'd up they never get out of the blocks. That's why everybody dreams about "writing a book about this place."
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Old 11-07-2010, 07:53 AM   #11
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. . . but there are many more hamster-brained sociopaths in worker roles. . .
And who is ultimately responsible for the continued presence of these people in the workplace? Back to management.
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Old 11-07-2010, 07:55 AM   #12
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And who is ultimately responsible for the continued presence of these people in the workplace? Back to management.
I thought I addressed that, the days of firing workers because they're simply sociopaths or ass____ ended decades ago for most organizations. Seniority rules are just one example...
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Some hamster-brained co-workers get themselves fired - thank goodness. But many have learned how to identify where the acceptable lowest common denominator of technical and behavioral performance is, and walk that line forever - to the constant dismay of leaders and other co-workers alike.
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Old 11-07-2010, 07:59 AM   #13
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the days of firing workers because they're simply sociopaths or ass____ ended decades ago
Why would someone be fired for being assiduous?
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Old 11-07-2010, 09:03 AM   #14
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In HR it is well known that when an organization offers an incentive to leave, or an 'early out', the folks who take advantage of it are the people you want to keep.
I noticed this when MegaMotors had a huge buyout program. Some of the very top performers were actually excluded from a buyout offer and still left in the rush.
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Old 11-07-2010, 10:24 AM   #15
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I noticed this when MegaMotors had a huge buyout program. Some of the very top performers were actually excluded from a buyout offer and still left in the rush.
CBS tried to buy out a number of their mid-level hamsters managers in the early 1990s with an early-retirement offer.

However the IBEW union shop pointed out that by labor law the buyout had to also be offered to the rank & file, not just the management... at which point most of the union employees took the offer as well. It pretty well cleaned out the place, and most of the technical work had to be covered by temps & contractors. Guess where they found those people?
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Old 11-07-2010, 10:43 AM   #16
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............. Guess where they found those people?
Right - in any specialty area there is only so much on-hand talent. At MegaMotors a supplier would occasionally be desourced, then the "new" supplier would show up with his team. Not surprisingly it was all the same people from the old supplier - they needed new jobs and the new supplier needed people with experience in this area.
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Old 11-07-2010, 09:33 PM   #17
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I noticed this when MegaMotors had a huge buyout program. Some of the very top performers were actually excluded from a buyout offer and still left in the rush.
Another HR truth is that the employees who leave early in a downsizing scheme are more likely to land on their feet. As the scheme progresses more similarly qualified folks will be seeking employment.. those who break out of the gate early have the best chance of finishing in the money.
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