I want you to do something for me right now. I know a lot of you work in cubicles, surrounded by coworkers of varying degrees of competence and tolerability. I just did the same for a few years, so I know what goes on. There’s irony here: my reward for a few years of entertaining bored people working in cubicles was a job where I was given a cubicle of my own.
Anyway, I’d like you to stand up, turn around in a deliberate, observant circle, and ask yourself the following question:
Do my coworkers suck?
If you’re good at your job and you give a shit about what you do for a living, chances are your answer will be yes. And chances are it won’t take standing up and looking around for you to figure this out. You already know.
You don’t want to be surrounded by people who suck, believe me. This is because nobody in their right mind would want to work alongside a collection of incompetent dipshits. It’s no fun, it makes every day feel longer, and you won’t learn anything or get any better at your job. If you think teaching others will help you learn your material better, think again. When you’re instructing a gaggle of anuses who are incapable of grasping even the most basic concepts of what you’re trying to get across, it won’t do jack shit for your skills, either.
It’s a waste of your time, and it’s frustrating as hell.
If this were the only problem, things wouldn’t be so bad, but there’s far more to it. The overriding characteristic among people who suck is that they don’t like being told how bad they are at their jobs. The competent man welcomes criticism because it helps him get better. The mediocrity breaks into tears and files an HR complaint. Such is life.
In some jobs—professional sports, for example—it’s acceptable and customary to tell people they suck. If you write a bad book, you’ll be told how sucky you are again and again, for years. In other occupations, however, it’s somehow unacceptable to tell people they suck, even when they’re taking home a competitive wage for mediocre work—and here, the “you suck” declaration comes long after repeated attempts to get these people to not suck. This is where shit starts to go sideways for the competent man.
In the latter case, you have two choices. You can either stay silent, suck it up, and do your work—although you’d better hope your work isn’t dependent upon your mediocre coworkers, lest you find yourself lumped in with them when it’s time for upper management review. Or, you can make some waves and say something about how badly they suck. This, too, is dicey, because the one thing people who suck are proficient at is survival.
People who suck at something find employment because they know how to survive. In stark contrast, competent people—naïve ones, to be sure—often don’t develop these same survival skills because they haven’t ever needed smoke and mirrors—or someone who misguidedly and thanklessly lobbied for them, in some cases—to either get or keep a job.
When the attentions of the mediocre are focused on you, you’re bound to run into trouble. Here’s the thing about mediocre people: They’re either too lazy or too stupid to get any better at their jobs, but they’ll very quickly develop a laserlike focus and intensity when it comes to their own survival. Ask them to write a simple memo, and you’ll receive a steaming pile of hot garbage in return. Tell them the truth about their work, however, and you’ll see more effort in an hour—designed, of course, to snuff out the truth—than you’d seen over the past five years combined.
The solution? Get the fuck out before it’s too late. This may sound like cliché-ridden bullshit, but life is too short to tolerate mediocrity—either from your employer or from the people you have to work with every day. I did it for far too long, and I feel like I lost a year or two of my life as a result. What I eventually gained was a knowledge of what I sure as hell didn’t want.
How do you get out? You work at it. Figure out where you want to be in a year, tune out the noise from assholes like the ones I’ve had to deal with, put your head down, and work. That’s all you can do. The rest of it doesn’t matter—especially when you’re banging your head against a brick wall to make money for someone else.