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
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.