When I walk into my office, I get the feeling that everyone is in on one big lie & no-one is telling me. There is enthusiasm, there is passion, there is a sense of a greater good. But something’s not quite right. It is, it seems, a façade.
You can’t fake authenticity. Behind the smiles, the impassioned speeches & talk of purpose the truth betrays itself. I see looks of frustration when no-one is looking & sadness behind their eyes. I see a culture of refusing to update to oneself that you may in fact have been wrong to take this job.
So we continue, busying ourselves throughout the day, refusing to admit to ourselves that what we are doing is a sham.
How to identify it?
Sometimes it may be easy. If you launch a shit product & the launch event feels like it’s straight out of North Korea (wailing, crying & hysteria in excess), then something is probably up.
However, the truth tends to reveal itself in what is not being done.
When you are passionate about your product, you tackle hard problems & overcome whatever obstacle is in the way to ensure the success of that product. Rather than just doing what everyone else in your field does, you will go above & beyond, pushing yourself to discover & test innovative solutions.
When you are not passionate about your product, you don’t bother trying anything hard. The job is just a pay check to you, so you do the bare minimum expected of you. Just enough that you’re still seen as component & feel your job is secure. You copy what others in your field do because you don’t care what the outcome is. Rather than thinking about how to solve a complex problem, your thinking about what you’re doing that evening, where to go for that weekend break, whether your friends found your last meme funny, etc.
Because, at the end of the day, who gives a shit where the product ends up? If it fails, you find another job. Sounds better than carrying on with this shit for another 2 years.
I’ve seen two specific examples that have confirmed this belief in recent months:
1. User testing: Our product is still in the testing phase, but no-one in the team has bothered to test it out on potential users. That’s because it takes effort. It takes talking to random people in the street or inviting users to our office for an hour. Easier to just pretend you forgot about it & carrying on with sitting on Facebook for the afternoon.
2. Cultural practices: My direct boss is very knowledgable in the field of organisational psychology, as I am myself, yet none of this knowledge has been put into practice. Where’s mention of ‘Deep Work’? Of productivity over hours in the office? Of free, open debate? It’s non-existent because he does not have passion for the product. It’s just a pay check. What’s the point of putting all that effort in to change culture when I’d readily leave at the first opportunity?
It’s not ‘just you’
If you find yourself thinking the same, questioning whether anyone even cares, then realise you are not alone.
If everyone seems to be drinking the company cool-aid, then they are usually not. They are usually thinking the same thing you are: ‘Does anyone actually believe this shit?’
The guy selling you the prospect of that promotion with the nice corner office? You can see the doesn’t-give-a-shit behind his eyes.
So just accept the fact that no-one gives a shit at your company & it’s time for change.
If that’s a scary prospect, then remember that there are 3 powerful psychological forces at play pushing us to continue down a certain path even when we know it is a bad decision:
- There is a human tendency to irrationally invest time & resources into something just because we have already invested in it (the sunk-cost bias)
- Our ego also prevents us from changing our decision as it is worried about our image & how others perceive us
- Our ego over-reacts; it worries that, if we admit this decision was wrong, that we are a bad decision-maker in general
So don’t worry if you feel anxiety & stress at the thought of quitting your job & reversing your decision. It’s only natural. Just stay committed to the truth & rational decision-making.
Things will not change
You know what really pisses me off? The generally accepted belief that ‘people can change’.
Yes, people can change. Your wife says she’ll leave you if you don’t? Your doctor saying you’ll drink yourself to death in 2 years unless you stop? These people will probably change – or at least really try.
You know what won’t change? Your company culture.
If people don’t give a shit, they are most definitely not going to change. That is because change requires effort, hard decisions & actively engaging with the problem.
I know this from my own experience of not-giving-a-shit. I was essentially ‘told off’ last week for being sloppy with some design work. Should I have felt an urgent need for change? Yes, as it could leave me without a job if I didn’t change.
However, in order for me to change there was missing one key ingredient: the fact that not a single ounce of me gives a flying fuck what happens to this company. Not a single ounce. My cold response of ‘yeah sure’ was hardly a sign of my passionate zeal for the company.
So you know what? Don’t waste your time giving your team a chance. Don’t hold off the inevitable, thinking that people might change. Because they won’t. Once they’ve lost the give-a-shit, it’s all over. Make a hasty exit & close the door on the way out.