Back in the late 90’s I “frosted” the front of my hair to some ugly, orange-ish color. Some of you all might remember this awful, short-lived fad that came about the tween community after Ricky Martin hit the scene. About a week after this self-mutilation, my father returned home from a business trip. He took a quick look at me and made a very bizarre demand: “Meet me on the balcony in 5 minutes.”. We didn’t use the balcony for ANYTHING. Nothing. A total waste of space. There was an old, beat up, dusty yellow lawn chair there I think we acquired for 5 bucks at a yard sale. I knew he would be frosty about my frosts (sorry, had to drop this line) but the balcony thing was a total wild card. Of course, he made me wait out there by myself for 15 minutes like an idiot. When he came out though, he informed me that he had chosen the balcony because he didn’t want my mom to hear him yelling at me. Suffice it to say that (1) He was not a fan of my new look (2) I didn’t sport that look much longer.
Ten years later I had somehow fenagled my way into being a “manager” of 15 research analysts. One day I rounded them all up and told them that I wanted to hold an impromptu team meeting in the building courtyard. They were all confused but curious, many of them were excited. I squashed this excitement quickly and definitively. In the week or two prior to this meeting I had been hearing complaints from other managers about my analysts underperforming. I decided it was time to intervene. My message to the team was short and blunt. I told the kids with sunglasses to take off their sunnies so that I could look them in the eye. I told them about the increase in complaints. I told them that “they were shitting the bed”. I said that “I don’t know what’s been happening of late, but I don’t care the root cause” and that “I’m not having it”. And then I ended by saying “meeting adjourned” and walking off. The group was stunned. In retrospect, maybe it’s a family trait – giving people some VERY direct “feedback” in an outdoor setting.
Fast forward to today. Nobody has the balls to tell you how they really feel or tell you that your work sucks. My buddy who sits next to me at work gave his minion some very polite, negative feedback the other day: “I’d like you to rewrite this document so that’s it shorter and more focused on the client’s financials.” The pussy he manages reported him to HR. Told HR that he felt overwhelmed and unappreciated. Are you fucking kidding me!? Now my boy has a meeting with the sissy and HR to discuss how they can collaborate better. How can such egregiously childish and pathetic behavior be tolerated? This is literally the adult equivalent of “running home to mommy”.
Another example: Last year my company launched a “Safe Space Ambassador” program. For those of you that have read this blog before you know that I live under a cultural and technological rock (perhaps that’s my own “safe space” of sorts). But at the time, I didn’t know what the fuck that shit was. My first though, honest to god, was that they were trying to train a bunch of us what to do and how to keep people safe in case of an active shooter situation. I thought that sounded cool but then I dug deeper and found out that it was about feelings and beliefs and not getting upset about stuff. I still couldn’t tell you what the program is or what the ambassadors do.
The kindergarten edict of not hurting anyone’s feelings has taken over corporate America. Everyone is awesome all the time. Nobody ever gives anyone any negative feedback. When people do try and give you negative feedback, their attempts are so cowardly and feckless that only people with P.H.D.s in passive-aggressiveness can decipher WTF is going on.
I miss the good old days and I’m not even that old! I once made a kid who was interviewing for a promotion go home and change before his afternoon interview. Very smart, very qualified kid but he showed up in the morning wearing khakis, no belt, and a fuzzy, neon green sweater that was giving half of the office allergy problems. You gotta be kidding me! Whatever happened to “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” To his credit, homeboy came back in a first-class suit and tie combination and crushed his interview.
We need to de-wussify corporate America and we need to do it now. Step one: Get rid of the “dress for your day” nonsense. Step Two: The HR department needs to grow a backbone and stop mommy-ing everybody. Don’t intervene in situations. Send the kid back out there so that he can learn his own interpersonal skills. Your boss “makes you feel vulnerable”? Tough shit. You know what else is gonna make you feel vulnerable today? The cracked-out bum on the metro who whips his dick out in front everyone. You gonna email HR about that too? I’m tired of 25-year-olds who are VERY aggressive about demanding promotions and raises but go suck their thumbs in a safe space at the first sign of adversity. Get your fucking blue hair, ripped jeans and do-nothing, cry baby attitude outta here! This is a place of business.