So I read a great post from Mark Phillips over at Vertabase about the importance of making people feel included. “By excluding people, you create impediments to your project’s success,” he says. I thought that was a fabulously concise way of saying that.
More importantly, Mark notes that when you marginalize people, they move on without you. The very people you snubbed along the way may turn around suddenly with amazing, wonderful things. But unless they’re the forgiving sort, you’ll only be able to look through the glass at them and watch at a distance. You already demonstrated what you thought of them.
Oddly enough, while I was in full support of Mark’s observations, they also reminded me of a line from the 1988 movie, “Working Girl” (yikes I guess I’m dating myself now). Sigourney Weaver plays a truly repellent businesswoman who says, “today’s junior prick, tomorrow’s senior partner”. She’s referring to her own behaviour, treating someone she despised as if he were her best friend. But I hated Sigourney’s character in that movie. Why would I relate her comments to Mark’s point?
After thinking about it, I decided it all depends on how you approach it. There’s a big difference between genuinely including someone and kissing their ass. In a way, ass-kissing is an attempt to “game the system”. The ass-kisser doesn’t really believe in what they’re saying; they’re behaving this way with a specific end in mind.
If I’m allowed to put my “zomg meganerd” hat on, think in terms of “black hat” vs. “white hat”. These are terms used by search engine optimization professionals. The white hats are trying to get search engine attention by genuinely creating good content; the nefarious black hats are trying to get search engine attention by faking-out the system. They use all kinds of tricks, but never actually try to add any real value.
Social interaction is a system like any other. And just like a system, it contains within itself the potential for abuse.
|White Hat “Good”||Black Hat “Evil”|
|Adjectives||Associated Traits||Adjectives||Associated Values|
“Black hats” have a marked tendency to put down or dismiss those they see as beneath them. I find it peculiar, as outside of the workplace, there is no above or below. If a black hat were in a car accident and the company janitor was the first person to happen by the scene, would they dismiss or reject the janitor’s help? Why then, the moment they step into an office do they transform into self-serving monsters? (Apologies to janitors for using their profession as an example)
In a project environment, particularly, the organization is flat. If an executive is two weeks late giving an approval, or a clerk is two weeks late updating the latest requirements with notes from the business analyst, the project is delayed by two weeks. The source is quite irrelevant–only the result matters.
The thing that most “black hat” people fail to grasp is, generally speaking, we can see right through them. Of course, there’s the odd person who loves to be buttered up, but most people with a pulse recognize the slime trail for what it is, and choose not to step in it. Speaking as a former executive, I find I want to surround myself with people who will dissent with me, and actively discuss matters critically. Attempts to kiss my ass, quite frankly, creep me the hell out and I’d rather not have that kind of behaviour near me: it adds no value and only makes me want a shower.