After the long, hard winter we had, it’s nice to finally get some good weather. So nice, in fact, that it would be a shame to have to spend the whole day inside slaving away for The Man. We here at My Not So Humble Opinion understand your pain, and to help you out, we have created our patent-pending Instant Excuse Generator™.
Just select (or randomly choose!) one option from each list, and string together an excuse that any boss will buy! We guarantee that if you tell them one of these whoppers, not only will you not have to come in today, chances are good you’ll never have to worry about coming in ever again.
- Yelled at
- The NSA
- Circus folk
- Homeless people
- Illegal aliens
- Elvis impersonators
- Intergalactic aliens
- A sympathetic Jesus-like figure
- Milli Vanilli
- An international conglomerate of discount grocery store owners
As a result, I am…
- Under arrest
- Being punished
- Signing up for their newsletter
- Their new leader
- Joining the Hair Club for Men
As such, I will not be able to come in to work today, because I will be busy…
- Filing a police report
- Fleeing for my life
- Ruling over my kingdom with an iron fist
- Making peace in the Middle East
- Suing for damages
- Doing something unspeakable
- Bathing in the warm, sweet glow of radiation
- Writing a best-seller about the experience
I was having lunch with a friend the other day, and we were discussing the best analogy for difficult supervisors. No particular reason, of course… Anyway, we finally hit on the idea of road trip companions. This struck me as a particularly apt analogy, as pretty much anyone can relate to this experience. Even if you have never been on a road trip with one of the following types of people, you almost certainly have been on a road trip with someone, and it is no great stretch of the imagination to discern what these experiences would be like:
Supervisor as Four Year Old: Gives incoherent directions when he bothers to give directions at all. Constantly pesters you with “is it done yet?” Eager for the final result until he gets it, then vaguely disappointed when he has it, but can’t say why.
Supervisor as Three Year Old: Screams a lot. Throws temper tantrums. Makes impossible demands (“I wanna go to the moon!”) Eager for the final result until she gets it, then acutely disappointed when she has it, and loudly lists off all the reasons why.
Supervisor as Passive-Aggressive Roommate: Has a clear picture of where he wants to be, but won’t give you directions of how to get there. Insists you know what you should be doing “if you would just focus”. Sighs a lot.
Supervisor as Hung-over Roommate: Has no good advice to offer. Insists that you take the wheel. Still wants to have a say in every decision. Groans a lot.
Supervisor as Backseat Driver: Insists that you take the wheel but second-guesses every decision you make. Constantly harps on your ability and distracts you at critical moments. Blames your “inattentiveness” for any problems caused by his interference.
Supervisor as Best Friend: Cool to hang out with, but makes it impossible to focus. Constantly distracting you with stories, jokes, and inappropriate comments. Makes you late for everything and miss important deadlines.
Supervisor as Crash Test Dummy: The perfect road trip companion. Stays quiet but still helps you get into the fast lane. Doesn’t mind being thrown under the bus in case of emergency.
Recently I was reminded of a great article by David Wong on (of all places) Cracked about “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person” (h/t to Patrick Hoolahan). If you haven’t seen it yet you should check it out; great advice and possibly life changing. The part that really got to me the most was “#5. The Hippies Were Wrong”. Wong makes a lengthy point about the well-known and oft-reviled speech delivered by Alec Baldwin in Glegarry Glenross. For the three of you who haven’t seen it, I’ll include it here (also for the rest of you, because it is awesome):
Wong makes the point that “half of the people who watch it think that the point of the scene is ‘Wow, what must it be like to have such an asshole boss?’ and the other half think, ‘Fuck yes, let’s go out and sell some goddamned real estate!’” I have to admit, I used to be in the former camp. I’ve heard just about every version of this: “What have you done for me lately?” “Have you earned your seat on the bus today?” “What have you done to add value recently?” And on and on, ad nauseum. I used to hate it, because it all seemed like they were picking on me and not valuing me for what I was bringing to the table. I was a hard worker, with experience and loyalty to the company, and I had big ideas about how to make things better if they would just listen. Sure, sometimes things weren’t perfect, but everybody makes mistakes.
Then I started managing employees of my own.
At first I was the exact opposite of “that boss”. I was the boss I always wanted to have: I was a good guy, friendly, warm, open and nice. If there was something that didn’t get done, didn’t get done right, or didn’t get done on time, as long as there was a reason, I was willing to hear it and give the benefit of the doubt, even if it was insufficient on the face of it or, worse, was completely irrelevant. I finally started to understand that when I thought I was being a good guy, when I was being “nice” to my employees, what was actually happening was they were seeing Uncle Sympathy, The Clown Who Gives a Damn. I wasn’t doing them any favors, because what I was teaching them was the wrong lesson: as long as they had an excuse, they would be excused. I had to cowboy up and start teaching the lesson nobody wants to hear:
Fuck you, close.
You want the promotion, the raise, the bigger office and the better title? Guess what, so does the guy standing behind you. The difference between the two of you is that one of you is going to be the guy who talks to me about what he did for me last month, and the other one is going to be the guy who tells me about the five accounts he brought in this morning and his action plan to bring in five more tomorrow.
Fuck you, close.
I’m not saying experience and loyalty don’t count, I’m saying that they aren’t magic talismans you get to just wave around and expect they matter for no reason other than existing. Understand why and how they’re important, and be able to elucidate that in a clear and concise manner.
Fuck you, close.
If you have personal problems, I empathize, but the truth is I don’t care, because I can’t afford to care. After work, when we have accomplished everything we need to do to get the job done I’ll buy you a beer and we can talk it out if you want, but for right now we have a job to do, and neither of us is getting paid to not get it done.
FUCK YOU, CLOSE.
That’s my new mantra. It’s not pretty, but it works. And the first guy I say it to every morning is me.
Some of the worst advice I have ever heard is “do what you love for a living”, or alternatively “do something you would do even if you weren’t getting paid, and then find a way to get paid doing it.” This advice is generally given either by people who are miserable in their own life choices and wish they had found a way to make this fantasy come true, or else it is the sort of illusory advice given by type-A personality entrepreneurs who would find success in anything they do because they are so driven they WILL succeed, even if they have to grab success by the throat and chokehold it into submission.
There are two inherent flaws with this advice as I see it, and I’ll break them down one at a time. The first is the fallacy of “do what you would even if you weren’t getting paid”. I honestly don’t know many people who have a passion for something that extends far enough to cover a career. Sure, plenty of people think they do, but that’s because they don’t have the time to really see it through, or else they don’t really make an honest effort at it. I’ll give you a couple examples: My Dad loved golf; I love video games. If he had the time, I think Dad could have played golf for a good four days a week, at least for a month or so. Then he would have started cutting back, because golf is tiring. As for video games, at my peak I was playing World of Warcraft like it was a second job – a part-time job. I played, I kid you not, at least twenty hours a week (after I quit I found time to start blogging. Not a coincidence.) When I would take a staycation from time to time, I would play upwards of forty hours a week in a single binge… and then lay off for a few days, because I needed a break. I then went back to my original routine.
The problem wasn’t that either Dad or I stopped loving what we did, it’s just that at some point most people can’t sustain the passion for something sufficiently to make a career of it. Those who can often do, or else they dedicate their lives to finding ways to incorporate that something into their lives in other ways, either though volunteer work or hobbies. Notice how at no point in that entire set of examples did I mention skill or demand; those would be elements of problem numero dos.
My biggest aggravation with the breezy advice “do something you would do even if you weren’t getting paid, and then find a way to get paid doing it” is the “then find a way to get paid doing it” part. As if it was that simple. In many cases, the things people love to do people are already getting paid to do. Let’s go back to my previous examples. There are already people getting paid to play golf. They’re called professional golfers. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them (Tiger Woods, anyone?). There are even, to the best of my knowledge, golf pros at pretty much every country club in the nation, and every one of them is a much better golfer than my father was on his best day. Believe it or not, there are even professional video game players. Any one of them could romp me without paying attention. In the face of this, how does a simple person come along and just “find a way to get paid doing it”, especially when so many others want to?
Here’s my take on work: work is what you do to make the money you need to enable you to do the things you love. That doesn’t mean you have to hate your job; in fact, if you do hate your job (not just had a bad day, but actively hate your job and dread going in each day), seriously, quit. Find another job first if you must, but you might actually find being unemployed better for your mental and physical health. I did. But if your job is tolerable often that’s as good as it gets, and there’s nothing wrong with that; chasing the rainbows that someone else is offering will only make you miserable when you have no need to be.
If you can make money doing the things you love, hey, bonus. If you are one of the lucky few who gets paid doing what you love, do yourself and the rest of us a favor, keep your mouth shut about it, because nobody wants to hear it.