Much like The Joker, I used to think there was a plan. That someone (or rather, various groups of people) had some idea of what they wanted to happen, and had some sort of plans to bring those things to fruition. You know, the adults of society. The older I get and the more I interact with people up the ladder, the more I realize no one has a fucking clue and everyone’s just kinda faking it and hoping things don’t collapse on their watch.
Recently when interacting with the person who is replacing my boss’s boss he asked me to run a report a week earlier than usual. I asked if this was just for this month, or should I move up the due date permanently? He did exactly what I would do in that situation, down to the physical mannerisms, so I recognized it instantly and intimately: He put on a contemplative look, waited a few seconds, then told me implement the change I had suggested (permanent move of the due date). This is the Basic Look-Managerial Move. He was thinking (as I would have at that moment) “I have no fucking clue. It doesn’t really matter, but now I’ve engaged the topic and I’ve got to look managerial. I will put on a contemplative face and wait a few seconds, to give the impression that I am deeply considering this and its various implications. Then I will confidently state that my employee go with their suggested action.” No actual contemplation was done, this was all for show. I’d had some suspicions before, but this was the first really firm evidence that the people above me don’t have any more of a clue than I do about running this whole thing.
More hilariously – every week they pack everyone in the office (100ish people) into the lunch room to have a “Stand-Up Meeting.” There’s barely enough room for everyone, and the meetings are worthless. I mean that in a strict sense – no information of value is given to anyone that would find it valuable. Those who need the information already know it, and the rest of us don’t care because it doesn’t affect our jobs or our work in any way. Mainly we stand around and burn 20 minutes of the day in boredom while some VPs and SVPs rattle off stats. I think it’s supposed to be a corporate bonding sort of thing, like the Japanese do. They try to encourage cheering and the reciting of the corporate motto and so forth. Anyway, a lot of people skip these meetings cuz they aren’t useful. Last week our Board of Directors was in the building and they came to the Stand-Up Meeting, so beforehand all our managers let us know that everyone should attend that meeting. We wanted to have an impressive turnout for the Board. The room was packed past capacity. I grabbed a spot by the door so I could get some fresh air. You know where this is going.
About 18 minutes in someone in the back corner passed out. A call went out for someone to call 911, and a couple people took off to do that. The SVP, who’d been going through his routine in the center of the room, looked around with wide eyes like a deer caught in headlights. As Draco would say “When you take advantage of emergencies to demonstrate leadership, you want to look like you’re in total control of the situation, rather than, say, going into a complete panic.” Of course I also did jack-shit, when I could have very easily announced we should clear the room so the passed-out person can get some damn fresh air. I did nothing, because to wrest control of the room from an SVP would make him look bad, would make me look like I was grabbing for un-earned status, and could possibly make me some powerful enemies. Of course it could also make me look great, but I was erring on the side of caution. Somehow the fact that someone was passed out in the corner and needed others to do something to help her didn’t come into consideration. :( I suspect that at that moment the SVP was suffering from similar paralysis, because the CEO was in the room. Surely the CEO outranked him, shouldn’t he let the CEO take care of this? Or the Board of Directors, who were also all there? So he did nothing, and it looked bad.
On reflection, he should have acted, because as the leader of the meeting it was his room to control. He was in charge of that space, even if he wasn’t the highest-ranking person there in absolute terms.
First lesson – everyone is just as clueless as I am. We’re all faking it, hoping nothing goes wrong.
Second lesson – #CivilizationalInadequacy permeates organizations of all levels. It even goes down to the individual level.
Third lesson – I should always assume I am the defacto person in charge and responsible for any area I’m in, and if any of my underlings (even those nominally of much higher rank) are failing to do things that prevent others from being hurt I have to intervene.
Fourth lesson – This explains a LOT about politics.
Fifth lesson – How the hell does civilization still exist if it’s such a loose hodge-podge of people bumbling along trying to keep things from falling apart for one more day and hoping nobody catches on that none of us has a fucking clue? It must be both much more robust and much less directed than I had imagined.
Sixth lesson – Being an adult in the real world is stupidly scary. I used to think the world made sense. Turns out the great clown Pagliacci was right: everyone is alone in a harsh and threatening world.