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The Gervais Principle
October 16, 2009 9:47 AM   Subscribe

The Gervais Principle, Or The Office According to “The Office”. Warning: link may evoke baleful despair!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 (57 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am a loser. I wish I could be a sociopath, but it's just not in me.
posted by reenum at 9:58 AM on October 16, 2009


ah...yep...
posted by HuronBob at 10:03 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hate offices so much that I'm happy to be in a call centre. That's how much "The Office", in all its incarnations, resonates with me.
posted by h00py at 10:09 AM on October 16, 2009


See also: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
posted by ardgedee at 10:10 AM on October 16, 2009


This is the Heisenberg Principle of blog posts. This guy just affected his observations of the show, and therefore the show itself, by attempting to measure it against pseudo-intellectualism. Have fun with that!

"Haha, oh man Dwight is so creepy!"

"Um, actually guys, Dwight's earnestness represents the Sociopathy of modern business hierarchy taking precedent over old-fashioned cynicism-slash-sanity, because in a global marketplace.."

"DUDE shut up. We're trying to watch the show."
posted by self at 10:12 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sociopaths, in their own best interests, knowingly promote over-performing losers into middle-management, groom under-performing losers into sociopaths, and leave the average bare-minimum-effort losers to fend for themselves.

Wholly and scarily accurate.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:13 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is among the most fascinating things I have ever read on the internet. Thanks!
posted by Kwine at 10:18 AM on October 16, 2009


Some further sociopathological commentary from his site. I can't find a way to link to these through normal categories on the site, so forgive the fiddly interface. Double click on an article to go to it.

And, yeah, this article has some creepy resonance to it. Depressing to declare myself to have been a two-time clueless in previous jobs, but the model more or less works and I was certainly willing to do less raw work for more pay in exchange for being a bit of social glue in the workplace. And I'd certainly characterize some of my corporate experiences as being a slow-burn session in contemplating my own sociopathology.
posted by cortex at 10:18 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sociopaths, in their own best interests, knowingly promote over-performing losers into middle-management, groom under-performing losers into sociopaths, and leave the average bare-minimum-effort losers to fend for themselves.

In some organizations, there's only one sociopath but a lot of them have several (Board of Directors, CEO+VPs, etc). If they are acting in concert, are they really sociopaths? I guess they can be rationally helping each other only insofar as that helps themselves, so yes.

But my original chilling thought was more along the lines of They Live. What if sociopaths are running all large companies and much (all?) of the government? I guess when I state it out loud like that it sounds tritely cynical. But I mean literal, medical sociopaths and psychopaths. They wouldn't just be acting sociopathically out of apathy and greed. They would actually have something wrong with their physical brains.
posted by DU at 10:19 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


If they are acting in concert, are they really sociopaths?

The collective noun for sociopaths is a cabal.
posted by cortex at 10:21 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


The “sociopath” layer comprises the Darwinian/Protestant Ethic will-to-power types who drive an organization to function despite itself.

Ah, but I believe he misses the point of The Office hierarchy all together. It is far too easy to characterize an organizational's management structure as sort of a mimicry of a Nazi military hierarchy. More cruel and driven? Right to the top! This works well in a Clauswitz' traditional Industrial war where organizational efficiency and simple metrics (production output, causalities, etc.) can determine who is winning and who is losing. This is why Patton, the bastard that he was, managed to be good at what he did.

Unfortunately in the modern day office we don't get such easy to digest myths, and that is sort of the rub. The embodiment of this is the hapless and naive Dwight who believes the office to be run as a microcosm of evolution, where counter-intuitive ideas and facts along with a strict ideological perspective will allow one to succeed. Indeed, we are shown multiple times that he is a good salesman and that his numbers are there, yet no one considers him for promotion.

Why is this? In most successful offices you will see a very weak correlation to performance and hierarchy. It is there, but it is not blatant, and often leads to managers and executives appearing as clueless. Most managerial positions don't require technical expertise, they require finesse. Michael proves, again and again, that despite his lack of basic knowledge of accounting, finance and even salesmanship, his ability to lead and manage the office is bar none. Look at Jim who tries a level-headed and rational approach constantly be rebuted by Michael's sloppy dialectical reasoning. Michael makes a point, contradicts and then synthesizes it.

Further on up, look at David and the rest of the "executives," are they more intelligent than say, Jim? We are not lead to believe so, yet they provide a certain ethereal quality of trust and confidence. If you carry it out there way, no matter how you do it, you will end up doing a good job. That is not to say that performance or intelligence is negatively correlated with hierarchy, I would just say it is weakly correlated. Look at how the office reacts to reduced pay. Jim understands that revenue generation comes only from the salesman and during hard economic times any cut to this will be much more catastrophic than increases or efficiencies gained from the operating staff. A purely rational office will accept this and allocate resources as Jim tried to do, but they are not, they are self interested and it is only through Michael's finesse in understanding or at least sculpting of this self-interest that they can accept that the best allocation of resources has been made.

There's a reason Ayn Rand believers inhabit the CEO desk and it is not the power of her philosophy. It is mainly because those who permeate up to the top do so through inefficient filters of intelligence, luck and charisma. You won't get the perfect philosopher-president, but you won't get a Dwight either.
posted by geoff. at 10:21 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


One of his other observations:

I’ve found a move that tends to cut off these sessions surgically. I call itrepeat-or-complement. The first time the other person uses a closing phrase, you either repeat it exactly (mirroring) or provide the most ritualistic, banal complementary response available.'

Pretty spot on.
posted by ignignokt at 10:27 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


@geoff If you believe that Ayn Rand believers tend to inhabit the CEO desk, then that would in fact mean that they are sociopaths.
posted by codacorolla at 10:29 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm kicking myself for not posting this when I ran across it Wednesday. I guess this just proves that I'm an underperforming loser on his way to sociopathy, and East Manitoba Junior Regional Kabbadi Champion '94 is headed for the ranks of the clueless.
posted by chrchr at 10:36 AM on October 16, 2009


That's kind of horrifyingly insightful.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:38 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have worked with Venkatesh in the past (in a different part of the company than I am now) and I have first-hand experience of what inspired him. But I've seen the same thing even in small (less than 10 people) companies, unfortunately. It's tough being a Loser, but tougher when you're the only Loser.
posted by tommasz at 10:40 AM on October 16, 2009


This is a fun game!

Madmen:
Don/Dan: psycho, but emo about it.
Roger: psycho, but makes up for it by not caring
Cooper: Would eat his own children for a happy meal prize
Peggy: now a co-opted loser, but really a psycho-to-be
Pete: wannabe psycho, really a loser (MMs Dwight)
Joan: loser. A tragic character really.
Paul/Ken/Harry/Sal: all losers in their own ways. Ken might get to be a psycho some day, but he's too "nice" to be really bloodthirsty. Paul is too insecure to be even coopted, Harry already has been, Sal's not bitchy enough (yet?).
posted by bonehead at 10:40 AM on October 16, 2009


Hmm, I've been taking codeine with cough syrup for the flu and uh, my thoughts are starting to take kind of a crazy Kubla Khan turn.
posted by geoff. at 10:46 AM on October 16, 2009


There is no collective noun for sociopaths is a cabal.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:47 AM on October 16, 2009


This is gorgeous. Thanks!

Also, always happy to see Creed get some love!

he is the most rationally checked-out of all the losers

FUCK YES, CREED BRATTON
posted by Greg Nog at 10:49 AM on October 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


"Oh, yes. Back in 1995 I faked my own death. I've been collecting death benefits as my own widow."
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:55 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


East Manitoba Junior Regional Kabbadi Champion '94 is headed for the ranks of the clueless.

There is definitely space for someone to apply these principles to Metafilter in a fascinating essay, but that person needs to have more time and a bigger brain than. cortex has the right brain for it, but not exactly the somewhat nasty-edged temperament that it would take to do the job; to me it seems like maybe a Mayor Curley project? There is definitely a subculture of clueless users here (and you were joking I think but East Manitoba is not one of them): most of the in-jokes are posted by them; they give your your obit posts and the contentless obit dots. They are the ones yelling at each other in the eight hundred comment racism threads. languagehat and miko are paradigm sociopaths; I'm a loser, so was quonsar. So is mathowie these days, I'd argue. Interesting out-of-the-box case studies: ethereal bligh; jessamyn.

Curley or Curely-proxy, hopefully this is enough to get you going?
posted by Kwine at 11:03 AM on October 16, 2009


bigger brain than me, that is. I got a little excited.
posted by Kwine at 11:04 AM on October 16, 2009


What about Toby - convicted rapist?
posted by porn in the woods at 11:06 AM on October 16, 2009


he is the most rationally checked-out of all the losers

When I was working in a market research call center years ago, I was still struggling mightily with the notion of what's described here as loserdom—I was young and naive and kind of depressed about both the realistic fact that most people have to just work a damn job, period, like it or not and also about my specific employment situation (as a recent CS grad doing random temp phonework).

The folks moving through the churn of a temp-driven call center were a kind of broiling nest of mysteries for me—some folks desperately clinging to the job, some who gave fuckall about it, some who were obviously naturals on the phone and some who struggled daily to make calls. All these permutations of ability and drive and manner jostling against each other in what was simultaneously a shit job (outbound cold-calling for surveys, woo) and a good job (paid significantly better than minimum wage, relatively comfortable and genial cube-farm environment).

And I never really understood the Oh Fuck It folks. I became friends with them disproportionately, probably in part because they took more time to be social on account of not giving a fuck and partly because they tended to be whip-smart, but I always had this vague feeling of mixed awe and consternation about their approach to the job because I couldn't really wrap my head around literally not caring whether or not you were following the rules.

One of them just walked out of work one day on May Day and didn't come back, after being there for months, maybe more than a year. I was kind of floored, not by the departure (people would bail from the job without warning occasionally, usually very early in their tenure but not always) but by the casual precision of it—not him snapping and not being able to face making more calls, but him deciding today would be a good day to fuck off and never go back.

He was a classic slacker, something I didn't get then but do get now. He went at the job in such a way as to put in exactly as little as he figured he could manage and carving out social time and private creative pleasures for himself as often as possible. I spent my time instead (until I got promoted to a supervisory role for a weird year up until the office was folded down to near-nothing with surgical, sociopathic care by local upper management) sort of despairingly trying to be a totally legit performer, carving out my own creative and social bits through a less cynical and more conflicted system of trying to be unimpeachably on top of my shit so that anyone who wanted to call me on my side-projects wouldn't have anything reasonable to complain about.

In retrospect, I envy his clear-headed approach to the problem that I was muddling through. On the one hand, I stayed around longer and got a doomed promotion; on the other hand, he walked out on his own schedule and with a clean conscience, not having had to embrace some of the necessary evil of bottom-rung management as payment for being up to code.
posted by cortex at 11:08 AM on October 16, 2009 [28 favorites]


Really interesting, actually. There are some real truths in this observation.
posted by MythMaker at 11:11 AM on October 16, 2009


This is a brilliant fucking essay.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:23 AM on October 16, 2009


Madmen:
Don/Dan: psycho, but emo about it.
Roger: psycho, but makes up for it by not caring
Cooper: Would eat his own children for a happy meal prize
Peggy: now a co-opted loser, but really a psycho-to-be
Pete: wannabe psycho, really a loser (MMs Dwight)
Joan: loser. A tragic character really.
Paul/Ken/Harry/Sal: all losers in their own ways.


Wrong on many counts. Sterling, Cooper, Duck, and Don are the sociopaths, clearly. Peggy is a loser aspiring to socio-hood, but will tragically never make it because of the glass ceiling. Pete, exactly like Dwight, is a classic Clueless - aspires to be a sociopath but really just doesn't get it.

The rest of the "creatives" are also square in the middle of Clueless - dedicated company men who try far too hard to be losers but know they are either not competent enough or not crazy enough to really rise to the sociopath level, and therefore are dedicated company men to a T.

The only people in the organization who are even eligible to be losers are the secretaries and phone girls. Except for Joan, who is a weird sort of attempted sociopath. Actually, notwithstanding this little "S-C-L" classification system, Joan vs. Peggy is a really fascinating contrast on Mad Men.
posted by rkent at 11:26 AM on October 16, 2009


Does the fact that I have plenty of time to read this, think about it and comment on it, place me firmly among the losers? I believe so. Win!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:31 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


That was genius, thanks for posting. While I was reading it there was cake for all the October birthdays in the downstairs lunchroom. It was announced twice over the intercom. I stayed in my office to finish reading the article.
posted by snofoam at 11:42 AM on October 16, 2009


Oh, and FYI, I am a sociopath. One of the middle managers who works for me always cuts and serves the cake, and the losers will be down there chatting until 4pm when they are allowed to leave early because it is Friday.
posted by snofoam at 11:45 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wrong on many counts.

But we agree on many counts! I'll give you the guys being Clueless though; that's absolutely right. They're totally stuck in the middle.

Joan, but Joan is an absolutely classic loser. Sterling-Cooper has sucked her dry and given her nothing back. She behaves like a sociopath sometimes, but she really cares too much, put too much of herself into her job to pull it off (ie the tv script vetting job).
posted by bonehead at 11:47 AM on October 16, 2009


Parts of this are very handwavy, for example this: "The sociopaths know that the only way to make an organization capable of survival is to buffer the intense chemistry between the producer-losers and the leader-sociopaths with enough clueless padding in the middle to mitigate the risks of business. Without it, the company would explode like a nuclear bomb, rather than generate power steadily like a reactor."

What intense chemistry? Why does it need padding? How will it explode and what would make it happen?

It's an interesting blogpost but it needs a lot more thought.
posted by Kattullus at 11:57 AM on October 16, 2009


Joan, but Joan is an absolutely classic loser. Sterling-Cooper has sucked her dry and given her nothing back. She behaves like a sociopath sometimes, but she really cares too much, put too much of herself into her job to pull it off (ie the tv script vetting job).

I think according to the archetypes as stated, that analysis would make here a Clueless destined for middle management were she not a woman in this time period. She also seemed to be the most self-aware of the women, initially, which is interesting, but Peggy surpassed her. Perhaps her attempt to perform was in response to seeing Peggy's development.

Ultimately, I think she did end up a loser, because she jumped ship once she tried to perform and realized the system was stacked against her.
posted by rocketpup at 12:00 PM on October 16, 2009


What intense chemistry? Why does it need padding? How will it explode and what would make it happen?

Any production environment has a natural bright line—on one side, you have people doing the raw daily it-never-ends work that is the core revenue-generating mechanic of the company, and on the other side are the folks who aren't doing that work but are instead doing the more abstract managerial stuff that in principle keeps things on the production side of the line moving profitably along.

There is unquestionably a natural chemistry there, and not generally speaking a happy one. Anybody in production who sits down and does the math will see that for every dollar of revenue they generate through direct productive work for the company, they get only a fraction of that dollar in compensation. It doesn't take much to get from that basic economic fact to the realization that the folks on the management side of the bright line are getting paid a share of what they're not getting to, in one respect or another, tell them them to keep doing that work.

Collapse the MacLeod Heirarchy to nothing but Sociopaths and Losers and you've got a sweatshop in caricature.

So you buffer the top management from the losers to keep things from exploding under the raw primordial chemistry of that friction—at every layer there's a more gradual transition from role to role, a gentler slope of responsibility, and, essentially, enough rungs on the corporate ladder to make it so that it's (if folks know what they're doing, managerially) not so nakedly in the face of production folks that they are in fact they undercompensated losers getting the bad end of the deal.

How well this works, and how badly the folks at the bottom are actually being compensated, and a whole bunch of other variables, shifts a lot from company to company and to some extent from sector to sector. But the core dynamic is there and needs careful attention, one way or the other.
posted by cortex at 12:05 PM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Or I should say, rather, that Joan attempted to perform contrary to and beyond the general expectations of her as a woman. She had been performing better than anyone within those expectations but then realized the box she was in once she tried to move beyond.

Peggy was sociopathic enough to seize a vanishingly rare opportunity and run with it to a point. This season she attempted to exploit her relationship with Don to get into a big account but was soundly smacked down. Even Peter, whom Don knows to be a tool received more consideration when trying to manipulate his way into better position. So will Peggy become sociopathic enough to advance despite being a woman in this environment, will she cultivate cluelessness or will she go the loser route?
posted by rocketpup at 12:10 PM on October 16, 2009


So Joan == Jim?
posted by bonehead at 12:15 PM on October 16, 2009


If you are referring to my overanalysis, I think it's more Jim == Peggy.

But he's a little more cuddly because he can afford to be.
posted by rocketpup at 12:29 PM on October 16, 2009


There is definitely a subculture of clueless users here (and you were joking I think but East Manitoba is not one of them): most of the in-jokes are posted by them; they give your your obit posts and the contentless obit dots. They are the ones yelling at each other in the eight hundred comment racism threads. languagehat and miko are paradigm sociopaths; I'm a loser, so was quonsar.

So, does this make me clueless? I can't tell. Or am I a loser? And which would be, uh, preferable? Is there a right answer? Can I be a pony?

All in all, from my brief experience in the Corporate World, this is far too true. Just watching The Office (which I do love quite a bit) is enough to remind me why I chose to work with actual small children instead of emotionally stunted men with the pyschic capacity of small children.

(Oh, no, I'm not bitter. Not me. No sir.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:04 PM on October 16, 2009


Aren’t teachers expected to train children to see these kinds of organizational psychoses as normal?
posted by No Robots at 1:26 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look at Jim who tries a level-headed and rational approach constantly be rebuted by Michael's sloppy dialectical reasoning.

A huge a-men. I think some of my favorite scenes from the show are the ones where Jim -- the guy everybody likes, the protagonist of the show if there is one, right? -- has to take management responsibility and confront the fact that Michael's job is not easy and that in some ways, Michael is better adapted to/for it than manypeople are.

As the article points out, The Office first looks like it's Dilbert for TV, but I think the article is wrong about what makes it better. It's not the analysis and biting commentary on our modern corporate prosperity gospel, though that's well worth appreciating. It's that the characters are much more three dimensional even at the level of parody they invoke. So they become recognizable in real life, but they also become more complex and subtle. Even the characters that everyone is supposed to identify with are quirky, sometimes mistaken, and even flawed. And even the characters that tend towards parody have redeeming points. Dwight alone is an interesting study: his over-the-top intensity is ridiculous and hilarious, but as a counterpoint, there's no shortage of moments where he displays sudden and thorough competency, and the best part is that it isn't just another side of him, it's very clear these things are integrated into who he is.

I love the article, I think it's a generally strong commentary on the corporate landscape, and I can see where it intersects with The Office, but I don't think it really covers the show's soul.
posted by weston at 1:41 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]



That's kind of horrifyingly insightful.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:38 AM on October 16 [1 favorite -] Favorite added! [!]


This.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 3:43 PM on October 16, 2009


An interesting critique doesn't require good source material, but Carell's good, and the blog post that touched this thread off is interesting... so I might watch the US version of the Office sometime. (I'd thought the original was hilarious, but too cringe-inducing and mortifying to watch actively, and had suspected that the US version would be broad and laughtracky...)

Thanks for the link.
posted by darth_tedious at 3:48 PM on October 16, 2009


Once they start outsourcing the Losers' jobs, you begin to see an interesting shift in the pyramid. All "real" employees" must become managerial or at the very least project leaders. But can an organization really run efficiently with too many chiefs and not enough (forgive me) Indians?

What strikes me about many of the upper managerial types in my own Fortune Fifty company is just how many who should be Sociopaths are, outwardly at least, Clueless. I mean seriously so. Shit eating grins, no obvious duties, and lots and lots of cheerleading of the most cringemaking sort. I suspect they are non-threatening buffers to the hard core Sociopaths, useful idiots for when things go bad, irrelevant while things go well.

As to the show - seems to me that this year the characters have gone from amiable quirkies to grotesques. Not sure why that is. I mean to say, Jim now confessing to professional ambition? His English counterpart threw over a guaranteed promotion to Dwight's counterpart. Not sure which act is the more tragic. Could be a real opportunity for a great writer to make something interesting out of US Jim - but I fear they will blow it.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:20 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hrm. Is it possible for a Sociopath to (unwittingly) become Clueless?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:37 PM on October 16, 2009


That was an excellent analysis of The Office. This resonated with me: "Both Ricky Gervais (David Brent) and Steve Carrel (Michael Scott) play the brilliantly-drawn characters perfectly. The most visible sign of their capacity for self-delusion is their complete inability to generate an original thought. They quote movie lines, lyrics and perform terrible impersonations"

Oh God, yes, I work with people like this.

I think the fact that the American Office has outlived the UK one (which ran for only two series) has allowed the characters to become more multi-layered. I sometimes feel quite sad for Michael when he's trying to impress people (particularly more educated people - I believe his character didn't go to college) and he uses a word out of context (can't think of an example right now but there was one the other day that made me cringe with embarrassment for him). He's a more vulnerable and sympathetic character than David Brent because, as the character's evolved, the viewer has been allowed to see how he got to be the way he is now, like the episode with the sad old TV show clip where a 12-year-old Michael was the oddball kid in a suit.
posted by essexjan at 4:51 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


An interesting critique doesn't require good source material, but Carell's good, and the blog post that touched this thread off is interesting... so I might watch the US version of the Office sometime.

I loved, loved, loved the UK Office, numbering it among my favorite shows of all time, and refused to watch the American version for a long time; I saw the American pilot episode "covering" the British one, and it seemed like a drab and broad imitation, so I gave up. It wasn't until sometime this year that I really started following it.

And now, more and more, I wonder if the American version's become the better show. As jan points out, it's had more time to develop the characters, and it's done so really well. I'm shocked that it doesn't seem to have started going downhill yet. And the more time they have, the more the writers have been able to make the minor characters fully-formed entities of their own. (Meredith and Creed have become the twin highlights of the show for me.) The slow, slow build of attributes on the secondary characters is lovely, sort of mirroring what it's actually like to work somewhere, where you know someone for like three years before you find out they play bass in a band, or have a kid, or are a croquet grand master or something.

You should definitely give it a go; I think it's excellent.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:40 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm shocked that it doesn't seem to have started going downhill yet.

I'd disagree. I haven't so muched as GOL (giggled out loud) in Season 6. Though Jim & Pam finally getting hitched was pretty cute.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:01 PM on October 16, 2009


Nice reminder of why I like being independent.
posted by surplus at 7:55 PM on October 16, 2009


I am now in a slough of very lucid despond.
posted by everichon at 10:08 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


And the more time they have, the more the writers have been able to make the minor characters fully-formed entities of their own.

Yes. The total genius of the scene at the end of the episode where Ryan gets the promotion. You don't see who David Wallace is talking to until the end of the call when, to everyone's surprise, it's Ryan, back in Scranton. He hangs up.

Kelly : Who was that?

Ryan: Nobody. You and I are done.

Kelly: WHAT?

Ryan looks at the camera for a brief second. End of scene.

That 10 second scene packs in so much nuance about the relationship between those two characters that it still blows me away whenever I see that episode.

YT here, but with mashup ending.
posted by essexjan at 3:08 AM on October 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Absolutely. The UK Office is good, but I feel like the characters who aren't David Brent exist mostly to give David Brent an audience and victims. The US Office characters all seem to have fairly consistent reasons to exist (some shifts between season 1 and 2, particularly Kelly Kapoor, notwithstanding) and their own comedy that comes out of who they are.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:34 AM on October 17, 2009


How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Just be born rich. Take, for example, the 29 year old Goldman Sachs Exec just hired by the U.S. government to run the Security's Exchange Commission's enforcement division, after just 4 years after being hired at Goldman right out of college. Do you think he was born poor, or into a middle class family?
posted by delmoi at 3:54 PM on October 17, 2009


A thought provoking article, so it is appreciated, but ultimately I disagree with it to a degree. The argument seems to be a bit one sided (and cynical) view of the world. To me it reads as the manifesto of self-identified "Losers" explaining why it is wrong to engage further in the work world. I recognize that elements of this analysis show up to lesser or greater degrees in all work environments, but it is neither complete nor universal.

Maybe this reaction is just because I'm now a sociopath, but I don't think so. I think the larger issue is that we don't have a good cultural framework for building positive working relationships and how to handle power, politics and management in the office. Even with this situation however, the language that assigns all of us who attempt to make things better either a loser, clueless or a sociopath may be thought provoking, but I don't think it is geared to generate productive insights or solutions.
posted by meinvt at 4:07 PM on October 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


But my original chilling thought was more along the lines of They Live. What if sociopaths are running all large companies and much (all?) of the government? I guess when I state it out loud like that it sounds tritely cynical. But I mean literal, medical sociopaths and psychopaths. They wouldn't just be acting sociopathically out of apathy and greed. They would actually have something wrong with their physical brains.

First of all "sociopath" is not an accepted medical term, and it's far from clear if there is a true biological difference. There are obviously some creepy, self-centered people out there. But most of those people probably have narcissistic personality disorder. (and speaking of narcissistic, Google put their own result first on that search result. Hmm)

Madmen:
...
Pete: wannabe psycho, really a loser (MMs Dwight)


I don't think you can 'wanna' be a psycho. You either are or you're not. And Pete clearly is. I think you're getting caught up in the 'normal' use of the word loser/clueless rather then the way they are defined in the article. No reason a sociopath couldn't get stuck at a lower level.

Based on the hierarchy in the article, I would say Ken Cosgrove, Paul, Sal, Harry are the Clueless They are in charge without understanding the true viciousness of the system. Joan was really a half-clueless half loser. She didn't like working there, and she kept doing it for the paycheck, but she was the manager of the secretarial pool, and effectively helped the sociopath men at the top continue to exploit the women who she managed. (I didn't realize how mean that was going to sound until I typed it out :P. This isn't because she wants to do it, but because of her cluelessness).

I think according to the archetypes as stated, that analysis would make here a Clueless destined for middle management were she not a woman in this time period.

Joan was a manager (she could even fire people), and is also a manager at her new job.

Peggy was sociopathic enough to seize a vanishingly rare opportunity and run with it to a point. This season she attempted to exploit her relationship with Don to get into a big account but was soundly smacked down.

No, she did get the account. When she got yelled at, Don was trying to avoid signing the contract, which was a precondition for the account to even be at S.C.
posted by delmoi at 4:34 PM on October 17, 2009


I used to be clueless, but now I am a loser. I actually just recently became one, after months and months of trying to will myself to be clueless. I feel so much better now that I am a loser. My relationship to and attitude about bill-paying work has totally changed.
posted by staggering termagant at 1:14 PM on October 19, 2009


Part 2 is up, covering how the different groups talk amongst themselves.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:37 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


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