Friday, March 3, 2006

Lies Often Told

I've been comparing the way I deal with authority with the way most others do. Those who know me are aware of the stark contrast. Many have no idea what could possibly be going through my mind when I pull some of what I do. Admittedly, what follows is an ego-centric way to explain the differences, but centering on me seems like a good place to start. Though it would be a shitty place to end.

I find those trying to push the limits of their authority tend to do it by convincing subordinates of two things: what you want you can't get from anywhere else; and there is nothing else worthy of your loyalty. Some of the more archaic institutions do this very explicitly. The church says that only they can get you to heaven, and heaven is the only place you want to be. Then consider educational institutions. Repeat of church, but replace heaven with board room. I've also gotten similar things from employers whose lives would be easier if I believed all I wanted was money and they were the only place to get it. If you do come to believe such things the institution becomes stronger, so they have good reason to try.

To give a quick rebuttal: There is more than one way to skin a cat. Whatever you want there are infinite ways to get it. And secondly, everybody has enemies. To piss him off means to gain more favour from the other. It is really hard to piss everybody off simultaniously. Not that I have tried, but if it could be done easily I would know it. Not that all things are equally deserving of your loyalty, but those most deserving are those that value it most. Anybody who feels they are entitled to my loyalty will find us in an unhealthy relationship.

Now to defend the liars. It is not so much that they lie. I'm not even sure they try to suggest, but what they seem to do is make an environment where people who don't believe these things are not welcome. This type of environment is the typical setting for the 'your either with them or with us' kind of rhetoric. Interestingly, 'they' may even by a partner, but since this would center parts of your loyalty outside the circle it cannot be tolerated.

For example, in dealings in customer service I tend to have a significant portion of my loyalty go to the customers I am serving. Now consider the conflict that happens when I am given direction that is bad for the customers by a superior who demands total loyalty. If I objected I would get the 'your with me or against me' rhetoric and then I will have to quit to show what happens when such ultimatums are put to me. The other option is to follow the letter of his instructions while steering the spirit of my actions to reflect my loyalty to those I serve not because I have to, but because I choose to.

Loyalty to the customers is obviously not bad for the business. But from the management perspective it turns me into a quantum blur rather than a newtonian cog. Interestingly, quantum blurs can still be managed effectively and predictibly. (They get organized into all the wonderful things you see around you.) But it is a different way of thinking. I'll stick with the guys that get it.

An easy solution might be to train myself to show total loyalty to my superiors. I'm sure I could do just that. But then think about the richness of life that would be lost to have the essence of all decisions come from just one source. Or even to try to artifically limit the sources at all. Perhaps it is just me but I would think such a life as too simple, too easy, too boring. I refuse to let my life become boring. It might happen, but there will be a fight.

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