When it comes to the workplace, I’m a very apolitical person.
I’m not talking conservative vs. liberal; I’m referring to to the interpersonal shuffling for exalted status that exists in pretty much any corporation. You may know these folks as glory hounds: those who are primarily (and often obsessively) concerned with their standing, status, and visibility among their supervisors and their peers. Glory hounds play this intricate, interlaced game of politics to push through their own agendas and build their legacies. Sometimes it’s intensely obvious; most times, it’s subtle, like a faint vibration in the floor.
So long as the games of the glory hounds don’t intersect my world, I can live with it. However, once my time, my projects, and my (and my team’s) reputation come under (direct or indirect) assault by a glory hound’s agenda, I start to seethe.
I don’t like these games. They frustrate me.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought on how to deal with the glory hounds. They’re certainly not going away, and outward opposition to their plans and schemes isn’t always going to win me (or my team) any favors. And yet, I have sparse appetite for wading into their pool and playing along in corporate “Keeping Up With the Joneses.”
Over the past year, I’ve been working my way steadily through the Old Testament to become more versed in God’s word. I’m currently in Job. If you’re not familiar with this book of the Bible, Job is a “righteous and blameless man” whose family, livelihood, and ultimately, his health, are taken from him to showcase his steadfast obedience to God. Throughout the book, several of his closest friends come to counsel him, assuming that some sinful act of his has let to his current state (and obviously not being terribly helpful). Job replies back to each, increasingly frustrated, fearful, and confused with God, but never once vilifying or defying Him. Job finally gets to plead his case to God directly, but that’s not where I’m going here.
About a third of the way through the book (Job 16:3-5), Job scolds his friends, illustrating how he would take the high road with them, despite their accusations and comments:
Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing?
I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you.
But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.
This last verse is what got me.
In reading this passage, I saw that the glory hounds can have their “long-winded” and “fine” speeches; they can push their agenda past, over, and through my working life. I, however, can make the choice to do better, through kindness, empathy, and encouragement. I don’t have to play along, or even to “play nice.” I can choose to be uplifting and even-keeled (“authentically nice”) in my actions and my reactions.
There’s another verse from Ephesians 4:29 that supports this practice:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
It’s tempting to push back against the glory hounds, to slander them, to gossip about them, and to frustrate their plans out of spite. But I believe I’ve found a method of coexisting with them in a manner that will truly uplift those around me in the workplace while stripping away emotions and thoughts that are simply mental clutter.
To quote the famous line from Wargames, “the only winning move is not to play.” I won’t play the games of the glory hounds, but instead I can walk the high road with humility, and truly live it.
“Never read the comments” … and product reviews?
Over the weekend, I had a thought regarding the Internet age adage “never read the comments” and product reviews. Aren’t reviews, in a sense, comments on a product? If we’re advised by the wise sages of the internets to not read them, how are we supposed to make what we feel as educated decisions on something that’s going to cost us time, money, or both?
Let’s start with comments.
I most always read the comments, or, at least the first few of them. Why? It’s the commentary, y’all!
In enough cases to warrant reading said comments, I’ve found enough enlightenment and details in back-and-forth discourse between commenters (and more fun if the original poster or author chimes in) to enrich the article, essay, diatribe, etc. The glaring exception is YouTube videos, which are riddled with spamvertisements.
I also use comments as a bellwether of the source document’s tone and agenda. You can tell a lot about an article by what chatter it stirs up in the digital pot, such as its reputation, its readership, and its (though I’ve grown to dislike this term) authenticity.
Now, for reviews.
As a general practice, whenever I see product reviews for something on, say, Amazon, I go and read both the “most recent” and “most helpful” sets to get a general consensus.
“Most recent” tells me whether there are problems or improvements that may affect my decision to buy this product. You see this a lot on the Apple App Store when a particular app pushes out an update. In that regard, low ratings due to past grumbling about quality or performance may now be fixed with a new version. It could also tell me whether the product has consistent problems back through time.
I take the “most helpful” reviews with a mighty strong grain of salt. There’s been quite an influx of “professional reviewers” getting paid to “gloss up” a product’s overall rating, and that unfortunately muddies up the waters. Professionally-written reviews are not always explicitly marked as such, but they always seem to have the same glossy platitudes in their writing style; they’re all trying to tell (or sell) the same story.
Here’s the flip side: I find that too many reviews are full of “complaint noise:” users or consumers who have no effective way of getting to the manufacturer or creator other than posting negative reviews, or, those who are confused or ill-informed about the proper use of what they purchased.
A good example I found just the other day is the Disney XD app for iOS, which I downloaded to watch the latest episode of Star Wars Rebels. A good percentage of the reviews were low- or one-starred. The 10 most recent reviews seemed to be written by a lot of tweens and teenagers looking to stream Disney XD shows but getting deflected by an internet service provider login or parental restrictions. Having an ISP and being a parent myself, I don’t have those obstacles and, as a result, their experiences aren’t reflective of my own.
OK, so comments are often noisy and argumentative and reviews suffer from authenticity issues and grumbling. Should we start saying “never read the comments or the reviews?”
I say “no.”
In this day and age, it’s good to see differing perspectives and opinions, so long as you, the reader, have the discipline to read objectively, not get pulled down in the abyss of petty arguments or controversies, and dive no deeper than page or two of the paginated results.
“Don’t give in to hate,” as Master Obi-Wan Kenobi once said.