Under yesterday’s post about moral cowardice in the workplace, dearieme makes the following comment:
People should build up a “get stuffed” fund so that they can afford to tell a boss to go to hell.
To which bobby b responded:
It’s been my experience that the Eff You Money myth is just that – a myth.
If you ask ten people how much money it takes, the answer is almost always something like ([what I have right now] X 2.5.) It’s like the “Free Beer Tomorrow” signs in bars – tomorrow never comes.
Those who can truly say Eff You to a boss or a job can say it no matter how much they have put away.
The rest can salt away a million or two and still be waiting to hit that magic number. They’ll never actually catch up to it. Most people just aren’t the Eff You type.
Both deariem and bobby b make good points.
One of the most depressing things I heard during my career was a remark made by a friend and former colleague who I love dearly. I was complaining, as I often do, about the lack of moral courage in modern organisations, particularly how almost nobody will speak up against bad management decisions, poor practice, or a lack of clarity, consistency, or professionalism. I described how I’d sat through a meeting where a visiting boss failed to address any of the employees’ long-standing complaints, and instead delivered an upbeat monologue that bore no resemblance to reality. I questioned why nobody, even those quite senior, had the balls to speak up, and she replied:
Because it would be pretty irresponsible for a guy to come home to his kids and say “Sorry, I’ve lost my job because I told my boss to fuck off.”
I found it depressing because it confirmed what I have long suspected: the slightest push-back against management these days is interpreted as “telling the boss to fuck off”. The fact that there is a yawning chasm between raising valid objections and telling the boss to fuck off seems to be absent in the minds of modern corporate employees.
If anyone at work calls you a brown-noser or a suck-up, ask them how many times they’ve been fired. I’ve found this normally shuts them up. Me, I’ve been booted from one job for repeatedly and vociferously denouncing the utter incompetence of my boss and his boss above him, and hoofed off another for being overly outspoken in a quite different sense. But there have been times when I’ve held my tongue because I couldn’t afford to lose my job.
I learned the lesson early in my career that you need to make yourself as financially independent from your employer as possible. Honestly speaking, this is one of the main reasons why I didn’t want kids: once you have kids, your boss has you by the balls, and he or she knows it. They then treat you accordingly. Most people are happy to nod their heads and stay silent but I’m incapable of doing that indefinitely (family trait) and I knew if I had children there would be a good chance I’d either let them down, die of stress, or die of shame and misery. I think it’s a sad reflection on modern corporate life that a good portion of employees are thoroughly miserable and humiliated, but are trapped because of their decision to have children. Among all the talk of why Europeans are no longer breeding, this factor never comes up. Perhaps it should?
Anyway, it took me a few years but eventually I got to a point where it wouldn’t be a disaster if I lost my job. Of course it wouldn’t be ideal either, but I’d not be totally screwed. Now that didn’t mean I immediately started telling managers to fuck off, because that would be stupid. But what it did mean is I could sail closer to the wind and stand up for myself a bit more, and speak out if I’m not happy with something. This has made me a pariah in some circles as absolute, unwavering obedience to management is a requirement in modern industry, but it’s probably made me happier than most people around me. For a start, the stress relief that comes from not having to grovel on a daily basis just to pay the bills is unmeasurable. Secondly, not much actually happens. For all the times I’ve been pulled aside after a meeting by someone whispering “But you need to be careful!”, and the number of dark warnings I’ve received about how this “will impact you career”, I’m still not noticeably worse off than anyone else. Firing people isn’t that easy, and 90% of employees won’t have high-flying careers no matter how much they believe it and how late they work trying to achieve it. Contrary to the universal belief in major corporations, a less-than-perfect annual appraisal is not the end of the world. By contrast, it barely matters a jot. So if you’re middle-aged and not rubbing shoulders with the top bananas on a daily basis, you might as well stop sucking up, relax, and enjoy life a little.
So bobby b is right, most people just aren’t the “fuck you” type. The problem is, with today’s financial pressures most people aren’t anything other than the “yes, sir” type. Rather than building up a “get stuffed” fund, employees should first start working towards a “well, hang on a minute” fund. I’m convinced both employees and shareholders will be better off if they did.