No Signs of Intelligent Life
Recently BNET published an article by Stanley Bing, bestselling author of What Would Machiavelli do? and Sun Tzu Was a Sissy, that really caught my attention. The headline was brilliant: “My Company Was Bought by Jerks.” Now, if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll understand why such a title piqued my interest. The article summary was equally intriguing:
The workplace suddenly feels alien now that new management has taken over. Stanley Bing recommends blending in with the “conquering Martians” to save your job—and your sanity.
The article is actually Stanley’s response to a letter from a disgruntled employee struggling with a big, ugly acquisition and questioning how to deal with new bosses, layoffs and the hostile atmosphere created when outside “invaders” take over your once sacred space.
Stanley’s response to this cry for help was direct, matter-of-fact and painfully spot on. There was no sympathetic reassurances of better times ahead. No coddling, no pacifying, no “buck up little camper” pep talks. In short, the response boiled down to the equivalent of, “Get over it.”
At first, the response in all its brutal honesty really stung. I could have easily been the person Stanley was directing his advice to, and I took it to heart. But after letting it digest for a bit, I realized the value in what I was reading and the freedom that’s often found when you finally realize you’re fighting a losing battle. When you understand that the war was over long ago, and the only person you’ve been fighting with all this time is yourself. I was suddenly struck by the reality of my situation and the understanding—however distasteful— that it was an “adapt or die” scenario. I was in a Darwinian world where only the strong would survive, and I could either evolve or become extinct.
It’s true, I was once a rising star. I was valued, respected and rewarded. I was passionate, engaged and motivated to do my best work. Let me be clear, paradise it was not. Now that the skies have turned a darker shade of gray, it’s easy to look to the past with rose-colored glasses. We all have a tendency to romanticize that which we’ve lost. Minimize the flaws and enhance the beauty through the mind’s eye. I don’t stand before you and claim that my job prior to the cruel invasion was perfect…or anything closely orbiting that universe. I did my share of venting, complaining, whining and pining. I bitched about things that now seem woefully inconsequential. And I now regret the time I spent picking apart the pretty roses and wishing they were somehow bigger, brighter and more fragrant. In retrospect, I’d love to turn back time and go back to those days when I didn’t dread getting out of bed each morning. When I was viewed as smart, capable and talented.
Bing warns against being swept up in nostalgia for the way things were and bitterness over how it all came crashing down. Holding on to the past makes it impossible to move forward. And whether or not I want to be a part of this new way, I have to survive. Right now, change is inevitable. I can either make the best of the current situation and change to adapt to the current state, or I can change jobs and start over somewhere more closely aligned with my values and expectations for my career. But dream jobs don’t fall in your lap overnight, and today’s economy isn’t terribly supportive of a dreamer who wants both a paycheck and a little happiness. Regardless, the one thing I can’t do is stay…and stay the same.