Sunday, January 18, 2009

Save It For Your Interviews

A fast way to get ridiculed in an art class is to complain that your grade should be adjusted upward because you worked really hard on whatever project earned you that grade. The reason why is, when it comes to art, the final product is all that matters. No one cares whether you worked for years on a piece, or slapped it out in thirty seconds; if it's great art, then it's great art. Sweat-of-the-brow counts for nothing.

This holds true for most arts, which is probably why the arts have a reputation for harbouring divas, flakes, nutbars, and addicts. As long as a person produces good art, the customer is happy and that forgives a lot.

In contrast, many companies are introducing "No Assholes Allowed" policies because they've realized no matter how talented an individual is, if they're demoralizing others and poisoning the work environment to the point that qualified employees quit, then that person financially harms the company more than they help it.

Of course, a company relies on many people working together to produce a final result. In contrast, when the financial life of a project depends on a single star who is an irreplaceable juggernaut of talent, then everyone else just has to suck it up if that star also happens to an asshole.

That's not to say there isn't a recoil that affects the asshole and his/her career, mind you.

A lot of the companies that have instituted "No Assholes Allowed" policies also refuse to work with clients who are assholes. This is pretty striking behaviour for a money-making venture: they turn down business from people who harass or abuse their employees.

The reason why is the company is more productive, and thus more profitable, when their employees are happy. Morale is that important.

This is interesting because it applies to artists--such as writers--who need to work with others in order to sell their work. If you're a published writer, and also a Harridan Whom All Loathe, then the publishing house functions less effectively when its people have to deal with you. What if your jerkishness translates into less feedback from your editor? Less enthusiasm from the marketing and publicity departments?

And what if, when the house is looking to cut a few authors (which they might be inclined to, in these economic times), no one is willing to champion your work in-house?

Any of us can be writers; all that's required is that we write. To be published, however, means you turn writing into a profession, and that implies you should be professional. Being talented is not correlated with being an asshole--you can be one and not the other--but more importantly, being an asshole never helps your career. Never.

So choose to be professional. You're free to be a gloriously flakey or curmudgeonly writer; just do it on your own time.

Or when you get interviewed. Hey; everyone loves a character.

4 comments:

pjd said...

Brilliant post.

I sometimes used to help my father-in-law with freelance web application development. When he passed away from cancer 10 months after his diagnosis, one of his clients called me up to see if I could carry on his projects with them. At first I did because the money was not bad. But one of the first things this guy said was, "I don't know what was wrong with Gary, but he was terrible to work with." Then he went on a tirade for five minutes badmouthing my just-deceased father-in-law, whom I respect intensely to this day. There was never a more professional and accommodating man. I actually did work with that client for a short time, but it became clear who was the can't-be-worked-with one in the relationship. What an asshole.

On the flip side, I worked for a boss whose m.o. was to hire only assholes. He fostered a culture of conflict and mistrust... on purpose. Best day of my professional life was when he fired me, in part for refusing to fire a friend who worked for me and who was doing a dandy fine job.

They comes in all sizes, assholes.

jjdebenedictis said...

PJD: Eek. Nasty people in both examples--with the first one being slightly more excusable. Some people are just born that way.

But thinking it's a good thing for your employees to be back-biting voles? That's different order of magnitude on the Asshole scale.

Stephe said...

They come in all sizes, all right. But they're always clenched very tightly. Makes it easy to spot one a mile off.

Ugh.

jjdebenedictis said...

Stephe: Hee! That's an excellent way of putting it. :-D

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