arrogance and browbeating

How does a person learn not to intimidate others?

Tonight I had a debate with someone over the merits of working for a large semiconductor manufacturer on the cutting edge of technology. It thoroughly depressed me, not because I was jealous (said company once offered me a job that I declined), but because the implication was that not being on the cutting edge is somehow less important, less intelligent or less useful on the whole. “There’s a lot of joy to be had as a ‘colonist’ instead of being a ‘pioneer,'” he said. He claims that this wasn’t a value judgement, but to my ears, it is. And I’ve spent my share of time in both camps, for what it’s worth.

Similarly, it was argued that being social is key, so key that this employer also offers training to its own socially backward employees in how to keep abreast of social issues. The implication that *lacking* that desire is something that must be corrected for the good of the company may hold water from an intellectual perspective, but does not account for the will of the individual. Yes, carry on for the good of the company, but if that means I must change myself as an individual, especially socially, how am I any longer retaining who I am? I willingly make sacrifices for my employer. I enjoy hard work, and the natural reward brought by a job well done. I would resent any employer who would seek to alter my psychological profile to better suit their work environment. (Oh, and being social for the good of customer relationships or sales is completely acceptable. It’s just that the implication that I must be social with my peers, at gunpoint, is ridiculous.)

But what made the discussion all that much harder to swallow was the browbeating, unintentional though it was. Statements I made regarding what I believe to be true were listened to, heard, and paid no more than lip service. Every statement felt to have a thinly veiled judgement lurking just behind it. It was as if a cultist had descended on me, refusing to even acknowledge that another viewpoint could hold as much merit has his own. Ever spoken to an evangelical religious fanatic? “Sure, you’re welcome to believe in any God as you see him, but only our way is right.”

This all smacks of the sort of compartmentalization that leads to people swearing by Myers-Briggs personality typing and so called “quadrant” management techniques, where people are binned and sorted in a way that helps no one but the hucksters of pop psychology. It trivializes the complexities of interpersonal relationships, and it needlessly assumes that people cannot flow between boxes within the course of a lifetime, a career, or even a single meeting. It’s also deeply impersonal.

Perhaps this acquaintance’s vaunted company needs to offer some courses in emotional sensitivity training.

4 thoughts on “arrogance and browbeating

  1. The value placed on being at the cutting edge is a common geek conceit
    (as you and I both know). However, doing so for status is the mistake geeks also make.

    As for “keeping abreat of social issues”, which issues?
    The latest alleged marital discord of some movie stars?
    The current politicians? Municipal issues? etc….
    There’s another conceit hidden in there.

    How old is this person? He/she sounds like a typical new ‘high-tech’ geek.

  2. Well, for what it’s worth, he didn’t intend to imply most of this. I get the sense he’s not that young physicially — I mean, he’s got a Ph.D. IIRC — and that he’s also been around in the workplace for a while. I don’t know if his job with this particular company is his first-and-only job, or if he’s worked at a variety of companies. That tends to warp a person’s perrspective as well.

  3. Many corporate cultures border on cults. (The word cult is a short form of culture after all). The real problem you are vocalizing is that you feel pigeon holed. The idea that the company you work (or the work you do) for defines the persons life. It is a very common attitude in North America. For many people their life revolves around work and many companies take advantage of this fact and reinforce it.

  4. Interesting point, qwerty, but not 100% accurate about me. I do not feel pigeonholed at my current job…

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