Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

White Collar Workers More Dishonest On Survivor

Survivor Worlds ApartAre White Collar Workers Inherently Dishonest?

The new season of Survivor says Yes

This season a new gimmick – there are three tribes – white collar, blue collar, and no-collar. I’ve done all three, although mostly white and no-collar. I can relate to the business process types who make the rules, and the artsy types who break the rules. I was fascinated at how the tribes functioned differently. Right off the bat, 2 people from each tribe were given a choice between getting a big bag of food for the tribe, or a small bag of food and a personal advantage. Blue and no collar took the big bag, but the white collar took the small bag of food to get the personal advantage. In other words, the white collar workers were more dishonest.
It turned out to be a disaster to make the selfish decision. Everyone back at camp white collar knew they were lying, which hurt team unity going into the challenges against the other groups. One of the two ended up being the first person voted off, in large part because she was such an obvious lier.
Fascinating turn, to offer a choice like that to the contestants right away. The pairs from all three groups talked about it, but it wasn’t particularly close for the other two. We all have these choice points every day, where we can do what is best for ourselves or for the group. For example:
  • Do I let another driver merge ahead of me, or do I pull up so they can’t get in? Small personal advantage vs slightly better traffic flow for everyone else.
  • Do I smile at the person I’m walking past, or do I remain wrapped up in my own thoughts?
  • Do I take the time to write a Yelp review for the local business that gave exemplary service, to do I get on Facebook?
Few of these tests will have the type of dramatic consequences we saw on Survivor. However, they are part of our spiritual curriculum. There are always small consequences to our inner world, and if we don’t pass a test we will get it again and again until we pass it. I feel grateful that Mussar has taught me how to recognize these tests, and given me a means to get better spiritual grades.
Are you a Survivor fan? Let me know what you thought of this weeks episode.
PS – you can listen to an exit interview with So, voted off this week here.

A Lesson About Manipulation At Work From Survivor

Edna, the annoying anesthesiologist who was the sixth wheel in an alliance of five in Survivor South Pacific went off on fellow players for whining about being manipulated.

The inherent ingredient [in Survivor] is manipulation.  The majority of time we are going to be manipulated.  We should not hold any hard feelings because we signed up for this.  We voluntarily came her to be duped and these people did it successfully.

She is so right.  No one likes being manipulated, but guess what?  When you join a company, you are signing up for a set of rules, and manipulation is hardly out of bounds.  It is a manager’s job to keep his or her employees motivated and working hard.  And part of good management is manipulation.  One director from a mid-sized company in the Mountain West put it like this:

As a manager it works to your advantage when people are ultra dedicated, but it also it breaks my heart when people were so upset about their project being cut. It’s a little manipulative to say “well look this isn’t your whole life” after encouraging that level of devotion to the project in the first place.  Many employees would calm right down after they heard that.

I think we all have a bit of a tendency to think ‘it can’t happen to me,’ and to ignore the signs.  Once upon a time, I thought my work was so good I was above politics.  And, I was one of the mission-driven crowd.  The company was out to change the world, and I was helping to make it happen.  But, some people took advantage of my zeal, and I was really upset when I realized that some people were just out for themselves.

On Survivor, it was a bit hard to see whether Edna’s comment had much of an effect on the other players who were so upset that they had been manipulated.  I am not in any way justifying manipulative behavior within the corporate world or elsewhere.  But, manipulation is a reality, even from the good people.  To quote Michael Chabon, “It is my experience that honest people live by the contracts they sign.  Not a tittle more.”  Or to quote Don King, “You get what you negotiate for, not what you deserve.”

My advice: look after your own self-interest, and learn the rules of the game.  No one else can do that for you.  By working for that company, you signed up to play by their set of rules.  When something feels unfair, some person you trusted hung you out to dry, or some manipulative person is ‘getting away with it’, don’t waste your energy getting mad.  You signed up for it.  Learn to play better, or better yet, find a different game.