While reading online news recently I was astonished to come across an article titled ‘Why being rude can really work in your favour’ (Originally published in Forbes). Intrigued by what the author could possibly have to say about such a ridiculous suggestion I read on. Written by Susannah Breslin the opening paragraph of the article reads:
“These days, most of the work advice you get is very PC. Follow the golden rule. Be nice. Make a good impression. Of course, that doesn’t address the reality — that sometimes being a sinner instead of a saint can get you ahead at work.” Susannah goes on to explain how each of the seven deadly sins can ‘take your career to the next level’.
Today’s blog was inspired by my desire to express strong disagreement with what I read in Susannah’s article. I couldn’t disagree more with her deleterious approach and toxic attitude! I sincerely hope people don’t take seriously her advice to use anger, greed and envy to fuel their efforts and success at work. Much of the advice Susannah offers will in my experience most likely lead to damaged relationships and undermine success.
WRATH: Susannah suggests ‘anger can be a productive motivating force if employed properly. Instead of stewing over all the wrongs you’ve experienced at work, use the force of your fury to propel you forward.’ A much better idea is to let go of anger – it’s a destructive emotion that undermines happiness and is likely to adversely impact upon your health. Instead leverage the energizing passion you feel for achieving your goals to fuel your efforts.
GREED: Describing her decision to take on more work than she could handle because it paid well, Susannah shares that “by chasing the cash, I discovered I could accomplish more than I thought.” This is a dangerously short-term focused mindset. When taking on too much undermines the quality of what we are able to deliver, damage to our reputation can become very costly over time. Managing an unreasonable workload for an extended period of time is also likely to impact your health and wellbeing.
SLOTH: The key point Susannah raises here I agree with – that is – not everyone does their best work between the hours of 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday. Yet again however Susannah brings an unnecessarily objectionable attitude by suggesting “ignoring how you’re supposed to work is the key to figuring out the work style that’s the best fit for you”. In my experience ‘ignoring how you’re supposed to work’ can get you fired. Negotiating flexible work arrangements is one thing, simply refusing to work within your organisations policies and reasonable expectations is quite another.
LUST: Susannah had to work hard to get this deadly sin to fit but got there by making reference to the power of primal instincts. Her advice to “understand the base drives that motivate your employees and your employers, and you’ll get ahead” however is unquestionably valid.
ENVY: Applying this deadly sin, Susannah encourages us to be motivated by envy we feel toward other people who have what we want. She asks “whose life do you want, and what can you do to get where they are?” In my observation resentment doesn’t serve anyone well – it is far more healthy and productive to be inspired by the admiration and respect you feel for successful people.
PRIDE: Susannah makes a valid point about the importance of balancing pride and humility. However her advice is focused on how to manage the perceptions of other people. She suggests knowing how to brag enough to get noticed and yet not enough to be considered arrogant matters most. What really matters however, is that we have, and are known for having, a healthy ego. Self-belief and appreciation of our strengths balanced with accurate perception and acceptance of the ways in which we need to improve are crucially important ingredients of success.
GLUTTONY: The opening remarks in this section are particularly offensive. “Fundamentally, you’re not working with people — you’re working with animals”. Susannah goes on to say “consider the Wall Street guy who takes his client to a high-end Manhattan strip club with a restaurant that serves filet mignon. He’s pushing every button he can, from food to sex. He’s selling his proposal to a client who wants to say yes to everything around him. And that’s how he wins”. WOW! Susannah needs to read a good book about the rise and fall of Enron. Greed, pride, lust and gluttony driven corporate collapses of the late 90’s and early 2000’s taught a lot of people that the ‘Wall Street guy’ mustn’t be allowed to get away with behaving like a jerk. While we still have a long way to go to rid the business world of unpleasant people, the importance of achieving that objective is much more widely understood.