This week’s quote comes from a brand new book by Jake Breeden, Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Wok Habits that Masquerade as Virtues.
Breeden identifies 7 “sacred cows” of corporate workplace life. These sacred cows are beliefs we’ve always held but they don’t do us any good in today’s corporate world. For example, many of us are taught to make every element of a product “excellent.” So we get focused on process excellence when we should in fact consider outcome excellence.
Another example: Many companies encourage knee-jerk (“automatic”) collaboration. Teams are good. Working alone is bad. All too often, companies allow free riders to benefit from the collaborative mentality. Breeeden argues that we should replace this approach with “accountable collaboration.”
Breeden emphasizes that people get absolutely furious, dysfunctional and discouraged when they feel unfairly treated.
Here’s what he says on pp 134-135:
“The answer is not to assume that everyone is nasty and avoid as many people as possible. And it’s a copout for us to assume that our difficult boss or client takes pleasure from treating us poorly…
“Instead, check others for nastiness. The good news is people tend to be predictable. ..So the best way to predict if you’re dealing with a jerk is to learn about his past behavior. Do you see dead careers and bitter coworkers scattered around his previous prospects? If so, stay away.
“If you suspect your boss has it out for you, check to see if her other employees in other places have thrived. If so, then it’s not likely she’s suddenly turned evil.”
This advice makes good sense in any context. Clients often say, “I’m nervous that my next job will be even worse! I don’t want to go from the frying pan into the fire.”
If you’re changing jobs within a company, you can do this kind of research just by asking a few questions. Notice where people have gone after working for your future boss.
If they’ve left the company, you need to do some digging. If these former employees have gone on to greater things they couldn’t have accomplished at your company, you might be looking at a real gem of a boss: someone who develops her people and unselfishly gives them opportunities. If they were all fired … well, enough said.
Of course, another way to play detective is to work backwards. Find people in your company you are doing well. If your company tends to retain people over time, find out if there’s a boss, department or function that’s the gateway to success.
As usual, I’m happy to work with you to create your own strategy when you want an objective outside opinion.