Saturday, May 4, 2013

The disability of a narrow mind


Anyone who knows me well has heard me utter the phrase, "mediocrity is the standard" more than once and usually with disgust. 

So what do I mean by that?

To be blunt, the standard of mediocrity means blundering through life never attempting to do more than the bare minimum.  It's a fallback position that many in the working world spend their entire careers operating from. 

It usually happens when someone takes a position they may be qualified for but have no real interest in.  How such a person can rise to power when a more engaged candidate doesn't is usually indicative of a systematic problem within the organization.  In short, everyone up the management chain is similarly disinterested and will protect themselves from discovery.   

If one operates under the standard of mediocrity for a long enough period of time they eventually assume that it's the status quo.  This is the disability of the narrow mind within the context of employment.  Note that racism, elitism and other societal 'isms are similar in that all effectively cripple higher reasoning.

Thus we see the initial stages of the "dominos of disaster" when practitioners of the mediocrity standard run headlong into more engaged individuals.   

When confronted with a potential threat to the status quo of mediocrity, the disability becomes readily apparent.  It surfaces in confrontational behaviors and rejection of information not contained within their narrow focus even when compatible with stated organizational goals. 

In effect, the inability to think "outside the box" regardless of how beneficial the outcome will prevent the afflicted individual from acting reasonably.

If it sounds like a medical or psychological condition it is.  In fact it's pathological in an organizational sense.

This is the dilemma that the long term and formerly self employed face when interviewing with afflicted organizations.  Candidates with such a backgrounds are considered inferior and suspect regardless of experience, accomplishments or evidence to the contrary.

Take the example of the former self-employed consultant now interviewing for a regular full time position.  In this case the candidate may get through HR and lower level managers but find opposition from senior management.  Even before the first handshake is extended the candidate is already in a diminished position.


Overcoming the condition is virtually impossible as any concession the candidate asserts is assumed to be suspect if not disingenuous.   The only recourse for the candidate is to try to frame their qualifications within the narrow context of the organizational pathology.

At this point it's usually a pointless exercise to proceed any further since the organizational dysfunction curtails higher reasoning and shortens attention spans.  This is most blatantly evidenced by repeated questioning about the same topic, yawning and in some cases snoring.

Unfortunately, most organizations suffer the affliction and have even elevated it to a de facto mission statement.  It's a common pathogen meaning you're going to encounter a lot of it in the corporate world regardless of your job function. 

If you do encounter such an organization (and you will) and still  wish to persist in your efforts to join it you can employ the following tactics.  Note that they will likely be unsuccessful but more productive than attempting to alert the afflicted to their condition.

  • ·         Lie -  You can hope they won't check your background and enter the organization with stealth if not outright deception.  With the easy access to information and most organizations requiring a formal background check it's likely you won't succeed past the first interview.  If the organization is dysfunctional enough, however, they may respond well to a cleverly crafted deception. 
  • ·         Debate- This tactic will likely have even less of a chance of success than deception but at least you'll be comforted in the knowledge that you were completely truthful.  The tactic involves countering objections to your qualifications by crafting your responses to fit the narrow focus of the afflicted organization.  For example, when confronted with a concern about work ethic especially if your career consists primarily of self employment try this.  Assert the merits of personal responsibility and client satisfaction necessary to run a successful small business.  It also wouldn't hurt to mention that you're a firm believer in trickle-down economics and would jump at the chance to be standing on the bottom rung with awaiting arms outstretched.  Keep in mind, however, that afflicted organizations and their management have limited capability to engage in higher reasoning so keep your responses short and at roughly the 6th grade level.
  • ·         Violence - Only useful if the prospects of arrest and incarceration hold no fear for you. 
  • ·         Submission - In short, be an apologist for your entire career and essentially "throw yourself on the mercy of the court."  In a severely afflicted organization with candidates less qualified than yourself this may be the most effective tactic.  Be aware, however, that should you secure the position you will likely find it unfulfilling.  Still, the knowledge that mediocre performance is the status quo may eventually make your stay more tolerable.  Beware the danger of becoming infected with the Disability of the Narrow mind, however, as it will alter you on a cellular level.  Then again, once infected you will likely become anesthetized to its ill effects and become blissfully unaware of it.  This is especially true if  the position offers a good prescription drug program.
  • ·         Defiance - This is similar to the Violence option above except the authorities aren't involved.  It's not so much a display of emotional outbursts as an attempt to make the hiring manager feel stupid.  The desired outcome of this tactic is to temporarily shock management out of their disability by forcing undeniable logic on them.  Your ultimate goal is to convince the hiring manager that you are the change needed to further organizational goals.  Unfortunately, this tactic has only been shown to work in the movie Office Space.

In short, afflicted organizations should be avoided if at all possible.  Otherwise damage to your career and possibly your psyche could result.