There are more important things than being right. You can be right about something but at the end of the day, it often doesn’t matter. If you believe you are right about the name of the actor who played that character in the movie you saw a couple of years ago (assuming Google isn’t handy to fact check) and you end up in a snit with your friend over it, it won’t matter much who was right if the rest of your evening is clouded by mutual annoyance. We are taught that being right is the ultimate value but if nobody wants to hear it and they shoot the messenger then that will be the end of messages.
Sure, some things are worth standing on principle, but where to draw the line? Is it compromising who you are as a person to play the office politics game? My bread is landing butter-side up more often since I decided to become a demurring “yes-Barbie”, in the sense that management doesn’t get angry with me since I stopped telling them the sky is going to fall in about 6 months when my department crashes under the weight of its own success because nobody is shoring up the extra tonnage with more human resources. Instead, I smile, “Sure, I’d be more than happy to design a plan to increase growth and achieve even higher sales targets” (but I really hope not to be here when the consequences are an inevitable decline in quality and service). Nobody likes to be told inconvenient truths that interfere with business targets. Survival in the office jungle often means adopting the best camouflage and playing nice.
Being good – agreeable and well-behaved – is rewarded in nearly all situations. Children who are well-behaved do as they are told, don’t talk back to their elders or fight with their peers and endure all manner of dull adult activities without a word of complaint. Adults who are well-behaved know better than to raise politics, religion or contentious social issues in a conversation and if such topics are discussed, they would certainly know enough to change the subject the moment tempers start to flare. Well-behaved adults in the business world may snarl at competitors but they will be cast out from the pack if they dare to challenge their alpha dog’s choices.
Everyone knows you want to be right and on Superman’s side.
But you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar and if the one with the most flies wins, you’d damn well better use honey. My grandmother has often said, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Barbie is always nice and well-behaved; Barbie’s superpower is being good. In my effort to emulate Barbie’s winning ways, I am working the honeyed approach with the flies in my office. They can be very irritating, these flies: the way they buzz by my head while I am trying to concentrate on spreadsheets. They seem to lack work to keep them sufficiently occupied and one of them flits about making small talk about her current facebook status, then swoops off to go shopping in the middle of a work day. Butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth Barbie feigns interest in the shopping purchases and offers candy from her desk drawer proving that indeed, you can catch more flies that way. Meanwhile, Barbie’s pink fingernails are digging into her palms in an effort to keep the honeyed smile glued into place and obeying grandma’s law by not saying anything at all.
Serving honey to flies works to attract them and keep them happy and being good works to keep the alpha dog from going for the jugular. The question is: what good will a jar full of flies do Barbie when the sky starts falling and the alpha dog decides to throw her to the wolves?