‘Nine Lies About Work’ – challenging assumptions

I love to read books that challenge assumptions and that make me rethink certain topics. Overdiagnosed by G. Welch, Guns Germs & Steel and The Last Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond and more popular, Freakonimics (and it’s succesor, superfreakonimics) by Levitt and Dubner. Especially in my battle against Graves disease i’ve learned to be very critical about what the conventional wisdom is.

The Third Chimpanzee
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Freakonomics (New Edn)

So recently i came across a book with the title ‘Nine lies about work’ by Marcus Buckingham and Ashely Goodall, which immediately caugt my attention. The book is essentially what the title says, 9 ideas that we take for granted about work but are wrong. I just finished reading it and i’m still processing the content and ideas. But i wanted to write a bit about two of the lies that were explained.

Nine Lies About Work

Lie #1: People care which company they work for

This lie is basically about the fact that people might join a company because of the company, but stay at a company because of the team they are in, even if they don’t like where the company is headed. But even more, if the company is still great with lofty goals but the team sucks, people tend to leave.

I sort of knew this one because the people you work with directly influence how you percieve work. So working for a (on the outside) great company, let’s say, Space X, might seem nice but if the people you work with are a*$!es and/or have a different workethic then you, you won’t last very long, even if it’s a long nurished dream.

Working for a large e-commerce company in the Netherlands for almost 10 years on the other hand has also shown me that if the company culture and vibe is great than working on a team that’s not fitting might not be such a problem. Moreover there are quite some opportunities to change teams and to make work more interesting by doing side-projects.

But in the end it’s mostly about the people your working with that influence how you percieve and enjoy work. So working for the best team in the worst company, keeps you at the company more than the other way around.

Lie #6: People can reliably rate other people

This lie is about the fact that people can’t objectively rate other people based on some method or concept. I guess almost everyone has been through some sort of yearly review cycle and based on the outcome got a smaller or larger raise. But the question is always, how do a select bunch of people rate you but don’t really know you and often only see part of what you do.

I guess in my experience that’s only a problem if people have been given a low score. In my company what they do is collect information from lots of people i work with which should give a decent image of how i perform and how people see me. But this does not mean they are correct, in my view of course. Those people usually see only a part of me and is greatly influence by if and how my work affects them. If it affects poorly or we could not get along, then you get ‘poor’ data. Is that bad? Depends what your manager does with the data.

A good measure is how many people give the same input. If everyone says you, for example, are a poor communicator, then there’s something to it. Even if you don’t see it that way. It’s how others percieve you that greatly impacts your effectiveness. Luckily my last ‘review’ people gave feedback that was all over the place (mostly positive).

But being reviewed, although needed to a certain extend, is somehow always a bit weird and looming. I just started seeing it as a way to improve, even if i don’t always agree and try to take the emotion out of the review and look at the facts. But then again, my last (and only) poor review was 7 years ago.

Final thought(s)

There’s one other lie that is interesting, and that’s lie #4: The best people are well rounded, which is more about the idea that you need to be allrounded to be succesfull. Which in my opinion is most certainly not the case. There are very few people who excell on different levels. But i started reading another book called ‘Range‘ by David Epstein and it’s about

Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.

So curious to read how lie #4 and this book relate to eachother but my guess it’s about that the best people are often specialists in a certain field but how you can become a good specialists does not mean you have to specialize early (as a kid) but do more ‘allround’ stuff which takes Roger Federer as an example.

The book (Nine Lies About Work) was a good read and these type of books keep me critical about things that seem ‘normal’. That’s all we can do these days with all the traditional and social media avalange of data, information and knowledge that enters our brain on a daily basis. We have to make sense of it and that requires critical thinking and being prepared to change your mind.

(This is a nice blog about the book: https://medium.com/melting-pot/nine-lies-about-work-are-they-really-lies-acdf1354b423 which shortly touches on all lies from the writers perspective)

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