Three types of employees


Excerpt from Critical Thinking? Introduction to navigating the irrational

Business proves to be rather hypocritical when it comes to ethics, absurd when it comes to anything that has anything to do with people and in most areas sells wishful thinking as facts.

Here are a few of the most common examples: it expects loyalty from employees but fires them in droves when its mistakes have accumulated to a tipping point; it wants people to be innovative but forces them to serve processes; it calls people resources, assets, capital (notice the accounting terminology?) or just employees while masquerading as champions of human rights and faking respect toward them; it acts irrationally but expects critical thinking from its “leaders”; it hires and “develops” compliant bureaucrats and gives them power; it demands frugality but flies in private jets; it either works with margins or volumes or both in such proportions that it insults intelligence (not to be confused with smarts), our sense of justice and good taste; it is an environment where everybody’s lying habitually, even when they are not breaking the law or lobbying to enact one, etc.

Such an environment has birthed three types of players:

  1. The majority which breaks down to three further types:

  • The surprised, comprising the mass. Intellectually they are 100% passive, situationally they are absolutely clueless. They keep on getting surprised by whatever happens to them. Some of these – to their biggest surprise – make decent careers sustaining the hope of their peers.

  • The disappointed: on the one hand they typically expect some kind of superiority from their superiors, on the other hand they have reservations about dedicating their life to coding apps, managing logistics, projects, P&L1 and similar business functions, but they are not aware of or can’t come up with any alternatives, so they take a number and get in line.

  • The cynical. There are two types of cynics. One is unable to grasp higher principles and deals with this incapacity with hostility toward everybody who does. The other type simply doesn’t believe in business; they don’t expect much, but they see a sea of idiots around them and they wonder how come the system doesn’t just break. Some of these start to play and become players; most don’t.

It’s very important to note that the cynics never become disappointed: this would be evidence that the organization is developing. The disappointed ones, however, often become cynics proving that the organization is in crisis.

  1. The career driven

These people were literally invented, bred or created by business; it speaks volumes about the lower end of the spectrum the human spirit is capable of that they actually manage to make themselves believe that their destiny is to help their companies grow and they fully dedicate themselves to meeting KPIs (key performance indicators). This is especially true to people who are older than 40.

Career people religiously follow the trends and adjust, read best practices and top 10 lists of what successful people do, and faithfully comply; the only goal is to get ahead and get rewarded by positions, which gives them the only sense of identity. Some of them do, most of them don’t and they end up forming the ever fattening mid-management layer, practically running around looking busy.

They lead a humiliating existence which they are completely oblivious to; most feel the sting only when they get fired, not at all when they get promoted or when they go about their daily business.

  1. The players

The majority of players understand that business is not about self-improvement or professional development; they simply figure out the system and play it, although unavoidably they become part of it themselves and they always get played, too. Some of the players may develop from the clueless majority, others may be psychopaths who find ideal conditions in the business world.

Both the clueless majority and the career driven dream about reaching the “top”. This productive dream hasn’t changed since the beginning of the 20th century, but the methods to maintain it certainly have. Nowadays the advice for becoming a player is to “follow your passion”. This drives the cynics crazy, but certainly motivates the hell out of everybody else, feverishly searching for their passion; this criteria has even made it to the list of values at most companies, right next to critical thinking and performance.

We can find all three types of players on all hierarchical or seniority levels of business organizations. A junior analyst or a receptionist may be a player reporting to a cynic or to one of the clueless majority and so on.

The above description mostly applies to the so called corporate environment: multinationals, international corporations, mid-sized businesses.

When business reaches a particular size the fact that it plays a zero sum game becomes more evident: when the company is prospering it hurts the community or entire communities, including the people it employs; and the same happens when it struggles.

Many of the disappointed majority or the player types perceive entrepreneurship, including startups as an alternative. While we can see small business as a viable alternative for the current business climate, we can’t help being critical about startups.

There are many definitions for startups, some quite philosophical; we chose the following: startups are businesses that are financed by specialized investors to achieve the biggest scale in the shortest time possible. Startups are conventional businesses in many respects, the most important one being the career aspect. Although the conventional concept of a career is being challenged especially in the Silicon Valley,2 the fundamentals haven’t changed, so there are more similarities than differences.

A startup is visibly different from a global food and beverage company, for example, since it’s setup to accommodate almost exclusively kids (and with time kids with kids), and they may be more efficient at “shipping stuff”, at least until they reach a certain size, otherwise the differences are quantitative only. The deal is still to deliver on KPIs in exchange for a paycheck and perks.

Even being a founder has become a career; it’s interesting to observe that founders, similarly to other career people, tend to view the world the same way and with time even their behavior seems to be less and less differentiated, exhibiting strong cult-think – something we’ll talk about a little later.

Both startups and global corporations need to grow to satisfy shareholders whose only interest is their interest. While global corporations simply resort to throwing money on the growth problem (marketing, M&A, geographical expansions), startups, to ease this pressure, set out to “solve problems” (e.g. Airbnb) or to find “problems” (e.g. facebook) or “improve people’s lives” (all of them claim to do so) which in the majority of cases works like pills producing more side effects than the symptoms they wanted to patch up – and we are not referring to the cat or food pictures on facebook although they too are symptoms of serious social problems.3 “Improving people’s lives” that drives among other things google’s acquisitions4 is the most ingenious one that, while it’s so absurd, is beyond funny.

1 For those who are not familiar: P&L stands for profit and loss statement. It’s mostly an Excel sheet that is the de facto tool of “initiation” into being a manager. Some managers from all three types of corporate players identify with their corporate role to such a degree that they have their spouses run a P&L sheet at home or report to their spouse with it.

2 See The Alliance by Reid Hoffman.

3 There are of course startups that set out to solve pressing environmental, energy, health, and other problems, as well; whether or not these problems are technical in nature is another question which we’ll address later.



Excerpt from the book Critical Thinking? Introduction to navigating the irrational

Like at all other personal practices, we look at this principle sub specie interioritatis, the internal point of view. To each his own. What does this mean? Justice and differentiation. Self-control. Awareness. Knowledge. Sound judgment. Tact. Understanding. A superior position. A superior observation.

Successfully and regularly applying this principle is the privilege of a few.
The smaller the situation, the more difficult it is to apply this principle, although this doesn’t mean that, especially today, we have an easy job in “big situations” like governance, for example, or in general when social structures are involved. A small situation is, for example, how I decide to speak with somebody in what situation.

Common thinking is that a “straight-up person” would be consistent in his behavior toward everybody. We don’t necessarily consider such people “straight-up” (which usually is meant to mean honesty, or “no bull-shitters” as the common folks tend to idolize them), but rather rigid who eventually breaks, often unexpectedly. Sticking to an inflexible style is a convenient and profitable way of not listening, not thinking, and not adjusting. Also, very often these “consistent no bull-shitters” simply cover up an intellectual inertia. The folklore created an arsenal of well-sounding motto for this: I do what I say and say what I do (if this were true, it obviously wouldn’t have to be stated), what’s on my mind is on my tongue, what you see is what you get and similar. Pathetic cover-ups in most cases, hiding weaknesses, fears, and uncertainties. The complementary opposite of “straight-shooters” (they both originate from the same root: lack of identity) are people who constantly try to please, thus treating everybody the same way.

A man with a deep sense of self doesn’t need these social cheats. How can one appreciate differences when one treats everybody the same? It shows just as little sophistication, finesse, intelligence, and taste as drinking only riesling to all dishes.

Only the most distasteful, the coarsest, and the stupidest would treat a 3-year-old the same way as a 12-year-old, an 18-year-old the same way as a 50-year-old, and so on. Only the feeblest mind would treat a lady the same way he treats a man; a marine the same way as a tailor; a spiritual man the same way as a mentally-handicapped man, or a king the same way as a farmer.

Nothing voids this rule of its legitimacy. Even if a particular king no longer qualifies for the function, the concept of the most superior representation of principles doesn’t lose its legitimacy. If quality is not present in actuality, it must be respected in its potentiality. The qualities of the soldier and the function it represents is more superior than merely being born as a male: not all males can reach that level, not all males qualify especially when we consider soldiers in the organic sense, as members of the warrior caste and not as today, as machine operators.

To each his own. Once we break this rule we evoke resentment. Nobody wants to be treated like the next one; everybody wants justice. Even the most vocal advocates of “equality über alles”, “we are all just human” and similar want special treatment, appropriate specifically to them and resent being treated uniformly or otherwise inappropriately. Needless to say the point is not to please everybody or to adjust to everybody – quite the opposite. This may seem paradoxical, but only from the individualistic point of view.

We can’t give more than what one deserves and we can’t give less. While the general rule is simple – always be courteous and nice – we must be conscious about praises, gestures, and especially about showing our respect. Not everybody deserves respect and not to the same degree. We mentioned earlier the attitude of small men toward quantity.

For differentiated men quantity is quite literally nothing. Today we need to be more ceremonial than ever since the structures are hollow and meaningless. Titles, wealth, social status: just façade, they no longer deserve respect by themselves; if life brings us together they only get our courtesy – to the appropriate degree.

Understanding our own position in the organic hierarchy is crucial. According to the solipsistic view the higher one stands, the more one is interested in and understands others. For those lower, the only orientation is virtues; this never fails. The higher one stands, the more trust one evokes in those lower, similarly to how parents by their superior knowledge evoke 100% trust in their children.(*)  Men of quality are bound by virtues and ideals which serve also as unmistakable guides of orientation for respect and trust.

Experience in mechanical functions and roles are almost purely quantitative and bestows almost no qualities at all. For example in the business world if somebody has raised $15 million for his startup, he seemingly has superiority over those who haven’t, but want to.

The same goes for somebody who has grown a company from $0 to $5 billion in revenue or achieved any other KPIs. In actuality this doesn’t guarantee superiority even over those who want what they have and this is easy to see when we take a closer look at who trusts purely quantitative achievements: the clueless majority.

Real trust is evoked by real superiority in those who are capable of following. The mass from this point of view is a no-factor: they don’t recognize any quality thus they are incapable of judgments that may lead to trust and respect so, as we mentioned earlier, the number one rule is to avoid them as much as possible.

* Note:
Sadly today this hardly applies any more, at least not for long, since education is standardized, technological changes are fast paced so kids catch up pretty quick and when it comes to life style or identity, there is not much left for kids to respect.

Business & Ideologies

One of the most important issues completely ignored both by managers and the general public is the role of ideologies in business or the role business plays in spreading very specific ideologies.

Ideologies do play a central role in the organizational aspect of companies – something that is also almost completely ignored or is fully confused with mechanical processes. In fact, thinking that artificial, mechanical processes, that are merely the fantasies of unqualified specialists, constitute the organization, is an absurdity that speaks volumes about the dominating weltanschauung that serves as a foundation for the ideologies and actions of managers. The absurdity lies in the fact that a mechanical organization contains an inner contradiction: it’s an impossibility. Companies as they subsist today, are simply not organizations.

Philosophically we can depict two polar positions: naive realism and subjective idealism, the former serving as the de facto weltanschauung of all managers, the latter as the weltanschauung of the greatest leaders in the history of mankind. Naive realism has managed to produce companies only – a grotesque parody of organic organizations. Subjective idealism has produced organic states and societies; empires that have lasted for thousands, later, as the quality of people deteriorated, “only” for hundreds of years.

A characteristic specimen of naive realism is the celebrated manager Elon Musk, or the transhumanist Ray Kurzweil; although we could have picked practically any manager from Silicon Valley firms or from global corporations, we picked these two because of their “leading” role in selling naive realism as an ideology.

False ideologies are only able to support false agendas and they relate to the Truth with corruption. They lie even when they’re honest and they can’t escape an inner contradiction that is recognizable in everything they do: they claim to be pacifist but they are combatant to an irrational degree, they aggressively demand tolerance and diversity but they ruthlessly marginalize or eliminate different views, they hate the concept of elitism (their own necessarily grotesque concept of it that is) but they arrogantly marginalize everybody outside of their own bubble, they “value” intelligence but they confuse it with IQ, they “value” people but humiliate them as assets, resources or capital; the list continues.

The recent jerk – reactions from the managers and investors in Silicon Valley to Trump’s specific moves or to Trump simply being elected is a testament to all of the above.

We won’t deal with Trump here, but can’t not notice the irony of the situation since Trump represents the same weltanschauung as his opponents, ultimately both of them serving ideologies that, without a well-articulated world-view, neither of them understands, or want to understand: rolling up the sleeves and getting busy INSTEAD OF thinking, or as they say, instead of “philosophizing” is characteristic of both. By serving ideologies they don’t understand, they, unavoidably, are serving interests that are using such ideologies, without being aware.

One last note, offering for those interested, a 180 degree different view on organizations in the business domain: a company’s purpose is to offer the chance of self-realization for people. Once this is accepted and “done”, all absurd statements about people in business will become superfluous and political deviations will lose their foundation.

Personality cults

The majority of people living today are seriously affected by business on several levels. Not only because they can’t avoid taking part in it but also because their life is influenced by several pseudo-values that they receive – mostly gladly – directly from the business world.

To criticize business has become good business: it has evolved into the consulting industry and produced a lucrative specialization in academia. However the consulting business and academia, financed by business, never cross over a certain line. While the whole question of critique could be elegantly taken care of by simply pointing out -as others have already done- that capitalism is the economics aspect of liberalism and modern business – both as a system and as an organizational form – is the product of capitalism, the issue would remain too abstract for the majority to recognize its negative effects on their own thinking and life. Thus it would be perhaps useful to select some of the most absurd manifestations of the business world and take a closer look at them. We have of course addressed this with our book, on this website we’ll provide some additional details.

Our current topic is selected from the inexhaustible domain of the “corporate world” (F2000, venture backed startups, venture firms, private equity firms, etc: everything but small business):  the personality cult.

Corporations are a modern phenomena, never before in the history of mankind could have emerged such an organizational form; they exhibit the polar opposite of organic organizations: highly mechanical entities created artificially for the purpose of maximizing profits. Profit itself has become a pseudo-ideology providing the only reason for the existence of the company. This is well known. It’s almost a cliche that people within the organization are reduced to being clogs in a machine. Yet: very few do reflect on what this actually means: that the factors of what makes them human are eliminated in their work environment and they are turned into strange, cyborg-like creatures even the most basic instincts of which are hardly functioning. This is what is commonly referred to as “professionalism”. We’ll address this in a separate post.

It’s interesting, although not surprising that the majority has has positive connotations about big corporations; the bigger they are, the better. Those not employed by them want to get in and those who are in, are able to completely identify with an abstract corporate brand and image.

When it comes to the desire of “getting hired” we should also notice that although it is completely contrary to elemental logic, the bigger the corporation is, the more prestigious it is considered to be able to get in and eventually become a part of the machine. To be fair this is truer nowadays in developing countries then in “advanced economies”. There are cases, like in the Silicon Valley when besides size, the coolness factor is also significant. What’s perceived to be cool is mostly the star appeal of the VC and/or the founder of the startup and of course how grandiose the vision is to make a dent in the universe or to at least to make the world a better place. There are of course quite particular interpretations behind these grand visions not only at startups but at big corporations, too; the workers in a simple project management software developer firm are just as convinced that they are making the world a better place as those working on the self-driving cars at Tesla, or at facebook, perhaps at Nestle whose board aims at eliminating the right for free drinking water.

This has lead to situations like that at Google for example, where -according to their own estimates- the proportion of PhD’s with the highest IQ working on tasks way below their potential is the highest in the industry – there is nothing to add to the relationship between IQ tests and actual intelligence. The highly paid but thus humiliated talent forms the target of daily jokes among the celebrated founders (celebrated by the same pathetic, overpaid, high IQ slaves).

Right around the time the mid-management phenomenon appeared in corporations, careers used to play an important role and although it may be weakening nowadays, they are still an important factor since people don’t show themselves that ready (yet) to sacrifice their life purely for money.

The promise of a career is that the company offers context and an environment for self-realization. This audacious scam implies that whoever is higher on the corporate hierarchy is a more perfect life form than whoever is lower: a better “person”. Nothing is farther from the truth. The prerequisite of a successful career is the adoption and representation of a false ideology.

It’s characteristic of sect members that although on the level of rationality they may understand the absurd concept of self-realization in context of a career, they, due to some dim loyalty, readily forget rational considerations.

The parallels between personality cults and the celebrity phenomenon are obvious but there’s more. While the celebrity phenomenon symbolizes the way and the style that is necessary for success at the moment, the ideology that lies behind the personality cults at large corporations is the same that defines communism, the other social aspect of materialism. The style of course always reflects the ideology. Personality cult as organizational style is characteristic of both capitalism and communism. The common denominator among Steve Jobs, Ceausescu, Jack Welsh, Fidel Castro, Larry Page, Peter Brabeck/Letmathe, “The Zuck”, “the Donald”, Stalin, Elon Musk, etc. is the applauding mass. Mass, because the individual that builds it doesn’t have an identity; they can adapt to anything, they can accept anything, they can follow anybody.

It’s ironic how fashionable is the leadership issue in the corporate world; how “business philosophers” create theories for differentiation between leadership and management typically assigning an ideological imperative to leaders which is of course always about liberal ideologies: it is decidedly difficult to come across with a CEO that exhibits monarchist views.

Due to the complete dominance of an absurd quantitative value system, the celebrated corporate leaders are also evaluated and judged exclusively by performance which mostly means growth and which may only be achieved by manipulation and cheating. People are ready to look the other way when it comes to certain character flaws and if necessary are prepared to blatantly sugarcoat these; this is how stupidity becomes creativity, criminal tendencies become commitment or flexibility, an out of control small man becomes tough or a straight shooter, perhaps sincere and pcyhopaths become horribile dictu charismatic.

Only the mass-man is able without hesitation to refer to a CEO or others as our leader, who are qualitatively not different from them, having the same orientation, the same fields of interest, goals and even the same style.

Perhaps we have all heard opinions (mostly from people who are the farthest from the coveted CEO post), proving all this, that “if he made it to the top he can’t be stupid” and similar, through their bizarre reasoning inadvertently depicting themselves as stupid or perhaps lazy (hard work being perceived as a typical success factor to reaching the top). Our points are also proved by people on the other side, by those who consider themselves men of success (for example because they have reached the top or did so in the past) and now present themselves as “gurus”and are indiscriminately spreading not only career advice to their grateful audience but – and this is much more unfortunate – also advice on life itself which is just as readily absorbed by the mass following the flowed logic of “if he made it in business he must also know how to live”.

As a closing remark it is perhaps not superfluous to mention the true leaders of past eras who manifested themselves as rulers and who called forth organic organizations and who, representing the Truth, were not vying for acknowledgement and who were followed and respected by the very best; all this in an age where there was no room for the mass in manifest existence.

It is very likely that in a theoretical scenario of a meeting  between for example Romulus  and a mass-man of today, the latter would experience an ontological fear since the existence of the former excludes the existence of the latter. This fear is obviously deeper than merely the fear for one’s life.