A couple of months ago, I was applying for a job at a pretty neat startup that very publicly promoted their focus on corporate culture. They said their entire manifesto for their company culture was based upon the book “How To Win Friends And Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Naturally as a part of the application process, I thought it would be pretty smart to read that book just to prep for a potential interview and just to expand my knowledge.
What I learned is that I’m the opposite of Dale Carnegie.
To be fair, the book was written in the 1930’s and uses allegorical stories to make its point, a style that I think was pretty popular in those days (think “A business man from Connecticut consoled in me one day that…”). However in 2014, the book does have the sketchiness factor of Nigerian Prince Scam email.
For those who aren’t familiar, Dale Carnegie’s philosophy is quite simply “turn the other cheek”.
I’m not entirely sure if I’m the opposite by nature or by choice, but up to this point in time, I have been very un-Dale Carnegie like. I think that there’s a degree of general politeness that should be exercised by everyone, but at the same time I think that there’s is a desperate need for honesty in communication. The fact that the term “real talk” exists as a very common saying implies that most of the things that are said are not “real talk”. I try to be pretty blunt when it comes to serious discussions and I think that most people that come to me for discussions or advice want me to be that guy. I’ve said some not very kind but very honest things that have made people cry. I think/hope that they appreciated it in the end, but I feel like the reason they asked me my opinion on these things is because I will totally do that.
There was once a situation in a previous job where an unnamed person was faking the reports for a company that I was working for. The numbers that they reported were somewhere between 5x to 10x more positive than they actually were. I wasn’t the first person to discover this, but when I did, I threw on my Hardy Boys mystery cap on and did a relatively detailed investigation into the issue. There was no question that the numbers were inaccurate. I had a meeting with my managers, and then their manager, gave them the details and told them where to go to look for more info. Nothing happened.
4-6 months later, the bombshell dropped that the report in question was inaccurate! By this time, everyone was pretty aware of the fact that this was happening for some time. We had a meeting and everyone basically said “we all knew this for a while”. I basically said to the managers in that meeting that “everyone in this room knows that this person needs to be fired and we’re all looking at management to act”. That person was barred from working on the reports again, and then eventually, fired.
Dale Carnegie definitely would not have said what I said.
I think our biggest ideological difference is the fact that I sincerely believe that most people have been lulled into a sense of complacency when it comes to blame. Nothing is ever really anyone’s fault. BP’s Deep Water Horizon leaked a crap load of oil into the ocean. The NSA illegally wiretapped everyone in America. Financial institutions sold toxic assets in the mid 2000’s that totally pushed the world to the brink of economic peril. There are people that are at fault and should be held responsible for these events, and they should totally be called out on being the assholes that they are. That’s how I feel at least.
Dale Carnegie would probably still be their friends.