George Davis | Flying with vultures
In this time, many young people, fresh out of tertiary institutions, are either lining up to enter the workforce or are bedding into a new job. Some will be lucky, as they will be given guidance by those who have trod the road before. Others will fritter away their luck by ignoring the wisdom imparted by more experienced souls, instead proceeding in the arrogant belief that their perceived state of brightness and intelligence is enough to conquer everything.
But there is something I am still learning in this my 14th full year as a member of the workforce that all new entrants must focus on if they are to survive and thrive as an employee. That lesson, simply, is how to survive in a room full of vultures.
By room, I mean the department or branch of the organisation you are in, or even a subgroup of same. Room can also mean the organisation itself. By survive, I mean how to keep the job, keep your sanity on the job, advance in the job, and excel in the job. By vultures, I mean those persons who will dislike you for no apparent reason.
The vulture in the room will present itself in many forms. It may be openly hostile, 'pitching' up on the fringe of every error you make while suggesting strongly to the powers that be that only the strongest sanction be applied. And even where no sanctions are applicable, the Hostile Vulture will urge the creation of measures just so you can be punished. The Hostile Vulture will ignore your greetings of good morning and good afternoon, even when the two of you are the only ones in the room.
The minute you stop wasting your greeting, the Hostile Vulture, who seems to have been praying for such a moment, will pounce, telling the powers that be that you have no manners and must be disciplined for your transgression. You can do no right by the Hostile Vulture and must resist all temptation to tell them about the cloth from which their garments are produced.
You get no prizes for guessing that the Hypocrite Vulture is the next and most dangerous variety. This vulture, who probably works in the same department, will be very chatty with you in your first days at the office. It will pretend to like you and will want to know every detail about your past, present, family life, sexual or romantic history - everything.
It will feign interest in you as an individual when, in real terms, it's only weighing and measuring, while taking notes about how to hurt you with gossip. If you have big talent and can list accomplishments despite your youth, the Hypocrite Vulture will try to fight you from the top, running to senior managers or executives to complain about you.
Their main objective is to poison the minds of those who were impressed with you at recruitment. And even as the Hypocrite Vulture complains, gossips and lies about you behind your back, they will greet you morning after morning with a radiant smile, engulf you in a bear hug, while asking for details about all the fun things you did the night before.
The first and only rule of employment for any new worker is performance. Whatever you do, give your all and respect your job. Put in extra hours where required and do not demand payment for every hour of overtime worked. When you produce strong performance in your job, you show up the Hostile Vulture as ridiculous, crass and hateful.
The same strong performance renders the Hypocrite Vulture into an irrational, jealous person who attracts ridicule from the same persons to whom they complain and gossip. As a new employee, you must understand that you will never get either of the Hostile or Hypocrite Vulture to like you. Every success you achieve or every compliment paid to you will be like a kick to their teeth.
But understand this also: It's those who hate you who have the problem, not you. It's those who sit on your name who will develop haemorrhoids, not you. Quietly, you should laugh at the vultures and dedicate to them Beenie Man's 1998 hit Hypocrite.
- George Davis is a broadcast executive producer and talk-show host. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.