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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Servant Mentality

Crowds of people in my blogroll are peeing themselves with delight over the following list of instructions an unnamed important person sent to his or her future collaborator:

This isn’t all. The list continues, and you can see it in its entirety here.

I have known poverty and the hopelessness it brings. However, I can absolutely promise you that I would never ever consider working with an individual who’d disrespect me to the point of handing me such a list. There is no amount of money – not a million, not a billion, not a trillion dollars – that I would accept for spending even a day in the same room with this neurotic.

People who are gushing over how much they admire the “no-bullshit author” of the list should get out a dictionary and find the definition of the words “dignity” and “self-respect.”

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53 thoughts on “Servant Mentality

  1. Do you mean the list is insulting since it treats the other as 3 year-old with lots and lots of instructions and point 7 in it?

    RE 7: Will he stand too during micro-meetings? Or this poor worker will stand, while the boss is sitting?

    *If you disagree with me, voice your differences. I welcome and invite dissent*
    Personally, I find the last sentence hard to believe. Just reading this list made me very stressed, any boss who wants others feel free to approach him should know that such lists will cause the opposite for his workers, no?

    One commentor wrote:
    *His personal interactions are far more friendly and respectful. One thing that I always keep in mind: smarter people can scare insecure people very easily. *
    I know I can be insecure, but imo it has nothing to do with smartness. Nothing.

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    • I think the entire thing is beyond offensive. Number 7 is just completely ridiculous.

      This is just some deeply insecure jerk who has come into a lot of money and is trying to buy respite from his insecurities by bullying people who are dependent on him for money. I’m not as interested in this loser as I am in the people who accept this kind of treatment. From what I understand from the list, we are talking about educated, skilled white-collar professionals.

      How do they live with this kind of humiliations?

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      • czrpb on said:

        re: #7: i am a computer programmer. there are software development methodologies (agile/scrum) where you have 15min daily “standup” meetings. in this case *everyone* stands. of course there are other roles and the “boss” is often not present, required, or needed and would not be allowed to speak at the meeting anyway, as the meeting is for us developers. i suppose i was less offended as i am reading my own context into it. so i would agree: if “micro-meetings” are preferred, then i am assuming everyone is standing, and without any particular location (meaning i was NOT assuming in the boss’s office).

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        • The problem isn’t with standing per se. It’s about being told to do it, as if you were incapable of figuring it out on your own.

          Example: I’m completely unopposed to the idea that people should change their underwear every day. I’m actually very much into this idea. However, if somebody decided to remind me to change my underwear regularly, I’d be insulted. Not by the idea of changing underwear, but by the suggestion that I haven’t been able to figure this out for myself.

          I hope everybody can continue the analogy for the A-hole’s list and why it’s offensive.

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          • czrpb on said:

            ok, but in the type of meeting i am talking about it is suggested to do it in a location where there are no chairs! otherwise, people naturally will sit, get comfortable, and the meeting naturally goes over its 15min time limit. so would you be insulted because this insinuates that you either can not limit your speaking time or not sit in a chair if it is around?

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  2. *Do you mean the list is insulting since it treats the other as 3 year-old with lots and lots of instructions and point 7 in it?*

    I meant to ask of this list’s main problem. Is it treating you as unprofessional (telling not waste time f.e.) OR the boss’s huge ego, like “you – stand, I – sit” in 7?

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  3. *How do they live with this kind of humiliations?*

    Economical crisis, cuts everywhere possibly soon in Medicare and Medicaid too, fear of losing a house / health insurance for yourself and family including children, seeing what happened with your jobless, desperate friends, possibly what you have already experienced yourself.

    Imo, for usual people to be free, there must be social democracy with wide safety net, health care for everybody, government regulating markets more than now, etc. Otherwise, if you’re afraid (and for a good reason), you’re free only on paper.

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    • I don’t agree with any of this at all. There is always an excuse for allowing others to walk over you. And there are always people who don’t allow it. Even in Nazi Germany or the USSR there were people who resisted and did not allow themselves to be transformed into animals. “Medicare cuts made me do it” is not a convincing excuse.

      If you think that there is a welfare system strong enough to cure such people of their servant mentality, you are profoundly mistaken. Society is not responsible for one’s personal failings. There are people who seek out such situations like the one with this boss because they need to be treated in this way. They pee themselves with delight when given such lists because they love feeling like garbage. It confirms their worldview and is very comforting psychologically.

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      • Some people are like you describe, but there are others, who in better times would’ve left a jerk boss, but in a bad economic situation can’t afford it.

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        • The idea that somebody needs to pay you for you to have self-respect is deeply alien to me. Dignity cannot be conditional. One either has it or not. The most subservient, boot-licking people I have ever known were not farmers, bus drivers or waiters but, rather, lawyers and Wall Street employees who made high six figures per year. (Yes, I’ve met quite a few.)

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  4. All those talks of Servant Mentality reminded me of Chehov’s short stories, like a one in which a man died from fear after sneezing on a general in theatre.

    I once started reading his short stories one after another and stopped after becoming depressed, though Leonid Andreyev is even better at making one want to commit suicide.

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  5. Apparently, the guy who wrote the list is a senior manager in a company. I am not at all surprised by the tone. I have had several interactions with people from a major electronics company, and they treated us (me and my faculty collaborators) with condescension that you would not believe, like we were children. I would never engage with them again even if they gave me a shitload of money. But I can afford to do so, I have a state university job. I am sure the company employees put up with way worse than the list. It pays well and jobs are scarce; that’s a valid reason IMHO.

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  6. Stringer Bell on said:

    Agree with GMP and el. You can recognize this as bullying and not like it. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about your dignity and self-esteem and love being a slave.

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    • We are discussing the gushing comments of readers and bloggers who think the author of the list rocks and who can’t wait to work for him. I’m yet to see the word “bullying” applied to this list anywhere but on my blog.

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  7. Good lord, children, have you seen the last requirement of this 17-point document?

    “Don’t send me long documents. I like precision and concision. Say it on one page (or less).”

    For me, the problem is not so much that this chap is a swine amongst men. In person she’s probably the salt of the earth. The problem is his ridiculous business-schoolesque idea that all problems sharing a few common variables can be solved using that one magic formula or one secret formula to success. It edits out the reality of differing personalities and different contexts of each project because they’re too ‘messy’ to compute. Hysterical blindness is where success is at.

    Can I see myself working with him? Yes, because I’ll hand him his own list back with 1-4, 6, 10 and 11 circled, and ask him to memorise those for as long as we’re working together. He might fire me on he spot though, in which case I’ll laugh at him and walk away. I can take a lot of ego-driven bullshit, mostly because my mind registers them as free entertainment. Also, while I ignore random boorishness as long as it’s merely amusing, I have zero problems “dealing directly” with obnoxious bosses when they finally begin to annoy me. Usually, by that time, they don’t want to let me go, so I get apologies and much better behaviour all around.

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  8. Stringer Bell on said:

    Well, you and others were also talking about why people continue to take this abuse.

    Of course I agree with you in that if you find the creator of this list anything but an asshole, there’s something wrong with you.

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  9. anon on said:

    I agree that if I were to get a list like this from a “collaborator” (clearly this person is interested in having the upper hand) I would also be pissed off for how condescending it is.

    However… you’d be surprised how clueless some people can be. I’m thinking of one particularly entitled grad student I know who seriously has no idea how to behave professionally in e-mails, does not write down notes when you take the time to instruct him/her on a procedure, is always late to meetings and for project deadlines, etc… If I were this student’s advisor, I would have fired them a long time ago… So I can sympathize with what may drive someone to write such a list. But I think someone can clue-in/establish these sorts of guidelines for employees/students without sounding like such a dick.

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  10. I saw this on another blog, read the first two sentences, and thought, This guy is a douchebag, and then quickly stopped reading.

    Nice to know you had the same reaction that I did.

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  11. You know someone who says “I welcome dissent” and “I won’t blame the messenger” doesn’t, and will. The condescending tone says it all.

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  12. I have to say that I’m very glad there are no readers on my blog who think this is normal behavior from a boss. This says a lot about us as a group. And about me as somebody who can attract intelligent people to the blog.

    I feel proud now. 🙂

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  13. anon on said:

    This list reminds me of the cider house rules (in The Cider House Rules)….

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  14. I’ve had about 3 department chairs who acted this way and it is an important reason why I dislike working in academia.

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  15. This person is a surefire way to kill any kind of creative work environment. If this person ever comes into contact with a workplace that requires to do a lot of brainstorming and comming up with ideas, I fear for everyone involved.

    Also, this goes pretty much in line with what some business schools teach what managing actually is. As a manager you are supposed to let your department find problems and work out possible solutions into an easily presentable form (bulletpoint pro- and contra lists, because it is soooo hard to read the advantages of something out of contious text !) so that you just need to read like half a page and come to a conclusion.

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  16. Patrick on said:

    Wow. When I read the list, my reaction was – “of course – isn’t this common knowledge for how to behave and work.” That this “douche bag” feels compelled to have to write out the list is telling – perhaps the graduates that we’re cranking out from universities haven’t actually learned how to think for themselves yet?

    As far as I’m concerned, if you’re insulted by the list, then you ought not be working in the real world. Because if I have to tell you these things, then you need to be fired.

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    • *As far as I’m concerned, if you’re insulted by the list, then you ought not be working in the real world. Because if I have to tell you these things, then you need to be fired.*

      I don’t see a connection between those 2 sentences. People may know all those things and still be insulted.

      RE uni students: imo, it would be a good idea to give all students a couple of lectures on how to write an autobiography, behave at job interviews and at job. Those things should be mentioned there too as basics, but there also are plenty not trivial (unlike, don’t waste time) tips.

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      • Patrick on said:

        If my boss gave me this list – I would be embarrassed that he felt I needed to be instructed as such. These behaviours ought to be the standard, not the exception.

        You would be amazed at the inability of people to be efficient with their time. I’ve lost count of the email’s I’ve received that are two-three pages long, with not a relevant point to be found. Or people who come plop themselves in my office with a “problem” that they have the ability and authourity to fix. They do not need my guidance or permission. I invariably have to interrupt their rantings and pointedly ask, “What is it you need from me?” When I go to their offices, I show them the same respect I expect – be precise, concise and clear. This guy’s list is nothing more than that.

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    • “As far as I’m concerned, if you’re insulted by the list, then you ought not be working in the real world. Because if I have to tell you these things, then you need to be fired.”

      -Do you see how these sentences are in complete contradiction to each other?

      I wonder, would you also support a memo where an employer tells the employees to brush their teeth and wash their hands?

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  17. “Don’t tell me there’s a problem without offering a solution.”

    This statement appears on one of the later points you did not include. Apparently, it is standard in almost every business, and it seems to me to be completely idiotic. If someone sees a problem that others do not know about, but which could be dangerous, it damn well should be reported. regardless of whether the reporter knows how to solve it or not.

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    • Patrick on said:

      It’s about taking responsibility for actions. People often want to be able to point at someone else and say “it’ was their decision”. This “rule” only tries to re-enforce the notion that problem solving is the responsibility of everyone in an organization.

      Furthermore, if you think something is dangerous, then obviously, you know what ‘safe’ looks like. Otherwise, you wouldn’t recognize it as dangerous.

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      • Not necessarily. If you see something spilled under the door of a lab where you do not work, do you call the custodian with a mop, the hazardous waste management people, the fire diepartment, or???

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        • Patrick on said:

          If I don’t work there, what am I doing in the lab area? Isn’t that for authourized personnel only? Or do you allow the general public to wander around your labs? Your example makes no sense.

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          • Your reply does not make any sense. I could be a sales person who had to use the restroom on a wing where the labs were. I am assuming the lab was locked and unoccupied, and that no one else saw the situation of something spilled that was pouring out from under the door.

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            • I am assuming, of course, that I do work for the company.

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              • Patrick on said:

                If you work for the company, and your company deals with hazardous materials, then you know to call the spill response team. Easy as pie. Just do it. No need to go running to someone to ask them what you ought to do. You have the authourity and the intelligence to act.

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              • The idea that you never see a serious problem that you do not know how to solve is beyond ridiculous. People are not omniscient.

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              • Patrick on said:

                The point isn’t that you KNOW how to solve every problem, but that you THINK about how to solve every problem.

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              • I have been told by a friend who worked many years in the chemical industry that in the business/industry environment you must never mention a problem to a superior unless you know how to solve it. This seems to me to be a recipe for disaster, even if only rarely. He agreed that it might be a problem on rare occasions, but did not seem to care.

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              • Don’t you realize that could get you into serious trouble? Often these things are known about but it has been decided they should not be noticed. You, the worker, are to keep a low profile and not ask too many questions or raise too many issues. It is not your place to be the first one to notice something. You could be showing up the boss, or messing with his plans to skirt Federal guidelines, so keep quiet. You have a family to support and you need your job. At the very most, if you are really worried about safety, ask a question. Do NOT, however, intimate that you could actually know what is happening or how to fix it, that would be unpardonably presumptuous.

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  18. Rimi :

    Can I see myself working with him? Yes, because I’ll hand him his own list back with 1-4, 6, 10 and 11 circled, and ask him to memorise those for as long as we’re working together. He might fire me on he spot though, in which case I’ll laugh at him and walk away. I can take a lot of ego-driven bullshit, mostly because my mind registers them as free entertainment. Also, while I ignore random boorishness as long as it’s merely amusing, I have zero problems “dealing directly” with obnoxious bosses when they finally begin to annoy me. Usually, by that time, they don’t want to let me go, so I get apologies and much better behaviour all around.

    That’s exactly what I would do, too. 🙂 🙂 I’d bug this person with lists from the on for ever and ever. 🙂

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  19. Angelika on said:

    oh-kay .
    one – i can re-emphasise with quite some tops/points on “this list” … (as you mention and some comments here)
    second – just assuming that i know something about e.g. “how i tick”, asperger-like-situations, mbti-tests, soc. introversion – what does this tell me or somesuch “other” ?!

    actually, i found reading “the list”, your post and comments very interesting.
    i wish i could hand something like this to a boss or co-worker – what would it mean ?
    dunno. but have ample imagination 😉
    ergo : i am self-employed.

    thx for more “food for my/thoughts/self-development”.

    Like

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