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Absolute Pressure: Sales Tactics That Poison
The Scorpion and the Fox
Once upon a time, there were a scorpion and a fox. Both animals were faced with a dilemma. There was a vast river bed preventing them from reaching the other side. The other side was rich in food. In fact, food was so plentiful that our friends could possibly be fed for life.
The fox knew he was a good swimmer. He could easily reach the other side, but he was worried going in alone. Rumours abound that there are hidden dangers on the other side. The fox would feel greater security if he had a companion to tag along for protection.
His prayers were oddly answered from an unexpected source, as he stumbled across the scorpion. The scorpion too wanted to reach the other side. So the scorpion came up with a proposition for the fox.
"I will mount up on your back," says the scorpion, "you can then carry me across the river. I'll then protect you with my venom stinger against any dangers that may arise."
"But if I let you climb up my back," says the fox, "you'll sting me and I'll die."
"Don't be silly," says the scorpion, "if I sting you while crossing the river, I'll drown. I can't kill you. We need to work together."
"I suppose that makes sense," says the fox, "still, I never thought I would align with a scorpion."
"Don't worry," reassures the scorpion, "I'll have your back."
The fox laughs at the scorpion's dry sense of humor and gladly allows his friend to mount onto his back. He then proceeds to swim his way across the vast river. Just over half way through his journey, the fox feels a tingling sensation across his backside. The fox has been stung. He can slowly feel his life draining away.
"Why? Why did you do that?" laments the fox in pain and agony, "now we'll both die."
"I'm sorry," says the scorpion, "I just couldn't help myself."
And the moral of the story is...
The fox is the hard-working employee.
The scorpion is the manager.
The "other side" is that aspiring career.
Now take a few minutes to ponder upon what I have said. Take a few moments to digest the metaphors and satire within the short story now that I have substituted the characters and landscape with "real world" examples.
Hopefully you have taken my advice to heart and have actually taken the time to think before I hand you over all the answers. This is what I detest about school/college, all too often, it's just finding (mostly memorizing) the "right answers" to ace a test. Nobody thinks anymore. This cancer has subsequently spread from school to the real world, and it's the cause of many of our economic problems. Free thinkers are suppressed in college weeding system. Consequently they get stuck with lousy jobs/prospects and thus society losses. For all intents and purposes, the free thinker was murdered long ago. Only his/her body remains. In the mean time, the college weeding system rewards the parrot. College rewards the hapless memorizer who regurgitates the "right answers" to appease his masters like a good little boy/girl. Enough of that though, I'm going off on a tangent . . .
Now, I will go back to the story at hand. Although I assure you, the tangent is related. Since the dawn of time when it was legal for me to work in my given country, I have noticed one thing in common with all management. This is the same across all industries. This is common regardless of education, experience, gender, race, age, etc. of the manager. The common theme is that they all use pressure tactics in an attempt to milk higher performance out of their employees. Managers are taught, trained, brain washed to do nothing else, and much like the scorpion, they "just can't help themselves." They cannot even remotely contemplate there could be other methods of conducting business. To suggest otherwise, you're labeled from anything to a dreamer, starving artists, to an out right communist. The travesty to humanity began when they hit the coveted halls of colleges to get their pathetic degrees, and it will go with them to their graves.
Now, in fairness, I can somewhat understand where they're coming from. Indeed, many people work well under pressure. There are many lazy people out there. Many people are natural procrastinators and can only function when pressured. Some people lack discipline and need to get pressure from someone else.
However, there are an equal number of people who are very hard on themselves. The pressure they put on themselves is more than enough. The last thing they need is additional pressure coming from someone else. That additional textbook pressure applied by management could be enough to slowly buckle a person. I'm just such a person, and I don't feel it's a weakness to admit as such. In fact, when approached correctly, it should prove to be a strength rather than a weakness. People such as myself find motivation from within, we don't need management and require little supervision, and that should be a good thing, but often such people are the first to get fired. Why?
Usually we start off well. The company is unbelievably impressed and believes you're the next "great star." The manager is patting himself/herself on the back for the "great find." If you're in sales, like I was in many past jobs, you'll be posting some serious numbers. For example, one time I was ranked 3rd within a large company for my first week on the job. You will be all smiles. Already, you're sharing lunch with your boss and managers at fancy restaurants. Everything seems to be in order and you're on the fast track to success. You feel this is how it should be . . . Unfortunately, it's at this moment that you officially screwed yourself. You're scheduled to burn out and roll over within a year at most, and management will see through to that effect. How?
Because it's at this point management feels compelled to insert serious pressure on you in order to feel relevant. They will routinely pressure you to keep those same numbers. The high expectation has been set. If you're a top three producer the first week in, you're somehow a failure if you don't become company VP within a year. You're reminded over and over again if management feels you're not meeting such expectations. The heat is on for you do to more. Management must pressure, pressure, and pressure.
What management failed to realize is that I unofficially worked 85+ hours that week. Most of my time off hours was used in being overly prepared for sales presentations, studying, rehearsing, etc. In fairness, I also had a little luck along the way that particular week. I put so much pressure already on myself to succeed. I didn't need additional pressure from other sources. I found the job hard enough as is, and now it's being made harder by managers constantly calling up on my cell phone yapping at me to produce.
This is usually when your numbers start to fall. The decline is rapid and unforgiving. You'll still find yourself working long hours, only this time struggling to make due. The constant pressure is breaking your spirit. Never once does it dawn on management that the week I had the least expectations from the company, the least pressure, is the week I did best.
In a last ditch attempt to save my career, and saving myself from subsequently ripping up the million and one licences I had to acquire in order to sell, I made a plea with my manager to stop the pressure. I tell him that I don't work well under pressure.
His response, like many before him, would continue to amaze me to this day if it wasn't so prevalent. "Don," he says, "you need to understand. In this industry, I can't do that, pressure is a part of the game . . . "
Much like the scorpion, he can't help himself. I got stung, and venom is passing through my blood. I quit two weeks after that talk with my manager. I went from 3rd in the company to dead last. I remember crying myself asleep that night. The "other side" was out of my reach.
In the silly world of business, I know for a fact such behaviour is rewarded in leadership circles. The argument is such people are "not tough enough" and therefore need to be weeded out. Like a phoenix that rises from the ashes, this "creative destruction" is considered a wonderful thing in the school of economics. My counter argument is simple, may the best man/woman win. What you perceive as mental toughness is irrelevant. If someone can make a lot of money without being pressured, by all means, allow him/her to do so.
And due to some recent developments, I have a sequel of the tale found here for you to enjoy.
-Donovan D. Westhaver
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