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April 26, 2009

LinkedIn, sycophancy and the deceit of good intentions

Deceit and dishonesty are often masked by good intentions. Sounds counter intuitive doesn't it?

We already understand many of the common forms of dishonesty; touching up the track record or CV, bait and switch marketing (or hiring), blatant lying and misrepresentation are stand out examples of deceitful practices.

But what about something a little more subtle? For example, what about the annual budget game? 

You know the one. You send in the budget that is 15% larger than you want because you know your manager is going to cut it down. She (your manager) sticks to the rules and sends it back for you to revise down. Or when you hurriedly spend every cent you have in the last month to make sure that they don't take it away from you next year.

This is not business tactics, it's dishonesty. In fact it is fraud. 

That's heavy isn't it? Fraud. Defrauding the shareholders and owners of your company into giving you more money than you need to do the work that is set for you.

What about something a little more obscure still... what about blogging? 

There are a rash of bloggers out there who will bend over backwards to not offend anybody. They fire off veiled criticisms and sanctimonious rants while maintaining a veneer of "Why don't we all just hug?"

It is false, is is annoying, and it smacks of insincerity. 

Something we have all learned from our time in business is that, unfortunately, sycophancy works. In fact many managers stack their staff with sycophants. People who fill the role of nodding head to every wild idea, stupid claim or delusional forecasts.

These are the people who nodded their heads while Enron went off the rails, in fact - they did the auditing!!

They nodded quietly while GM decided that SUV's were wiser than efficient cars, when Angus and Robertson decided not to become Amazon and when eBay decided Skype was aligned with their core business. ( did that happen?)

Thats because sycophancy is not about helping you it is about helping themselves. (Often to either your cash or just your good graces)

In the social media universe they are potentially more dangerous than ever. They tell you "it's all about you", "if thats the way you want to do it then thats okay", and they will go to great lengths not to state an opinion or concept that any person (ever) could ever find even slightly offensive.

This is dangerous because the world really doesn't work like that. I don't mean the network you choose to interact with, or the city where you live, or even the country where you work. I mean the world!

The world is shrinking, and you are more likely today to do business with or in the wider international environment than at any other time in history. Nations are still engaging in institutional slavery, misogyny, high level corruption and rampant injustice. 

...and they (some bloggers) are trying to prepare people for the world by telling them anything they want to do is okay, by holding back on giving them the hard news, and by allowing them to continue with thinking, practices and techniques that make them feel good, but are ultimately disastrous.


I tend to be more direct. I write about what I know, and if I say something works that is because it really has worked for me. Advice rooted in experience. Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of rudeness for the sake of being rude, but I tend to call it like it is. 
And sometimes you need to shout at people to get their attention, sometimes you need to be pushy so that they get the message. Particularly when it is a message worth hearing. One that can change the course of their careers. 

I got slammed by a guy recently as "rude". Fair enough. But the stuff he wrote about in reply was somewhere between wrong and just lightweight. A sanctimonious attack, supported by lightweight and incorrect advice, and even advice seemingly in support of fraud. 

This is the point.. false sincerity may get you started, but it is not going to deliver the content and value for the readership to keep you going. Sycophancy may keep you around as a willing servant, but it will not allow you to produce advice that is of value.

And despite all of the good intentions in the world... it is dishonest, misleading and counterfeit. It leads to the wrong decisions being taken and it restricts the candor of others. Even if you do it with the best of intentions.

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