August 7, 2012
The Ass-Con in full glory…
A while ago, I got angry with someone on a work related matter. Not a person from my office (I would certainly not write about that here); let’s call him/her an associate consultant.
At that time and place, we’d been going after a lot of new business. For me, the pressure of conjuring big ideas and then delivering them is endlessly exhilarating. It never gets old.
What does get old, however, is the associate consultant, be he or she an outlier, vendor, client, colleague or boss. He/she is usually a control freak, rarely a doer, and almost always anathema to the team. These “ass-cons” claim unearned sovereignty over your project. Ass-cons use fear and manipulation to force their agenda just as they used lies and malevolent charm to get their jobs.
“This looks creative. Let’s shit on it, then leave.”
I’d been given ample warning about this particular ass-con, but I only lasted five minutes before losing my temper. Something about this pigeon swooping in and shitting on my team’s work set me off. I did not raise my voice and I did not use profanity. However, my blood boiled and I wanted this person expunged. I’m sure ass-con felt the same way about me, especially because I stood up to him/her, challenging his/her authority. Somehow we got through our unpleasant interaction without fisticuffs (I’m not a longshoreman!) but my seething anger remained with me for hours, days really.
Which brings me to my point. I’ve come to realize that I simply cannot process anger in a healthy way. It works through me like a fever. I obsess over the catalyst, making him/her a villain. I create revenge fantasies in my head. Worst of all, I lose what little spirituality I’m lucky enough to possess. Fear and loathing take over. My instincts to fight or flee become overwhelming.
Therefore, even righteous anger is taboo for me. To paraphrase Dr. Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk), “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” I become the very thing I despise, a grotesque image of the ass-con.
When angry I change into… Lou Ferrigno?
Friends and colleagues tell me not to sweat it, or the ass-con, that I’m just a passionate creative guy, standing up for my work. But I can’t allow this scapegoat. In most cases, I view anger and passion as two separate things. I do not believe having great passion means one has to be a hot head. Frankly, I think most ass-cons lack a true passion in life and compensate by domineering others.
Bottom line: Anger, even when it is justifiable, is a very tricky emotion and should not be taken lightly. Maybe the ass-con gets a thrill out of being a dick 24/7 but for me life is too damn short to be miserable all the time.
Because of the sensitive nature of this topic, I spent more time than usual thinking and writing about it. In doing so, I came across a book, The No-Asshole Rule by Robert I. Sutton, which would appear to be about the same thing. The subhead is “Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.” Amen.