Imagine for a moment the closest people in your work life come to a strong conclusion: You’ve got lots of problems.
These individuals are the ones who spend day after day with you, studying your habits, thought process, capacity for argument, and creativity.
Jim in accounting testifies to how feckless you are on the job: “I told myself, I got to have a relationship with this guy to help him get his mind right. Because, I’m telling you, he didn’t know anything about government… Those of us around him really helped to stop him from making bad decisions. All the time.” (Former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, on Donald Trump, as reported by Politico).
Jill in finance lets HR know you make her absolutely miserable, your neuroses are so contagious: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.” (Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, as reported by Bob Woodward in his New York Times bestseller “Fear”).
Some time later, key executives are approached in the main conference room. They wish to remain anonymous, but want to testify to the problems you present for your firm. HR responds with a secret memo summarizing their concerns. Its main conclusion? You pose a threat to the security of the company:
“In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America’s principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior U.S. officials — including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff — that the president himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.” (As reported by Carl Bernstein, famed Watergate reporter, for CNN).
If that’s not enough, you get wind of a biting email from your friend Gary that’s circulating around the office. It’s so vicious, you can barely stand to get through it all.
“It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won’t read anything — not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better… I am in a constant state of shock and horror.” (Former White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, as reported by CBS).
How would you respond to such chilling testaments to your deficits of character and intellect, incompetence and naïveté? After all, these are your colleagues, the ones who observe you up close and in the flesh, not long-lost high school classmates. If so many of them are saying you’ve got issues, Bub, there must be a there, there, right?
Would you react by denying everything, by considering these critiques nothing more than a conspiracy against your person, “fake news!” in other words?
Or would you do the responsible thing, realize you shouldn’t be in any position of real authority, and get yourself to a shrink?
I know this thought experiment is quite a puzzle, somewhere in between calculus and psychics. But if you can’t figure it out, ask a trusted friend, call your priest or a witch doctor.
You may just be surprised by what they say.