Hard men are wankers

Forgive the forthrightness of this post’s title but I was nudged into writing it by the coming together of a number of things:

A Skype IM chat about antler-clashing amongst social media mavens and how much “blokishness” there is.

A recollection of just how intimidated I used to get being around BBC executives and how deliberate this was on their part.

Reading the following in the wonderful If You Want To Write, by Brenda Ueland:

I hate [criticism] because of the potentially shining, gentle, gifted people of all ages,that it snuffs out every year. It is a murderer of talent. And because the most modest and sensitive people are the most talented, having the most imagination and sympathy, these are the very first ones to get killed off. It is the brutal egotists that survive.

Social media relies on people having the temerity to say what they think and others having the decency to listen.

Forget Enterprise 2.0. The promise of social media will not become reality until you do something to reduce the power of the bullies.

27 thoughts on “Hard men are wankers”

  1. It’s pervasive. Almost every time I work with people in business the biggest challenge is getting them over their fear of what will happen if they say what they think or even what they know.

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  2. Forget Enterprise 2.0. The promise of social media will not become reality until you do something to reduce the power of the bullies.Some are bullies. I think lots of others just feel they have to ‘hard’ … measurement, ROI, control, etc. … because of peer pressure, fear of appearing to be different or not players of the ‘right’ game, etc., when in their gut or heart they know that the issues are not (and never) so cut-and-dried as the hard men would have everyone believe.Anyway, bravo for putting this out there.

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  3. You are right Jon. Inside every hard man there is a little, hurt boy trying to get out. I often reduce their power by imagining them in the playground in their school uniforms!

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  4. Somebody once pointed out to me (or I may have heard it on a podcast) that John Peel never criticised anything he played. He just played music that he liked or that intrigued him. He certainly didn’t throw his weight around, and his very modesty probably endeared him to more people than he knew. It certainly helped him support the development of many different musicians and groups.Personally, I would rather be (and be around) those of his ilk than the self-styled gurus and mavens to which you refer.

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  5. Euan, this post really resonates. I have long felt that it is the behaviour we see around the water cooler (coffee pot, whatever) that is the clearest indictor of culture. Posturing around rank, us/them, race, sexual orientation, religion, politics…it’s all there, usually masked as humour and body language that affirms inclusion and exclusion based on how the issues are received and returned. The "putting down of the other" starts there and takes on expanded guises socially and in the workplace. It’s a tennis game…when in a high ranking post, I found that the ingrained rules of the game would keep it playing even without my active participation. Interesting to see it from both sides, and that challenging it brings its own consequences. Hard measures are quite a different thing, IMO.

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  6. I don’t really think I can comment on this, in the absence of any specific derails. It’s clear from the comments that plenty of people give a thumbs up to "I hate having to work with wankers" and I imagine the people we hate say much the same about uis. What I woiuld say is that people have identities at work,; they are hardly ever self-determined and have usually been socially constructed, and a lot of the time unconsciously. or unwillingly. But if you trespass on someone’s sense of identity, you will get a reaction as strong as if you’d tried to put your tongue in their mouth.

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  7. That’ll be the same people who behave like cattle in airports then Gordon.I agree though that dealing with some of these issues is non-trivial and goes the heart of the way people have been encouraged to be at work.

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  8. Being the sensitive soul myself I tend to take criticism personally. (In fact I stopped writing for BBC only because I was being too self-critical.) Last year I underwent a bit of an experiment by recording a song called ‘Westlife Are Shit’. Nicky from Westlife tweeted a link to it the day before yesterday and now I’ve had loads of abuse in the comments since.Because it was all a joke I don’t mind the abusive comments (even the ones about my eyebrows being too bushy). I think it’s good therapy for sensitive souls to put something out there that is not too precious to them and will invite criticism. But yeah you’re right, hard men are wankers, just as abusive Westlife-adoring children are.Here’s a link to my video, and more importantly, the comments:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rec2N7al8mUPS This all prompted me to record a follow up called ‘JLS Is Turd’. (Hey I have fans now!) You can see that on YouTube also 🙂

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  9. I love this post Euan. This experience is easily my least favorite aspect of the business (or human) world. We haven’t seemed to slough off the notion that survival of the fittest means he or she with the most brute force. At a previous corporate employer I was asked to "not look the executives in the eye" (1997). How that’s for a message? It’s a deep, deep part of many cultures. Establish superiority and an inability to be satisfied by the input of mere staff or "junior" (love that diminishing term) employees. This is indeed the part we’ll take decades to wake up to. Viva la consciousness!

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  10. Not only within the social media space you mention, but also within creative agencies who work within that space. Some of the most narcissistic egotists seem to inhabit these organisations and typically they are not involved in production but inhabit consultative roles with wanky titles like ‘process agitator’

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  11. Being a contrary sod, I want to ask the question: "What positive role do hardmen play?" Status pervades all human relationships & interactions. Hard men understand the nature of status. It’s fascinating watching how hard men use status to get what they want. I sometimes use those tricks myself (out of interest, I would note that my wife is better at this than me).We get rid of status games but I think we can call them out when we see them.

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  12. This is a topic that comes up quite a lot on the internet, and you’re right, of course bullying is morally wrong. And so is gossip and subtle sideways sniping. There should be a companion campaign to the one against bullying, a campaign against gossip and lies on the internet. Stopping one would certainly help to stop the other. Perhaps it could all be rolled into one campaign promoting the idea that all ‘ad hominem’ attacks, no matter what they form take, are wrong.

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  13. Matt – careful or you might become a wanker!Paul – I have in the past taken people like Dave Winer to task for having high profile positions and then "behaving badly". Better not to be too sanctimonious when doing it though!

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  14. Euan – don’t you hear "hard" in some people’s voices as well? Both men and women can have that "I am a serious person and you are not" tone.I know I did in my past. I think it is a kind of armor that shields them/methen from feeling.Might this all be about control? Of course some of us learn, usually in a very expensive way, that we can’t control the world. I suspect then that 2.0 represents an affront to those whose persona depends on the perception of control.

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  15. Euan, thanks for this. I loved the quotation from Brenda Ueland.What you have written about is also my main concern these days with social media in this sense — that while new media forms hold new possibilities for real collaboration and connection, they do not in and of themselves necessarily change qualities of leadership or organizational culture. Your point about sensitivity to criticism is important not only for us sensitive souls on the downstream end but also because of the powerful defensiveness and "default" qualities of hierarchy that underlie many workplace interactions and relationships — the qualities encountered "upstream." In my own work, I have moved from a position of wanting to help people speak up, to not wanting to do that work if there isn’t also a complementary program to help people get better at hearing bad news and disagreement. This is an enormously challenging topic because merely understanding the problem isn’t close to solving it. In many workplaces I encounter, despite the fact that there may be fine words on the wall about the value of people, the truth is that there is often very little real vision about the workplace. One can say, "civility," but civility and respect and basic ethical transparency are only a beginning. The best leaders I have known go much farther in their view of workplace interactions. They value and foster a deeply collaborative spirit, a rich openness where the individual insights and styles of people are honored, and where the real growth of each person is an essential business strategy. These are leaders who are not waiting for others to build trust with them; they actively seek to build it everywhere they go. In workplaces of this kind, social media can easily thrive because the "relational field" is already valued and being developed. I would piggyback on your assertion about "bullies" to say that it will take more than getting rid of them to make this critical cultural shift (although its a good start!). It takes a vision of the best human connections possible — what they are and how to create them — and the strength of character to stand up for them in traditional environments. This is strong, but also subtle work requiring self-awareness and a genuine passion to be free of the default workplace cultures that keep us all chained to the wall.

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  16. Thanks for the thoughtful comment Dan. I totally agree that there is much work to be done and that none of it is an inevitable consequence of the technologies. If we could just clone the good guys!

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  17. Unfortunately, these people have always been among us. As they have been among all living organisms since the year ..But now, as the playing fields level out, and all our connections become horizontal, we are decreasingly having to ‘look up’ to them.

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