RICHARD PORTER

The sorry slide from quiet con­fi­dence to mud­dled medi­ocrity

Evo India - - DRIVEN -

ARE YOU GOOD AT YOUR JOB? ONCE UPON A time you thought you were. No one likes to be­lieve they’re lousy at the thing that oc­cu­pies such a thick per­cent­age of the av­er­age week. And chances are, you were good. Took pride in your work. Ap­proached each new day with a spring in your step and a twin­kle in your eye, think­ing, ‘To­day I’m go­ing to crack this one.’ Nat­u­ral ap­ti­tude flowed from you and sprin­kled ev­ery­thing you did with a lit­tle star­dust. It in­spired others too, drag­ging the whole team up to your level. A rolling ball of skill and ex­pe­ri­ence, that was you wasn’t it? And your bril­liance lifted the peo­ple you worked with. A dream team. The A squad. Hit af­ter hit af­ter hit. That was you.

Well, it was you some of the time. I mean, no one’s that good all the time, are they? Not when it’s rain­ing and Wed­nes­day and the bloody kids wouldn’t get their stuff to­gether and you ar­rived at work in a grumpy funk. No one can do their best work then, can they? Of course not. Maybe that’s why the last pro­ject didn’t turn out so well. Maybe you just weren’t in the right mood. It hap­pens. Deep down you’re good at this, but get you on the back foot and next thing you know two years have passed and you never quite found that rhythm. It’s not your fault. The tim­ing was wrong, per­haps you never felt it in your bones. And don’t get you started on the rest of the team for that one. God, they were no help, were they? Old what­sis­name with his stupid ideas that never quite seem right. And her, with the hair, and the shrill, spiny laugh that slices through your nerves as you try to ex­plain that pairing this with that with this is never go­ing to work. Yes, you’re still good, but they were re­ally try­ing your pa­tience, and that’s why it didn’t work out. Sucked the mar­row from the core of your skills. And come on, the idea was bad in the first place. You could tell it was go­ing wrong. Con­fu­sion and delu­sion from those around you and, be­fore you know it, your en­thu­si­asm is evap­o­rat­ing like the pud­dles on the grey flat roof you can see from your desk.

It hap­pened to the other teams too. You could see it, creep­ing in like a low mist of mud­dle and medi­ocrity. Bounc­ing walks and tin­kling laugh­ter crushed over months and years into a de­feated trudge and a tide of sighs. It’s hard to be good at your job when you’re

sur­rounded by all that. This dis­ease, it’s con­ta­gious. And when you catch it, it’s game over. Sud­denly you’ve no idea what’s right and good any more, flail­ing about as you start to con­fuse bold­ness with things that are sim­ply bad.

It kills you at work, of course. Spend­ing longer and longer in the can­teen each day. Once you’d make the dash for food as quickly as you could and fly back up­stairs, pro­pelled by pup­py­ish en­thu­si­asm. Some­times you’d for­get to eat al­to­gether, fi­nally re­al­is­ing at 4pm that the knot in your belly wasn’t just ex­cite­ment at get­ting the job nailed. That feels like a long time ago now. It’s no bet­ter at home, ei­ther. Gen­tle re­marks that would once have dis­ap­peared harm­lessly down the drain af­ter the rest of the pasta sauce are now flash points for fire­works and an­other night in the spare room. You’re drink­ing too much, you know that. And you’re get­ting fat, aren’t you? What hap­pened to that gym regime? It’s amaz­ing what slides when the ef­fort­less as­sur­ance of be­ing pro­fes­sion­ally bril­liant is pulled from un­der you like that f***ing rug you told your wife not to buy. These things didn’t used to bother you but your on­ce­sunny dis­po­si­tion is now more like the flat pale light just be­fore a storm. And all be­cause you know in your heart your work isn’t good. The whole de­part­ment’s work isn’t good. Be­ing no good has seeped in like poi­sonous gas and now ev­ery­one’s mak­ing an­gry stabs against the aw­ful col­lec­tive re­al­i­sa­tion that you’ve re­placed quiet con­fi­dence with con­fused crap.

Once you were good. Once the de­part­ment was good. And when the de­part­ment was good it made the whole com­pany look good. Not any more. Now you’re too em­bar­rassed to tell peo­ple what you do. It’s just too hard. They’ll only ask ques­tions, and they’re ques­tions you don’t want to an­swer, lead­ing to the ques­tion you don’t think you can an­swer: how did it get like this? You don’t know any more. You don’t know how some­thing once so good could be­come so bad, and then evolve into the ugly, un­stop­pable col­lec­tive consciousn­ess that seems to say, ‘Let’s see if we can make this bet­ter by mak­ing it even worse.’ The de­part­ment is a laugh­ing stock. You’re a laugh­ing stock. You used to be good. Yes, you. You were re­ally good. You must have been. You were good at your job. You could be good at your job again. You just need to leave the BMW de­sign de­part­ment. ⌧

It’s con­ta­gious. And when you catch it, it’s game over. Sud­denly you’ve no idea what’s right and good any more

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