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办公室也需要"庸才"  

2010-08-31 10:56:22|  分类: 职场生涯 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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作者:Lucy Kellaway  (英国《金融时报》的管理专栏作家。在过去十年的时间里,她用幽默的语言调侃各种职场现象,并为读者出谋划策。她的专栏每周一出版在英国《金融时报》。露西在2006年获得英国出版业奖的“年度专栏作家”奖项。她的丈夫是著名的时事杂志《展望》的创始人兼主编David Goodhart,他们有四个孩子。)

 

上周四,在我女儿学校本年度的最后一次集会上,小学生们纷纷与一名被解雇的老师告别。T女士授课水平之差远近闻名;新领导决定,把这份工作交给一位胜任教学的人。

然而,上周二早晨,在告别的时刻,女孩儿们爬上了凳子鼓掌、欢呼。她们喜欢和蔼可亲的T女士,早在这些孩子出生之前,她就已经在这所学校任教了。在孩子们反对新任“革新校长”的众多理由中,解聘T女士是最不可原谅的一条。

此前一个周末,教育标准局(Ofsted)负责人的讲话被报纸引用,称每一所小学都需要“差”老师。可以预见,结果是公众一片哗然。但是曾那?阿特金斯(Zenna Atkins)是对的:我们的确需要少量的“差”老师。不仅如此,我们也需要一些“差”经理和“差”工人。她的论点是:一位糟糕的老师可以教会孩子们尊重办公室的权威,即使在位者根本配不上这种权威。她正确地指出,这一点在今后的生活中会用得上。与掌权的傻瓜打交道,是职场中任何地方都需要的技巧,这种技巧在小时候比较容易掌握。

她也可以使用其它一些论点。“差”老师能让我们更加尊重“好”老师,因为没有了“差”,也就衬托不出“好”。更重要的是,“差”老师能让学生更善于思考。幸运的是,我小学时就遇到了一些“差”老师,这为我进入牛津打下了基础。而到了牛津,那里的教学水平之“差”被提升到了一个全新的高度。事实上,许多“教过”我的老师甚至不愿意于假装走过场,所以我别无选择,只能自学。

在办公场所,支持这种“平庸”的论点更加有力。在一个满是杰出人才的地方工作,简直就像生活在地狱。这同样也十分危险:看看发生在投行的事情就会明白。所有那些聪敏的、有竞争力的人都聚在一个温室,但没有几个“庸才”来阻止这些人发明如此复杂、无人能够参透的金融衍生品。

我们同样需要表现差的员工作为我们的标尺。管理智慧认为,所有的人都需要向最佳做法看齐。而在现实生活中,向最糟糕做法看齐的主意要强得多:它最终会把你带到相同的地方,但在此过程中却帮助你提升士气。事实上,当我某天在为写作犯难时,没有什么比读一位彻底无可救药的记者的文章更让我感到振奋。那种时候,我会觉得自己就像是马塞尔·普鲁斯特(Marcel Proust),然后就会文思泉涌。

不过,更有力的论点其实不在于一家机构是否需要几个差经理或学校是否需要一些差老师。在所有行业中,庸才都明显过剩;问题是如何对待这些人。

我们面前有多种选择。首先是尝试通过培训以及“大棒和胡萝卜”相结合的政策,让这些庸才发生改变。这种做法值得赞扬,但要付出艰苦努力,而且成功的几率很小。真正的庸才最典型的特点是:他(或她)会坚决抵制进步。

第二个选择是对“三流”队员进行“种族清洗”,每年将排名后10%的员工淘汰。杰克?韦尔奇(Jack Welch)让这种做法尽人皆知,但人们现在对此十分厌恶,就连通用电气(General Electric)也不像过去那么虔诚地坚守这种做法了。

第三种选择是得过且过,裁掉几个庸才,容忍其他的。这是多数公司最终选择的做法,但问题是它们做的不是太好。他们还没有发现我女儿和她同学上周学到的原则:如果必须要做,就裁掉那些讨厌的庸才,但留下那些可爱的。

几年前,《哈佛商业评论》(Harvard Business Review)上的一篇文章指出,可爱的人颇有价值,因为他们可以把团队凝聚起来。文章发现,绝大多数人都喜欢可爱的傻瓜,而不是无能的怪人。

然而,我们之所以善待可爱的傻瓜,还有另外一个原因:这可以让其他所有人感觉更好。当我看到某人既无能、又死死抓住一份好工作不放,这会让我为老板糟糕的管理感到愤怒。但是,如果我看到老板把一份工作交给一个指望不上、但却十分可爱的人,而这对工作也无大碍时,我会得出这样的结论:我的老板人不错,这个世界毕竟还不是那么险恶。

译者/杨卓

 

A nice dud is key to a happy and functional office

By Lucky Kellaway

 

Last Tuesday, during the final assembly of the year at my daughter's school, pupils said goodbye to a teacher who was being elbowed out. Miss T was famous for her feebleness at imparting knowledge; the new broom of a head had decided it would make more sense to give the job to someone who could teach instead.

Yet last Tuesday morning, as the goodbyes were being made, the girls climbed up on to their chairs and clapped and whooped. They loved Miss T. She was a dear, kind woman who had been at the school long before they were even born. Of all the many things that they held against their reforming head teacher, the sacking of Miss T was the most unforgivable.

The previous weekend, the head of the schools watchdog, Ofsted, was quoted in the papers arguing that a bad teacher was needed in every primary school. Predictably, all hell broke loose. But Zenna Atkins was quite right. We do need the odd bad teacher. More than that: we need the odd bad manager and bad worker too. Her point was that a dud teacher teaches children to respect the authority of the office, even when the incumbent doesn't merit any. This lesson, she rightly pointed out, comes in handy later in life. Dealing with idiots in authority is a skill needed in every workplace and is well learnt early.

She could have deployed other arguments, too. Bad teaching makes us respect good teaching more as, without bad, good doesn't really mean anything. Even more important, dud teachers encourage students to be resourceful. It was lucky that I had some bad teaching at primary school, as it prepared me for Oxford where bad teaching was taken to a whole new level. Indeed, many of the dons who “taught” me didn't even pretend to go through the motions, so I had no choice but to teach myself instead.

In offices, the arguments for the token dud are even stronger. To work somewhere where everyone was excellent would be sheer hell. Dangerous, too: look at what happened in the investment banks. All those clever, competitive people in a hothouse together without a few duds to discourage them from inventing derivatives so complicated that no one could understand them.

We also need bad workers as a measuring stick. Management wisdom dictates that everyone needs to benchmark themselves against best practice. In reality, benchmarking yourself against worst practice is a much better idea: it gets you to the same place in the end, but lifts morale in the process. Indeed, nothing cheers me up more on a day when I am having difficulty writing than reading the raw copy of a truly hopeless journalist. Then I feel as if I'm Marcel Proust by comparison, and the words flow.

The more pressing argument, though, is not whether organisations need a few bad managers or schools need a few bad teachers. There is a massive oversupply of duds in all walks of life; the problem is what to do about it.

There are various options. The first is to try, through training and a mixture of stick and carrot, to convert duds into non-duds. This is admirable, but hard work and the chances of success are slim. The defining characteristic of a true dud is that he or she resists improvement staunchly.

The second option is to engage in ethnic cleansing of “C” players and fire the bottom 10 per cent every year. This system was made famous by Jack Welch but is so distasteful that even GE does not adhere to it as religiously as it used to.

The third option is to muddle through, shedding a few duds and tolerating the rest. This is what most companies end up doing, but the trouble is that they don't do it terribly well. They haven't discovered the principle that my daughter and her friends learnt last week: get rid of the horrid duds if you must, but keep the nice ones.

A couple of years ago there was an article in Harvard Business Review showing that loveable people are valuable as they glue teams together. It found that, overwhelmingly, we all prefer the loveable fool over the incompetent jerk.

But there is another reason for being kind to the loveable fool. It makes everyone else feel better. When I see someone who is both incompetent and beastly holding on to a good job it makes me cross with my employer for bad management. But when I see someone who is hopeless but sweet being put into a job where they do little harm, it makes me conclude that my employer is benign, and that the world isn't such a bad place after all.

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