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Chris Magyar

In your role, what does it look like to compete aggressively to succeed?


The above question is what I'm supposed to be answering right now at work. It's been a while since I've worked somewhere with a functioning, on-site HR department, so I'd forgotten what a trip it is to have anonymous Word documents take a keen interest in my hopes and dreams. Filling out these kinds of questionnaires is like going on a first date with a desktop computer. It might have great RAM and be programmed to ask you all sorts of interesting, flattering questions, but at the end of the night, you're drunk and the computer is all, "Whoa, buddy, I've got a profanity filter on this browser. Why don't you just take me home?"

So, in my role, what does it look like to compete aggressively to succeed? It can't be pretty. I mean, "aggressively" sure implies something graceless. But this is a corporation with policies about all sorts of negative emotions and lawsuit-courting behaviors, so "aggressively" can't mean angrily or in a way that shits on others. I suppose they're looking for me to paint a picture of myself seated with good posture, my lantern jaw catching the fluorescent overhead lights just so, a slight smirk on my face as I dash off a brilliant e-mail to a colleague, one that motivates them to do the task, achieve the goal, make the deadline, save the day. But wait! I'm competing! So at the same time that I motivate them, I must motivate myself even more, so that before they can pitch in I've already accomplished the task! But there won't be hard feelings. They'll just be, "Wow, what an aggressive display of productivity, comrade. Let's celebrate by talking about football by the coffee machine." But I don't drink coffee, and everything I know about the NFL comes from my little sister's Facebook status updates on Sundays.

In my role, what it looks like in general is a lot of typing, a lot of clicking, a soupcon of thinking, and a modicum of phone talking. None of these activities come across as particularly aggressive. I could always tap the keys on my keyboard with more vigor, but that would probably have a net negative cost associated with it, due to the broken keyboards.

In my role, what does it look like to succeed at all? I'm the person who does things so quietly and efficiently that people don't have to think about what I'm doing, like the dude who holds the boom mic on a movie set. "Hey, boom mic holder, in your role, what does it look like to compete aggressively to succeed?" And then he smashes me across the face with his fuzzy microphone and curb stomps me and takes a union break.

I find myself unable to form complete sentences to answer this question. If I happen to grope at a subject, no verb comes to mind. When I find the right verb, it just sits there saying, "Really, you're going to have my glorious activity paired with this cubicle dweeb?" Maybe this is part of corporate acculturation (a real word, apparently, since it's used in another question on this eight-page beast of a survey), to be pummeled into incomplete sentences which are then rebranded as bullet points, repackaged into PowerPoint slides, and regurgitated for bored executives in posh boardrooms.

  • Think strategically about new opportunities for communication with clients via the web.

Did I really just write that? Doesn't sound aggressive, competitive, or successful. 

  • Gnash teeth and hoist a broad axe to make potential clients cower in fear.

But I don't really interact directly with clients. I'm more of a background guy. Plus, that's kind of D&D.

  • Redesign site CSS to include more black.
  • Photoshop employee bio pictures to put a cutlass between everyone's teeth.
  • Wear face paint.

No, no, this is sounding more like a Raiders tailgate party than an aggressive communication effort.

  • Wear a hat to work.
  • Wake up early and eat a good breakfast.
  • Drive a nicer car.

Getting warmer. But a little too mid-century. This is the Age of Corporate Yoga. There should be some soul-searching in there.

  • Generate a list of 7 effective traits on a Post-It note.
  • End every conversation with the phrase, "Let's make this happen."
  • Find at least 4 nice things to say about every piece of marketing material before critiquing it.

And we've lost competitiveness. This sort of wimpy goal-making is exactly what drill sergeants believe ruined public education in the 1970s: too many hippies with white-boy afros spouting meaningless wisdom-speak and encouraging cooperation at all costs.

  • Click the "publish" button like a motherfucker.

There it is.

That's it.

Oh, I wish I had the nuts to actually put that in there. Can you get fired for doing things like a motherfucker? I hope not, because it's already on a Post-It note on my monitor, so I have a constant reminder of how to behave properly in today's aggressively successful world.

[Posted like a motherfucker.]


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