I know what you’re thinking.
You’re thinking that anyone with the level of global success I have achieved must have been incredibly brilliant and hardworking from the jump.
Not the case.
When I was just a tyro in the global success biz, I had none of the skills one needs to succeed. It was just me and my really good looks against the world.
What did I do to get ahead? I could have gone to a name-brand business school and diligently studied the skills I would need to succeed, like Advanced Brown-Nosing and Groveling 101. Instead, I took the more difficult path. I faked it.
“Fake it until you make it” was my mantra in those early days. I admired my managers. I loved our products. I drooled over our business plans. Fake! All fake! And it worked! Which is why I was shocked to find a posting on Forbes by Mark Murphy. “If You Have to Fake Your Emotions At Work, Research Shows You’re Probably Going To Be Miserable.”
In my experience, a career based on fakery usually makes other people miserable. Like the senior vice president of sales flying with you on the corporate jet when she realizes that you were faking it when you said you had your pilot’s license. Murphy believes that it is the fakers, not the fakees, who suffer most.
“When we’re constantly faking it,” he writes, “when day-after-day our brains are stuck in a pep-talk loop just to try and force ourselves to display the right kind of emotional intelligence, we’re depleting valuable energy. And the result is a drain on our reserves — we get burned out.”
According to his research, Murphy concludes that “51 percent of people say they always or frequently have to ‘act’ or ‘put on a show’ when on the job.
For Murphy, this is a negative. The way he sees it, 32 percent of the 51 percent of fakers are “less likely to love their jobs.” The way I see it, 100 percent of the 51 percent who fake it are more likely to keep their jobs.
Pretending to be a happy camper is a lot better than camping in a refrigerator box under a highway overpass.
Based on Murphy’s research, companies traditionally hire for skills when they should be hiring for attitude. I definite attitude as the ability to pretend to have skills. (Isn’t that how you got your job? Management apparently needed someone with the skill of sitting behind a desk and looking busy while actually not doing anything — a skill where you’re No. 1.)
If you’ve been faking it so long that you no longer know when you’re faking it, Murphy has an exercise to help you judge your fakeability level.
“First, think about the time you had to fake the proper emotions at work.”
Maybe it was at your last salary review when you had to put on the “pleased and grateful” act. Or the last time you talked to your manager, and had to pretend to be “impressed with the brilliant insights.” Or maybe it’s every freaking day when you walk into work and say “Good Morning.”
Second, you need to ask yourself “what about that setting causes us to have to fake our emotions?”
Companies do want to see a positive attitude, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Many employees start faking it when their manager takes hold of their ankles and dangles them out the window.
Third, ask yourself how you handled those feelings.
Did you whimper? Did you cry like a baby? If you’ve answered yes to either of these responses, congratulations. You may be miserable, but you’re on your way to promotion.
Your analysis should tell you how much fakery your job requires, which is useful information. If you are faking it less than 100 percent of the time, you now have a new goal to reach. It will also help you in the unlikely situation in which the quality of your faking falls below company standards and you must look for a new position to fake.
Mark Murphy recommends you “use what you learned to develop some intelligent questions to ask during interviews that allow you to assess whether a prospective environment is a good or bad attitudinal fit for you.”
Makes sense to me, but I think you can accomplish this goal with only one semi-intelligent question:
“How much do I have to pretend to like this job for you to leave me alone?”
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.