Do Nice Guys Finish Last?

by Honolulu Mother

This was an interesting article about when being a jerk is effective and when it isn’t:

Why It Pays to Be a Jerk

Are you a workplace jerk, a nice person, or the “disagreeable giver” that the article seems to present as a happy balance?

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84 thoughts on “Do Nice Guys Finish Last?

  1. Sort of off topic:

    When George Cabot Lodge, a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, talks of the prewar years, he remembers a specific game of tackle football he played as a 10-year-old, and the man screaming and swearing on the sidelines. The man was wearing boots and breeches, apparently just off a horse, and was exhorting his son with four-letter words to “get in there and fight!”

    A poem about old Boston:

    And this is good old Boston,
    The home of the bean and the cod,
    Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots,
    And the Cabots talk only to God.

    I can only imagine that Prof. Lodge’s voice is the one they use for Harvard’s voice mail system. “Thank you for calling Haaaarvvvd. If you know the party you’d like to reach….” The accent only possible with 18th century clipper ship money and descending from generations of US Senators.

  2. I think you will ultimately be unsuccessful whenever you try to be materially something that you are not. They can measure jerkiness but they cannot measure charisma which I think plays a very big part in all of this.

  3. Interesting article HM. In general, I’m too nice. I’m less nice now than I was earlier in my life and career, and much more direct, but it’s who I am. I’m not wired to be the jerk. I realize now I could have gone further in my career if I had been another type, but I was always certain competence would be recognized and rewarded. I agree with Moxie that you can’t be something you are not. On the flip side, I have zero tolerance for jerks. It does not make me respect them, or want them on my team. It makes me want to get the hell away from them. Take that crap out on someone else. I’ve always been confident enough that I had other options to leave a situation where I had to work with someone I hated.

    On the shopping analogy – that’s nuts. A rude salesperson would not make me want to buy more, much less anything.

  4. But the study did yield one finding: it is very hard to play against type.

    I guess I’m too nice to even understand the other side. I’ve deal with a number of people who were fired or forced out because they just couldn’t help being an asshole. How hard is it not to be rude and condescending? Or, you really can’t stop publicly belittling your staff after you’ve been repeatedly told not to? Or one control freak who controlled everything such that when it blew up – they knew exactly who to fire. You couldn’t let anyone else have a say when that would have likely prevented the blow up or, if it hadn’t, it would have diffused the blame? Is it that hard?

  5. “I think you will ultimately be unsuccessful whenever you try to be materially something that you are not.”

    I agree.

    I also think that there is a huge difference between being “nice” and being a doormat, and that a lot of times when people say “nice guys finish last” what they really mean is that doormats finish last. Being pleasant & being the type of person that people don’t mind spending time with is a big plus for your career. But being able to effectively manage conflict, having and initiating difficult conversations and standing up for yourself and your team effectively are absolutely necessary skills to be a leader.

  6. Wow, loved the article — it clarified something I have always thought: that our words are too limited and mushy. You can be pleasant and respectful and considerate and still have a backbone and a voice.

    “I think you will ultimately be unsuccessful whenever you try to be materially something that you are not.” — ITA at our age. What is interesting to me is how much of that is ingrained vs. how much is how we learn to behave while growing up.

    I also just did. not. relate. to the sales example. When I was a baby lawyer, I loved going to the mall in shorts and a crappy t-shirt — it was a test, and I chose to shop at the places that treated me nicely. So the idea that being treated like crap = must impress shopkeeper = drop a ton of money is more like a ??? Think I mentioned last month or so, my “Pretty Woman” moment would have ended by showing the manager just how much money I spent at the OTHER store across the street.

    And then stuff like this always makes me wonder: what is the end goal? If the point is how to become a Master of the Universe, then, ok, sure. But that’s never been what I wanted out of my life (unless it was, like, the literal title. Then, sure, I’m in). And I spend a lot of time already riding myself for things I screw up, almost all of which are times when I should have been nicer/more patient/etc. So I’d say, sure, if you’re not getting where you want to in life, there’s a lot to learn here (although I suspect that’s more along the lines of “get a backbone” vs. “practice being an asshole”). But otherwise, I just don’t see much point in trying to be more of something I don’t respect to achieve a goal that I don’t want.

  7. FWIW, I think both I and the firm fall with that “disagreeable giver” category. I think the times when I am brusque tend to cluster around my mind being focused on the ultimate goal and not paying as close mind as I should to the “people” part of getting there — like sometimes I’ll get impatient with an associate who’s taking 15 minutes to walk me through her research when we’re under a time crunch and I need her to cut to the chase. Not saying that it makes it ok to be rude in the moment (and when I’m out of line, I will apologize later). But I also take time in other contexts to arm the associates with the info they need to succeed — how I like to work, how this client likes to see things, the questions that other partner will ask, etc. (e.g., rule #1 with me is default to bullet points; if I want more, I will ask for it). And we definitely focus on challenging ideas instead of people and all that.

    Interesting, thinking about this just made me notice that the biggest conflicts I have had in my career were with bosses who were very nice to my face but would *not* tell me they had a problem with my work. It’s ridiculous to find out during your review, or when you ask for a promotion, that someone wasn’t happy with something you did 3 or 6 or 9 months ago. That kind of passive-aggressive bullhockey doesn’t do anyone any favors. So that was my “if you can’t be a good example, at least be a horrible warning” lesson early on, and it stuck.

    It’s much harder in the moment to be the bearer of bad news and facer of uncomfortable truths, in the same way we’d all much rather be the “fun” parent instead of having to enforce bedtimes and homework and all that. But it’s just as necessary for the people who work for you as it is for the smaller ones who are living in your home.

  8. “bosses who were very nice to my face but would *not* tell me they had a problem with my work”

    This is my #1 pet peeve. GIVE TIMELY FEEDBACK.

  9. I don’t know if I was nice or not. I did threaten to kill my boss once, but I never threatened to kill any subordinates. And my boss SO deserved it.

  10. It’s ridiculous to find out during your review, or when you ask for a promotion, that someone wasn’t happy with something you did 3 or 6 or 9 months ago.

    +1 (or more).

    This definitely happened to me early on in my career. When it was brought up months later I felt it was ancient history and essentially felt I had no defense. If someone had clued me in soon after I pissed someone off I at least could have tried to make amends.

  11. I have amassed nearly twenty thousand dollars. That sum that feels much more grand to me than it will to most of you. I would like it invest it for retirement (I’m getting a late start) or children’s education (late there too). Reality says it should be a rainy day fund.

    Where is the best place for me to put it for good earnings, where it will also be available if we need it?

  12. having and initiating difficult conversations

    I once worked with someone who would initiate such conversations at bad times, I think as a deliberate strategy to try to get the upper hand. Like, “Boss told me you’re unhappy with my work quality. Can you give me examples?” in the hallway right by the cubicles of support staff. You had to just be prepared to have the discussion with full particulars then and there so as not to give this person the ability to say, “Well, I asked HM and she didn’t have a problem with my work.”

  13. My $0.02…and this is not investment advice from an unlicensed person.

    ok, first question…how long until you need the money?

    If you really need the rainy day fund, then put it in a savings account at a bank/credit union and leave it there. Don’t worry about how much you are making.

    If you choose to invest it for your kids’ education or retirement and we’re talking at least 10 years till you need to touch it, then put it in either a total stock market index fund (e.g. VITSX) or an S&P500 index fund (vfinx).

    Oh, and personally, I like having a home equity line of credit as my emergency fund. $0 cost until you borrow, low interest rate if you do, and then you’re not forced to sell NOW, which might be a bad time.

  14. Where is the best place for me to put it for good earnings, where it will also be available if we need it?

    The thing is, it’s all about time horizon. There’s no good place to put money that you’ll need in the short term other than money market funds, and they earn nada. Better returns always means more short-term volatility. How long til the kids start college?

  15. I would probably nix the kids’ education funds if you are truly starting late in retirement saving. If you think you’ll need the cash, maybe invest 50% in an index fund and keep 50% in cash.

  16. “Where is the best place for me to put it for good earnings, where it will also be available if we need it?”

    You’re wanting the Department of Oxymorons — down the hall, take a left at Mythical Creatures.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. :-) Seriously, if it’s money you need available, put it in a CD or money market fund or savings account. How much of an emergency fund would that get you? If it covers 3 mos. of the basics, I’d take as much as you need to cover that 3 months, stick it in a savings account, and then put the rest in a Roth (up to the max), invested in stocks — unless you get a 401(k) match at work, (in which case I’d first put the retirement part of the $$ into the 401(k) up to the match, then put anything left over into the Roth).

    Note that with a Roth, you can withdraw your contributions at any time. So you technically can use it for an emergency fund. *However*, the kinds of investments you want for retirement (stocks) are completely inconsistent with the kinds of investments you want for emergency cash (liquidity, no risk of loss). So why waste your limited annual Roth contribution amount on cash that isn’t going to grow for you? I think it makes more sense to put whatever chunk you need for emergencies into a savings account and basically forget about that, and then put the rest in a real retirement vehicle in stocks (I’d start with Vanguard Total Stock Market Index or ETF, myself).

    And the kids are right out — get your immediate (emergency) and long-range (retirement) basics covered first, then worry about the kids.

  17. I have amassed nearly twenty thousand dollars.

    Do you have a 401k at work, do you have an IRA set up?

  18. Kids college starts in less than 10 years. Retirement is further away, but less than 20. 6 years worth of 401k so far. No home equity to speak of. I do not plan to need the rainy day fund, but isn’t that what “rainy day” means? It would last for 6 months, as long as there were no other big expenses that came along at the same time. (Thinking really dark here: house fire, hospitalization, overnight child care till I’m home, that sort of thing.)

    “Note that with a Roth, you can withdraw your contributions at any time. So you technically can use it for an emergency fund. *However*, the kinds of investments you want for retirement (stocks) are completely inconsistent with the kinds of investments you want for emergency cash (liquidity, no risk of loss).” Can you explain more, please?

  19. No IRA. No idea how to set one up. I have bought MM CDs before.

  20. @LL: A Roth or IRA is just a bucket — any provider, like Vanguard, will be happy to set one up for you. You can fill that bucket with whatever you want that your provider sells — stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, money market funds, etc. etc. etc. So you can open up a Roth or IRA with say $5K, and tell them to put it all in a money market, or tell them to put it all in stocks, or anything in-between — the investment choices within that bucket are all up to you (within the range that the company you choose offers, of course).

    The thing with the retirement plans in general is that you usually have to keep the $$ in there until you are 55 or so — early withdrawal forces you to pay taxes and penalties. But the nice thing about a Roth is that you can withdraw your own contributions without having to pay a penalty — you just couldn’t take out anything that the money earned while it was sitting in the Roth. So if you had originally invested $10K, and five years later it was worth $15K, you could take out your $10K without paying taxes or penalties.

    Because of that flexibility, some people (Suze Orman) say that you can use your Roth as your emergency fund — because you can get your money back when you need to. But the problem is that you need to be sure your emergency fund is there when you need it — so you’re going to want it to be in something safe, like an FDIC-insured bank savings account or a money-market account. But you don’t want to put your retirement investments into that same safe kind of savings account, or it won’t grow enough for you to retire (my savings account is currently making like .02% interest). You want your retirement money in stocks and bonds — which is exactly where you DON’T want your emergency fund.

    But here’s the other thing: you can only put $5500/yr into a Roth. So, sure, you can hand over $5500 to Vanguard, tell them to open a Roth, and to put it all in a money market fund so it’s there for your emergency fund. But the value of a Roth is the tax-deferred growth — and if you can only invest a few thousand a year to get that tax-deferred growth, why would you want to waste it on something that’s only going to grow 0.02% per year, instead of investing it in stocks and bonds that may get you 6-10% per year? It’s like renting a Ferrari to drive across midtown at 5PM on a Friday. I’d much rather keep my emergency fund in a plain old bank account, and keep my Roth for things that I expect to grow for the long term.

  21. To set up an IRA:
    Vanguard 800-319-4254
    Or Fidelity 800-343-3548

    Both can offer very low cost index funds. Ask them about opening a Roth IRA. I have worked with both; I have no affiliation with either now; I was happy with each.

    Who manages your 401k at work. It might be easier/more convenient to have both your 401k and IRA at the same place.

  22. Hey Milo – that Duggar house listed for sale yet? I’m guessing they will be a very motivated seller.

  23. “Can you explain more, please?”

    There are no taxes due on this money, so if you were to invest it for retirement, it would be in a Roth IRA. Whatever the contribution limits are for that ($5k per year?) is what you could do over the next four years. The earnings that it generates would not be taxed, and when you retire and start taking distributions (taking the money out), you wouldn’t owe any taxes on it, either.

    Also, with a Roth, you can withdraw the contributions at any time. So if you put $5k in now, and a year from now it becomes $5500, you could withdraw the original $5k without penalty. That’s what she means by it could also be an emergency fund.

    Typically, in retirement accounts, they recommend stocks or stock index funds because, over time, they’ve tended to have greater returns. OTOH, they are more volatile. So if you put $5k in now, next year it could be worth only $4k. If you were counting on having $5k for an emergency fund for an unexpected expense like a new roof, then you might be disappointed to find that it’s not there right when you need it.

    Since you have a 401(k) at work, I would first make sure you’re getting all of the possible employer match. Same for spouse/partner, if applicable and finances are shared.

    if you’re happy with the 401(k) at work (and you’re investing in something like a low-cost target date fund), one option to consider might be simply upping your 401(k) contributions from your paycheck, and using this $20k to cover the difference in your bills. That way, you’re not prevented from doing something because of the hassle of opening a new account. So if you’re putting in $5k per year now, you could up it to $15k for the next two years.

    It really just depends on your goals. If you wanted to do a Roth, you could pick a Vanguard target date fund (gets more conservative as you get closer to retirement) or a life strategy fund (constant level of risk that you pick).

    And don’t be the least bit afraid to ask more questions here. We love this stuff.

  24. Josh’s and Anna’s house in PG County? They were just renting. But yeah, time to go back to Arkansas and the used car lot.

    Sad situation all around. If it makes anyone here feel better, my Mom emailed me that the parents are a disgrace, and they “did nothing but breed to earn money.”

  25. LL, I’m with Atlanta– focus on your retirement savings. As a longtime lurker, you know that having college savings will work against your kids in getting financial aid. Your best bet for the kids is to have them do as well as they can in school and in standardized tests (especially the PSAT/NMSQT) to maximize their chances of either merit aid, or getting accepted to schools that meet full financial need.

    I also agree with those who suggest you open a Roth IRA and put as much as you can there. The limit is $5500/year only if you’re below 50; once you hit 50, the limit is $6500/year. If you don’t use your allowance for any year, that’s gone forever, which is a big part of why I recommend you do this.

    Set aside as much of the non-Roth money as you need for your rainy day fund, and put it into CDs. Yes, the yield on CDs is low, but more than what you get in a savings account. If your rainy day fund is 3 months’ expenses, divide it into 3, and every month, for 3 months, open a 3 month CD with I/3 of your rainy day fund. Make sure the CDs are set up to automatically roll over for another 3 months if you don’t specifically take other action.

    If your rainy day fund takes so much that there’s less than $5500 left ($6500 if you’re at least 50), still go ahead and contribute the max to your Roth IRA. Just set aside what you need for your rainy day fund in something safe, so that money is there when you need it. Ideally, your rainy day won’t come, and as you continue to set aside money, your entire rainy day fund can be outside your Roth IRA, and you can then move all the money into funds more appropriate for retirement.

    Having money in a Roth IRA, rather than a non-retirement account, will also help when your kids are applying for financial aid.

    Next year, move another $5500 into your Roth IRA ($6500 if you’re at least 50), again keeping any part that is also part of your rainy day fund in an appropriate vehicle.

  26. BTW, LL, Milo is absolutely right about making sure you get your entire employee match for your 401k.

  27. Thank Milo – I thought they were in NoVa. Yeah, no good way for this to end.

  28. Lurker,
    First of all, good for you for saving up the money. No need to be embarrassed. You should be proud of yourself! This is what I would do with the money. I’m not a financial professional and YMMV. The IRA contribution limit for this year is $5500 ($6500 if you’re over 50). I’d open an IRA with that amount. Vanguard has a quick and easy website for setting up an IRA (Roth or Traditional) and a lot of investor education materials. VFINX suggested above is a good fund to start with. Then I’d contribute what I can, up to the contribution limit, each year. If your job situation is relatively stable, I’d put some seed money, maybe a month or two’s expenses, into an emergency fund (and continue to build on it until it’s 3-6 months expenses) in a savings account or money market. I don’t like CDs for emergency money because you are locked in for a time period, and the shorter term ones don’t pay much more than a savings account. The remaining amount can be invested outside the IRA in index funds like the ones suggested by Fred upthread, again I suggest Vanguard for this. I know this isn’t sexy, but since the kids are still young and your nest egg is small, you might want to consider buying some term life insurance with some of the money if you don’t already have coverage. Good luck to you. Stand tall.

  29. Back OT, there was no mention about one classic conundrum about jerks: why do females seem to prefer a$$holes to nice guys?

    For the really ‘popular’ or good-looking, I can see that some guys can be intimidated, and fear rejection, whereas a$$holes are so narcissistic that such thoughts do not occur to them.

  30. Lurker – I got a very late start on savings – I didn’t have my own employment earnings or any savings until I was 40. I started contributing to my 401k at 44, and maxed out at 15% of my modest (at the time) salary, later cut back to 10% because I still had high interest debt and got good advice to pay that down first while still getting the full employer match. My kids were in college for twelve years when I was 40 to 52, and I had to fund that on the fly or with PLUS loans. I did not have any rainy day funds, but to keep a roof over our heads I did have room on credit cards, I could borrow from my 401k (not advised) and at great psychic cost I could have gone to family to keep me off the street. I rented an apartment at that point, no home equity. So I can identify with your circumstances – you are likely in less precarious straits than I was.

    Assuming you credit cards are current or very short term balance only, you are not underwater on the home, your salary after 401k, health insurance, taxes, etc. is enough to support the family with the ability to put a little aside, and the 20K cash and the 401k are the only assets you have other than the home, I would not add new accounts to your universe. 20K is a rock bottom emergency fund balance for a family of three that should be kept in a bank savings account, or part in a savings account and part in a MM CD. No special savings account for college given your (guessed) age and that of your children. Rather, I would take the amount that you have “extra” each pay period and increase your 401k contribution. If you are fully maxed out on the 401k under your employer’s plan, you can consider an IRA or Roth in a basic Vanguard index fund if your taxable income permits you to make contributions, or a simple Vanguard after tax account similarly invested for the long term future. But leave the amassed 20K alone in the bank, and look to do something new with your future contributions.

  31. Random aside — people have mentioned before wanting to do a ranch/riding vacation. Just got email from this place. I can’t quite unsubscribe to their list, though I don’t see it happening in the near future. We went pre-kids, and had an amazing time. Easy access from Mexico City.

    http://rancholascascadas.com/ride/

  32. “Back OT, there was no mention about one classic conundrum about jerks: why do females seem to prefer a$$holes to nice guys?”

    Like with the jerks in the workplace, I’m not sure that this is actually true. Again – what does “nice” mean? Does it mean doormat? Does it mean passive-aggressive? Does it mean conflict avoidant to the point of being dysfunctional? Does it mean guilt-tripping people by doing “nice” things for them and expecting unsaid favors in return? Or does it mean – treat other humans with basic respect and decency and be pleasant to be around? Because I think people like charismatic people who are decent human beings, for the most part. I think the word “nice” is misused a lot in this context.

  33. I’ve learned that one of the most important factors for me when choosing a job is the quality of the people with whom I will be working. I’ve worked with jerks before. Never again. Not worth it.

  34. C&A bought SkyMall at auction, for $1.9 million and with notably little fanfare, in April.

    $1.9 million? That’s chump change for a brand like that! C&A is brilliant.

  35. “Back OT, there was no mention about one classic conundrum about jerks: why do females seem to prefer a$$holes to nice guys?”

    The answer I’ve heard from several women is because she feels special that the jerk is nice to her. She can’t be sure that a nice guy really likes her because he’s nice to everyone, but she knows the jerk likes her because he’s only nice to her.

  36. Denver,

    That, or she’s too damn distracted by the little field mouse she trained to ride a unicycle to deliver her handmade, end-of-year teacher gifts.

    Snort.

  37. Rhett / Denver – I read the first few comments, and they’re not at all receptive. “I’m a business owner and mother to two small active boys, and I like doing these crafts and the kids LOVE it…”

  38. I liked this exchange:

    Adalyn
    May 27, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    In the amount of time she took to write that blog post she could of been doing something more time worthy. I’d rather be hot glueing eyeballs on oranges than whining about a mom that does. I just don’t find the bother in this at all. If your stressed about crafts I don’t know how you’ll survive very long.

    Jennifer M
    May 27, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Hey Adalyn,

    The blog is written by MAN. Apparently you are too busy crafting to pay attention to details.

    Adalyn
    May 27, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    just stop it

  39. “If your stressed about crafts I don’t know how you’ll survive very long.”

    lol!! It’s one of those arguments that’s so bad, it almost proves the opposite point.

  40. DD – that is so over the top. I am glad my kids have outgrown bringing things from school that keep Oriental Trading in business. All it did was clutter up their rooms.

  41. And this one is great too:

    “A two second email to the mom who made this thanking her for adding a smile on my kid’s face would have been enough writing. The rest of the time writing this bitter posting might have been better spent enjoying the love you have around you. More of that might make you like yourself a little more.

    Maybe, like yourself, this mom just tried to “leave the world better than [she] found it.” We can’t all be as great as you.”

  42. In Biglaw, I found that predominantly the biggest rainmakers (and thus the most highly paid lawyers) were the biggest assholes in the room. They don’t have to be mean to their service partners, associates or other folks in the office, but they can be and often are when upset. They like to terrorize the other side by being the most obnoxious, having the biggest temper and making the most outrageous demands. As one of the big swinging dicks once told me (before I fell out of favor for being a father), it’s okay to be an asshole. The other side has to deal with you.

    And he was right and the clients seemed to love it.

    I couldn’t do it, and I dealt with a lot of the biggest assholes in the room. And there are some big firms who seem to specialize in it. With some exceptions, I don’t really think that Skadden, Wachtell and to a lesser extent Greenberg got to be where they are by being “nice guys”.

  43. Maybe, like yourself, this mom just tried to “leave the world better than [she] found it.

    Or she’s engaged in a ruthless status competition based on conspicuous caring.

  44. I don’t think that women prefer jerks. But nice guys in the best sense of the word are still guys, and guys in general don’t have a really good sense of their trading value vis a vis the women they think ought to want to go out with them.

  45. Denver dad – very funny! I like the comment telling the guy to “stop gripping”

  46. I’m wondering if it’s good to be an a$$hole as a lawyer, because sometimes that is exactly why you are hired, to be an a$$hole on behalf of the client.

    Would that make law a bad profession for someone who is not an a$$hole?

  47. Would that make law a bad profession for someone who is not an a$$hole?

    Litigation is perhaps not ideal for non-assholes. But there are other ways to practice law.

  48. What I love is the guys who can’t turn it off and act asshole-y to the judge. Good plan, that’s sure to get her on your side.

  49. “Would that make law a bad profession for someone who is not an a$$hole?”

    Finn, yes. Because you wind up as a “service partner” (if you’re good enough). You do the real work for the Big Swinging Dicks, and you are dispensable when you get older, want more time, start making too much, or profits per partner aren’t increasing enough.

    I have noticed that with the increasing number of women lawyers, this is changing slightly. But the few women who really succeed have brass balls. They are tough. More agreeable perhaps than the Big Swinging Dicks, but very tough. And while I like some of these women, I question how good they are at parenting.

    But in any kind of negotiation, there is an advantage to being the biggest asshole in the room. You simply have to be dealt with.

    And now I have exceeded my “bad word” allotment. CofC, I apologize. RMS, please help me out (as we are the biggest transgressors!). There must be something you can go on a rant about and I am eagerly anticipating it.

  50. PTM – I wonder, if it’s not too much trouble, if you might tell us more about the evil partner with the fish tank.

  51. ATM, SoFl –
    I am so happy! Duff’s is coming to my neck of the woods by the end of summer! Then along with Mighty Taco I’ll have a little slice of the Queen City very convenient to me every day.
    And, PTM, I can wash down food from either with the repackaged Genny Light.

  52. Houston and MBT – did you have a lot of flooding in your neighborhoods? My siblings live inside the loop, and while their houses did not flood (the water went some distance up the front yard) they both have neighbors who had a foot of water in their first floor. There were also two bodies found in the bayou near one of my sister’s houses. Yikes – that is so sad.

  53. I just heard from my acquaintance, the tax veep who was put out to pasture a year ago after 27 years at the same company. He just landed a new job. It is the top tax job at a local company which is avoided by most tax professionals, since the position regularly turns over every two or three years, but it is a public company and will get him the experience he needs and get his wife down off the ledge. A year out of work is pretty standard at this level and I am really happy for him. I had advised him to consider this job to get needed experience (but not to plan to stay long) if he could stomach the environment and the ridiculous hoops they are famous for making candidates go through.

  54. Meme – that is good news – thanks for updating.

    SSK – our home is fine. Our neighborhood is actually worse today than it had been, but it is just street flooding. Our system of faux lakes is a well-designed drainage system for flooding, and are connected throughout the neighborhood, so the water is pretty evenly distributed. The major creek that borders the neighborhood flooded, so 2 of the 4 exits from the neighborhood were underwater, and our path to a 3rd was briefly underwater today. It seems to be receding this evening, but there’s a 60% chance of thunderstorms tomorrow and the next day. It would help tremendously if we’d have a day or two with no rain to give it a chance to go down a little. It has just been so intense in such a short period of time that the water has nowhere to go. The news said tonight that May was the wettest month in the 120 years of record-keeping.

  55. Milo, I think I’ve said enough about the fish tank jerk. What a despicable man! Remember, I’ve used up all my quota of bad words for a while. I adore CofC, but she isn’t going to put up with me for long if I continue!

    Maybe I should tell more stories of the fish tank jerk. I don’t think her quota of bad words for the month is quite used up yet.

    (And RMS, like everyone else on here, I adore you.)

  56. That sentence makes no sense. Sorry. It should have read, “Maybe I should tell RMS more stories of the fish tank jerk.”

    I am really sorry. If I could only learn to proofread before I send.

  57. Denver Dad – hysterical! I hate crafts. I hate little trinkets. I hate glitter and rhinestones. But my kids LOVE that stuff. I try to throw it out while they are sleeping, but they have some sort of sixth sense and magically remember the stupid Oriental Trading crappy visor some mom brought in to craft for/with them six months prior and can’t let it go.

    I do love to cook and bake, though, so I will happily make hundreds of rainbow fruit skewers and cupcakes decorated like Mickey Mouse. We all have our things.

  58. Cat S – I am less cynical this morning because after a few years of gluing, sticker decorating – one of my kids has totally outgrown it all and the other kid doesn’t need my help. I am no longer adding to Target’s revenues.

    Meme – thanks for the update.

    In other news, my kids’ school which was teaching a hybrid of old and new math has ditched moving rapidly through topics (new math) and gone back to old math with more time being spent on each unit. Also, lots more fact based writing has entered the curriculum. There are still fun projects but these are closely tied to the curriculum and are very infrequent.

  59. Question for the group. A few weeks ago I made an appointment at the car dealership to have the seat belt that my dog chewed replaced. The dealership is about thirty-five minutes away, so not exactly close. When I got there, they told me that the part had not come in. I was mad. No apology from them, nothing. I e-mailed them the next day and the owner immediately e-mailed me and apologized. He said that someone would come and pick up my car, fix the seat belt and detail my car. I accepted his offer. The owner said that someone from the service department would call and schedule a time yesterday to come and pick up my car. No one ever called me. I am going to e-mail them today. What should I ask for? We have been loyal customers for years, buying a couple of cars from them and taking our vehicles to them for service. I don’t think that they want to loose me as a customer, so I know that they will make some sort of offer to make up for their incompetence. The next closest dealership is an hour away, so I don’t really want to take my business elsewhere. Also, does someone want a nice little hound dog that likes to chew seat belts?

  60. Sheep Farmer – Send a letter on actual paper with your signature in ink to a couple people in their corporate customer service department, with a copy to the service manager of the dealership. List the year and models of cars that you have purchased from them in the past and explain that you have been happy with them until now, but this situation has been disappointing.

    When I had a problem not with dealership service, but just disappointment that an A/C system failed catastrophically in a car with 50,000 miles, doing this method of letters on paper that someone has to physically open got a $3,000 repair performed at no cost.

    I didn’t have a complaint

  61. “What should I ask for?”

    I would call the owner and say no one ever contacted you before going with Milo’s suggestion. You never know the why, and there may be value in keeping the issue local rather than involving corporate yet. Tell him you are choosing to do things this way despite recommendations from friends to take a different tack and not involve corporate customer service yet.

    Unless, tying this back to the OT, you think they are a bunch of assholes and going the corporate route will do you better. There are other car dealers around.

  62. Post got messed up. That “I didn’t have a complaint” was the initial start of my second paragraph, but then I revised it without deleting that part.

    And actually, I think I faxed my letter. Point is that email might be too easy for someone to click away.

  63. Sorry, PTM, I was busy last night. So just to get the morning going: Fuck.

  64. Awesome news, Meme.

    Agree with the asshole lawyer comment. It’s especially difficult for women, because people don’t respect the bitch-mode female partner, but the slightest hint of softness is just as quickly construed as weakness. I just went through this with one client: we talked through our strategy multiple times (intentionally cooperating and being the good guy, leaving the FU for if/when needed), and we executed that for two solid years, and got to the point of a settlement offer that was well beyond what I had originally told them to expect. Then we get to a sticking point on a minor issue, and the client blows up that we’re not getting anywhere and we just need to tell them FU and blah blah blah. This was a relatively new guy on the team, and you could just sense that he thought I was way too soft.

    Luckily (for me, I guess), the next settlement discussion the other side totally reneged, so I got to whip out the inner bitch, and the client is now happy with me again — happier than when I was actually getting him closer to what he wanted.

    So, yeah, sometimes the client wants the asshole.

  65. p.s. am I always that calm and rational when it comes to my own problems with customer service? No.

    But you don’t yet know why no one called. Maybe the owner never told the service manager for whatever reason spanning from “didn’t really care about you/your issue, but said whatever it took to get you off the phone” to (as soon as he hung up with you) being told of a real injury/illness etc that you would completely understand why that took precedence in his mind vs your problem.

  66. A$$hole lawyers >>> why I am not a litigator. :) I can be firm, like when the banks are charging my clients outrageous fees and diversifying their GRATs and generally not holding up their fiduciary duty, but it is much better when I am collaborating with my clients to execute their plans and keep their money away from the government. :)

  67. I’m nice, but firm. I learned a few lessons early on that have served me well in this balance:
    1. Know the rules (written and unwritten) so that you can use them to your advantage (I have used leave policies to piggyback types of leave that most of my coworkers don’t know you can do)
    2. When you know there is crappy work coming – go take the least crappy so you can (1) get credit for understanding you work flow and taking the initiative to help out and (2) deflect the crappier work. Or, when possible, just before propose an assignment that benefits your organization and makes you unavailable for the crappy work.
    3. Be confident in what and how you communicate. Uncertainty can be seen as a weakness others attack. Admit when you don’t know, but when you know be confident.
    4. You can put people in their place without every acting like a jerk by asking the right questions publically. The flip is true, you can ask those questions in private to help build alliances. This also works when you need someone to think an idea was theirs in order to get buy in.
    5. When managing people, if they think you are not asking them to do things you are unwilling to do yourself, they are more likely to do it and do it well.

  68. My DH is too nice to be a litigator too, the other reason he switched to corporate law.

    My DD’s teacher sent us a Pinterest page last week with end of the school year craft ideas to give out to the other kids because she thought it would be “fun”. I did it, but grumbled the whole time, as did the other parents. And now we have a big bag of candy, beach balls and sidewalk chalk.

  69. “I did it, but grumbled the whole time, as did the other parents. And now we have a big bag of candy, beach balls and sidewalk chalk.” — Time to channel your inner Nancy Reagan and Just Say No. :-)

    Seriously, though, how are teachers going to understand that these kinds of froofy craft-ey things are giant PITAs to some unless someone says something (even if that something is a polite “no thank you, not my thing”)? I think of it as doing a huge public service for the silent majority of begrudging compliers who can’t/won’t speak up for themselves.

    Which, again, is why I somehow never end up on the “too nice” end of the spectrum. . . .

  70. The end of year stuff (and many other teacher requests) are you are caught between a rock and a hard place. Do it and you are basically reinforcing that this is an OK request and you are happy to do it. Don’t do it and your kid is pointed out as being the non-compliant one at best or penalized in some way at worst.

    I have brought it to the principal more than once about the notice of events. I ask how much time in advance is a teacher supposed to tell you they need time off in an non-emergency situation. Answer – 2 weeks. My response, is then you should always give parents 2 weeks notice as we have to get off work too. As only a couple complain, it doesn’t change.

  71. PS — on the “why do the assholes get the girls” Q: I think it comes down to the coffee experiment. It’s not that the guy feels comfortable stealing coffee — it’s that he’s willing to steal coffee *and provide some to you*. So if everything goes to hell, he will be the one who comes out on top, and he will bring you with him.

    Of course, what those women frequently don’t realize is that that’s a temporary situation — next week or month or year, he’ll be stealing coffee for someone else. So over time, if you’re smart, you learn to look for the guy who’s going to stick around and keep looking out for you long-term, even if he’s not the HS/college alpha.

    E.g., DH most impressed me when, after a dinner where the waiter treated me poorly, he walked up and had a quiet word with the waiter. He stuck up for me without being a jerk about it.

  72. LfB – One of the moms told me she didn’t do it (I did the last day of school party with a few of them) but then she started to feel bad and told her son she would be back with his crafty gifts. He looked at her and said “what gifts?” She was right on, her son didn’t care. Now my daughter likes that sort of stuff, but probably would have gotten over it had she not had her own Pinterest inspired gifts to give. The teacher said it was of course optional but I felt compelled to play along.

  73. Not crafty, but I profusely thanked my dd’s teacher the other day. My dd came home talking about the dioramas they were going to make for open house to go along with wild animal research reports. I was mentally tallying the work load involved when she piped up, “My teacher says we’re going to do them at school because they’re too much work to do at home.” I wanted to be certain the teacher knew how much we all appreciated that!

    I’ve been swamped with work, and it’s been fun to check back in and read bits of what I missed.

  74. big bag of candy, beach balls and sidewalk chalk.” — Time to channel your inner Nancy Reagan and Just Say No. :-)

    Or channel your anti-Nancy Reagan — add a keg and you’ve got a party!

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