“Man muss sich nicht mit dem Hässlichen gemein machen.”
[roughly translates as: “You don’t need to make yourself common with ugly.”]

One of the advantages of interdisciplinary work, and … well, work that bridges research institutions with commercial companies, is the wide heterogeneity of people. Not in irrelevant characteristics like age, sex, race, and the like, but in approaches to problems, in viewpoint diversity. At the same time, this advantage can be a disadvantage if — let’s say differing standards make collaborative work difficult.

Let’s be honest. Academics are often a bit … abstract. High intelligence, usually not-so-high wisdom.  Perhaps a somewhat high level of agreeableness. To use an expression of Gad Saad (IIRC), they “lack testicular fortitude”.

People in companies in the other hand … well, having elbows does help. You don’t need to use “Wahnsinnskarriere” as guide — a (somewhat satirical) German book on how to advance in a company, but, yeah, people with a high need for power definitely flock there. And there are people who use manipulation and shady tactics to advance themselves, as if the position in the company has any inherent value.

Worst example I can remember was a female manager who tired to manipulate her employees in … a large telephone company. I can understand that her employees left or were really dissatisfied. (Funny thing if you are only there for a mandatory internship and you already have a signed letter stating that you did finish that internship successfully. She tries her usual ‘waiting games’ and you simply say that you walk out. I don’t think of myself as a malevolent person but I’d like to have that moment on video.)

But yeah, people differ, and — perhaps only slightly related to whether it’s academia or companies — peoples standards to differ too. I think most important is integrity, in the sense of being able to depend on a person’s word, of what they say they will do.

If someone tells you he does something, does this person actually do it? Or does he ‘forget’ it? I use the quotations marks, because it’s really hard to differentiate between honest (if unreliable) forgetting and crooked ‘I say that I forgot or that a message did not arrive, but actually, I don’t consider it important enough to care and I don’t respect the person enough to be honest about it’.

Somewhat related to this point, but actually a consequence, how does the person react if you ask again?

Some people are actually sorry and aim to do better — which is possible, task management is a thing, but it’s more about commitment:

Workflow tools are not the issue. Many people simply lack a clear model of coordination. They think coordination is about exchanging messages and that related coordination breakdowns indicate poorly composed, garbled, or lost messages (as in email). Coordination is about making commitments, usually expressed as “speech acts,” or utterances that take action and make the commitments that produce the outcome the parties want.
Peter J. Denning, Monterey, CA

Others find excuses, and they get lame pretty quickly. Even if you do not spot them immediately, with time (a walk home) the manipulation becomes apparent. A bit like:

“You mean the way you used me to attempt to assassinate old Ortega?” I asked. “Thereby ensuring that the Code Duello was broken, the duel invalidated, and the vamps’ war with the White Council continued?” Martin glanced at me, and then into the rearview mirror at Susan. “I told you,” she said to Martin. “He’s only dense in the short term. He sees everything eventually.”
Butcher (2010)

Personally, I think the worst thing you could possible lose is your integrity. If people don’t trust you anymore, if they think you take the easy way out … that’s a very bad place to be. It doesn’t matter that acting with integrity is also more ethical, that’s nice, but if you lack integrity, you wouldn’t really care. This is about consequences even people without (internal) integrity should care about.

And yeah, interacting with someone whose word you cannot trust … I am reminded of this scene (should jump to 8:50):


Because what is the consequence if you have to work with someone whom you cannot trust to do the tasks this person said he would do? And who — whether for shame or to hide his incompetence (impotence?) — tries to obfuscate the issue? Who throws a temper tantrum when his integrity is questioned, yet does not change anything to show integrity in the following months?

It’s easy to match like with like, to reduce one’s own standards, to meet on the lowest common denominator, way way down. For example, to ignore messages — after all, if eMails get ‘lost’, why should I reply to this person’s messages? To do tasks only when convenient.

But frankly, I like my work. I like the students. I like the environment. I like the idea of helping people to create something that does not suck. And to reduce my standards just because others have none, try to advance themselves by … rather crooked methods … nope. It’s like Admiral Ramirez: “The greatest challenge lying before us is to do what must be done without undoing the dream of the Federation.”. And yeah, here “the dream of the Federation” is one’s personal ideals. But the general message hold true: Sacrifice that? Meet at the bottom?

Just nope.

(This is somewhat of a cliffhanger posting — I have thought about the issue this far (I got a lot on my plate, including a new website) — I hope I will post about this soon. And I seriously hope it will be positive.)