The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Fear Stops Action …
March 26, 2018, 6:18 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Agency Culture, America, Comment, Culture, Management

So recently I learnt of a particular aspect of [American] corporate culture that scared the hell out of me. I put America in brackets, because I know it’s not unique to here – but, to be honest – it’s where I’ve seen the worst of it compared to all the other countries I’ve lived in.

The paranoia of performance.

Put simply, some people seem to waste an incredible amount of their energy convincing themselves others are getting the opportunities they want – or feel they deserve – and so spend their time continually looking for signs that say, at least to them, they’re ‘out of the loop’.

These signs could be anything …

The way a boss said hello to a colleague.

The fact a client said hello to someone who is not directly linked to the core team.

An agency colleague sat next to the client at a meeting.

Sure, sometimes that can be true, but unless I’m utterly naive, I’m pretty sure in the main it’s not.

But here’s the thing …

If you’re constantly looking for the hidden meaning behind everything, it means you’re spending all your energy and angst on feeding that negativity rather than doing something that could make a difference and so at some point … the paranoia becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now while that might make these people feel better about what they suspected all along, it’s a hollow victory given they created the situation rather than anyone else.

But what I find even worse is what it say’s about [American] corporate culture.

Or at least some of it.

Where people continually feel frightened.




All that does is make these people un-cooprerative, un-collaborative and in-efficient.

That’s not just horrible for them, but it also creates an incredibly toxic environment.

As I wrote a while back, enjoying your work is not just important personally but it’s also commercially advantageous as a whole and while I appreciate not everyone will achieve what they want to achieve, creating an environment where everyone thinks someone is out to get you rather than encouraging them to show what they are capable of is an outcome where everyone loses.

25 Comments so far
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Welcome to America.
Not every organisation is like this but a lot are. In fact I only discovered it was not universal when I lived in Asia. There was, as you know Rob, a fair amount of paranoia there but not like I found in the US.
I’m sure you’re changing things but I bet many people are confused with what you are demonstrating, especially clients.

Comment by Pete

what the fuck is asian corporate paranoia?

Comment by andy@cynic

Seeing you’ve got a meeting with Campbell?

Comment by John

nice one doddsy.

Comment by andy@cynic

It hasn’t always been this bad Robert, but it is bad. Ironically, much needed groups like #TimesUp has made things even more pressurized, especially with certain groups of men. I don’t mean predators, but those who feel their age and gender now places them at a career disadvantage that makes them even more paranoid and secretive. Openness, transparency and honesty are the only ways to progress but that is alien to some types of organizations as you are apparently discovering. The good news is once you have earned trust, it lasts, but what you are endeviring to do is counter to traditional American corporate culture. But if anyone can do it, it’s you.

Comment by George

i would love to see the looks on his clients fucking faces when campbell says his usual “thats interesting,i have a different point of view on that”. hahahahahahahahahaha!

Comment by andy@cynic

The prelude to client character idea assassination.

Comment by DH

Yep. I still say and do that.

Comment by Rob

I never doubted it.

Comment by George

I hope it hasn’t because I can’t see how America could ever achieve anything it it was. As Pete said, not everyone is like this – but it does seem the more senior you go, the more paranoid you become.

I guess in a meritology culture, if you aren’t moving forwards people think you’re moving backwards hence the obsession with feeling you’re still in the game even if your behaviour actually ends up pulling you out of it.

Comment by Rob

I agree with you regarding the #MeToo thing, but it’s only because men have had it easy for so long that some are finding the odds unfair – when really they’re just heading towards some sort of more equal footing. I say ‘some sort’ because it’s still in mens favour [for now].

I’m writing a big thing on this in a few weeks … I’ll genuinely be interested to hear your POV on it.

Comment by Rob

didnt anyone tell you campbell that the cost of big cash and nice weather is dealing with fuckers who make trump look like hes calm and sane? on the bright side, youre only working with them, i married 2 of them and thats a whole different game of mindfucked shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

At least he gets big cash and weather.

Comment by DH

Fail fast, fail often but make sure somebody else gets the blame.

Comment by John

fail fast? maybe in the old days but right now america is all about playing safe not playing fast. were living in the most unfuckingamerican america.

Comment by andy@cynic

When were you last in the US John? 2005?

Comment by DH

Clearly things have changed – though my emphasis was on the blaming rather than the failing fast – bad choice of buzzphrase on my part.

Comment by John

With that use of corporate buzzword terminology John, you could be a CEO here immediately.

Comment by Rob

What if it’s the limeys who are fucked up?

Comment by Billy Whizz

the yankees are the undisputed modern day masters of the art of fucking up.

Comment by andy@cynic

When agencies attract power hungry psychos you would be naive not to pick up on the signals they put out and the terrible effect they have on others creativity : except “their own” flawless / original output or theft

Comment by allmoderncomms

True. Though I think it’s not just about who they attract but what the company shows they value.

So yes, I get your point about why people follow a particular ‘cultural approach’ even when they know it’s debilitating to them and their colleagues potential … but it’s still unbelievably sad and worse than I’ve ever seen it in other countries [though I know it also exists there].

I guess I’ve been one of the lucky ones and I hope I can – in my own small way – let others feel the ability to be authentic in their behaviour and voice as, ironically, that will increase the odds of them getting what they all aspire to achieve. At least in theory.

Comment by Rob

Chap, you sound like a kindred spirit on this.

What I tend to come across (uk) are 2 types

Essentially creative people : in it for ideas and making interesting stuff

Essentially controlling people : in it for power and money

Paranoia comes from the mismatch in expectation across these 2

Comment by allmoderncomms

What you’ve written isn’t just applicable to the US, or, to corporates. It’s also true of [some] large agencies / agency networks in the UK, too (speaking from experience).

Comment by Oli

God, that’s so depressing.

Comment by Rob

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