More safe harbor for psychopaths: shit tests in the workplace

Gloria in excelsis, crackas be fucked. I say crackas because in its dealings with the Latin American peasantry, management is all like tenemos mucho trabajo, amigo. The third degree it reserves for its fellow Yanquis: its own people, in citizenship if not in character.

This concept of the “shit test” bears some explanation. Like much of the MRA/PUA parlance, its etymology is not self-evident and could easily be misconstrued in the absence of its specific cultural context. The MRA/PUA movement is swarming with autists who don’t understand that their parlance is eccentric and unfit for polite company, i.e., around normal people. That said, there’s no need to attribute to innate neuroatypicality what can just as credibly be attributed to too much time on the internet. The idea of the shit test is that some chick (it’s always a chick) will say or do something disingenuous, catty, or otherwise inappropriate in front of a man for the purpose of seeing whether or not he calls bullshit on her. If he calls bullshit, he’s an alpha; if he goes with the flow or tries to mollify her, he’s a beta loser to be immediately shunted into the friendzone.

This sounds like the sort of tactic that a crazy bitch might use precisely because it’s crazy bitches who most reliably esteem this sort of crude manipulation above rubies. There are, shall we say, shades of gray to it, but it’s exactly the sort of stunt that borderline nutcases and women who are just plain immoral would constantly take too far. Remember, though, that PUA’s keep their eyes on the prize, and that prize is high-volume casual sex with club skanks. Hiring a thicky trick and getting a piece of that round and brown is a narcissistic injury to these fellows because it doesn’t involve the successful manipulation of women who are under 25, size zero, top-heavy, high-maintenance, preferably a touch dimwitted, and absolutely fucking crazy. The idea is that one doesn’t “wife her up” (“marry” must sound too articulate) but instead uses her as a “pump-and-dump,” joining the spank bank of lovers past to whom she will turn, inwardly, when she’s getting into her thirties and has finally lured a beta provider schlub into a sexless marriage.

The lesson here should be that skanky is as skanky does: lie down with mad dogs, get up with rabid fleas. Not all women are club skanks, just as #notallmen are sexy male nurse Lynn Majors. Not all of them are like that. Nurses, either, although one might have hoped that Nurses Majors and Cullen would have joined Drs. Hasan and Karadzic in psychiatry instead. Or how about sexy male code enforcement officer Lynn Rader? That has nothing to do with anything else here, but this still isn’t as fucked up or dishonest a story about hospital life as Gray’s Anatomy. Nurse please.

Cullen Classic

My bad. He just looks like Charles Cullen. And has awfully similar mannerisms for a peace officer. Pleasant drawl, though, even if jeepers, creepers, where’d he get them peepers. And the one next to Captain Johnson, who looks like he’s game to break legs for the Hell’s Angels, or maybe carry out some hits: kyrie eleison on the highway in the night, these fuckers are patrolling it. On the other hand, as far as we know, they’re just working the night shift; Charles Cullen put patients on the night shift (on the night shift), and if you’ve been around here long, you saw that coming by the previous paragraph.

How would you like to interview with this crew? And we wonder how police departments have trouble recruiting good cops. You, too, would rather have an appointing authority interview with Mr. Mister, Louis Armstrong, and the Commodores. Anyone who wouldn’t is out of his fucking mind.

Granted, police recruiters are a special breed. Going solely from my own experience, I’d say that with luck one in five is more or less normal, emphasis generally on less. The Massachusetts State Police staff sergeant played by noted bar assailant Mark Wahlberg in The Departed is close enough for government work to what you’ll find in a police recruiting unit. Maybe it has to be that way. In the better-disciplined agencies, like the SDPD (again, I’m going on two days as a failed applicant), the yelling and weird mind games are strictly constrained to the sort of language that a commissioned military officer would not be ashamed to use. Contra Norm Stamper, I’d say that this is a reasonable and (probably) morally and mentally edifying use of paramilitary command discipline. I know, the academy reject is encouraging the retired deputy chief to allow MOAR DISIPLIN. But there’s a difference between proper paramilitary discipline and hazing. There’s a difference between yelling at recruits for being late and for “being smoked by forty-somethings and fifty-year-olds, and frankly that’s disgraceful” (Det. Sgt. Mark Van Abel) and telling subordinates that if they don’t step up their game, “I will poke your eyes out, skull-fuck you, and shit down your neck” (creepy US Army drill sergeant, as related by a summer camp counselor who was summarily fired for assaulting a camper within the next week and a half). The former, even if it’s ridiculous (You just let Lance  Armstrong beat you in a bike race!), is a reasonable enough way to try to get police recruits to take the paramilitary discipline seriously, and to take their jobs seriously if they make the cut. The latter is a threat to do worse than Mark Wahlberg ever did to another person on his deepest, most violent swim in the sauce–and Marky-Mark permanently blinded a guy. That’s why police agencies shouldn’t reflexively thank veterans for their service by offering them jobs without extensive background checks of their time in the military (at least it’s, like, 20 fewer PIQ questions for the rest of us to answer), and why Marky-Mark isn’t a cop, but just plays one in the movies.

The real trouble comes from civvies who use military-style bluster to try to motivate underlings on jobs that have absolutely nothing to do with thirty service calls a night or half-hour backup response times on solo patrol (Sgt. Van Abel was right: some of us didn’t really want this job) or with retaking Fallujah because, gah, we wouldn’t be trying to police up the sectarian militias if we’d let Saddam keep them down all along. The trouble is with Glengarry Glen Ross bullshit. (#TeshTips: Alec Baldwin really just plays himself.) The trouble is with conceptions of business as war. It’s grandiose and gratuitous. Real estate companies end up with regional sales managers acting like Marine majors on Guadalcanal, threatening to court-martial the grunts if they don’t go over the top by 2100 hours. They get candy-asses who would shit their pants in a novices’ UFC gym-training regimen carrying on like Patton in a hospital ward full of shell-shocked cowards because some earnest but unfortunate salesman has crappy numbers.

People who challenge this sort of belligerent grandiosity in American business are commonly smeared as effete milquetoasts. This is behavior that gets corporations sued for harassment, because even if it doesn’t quite rise to that level, it comes awfully close, and it sure as hell builds the ill will that might encourage its targets to file suit. It’s a fount of absenteeism, presenteeism, and overwhelmingly valid medical claims against a company’s insurance carrier. It literally makes employees sick. But it makes tinpot grandiosities in management feel like real badasses, so that’s cool. Germans see someone like Zig Ziglar and flee to the office restrooms like it’s 1933; Americans see Zig Ziglar, and we see excellence.

We fall for that kind of shit. If you can’t take the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen. Never mind that a real kitchen is a productive enterprise, not a fury of masturbatory boiler-room flimflamming, and that a real kitchen run like Iron Chef would be a dysfunctional nightmare, the restaurant it serves on a slow but steady course (or perhaps a fast one) towards Chapter 7 liquidation. Everything is a fucking race. It’s no coincidence that American parents start shouting matches with youth soccer referees for calling penalties on their precious snowflakes, and occasionally resort to battery. It’s in the zeitgeist. We’ve been Glengarry Glen Rossing each other for my entire life, and I only wish I could say that this rising tide of cutthroat, bogus competition has peaked. This remains a country where blueberry pickers will hustle for a one-in-eight chance of winning a five-dollar bill on a payroll job. It was such a country last week, in any event.

As much as I don’t like being accosted by a Samuel L. Jackson lookalike who asks me to “help a homeless guy out,” shouts “fuck you, motherfucker!” when I deny him his alms, and responds to a threat to call the police if he continues menacing me by saying, “Go ahead and make that fucking call! I don’t care!”, I have to admit that homeboy was living in truth, and in Inglewood. Vaclav Havel’s truth? Fuck no, motherfucker, but with a fresh set of clothes and (one would hope against hope) a less belligerent parlance, he’d make a damn good labor unionist. True story: the NLRB ruled in favor of a Starbucks employee for repeatedly cursing out his bosses in front of customers because unions, causing Scott Greenfield to again feel morose feels for the state of his country. The problem isn’t with Greenfield delivering these nut-punches once or twice a day; they’re on the internet if we have the stomach to read them, and if we’re going to read about how surreally the law has been fucked up, we might as well read about it from someone who knows how to write instead of going to the god-awfully ill-written primary sources for ourselves.

But, isn’t it a funny country, America, because we at once have administrative labor protections for a shithead who curses out his coffeeshop supervisors like my Inglewood friend and Zig Ziglar books at FedEx Office and Walmart and teenaged berry pickers hustling for a five-spot when they aren’t either working piece-rate for a third of the minimum wage or being unprofessionally chewed out by their schoolmarm of a boss for only making a quarter of minimum wage. A down-and-out Samuel L. Jackson lookalike claiming free speech protections for yelling “motherfucker” at a bougie for not giving him money isn’t what’s wrong with this country. I just knew that he was going to make me look like a crank if I called the police, because he was just an asshole, not a thug, and besides, Jeremy Morse body-slammings really ought to be reserved for violent people who need one. As it happened, we were not two hundred feet from the gas station where Donovan Jackson did or did not grab Morse by the balls when I threatened to call the police on this dipshit. This is because law enforcement in the United States is for special-needs kids from the ghetto with modest behavioral problems and Puerto Rican chicks who get saucy at street fairs, not for predators in real positions of power. Morse slams down, not up. Jonathan Josey, man of God, slams down, not up.

What Americans don’t get is that no borderline-retarded kid with poor impulse control goes for a cop’s nuts, or doesn’t, under color of authority. If he actually grabs a policeman’s stones, he gets body-slammed in self-defense. If he doesn’t make that grab, he may still get body-slammed, maybe for mouthing off to a cop. Eric Garner was choked to death for trying to break away from a group of cops who were trying to arrest him for running an unlicensed street business. This is why people in the ghetto don’t always believe cops. It’s Street Crimes thugs like Daniel Pantaleo murdering small-time tax cheats and then trying to pass themselves off as victims instead of protecting their beats from the truly violent hardcore who make life hell for the working poor. Did Donovan Jackson actually lunge at Jeremy’s junk? Well, who’s a more skilled perjurer, Jackson or Bijan Darvish? Which one of these two had professional training in perjury, if he cares to use it, and which one is just a mouthy, impulsive brat from the neighborhood? These aren’t mysterious questions ghettoside. Neighborhoods like these are patrolled by bad cops who feel no compunction about going along with rumors that they sustained orbital fractures from big guys in the neighborhood that they had to shoot because, well, you know Big Mike grabbed a pack of Swisher Sweets from a clerk at the QuikTrip.

Take away the violence and this sociology describes the American workplace in general. This is why I always advise sticking with low-functioning psychopaths, if they’re available. They’ll say such outrageous shit that no one will take them seriously. The danger is with the ones who clean up well. But it doesn’t take a psychopathic boss to cause trouble at work. All it takes is one with a minor temper and attitude problem. How the hell can one appropriately react to an emotional tirade by a schoolmarmish farm manager who routinely threatens to fire employees for honest, and often minor, mistakes? Open insubordination isn’t appropriate unless the tirade is totally out of line, but deference isn’t really appropriate, either, since it quickly bleeds into moral hazard in the face of inappropriate and counterproductive managerial behavior. An employee acting like that could be fired on the spot with cause, and a merchant treating customers that way would expect to hemorrhage business. The only people who are expected to put up with that sort of shit are employees.

And as much as I’ve dogged on Mother-in-Law for behaving inappropriately, she means well, at least most of the time. She’s temperamentally ill-suited to supervising employees, but she tries. I’ve worked for and interviewed with supervisors who don’t. The difference between an unintentional temper problem that might bring one’s company to grief someday and calculating malice is huge. Most people have some sense of the difference between the honestly unhinged and the truly predatory.

Here’s where it gets fun.  Many managerial consultants, authors of business plan books and the like, encourage interview questions and managerial strategies that play right into the hands of the worst sorts of people. A great example is irrelevant, bizarre questions like, “If you could be any kind of fruit, what kind of fruit would you be?” I was actually asked that in an interview at an environmental consulting firm in Northern Virginia. I was initially disappointed that I didn’t get the job, but once I gave it some thought, I realized that I had dodged a weird, chauvinistic sausage fest. I mumbled something about how I didn’t know how to answer that but if I had to be any sort of animal, I’d be a horse, since horses are cool and seem to have pleasant lives.

My dad speculated that the interviewer might have just wanted to see how I’d react, but shit, how is anyone supposed to react to that? Why would anyone respect an organization where hiring managers ask such bizarre, unprofessional questions of applicants? Telling an interviewer off for being inappropriate seems like the kiss of death, but earnestly trying to answer such a fucked up irrelevancy doesn’t look good, either.

This question sounds designed to select either for retards who make annoying small talk or for smooth talkers who can’t be thrown off their game. Rarely will it uncover someone who is able to politely (and I mean very politely) tell an interviewer that the question isn’t relevant. But most interviewers aren’t looking for applicants who know how to set boundaries tactfully. They’re looking either for bullshit artists or for little bitches. Neither one is worth having around if you value your company’s ethics and long-term health.

Try to imagine someone with a history of successfully treated or non-debilitating mental illness trying to answer a question like that. It sounds either belittling or absolutely fucking crazy on its face. Summon CCR to lay down that dope bass and get thee to Walgreen’s, because you, sir, are at the corner of manic and psychotic. It’s hard to find a floridly psychotic bum whose delusions are so objectively crazy. That, and many psychotics have some insight into their own conditions: “I have mix-ups in my mind,” that kind of thing. “What kind of fruit are you?” is definitely a mix-up, but how does one break it to a grandiose interviewer?

Extreme socioeconomic inequality is no mystery in a managerial regime like this. Irrelevant, ridiculous, and likely enough insulting interview questions should be expected to upset people who would be employable under any normal circumstances but are too emotionally fragile to remain completely serene and confident in the face of weird, inappropriate behavior by an interviewer. There’s plenty of managerial literature about how we, the applicants, are fuck-ups, but little about ways that interviewers can avoid being disruptive assholes who needlessly upset applicants on company time, and little about how  coming through a barrage of dumbass questioning having nothing to do with one’s relevant skills with one’s interviewing game intact has practically nothing to do with the competence and ethics needed to run a company well.

What employers are doing is insulting applicants on the spot to see how they’ll react, or, if they’re mere ditzes, selecting for their own kind. “What kind of fruit would you be?” is little better than telling an applicant, “So, last night I had a threesome with your  mother and Donald Trump.” Most people would react to a question like that either by taking offense or with dumbfounded amazement that they just came across a raging lunatic in the flesh. That, too, would be a good way to see how an applicant reacts to outrageous questions. These are things that it might be appropriate for a five-year-old to say, or, in the latter case, a thirteen-year-old. No reasonable adult would say something so outrageous to an acquaintance of the past half hour.

Let’s say that the top ten or twenty percent of applicants are confident enough not to be thrown off by questions about what kind of fruit they’d be. These aren’t necessarily the most competent employees at the company’s core business, and they certainly aren’t the most ethical. They’re just the most skilled at navigating political minefields. This may well mean that they’re also the most skilled at luring colleagues, subordinates, and even supervisors into political minefields. Bullshit interview questions are a great way to get an office full of toxic Machiavellian influence-peddlers. Competent people who are more interested in their jobs than in office politics don’t want to put up with that shit; they’d rather go somewhere else, where the hiring managers have at least a shred of decorum. That, not some PhD without an academic job offer working at Starbucks, is real overqualification. It’s a professional geologist who enjoys taking soil samples and preparing hydrogeology reports or an engineer who enjoys working out structural load equations being forced to humor total dipshits who have insinuated themselves into positions of personnel authority.

The result is “alpha fucks and beta bucks” nightmares at the organizational level. Read the comment thread here for examples. People who, in a well-governed workplace, would have the personality to keep their jobs without difficulty, or to get jobs if they aren’t already employed, find themselves outtalked and outmaneuvered by unscrupulous but politically savvy shitbirds. The more conspiratorial glosses on this dynamic hold that the top tenth or third or whatever of alpha males in management and their airheaded but sexy assistants set this sort of regime up by design to facilitate their use of the office as a sexual playground while dutiful beta schlubs do the actual work that allows them to draw salaries without bankrupting the company. This assumes that there in fact are betas who are willing to put up with all their bullshit–and by betas, I mean men and women who aren’t endlessly fascinating schmucks like Alec Baldwin every fucking minute of the day. This is why Donald Trump has done so much business in the bankruptcy courts. He’s entertaining and, so some say, charming, but next to useless, and he leaves behind him a wake of alienated former associates, most of them, I’m sure, more competent than himself. Nonetheless, a great many Americans assume that he’s a skilled executive, even though he is lately known for calling Mexicans a bunch of rapists and then suing Univision for breach of contract after it dropped his Miss Universe pageant because he had recklessly smeared its core audience of Mexican-Americans.

Even though he’s conspicuously in the public eye by his own design, rather than a shadowy backroom operator, Trump sounds a lot like the global elite that Michael O. Church describes:

Global Elite (E1, ~60,000 people worldwide, about 30% of those in the U.S.) are a global social class, and extremely powerful in a trans-national way. These are the very rich, powerful, and deeply uncultured barbarians from all over the world who start wars in the Middle East for sport, make asses of themselves in American casinos, rape ski bunnies at Davos, and run the world….They’re the corporate billionaires and drug kingpins and third-world despots and real estate magnates. They’re not into the genteel, reserved “WASP culture” of E2’s, the corporate earnestness and “white shoe” professionalism of E3’s, or the hypertrophic intellectualism and creativity of G1’s and G2’s. They are all about control, and on a global scale.

Say, by building a border wall to keep illegal immigrants out of the United States and then demanding that the Mexican government pay for its construction. The Mexican Army won’t seize San Diego County in order to assume the administrative responsibilities of SANDAG, but it might figure that it in fact has more administrative competence than a bigoted lunatic who corrupted one of the three legacy US television networks, humiliates his “apprentices” on air by brusquely firing them, and runs casinos into the ground, indirectly doing his part to bankrupt Atlantic City.

Donald Trump can pass any shit test you give him. This doesn’t mean that you want him in your organization. It’s telling that a man of such openly bad character is able to shamelessly operate aboveground as a supposed captain of American industry, and to do so on national television. He may not be quite on the same moral plane as George Soros or the Koch brothers, but he’s close.

And, God bless America, we get to have both Trump and a hopelessly Byzantine disability bureaucracy benefiting those who are preyed on by the likes of Trump or who enjoy being disabled, including *TIMMEH*. Fraud begets fraud, and we’re awash in it. If the Mexicans are here to commit rape, that’s only a secondary consideration. Most of them are too busy cleaning our hotel rooms and picking our crops. Human and financial capital flows into the imperial center from the periphery, and we’re the center.

We’re Versailles. We’re Rome.

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