Lifetip 3: Accept the pecking order

The third post in my series of Lifetips will be dedicated to the benefits of hierarchy. It is actually a very improbable lesson to ever be coming from a Dutch person’s mouth, as we tend to have very little respect for these things.

Then again, maybe countries that actually understand and respect the implications of hierarchical structures wouldn’t need this lesson in the first place. Perhaps they could, however, explain it better than I (or Rutger Bregman, who brought it up in his April 2019 podcast episode) can.

Bregman poses that progress may not be possible in a purely egalitarian atmosphere. Hierarchy is needed in order to move forward on the long run.

The fact that western societies have increasingly been promoting “nice guys”, has softened our culture, as well as our politics. For our institutions however, too many nice guys is a curse. At some point, somebody needs to call ‘bullshit’, even it hurts someone’s feelings or means that all the work that has been done so far will be thrown in the bin.

An example that was given by Jesse Frederiks was a plan that journalist platform “the Correspondent” had upon its conception in regards to its compensation model. The initial plan was to let all the employees decide on the salary levels among themselves. The idea was that there would be full openness on the matter, with everybody having knowledge and insight into the division of the company’s money.

Long story short: it didn’t work.

Everybody was pretty relieved when they went back to a more traditional model, with specific people responsible for such decisions.

People that didn’t agree with the slice of the cake they ended up with, could complain about bad decision making by people elsewhere in the building and then bond over it with direct colleagues around the coffee machine (instead of having to blame them for it). Also, not having all the facts, turned out to be a relief to many.

Without hierarchy, direct colleagues would have to decide on a course of action together and battle out their differences face-to-face. This inevitably causes some friction, which makes working together increasingly difficult.

So perhaps certain positions require people who do not mind being disliked (for the greater good)?

Those at the bottom of the food chain do what they are told, without having to debate why and how.

With a person higher in rank calling the shots, foot soldiers can bond with their comrades over their shared suffering. At the end of the day the work gets done and everybody (except maybe that one guy) can go out for beers to celebrate.

In the YouTube video below Jordan Peterson (who Im not sure suffers from that Mr-Nice-Guy-complex) gives his explanation of why hierarchy is necessary and how left- and rightwing thinkers can (must?) keep the ranks from falling apart or being corrupted.

Sometimes you need an asshole to stand up, that doesn’t care if people like him or not, to get the job done. It’s OK to hate him. But recognize that you couldn’t have done it without him.

What do you think? Do you believe in an egalitarian system? Or is hierarchy really indispensable for stable community structures?

Odd Jobs #4

As I drove through the Hague with my mother today we passed a stately white building in the city’s diplomatic neighborhood that brought back memories of the time I had spent there as a receptionist.udink.jpg

I can’t even really recall how long I worked there all together, but I think it was just for a couple of months during two consecutive summer holidays and after that every now and then when they needed someone extra. It was a law office specialized in corporate law with, if I recall correctly, about ten lawyers and half a dozen secretaries.

My work consisted of making coffee for clients, ordering flowers for special occasions, sorting the incoming and outgoing mail and transferring phone calls. I think figuring out how the phone worked was the most complicated part of the whole job. It was great. I got a lot of studying done there, and they were fine with that as long as the few tasks I had were done correctly.

And yes, even here there were lessons to be learned.hierarchy Pyramid law.png

  • Marble entry halls are pretty but they are also cold and echoey
  • I kind of like making fancy coffee with good Italian espresso machines
  • Flowers are actually very expensive
  • So is (good) wine
  • Neither flowers nor wine are gifts that make me particularly happy.
  • Receptionists are invisible to some people
  • Lawyers are (often) full of themselves and cling to ideas of status and hierarchy to extremes that are almost funny. To me. Not to them. Never to them. Nooo.
  • All though I had to come to this same conclusion again later on in life, I had already found out during this job that I don’t enjoy having to dress “professionally”.
  • I could still pull it off though.
  • The Hague is a pretty interesting town

Nothing life changing, as you can see, but it’s still part of my life’s path, so might as well share!