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Stop Whining - by the Nightshade Fairy

This is the seventh article where we are applying poker strategy to our career. Last time we looked at the value of using patience to wait for favorable situations, and discipline to make good decisions and take appropriate (profitable) actions when conditions are favorable. Today we return to the poker, gambling, and life strategy from the Mad Genius of Poker, Mike Caro, and apply his advice to our careers. Let's complain about our Bad Luck to the boss, and see what it really gets for you.

Has this ever happened to you? A New Manager is hired on, and instead of being the usual not-listen-to-anyone jerk, she actually encourages open communication and wants to talk about the "challenges your group is facing." Well, there's lots of stuff wrong with the individuals in your group, other departments, clients, executive management, and the color and arrangement of the office furniture. On and on you go. New Manager sits there and listens, nodding and making the right noises when you pause for breath. What a godsend! Things are really going to change now that management is finally listening to your pearls of wisdom.

Oh no. The things that do change aren't what you wanted. And worse, your biggest pet peeves haven't been addressed at all. So New Manager wants open communication? You march right into her office and communicate your disappointment by chewing a new one the size of the state of Texas on the New Manager's right bum.

Whew. Feel better?

Nightshade hopes so, because that's the only positive outcome of this situation. It's time to pack your bags, kiddo. You're now first on the next layoff list-if New Manager can wait that long. Which leads us to our next career advice.

Advice # 7 - Never seek sympathy. No one wants to hear your bad-beat poker stories. Sometimes the cards are so miserable with Bad Luck, you just gotta go on and on about your misfortune. Everyone has to know how completely horrible they were.

And people do this in the workplace-lots of you.

Gather round, team. This is what your manager is really thinking when you complain. Ready? Here it is: my experiences with Bad Luck dwarfs whatever it is you're complaining about.

Wait, there's more. New Manager asked you to communicate "the challenges your group is facing," and instead you're wasting her time by whining about small things she doesn't want to risk her neck to change. Give New Manager what she is really asking for: a non-political, easy-to-fix "challenge" so New Manager looks good to her boss. Provide this, and New Manager might be grateful and toss a bone your way.

If you are a poker player that seeks sympathy about bad-beats from other players, you're saying loud and clear that Bad Luck influences you. You can go on tilt. This makes you vulnerable at the poker table. The other poker players will play better because of your whining, and it will decrease your bankroll. Ditto for the workplace.

Let's look at a real career example.

It was in the midst of the dot com frenzy, at a don't-really-have-a-clue ("DRHAC") start-up company, when one of the executives hired a Senior Web Developer that had Real Experience with designing and implementing another company's corporate web site. Experienced help is usually a good thing, but this guy turned into one of my biggest "challenges your group is facing."

Here is a partial list of what Mr. Senior Web Developer complained about: his desk chair wasn't as expensive as the chair he had at his previous employer, the VP of Operations suffered from terminal DRHAC, the executives received private offices with doors while everyone else had to suffer with cubicles, the office building had this huge conference room that separated development from executive row, and the break room had crappy tasting coffee.

My project management authority was pretty limited. I had no budget, so I couldn't even buy software without going through a lot of nonsense and providing a blood sacrifice (my blood, usually) to appease the executives-so forget about buying mere office chairs. I'm not a therapist, so there was no way I could fix the Ops-VP's case of Raging Hubris. It's always the kiss of political death to persuade executive management to "be fair" about their perks, like offices with doors. I can't rip apart office buildings and rearrange the rooms (certainly not with my project budgets). As far as the coffee, it was free, it was hot, and it was packed with caffeine-so I didn't see what the problem was, except that someone kept stealing my carton of creamer from the fridge.

Mr. Senior Web Developer's list of issues had nothing to do with the analysis, design, or implementation the company's web site product. Instead he was whining about trivia and showed Nightshade that he was not much of a force to be reckoned with. He didn't even write any code until a couple of the executives told him to get to work or hit the pavement. And then he whined to me about how miserable he was, how trapped he felt, and how no one understood him.

But Nightshade understood all too well. I gave Mr. Senior Web Developer some advice Job Fairy style: maintain a minimal office configuration, work your hours, keep your head down, and crank the job-hunting processes into full gear. If any job has you that miserable over its trivia, don't complain to the nice Project Manager. Get your next gig and get out the door before your misery affects your health or you get canned because of your attitude.

Mike Caro and Nightshade agree: Stop Whining. Your complaints will inspire your opponents and you'll lose esteem with your allies. Complaining about Bad Luck is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy, and deep down you might just begin rooting against yourself.

Next time, we will look at the power of keeping your hand a secret.

Mike Caro's web site and the inspiration for this article is at http://www.poker1.com.

· The Poker Game that is Our Career
· About Bad Luck
· Never Get Even for the Night
· Don't Go On Tilt
· Hubris, Anyone?
· The Game Changes as You Play
· Vultures Rock!
· Stop Whining


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