24 Comments

I agree: there are more calm and talented people than “noisy” ones. Personally, it always seemed to me that such a situation (namely, an attempt not to stand out and work calmly, do what is needed) is a symptom. when it is easier for a person to realize himself outside of work than at work, he will choose a pet project

Expand full comment

This is interesting to me because there is a correlation between collectivist cultures and your "skilled pragmatism" vs individualist cultures and "agitators". I often see people/women of diverse cultures getting passed over for growth, as they are doing good work quietly.

Expand full comment

I would very much like to read a part 2, as an agitator myself.

Expand full comment

Gives a part 2 😎

Expand full comment

I hear you about the issue for Maria is NOT about agency; she is exercising her agency in choosing not to play the game. However, Learned Helplessness figures significantly in Maria’s decision making. She and the legion of her fellow Skilled Pragmatists have more power to change the game than they think, but for each individual, it does not seem to be worth the risk. The Risk / Reward equation does not encourage her to raise her profile until the norms of the organization change. If the Skilled Pragamatists truly account for about 3/4 of the population, it seems likely that that could happen. The fact that it rarely happens makes me wonder if you haven’t significantly overestimated that percentage.

Expand full comment

An interesting question would be, how significant is the overlap between skilled pragmatists and people with impostor syndrome?

Not all of them know how much benefit they could provide but are scared that somebody will find out they are faking it all and just keeping a low profile.

Expand full comment

Beautifully maps to 'losers' from 'clueless', 'losers' and 'sociopaths' in the classical Gervais Principle: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-or-the-office-according-to-the-office/

Expand full comment

What I have noticed that people are not born as Maria. In fact, I belive that when people join a company, they are non-Marias, but they become a Maria there over time. I have experienced that myself when I look back at my career.

Expand full comment

It used to be that Line Managers were given authority and discretion to hire people who were “skilled pragmatists”. Great line managers knew exactly how to engage these people and how to use these people’s skills!

If your institution has neutered Line Management, there’s not much you can do.

Expand full comment

From personal experience I can attest that the highly skilled and experienced that get gaslit the most and are the nails that stand up are a bigger loss to the company. As they are actively prevented from doing what they can to improve things for everyone. While simultaneously having to watch the egomaniacs fumble their way in the dark while trying to implement a jacked up version of what the 5%ers wanted to but was prevented from executing/implementing/coding and use as a launchpad for doing more and making everyone's lives easier and more "motivated" by example. I've never tried to stop a teammate from implementing an idea. No matter the source. As the exercise alone is motivating for all and lifts all boats. Plus with a 5%er around, the project will succeed as 5%ers don't let their teammates fall on their face as it makes the whole team look bad. Unlike the backstabbers the 5%ers support. Backstabbers will always be able to blame the guy they got fired with innuendo and complaints to shield themselves from what they perceive as a threat, a competent capable enthusiastic motivated teammate with good ideas to spare.

Expand full comment

I see you Maria.

Expand full comment

As I read this, I can't help but think about "untapped agency" as a deeper problem. Both for the organizations and individuals, the Marias, involved. Feels like a lose-lose dynamic.

Expand full comment

So good. We've been very likeminded for almost a decade now. My next post literally talks about shifting to a mindset of "generative pragmatism".

Expand full comment

Okay, well: where did you find this chart? Could you share how many people did you interview to create it?

Expand full comment