Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


I am a Serf

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:29 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I never thought being a sycophant could be a career skill.
One of my favorite political rants used to be how nothing has changed, socially, since the Middle Ages. We are all just very high-tech serfs serving a slightly different kind of feudal lord. The owners of companies are like the dukes and barons of old. Their companies are their fiefdoms. Their emperor, their “High King”, simply whatever government they happen to live under at the time. Oh, every once in a while someone reminds me that one thing has changed. “We can own property!” they exclaim, thinking they’ve found the hole in my pet political theory. But, of course, I’ve been waiting for that, so I simply smile shyly and quietly say “eminent domain“.
But, all this really means, to me, is that it doesn’t matter so much who’s in charge at the “top”. Mostly, it doesn’t have a significant effect on my life. I still have to buy the things I have to buy, pay the taxes that the current Caesar demands, and work at the job I happen to have. Ah, and there is the crux of things, that job. I have to keep that job, because, of course, I am in thrall to my economic lord. I live, at times, in fear of angering my liege, lest I become a financial ronin. A hungry mouth without a patron is a Very Bad Thing. So, I have learned to curry favor. I work hard at thankless tasks so that I might please my lord and he, therefore, will reward me.
So, here’s where being a sycophant comes in…
My job is basically based on whether or not the boss likes me. Good news! He does. Now, I’ve done a little informal survey around the office and people who have been there more than two years agree, if the president of the company likes you, you’re in. Personally, I prefer that my ability to do my job well was the determining factor on my job security, but, well, I can work with this. And, really, it’s not that I mind being a courtier or even a sycophant, but, why do I always feel like the court jester?

Incidentally, I’ve survived a lot of job changes over the years, mainly, thanks to a book called The Way of the Ronin, which is now in its third edition. It’s especially helpful for people with technical skills who have to always work to stay ahead of the curve.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Be careful about the bridges you burn, because one might turn out to be the one you later want to cross."

1 Comment

  1. Good pointer. I’ll look into it. I’ve just changed industries (in the interest of staying ahead and keeping it interesting) and boy has that been an experience.

    Comment by Mark — 4/11/2006 @ 11:33 am

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