I was talking with a friend yesterday who described a time that she was unemployed. She got a call from a potential employer asking if she could come in for a follow up interview the next day. She said no she couldn’t, she had another interview already scheduled during that time. But she could come in later that week.
She was lying. She didn’t have an interview, in fact she said she ended up spending the time eating ice cream and watching TV. She turned them down for their short notice request for an interview because she felt it would be dangerous to appear too available. So she lied to make the company think that there was competition for her services. Oh, yeah, she ended up getting the job.
I don’t think that I would have been able to pull that off. I tend to be all about enthusiasm when someone is interested in working with me. I also tend toward the truth, the whole truth and nothing but when I’m applying for work (not because I’m doing my impersonation of Mother Teresa, but because I think it’s a real bummer to get a job and then to lose it because one of your lies ended up biting you in the butt).
And I also don’t think that I could recommend this strategy for someone else to follow. But I did have to give my friend credit—she realized that getting a job is much more like a date than applying for a bank loan.
In other words, getting a job should be a two-way street. The employer doesn’t hold all the cards, unless you give ‘em to them. So in interviews it makes sense to ask questions. To not be too accommodating. To make it clear that at the same time they’re interviewing you, that you are also interviewing them.
But it’s not limited to just getting a job. A while back there was an article in the Wall Street Journal that talked about “tribal” or “voodoo” knowledge. This is where an experienced worker has learned things about how to do the job that they refuse to share with the company. According to the article, this was mostly about older workers who knew that if everyone knew what they knew, they would get pushed out the door for a younger, and often cheaper pair of hands. These older workers maintain their value, and their jobs, precisely by not being “team” players.
Maybe there was a time where the relationship between worker and company was totally based on honesty and trust. Maybe even you have that kind of relationship now with your current employer. But unfortunately this is often the exception and not the rule in today’s lean, and really mean, workplace.
I like to call this the “dance” at work. It would be great if we could get by playing fewer games, but given the lack of loyalty and trust in the vast majority of workplaces, the “dance” is the only way to survive. Or as a friend once paraphrased the old saying “It takes two to tango,” by saying, “It takes an organization to really do the tango.”
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected]