Will You Believe In This Dark Management Lie?

Let’s start with an obvious one. Let’s say you’re a horse being ridden by a human. He/she hangs a carrot right in front of you. You want to eat it now but can’t reach it just by moving your head.

So you think you can reach it merely by moving forward. But as you move forward, that carrot moves with you as the distance between you and that carrot remains the same no matter how fast you’re moving. You begin more and more tired, but that carrot seems to be so close that you can almost make it. Maybe just by moving a bit faster for a bit longer and you can finally eat it.

Or, maybe you simply get too tired and want to rest anyway, even at the risk of losing that carrot you’ve been putting so much effort into. He/she realizes this and begin to use the stick to punish you. You insist to rest but he/she punishes you harder and harder while at the same time using an even bigger carrot to seduce you. You’re tired but you don’t want to miss another carrot as you’ve endured and invested so much into them. You can’t resist the pain and seduction so you reluctantly begin to move again. The vicious cycle repeats until you’re completely used up.

Will you believe in the above lie that you can eventually eat the carrot? Of course not, as it’s so overt. But let’s continue with the following lie and see if you’ll believe in it. You’ll be surprised:

Let’s say you’re just a 1-year old kid. You can already listen, walk, speak, read, draw and write. These allow your parents to prepare you for the playschool when you’re 2 years old. First they’ll make a portfolio for you. Then they’ll begin to fill that portfolio with remarkable perks that are useful in your resume. You’ll be encouraged to learn a new language, math, music, sport, etc. But most importantly, you’ll learn the interview skills as they want you to enter a competitive play school when you’re 2 years old. Then you’re expected to be high achievers when you’re there so you can enter a competitive kindergarten. They’ll educate you that all these are for your future. The same repeats when you’re in that kindergarten to aim for a competitive primary school, when you’re in that primary school to aim for a competitive middle school, when you’re in that middle school to aim for a competitive high school, and when you’re in that high school to aim for a competitive college. You feel more and more anxious and stressed due to higher and higher pressures from your parents and schools. But you convinced yourselves that you’ve to work hard.

Now, all those investments in your educations seem to have paid off well, as you managed to secure a competitive job. Now you’ll have to face new problems — Being financially independent while having to pay for taxes, your parents, spouses, new homes and your future kids. So you’ll need promotions in order to be financially secure, meaning that you’ll have to compete in the workplace. As the world is changing at a faster and faster pace, you’ll have to learn more and more new things in order to stay relevant in your workforce. In some highly competitive fields, you may even have to get a 1st honour in a master degree from 1 of the best university in the world while you’re working to secure promotions. But even in less competitive fields, you may still need to take paid courses for recognised certifications and professional qualifications for your career.

When you finally have kids, you’ll be even more anxious and stressed, as now you’ll have to manage your kids well as well as your spouse, work, study and parents. To reduce the kids’ burdens, you don’t want to force them to pay for you when they become financially independent(some of them might be unable instead of not wanting to), so you’ll need even more money for your retirement. You’ll only give more and more money and time to the others when you age, your parents age, your kids age, you promote to higher and higher positions, and you earn more and more credibility and reputations in your companies and industries in your career.

Therefore you continue to ignore your personal desires in exchange for being excellent citizens. To compensate, you may look forward for finally having your personal lives after retirement, so you persuade yourself to delay the gratifications when you still have many responsibilities to fulfill.

Finally, you can retire, so you think you can finally pursue your long-abandoned desires for real. Unfortunately, you’re now facing serious health problems as you’ve been overtaxing your health thorough the decades — The only way to fulfill so many responsibilities all by yourselves. Your medical plans don’t work well as insurances are known to be easy to buy but hard to claim. All the money you’ve earned are paid to the hospitals for your health. Therefore you at least hope that you can become healthy again as soon as possible so you can at least hope that your kids are able to take care for the rest of your lives. If even that doesn’t work then you’ll be a used up goner.

So where’s the carrot and the stick? The carrot’s the ever moving target of your delayed gratifications — From competitive playschool to competitive kindergarten to competitive primary school to competitive middle school to competitive high school to competitive college to competitive job to competitive promotions to finally the fruitful retirements. You can never actually realize your desires, but they’re just so close to you that you only need to work a bit harder to grasp them. And if you’ve already invested so much on your educations and careers, what’s the point of all these if you can’t eat the carrot in the end? Because you’re truly altruistic? The stick’s the ever increasing pressure from your parents, schools, workplaces, spouses and kids. You become more and more anxious and stressed when fulfilling your responsibilities to avoid being punished by the stick. Your fear, obligation and guilt keep you from ever questioning why failing to fulfilling all those responsibilities imply being punished in the 1st place. You just obey.

While the above lie’s essentially the same with the horse version, some people simply can’t see past that, some just refuse to accept that it’s a lie, and some believe that that’s the best life they can live despite knowing that it’s merely a lie. Of course few people do end up managing to eat the carrot, few can move slowly without being punished by the stick frequently, and few can even achieve both. But unfortunately, these cases are rare enough to be regarded as exceptional.

When most people play along with the above lie, the workforce will be very favorable for the dark managers, as those employees can be effortlessly exploited, sometimes even willingly. Therefore, it’d be advantageous for the dark managers to sell these lies by portraying themselves as model citizens for the others to follow and lying that they succeeded just by playing along with the above lie(Or they’re few of those exceptions that can really succeed that way instead of lying).

So how can dark managers sell their lies? The following are some of the more common ones:

  1. Emphasize on the exceptions — Almost every field has some truly exceptional role models that can perform really extremely well. Those dark managers can then stress that almost everyone has at least a remote chance to be that good, especially with the can do attitude, so the majority will believe in the false hopes that they can do it, while the fact remains that only few of them can become the best of the best. The dark managers can also take it backwards by emphasizing that as everyone might become a superstar, those happening to be the rare ones would waste their potential if they didn’t try their best. The dark managers can then imply that it’s a responsibility.
  2. Emphasize on the positive attitudes — Those dark managers can brainwash people to believe that they must remain positive for the sake of themselves. Attitudes like being altruistic, confident, considerate, constructive, diligent, disciplined, faithful, forgiving, motivated, optimistic, etc, should become the cornerstones of their external behaviors. To be more aggressive, those dark managers can even send a subliminal message that failing to comply with all such positive attitudes are entirely the faults of those brainwashed people. Never accept no as the answer ever.
  3. Emphasize on the efforts instead of results — While most societies are result oriented, the dark managers can still emphasize that just working hard enough will always reap fruitful rewards. As there’s no upper limit for working hard enough, no one can reach it without being used up. So when those employees have worked really hard but still end up reaping nothing, those dark managers can simply train them to convince themselves that they simply haven’t worked hard enough. Of course, those works need to reap fruitful rewards for those dark managers instead of those employees, as the goal of those dark managers is to maximize their self interest.
  4. Emphasize on collectivism — As collectivism causes individual’s self interest to align with that of his/her belonging groups or abandon the former for the latter, dark managers can exploit them by pretending to act on behalf of such groups. They can then covertly benefit themselves when appearing to benefit the group instead. Also, while possible, it’s still incredibly hard for those deeply believing in collectivism to have excellent independent thinking skills, which is one of the best defences against dark management. In extreme cases, the dark managers can even think for those collectivism believers by training them to abandon their minds.
  5. Emphasize on traditions — As traditional people tend to follow traditions without questioning them, dark managers can promote the values of traditions and the reasons to respect them. Once most of their targets accept the importance of conforming to traditions, those dark managers can then shape those that are advantageous for them so those traditional people will unknowingly serve those dark managers’ self interest. Utilize traditions just like any other tool.

The point of all these lies and means are to deliver false hopes for the hopeless so they won’t do anything harmful for dark managers but instead pursue those false hopes while benefiting those dark managers along the way. For those figuring out that all those are just lies, those dark managers need to manage their expectations so they’ll still think that playing along with those lies are the best options for their lives. In rare cases where they resist anyway, those dark managers can resort to their secret super weapon — character assassination, so everyone will subtly feel the consequences for not following those dark managers’ hidden agendas willingly.