Deluded Perception and Inability to Control Reality

As I leave my latest role in the provincial government, I think perhaps I can be more plain about my experience.  It’s said that one of the biggest challenges with recruiting is the tendency for the employer to employ the “bait and switch,” whereby they talk a game that isn’t the one they practice. One kind of employment experience is presented, another is on offer.

I think I’ve seen that first-hand. The first reason I give as to why I think it happened would be my own “grass is greener” lense, whereby I overlook the reality of the situation for its prospects, then kick myself for not being critical enough of the opportunity before signing on the dotted line. There are also circumstances that change the role once you get there. Government is especially vicious at redefining roles without the slightest consultation.

There’s also the question of whether the big stuff works as described. There’s the philosophy of how decisions get made, or the level of trust inherently given to an employee. There’s the vision for the organization and whether daily actions are aligned with this vision or pay it lip service.

I think it’s really easy for a hiring manager or an employer to have a real intellectual commitment to a higher purpose sort of role. All the buzzwords and catch-phrases are there. All the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed on the mission and vision statements. However, cashing those cheques is a lot different than writing them, and the employees you’re hiring will immediately experience dissonance if word and deed are not congruent.

This is costly. An unhappy employee that feels they’ve been misled under-performs. Well, I did, anyway.

So, this is called the “bait and switch,” except I think “bait and switch” implies a level of forethought and control that is often nonexistent in the formation of the employer/employee relationship. A better, less catchy title would be “deluded perception and inability to control reality,” as in, “I was excited about my first day, but then they made it clear that the job was more about keeping up appearances. They got me with the old ‘deluded perception and inability to control reality’.”

This doesn’t just go for hiring, of course. If word and deed aren’t aligned in any relationship, it’s a source of frustration and contention. If you’ve got drama in your life, it’s probably worth doing a gut-check. Are you pulling the “deluded perception and inability to control reality” ploy?

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09 2010

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  1. Chris #

    Nevin — From many of your posts, it is clear that you had a profoundly disappointing experience working in government. I’m not sure if you can talk about it in such a public forum, but what specifically within these organizations was creating dissonance for you? That would be very interesting to get a handle on and discuss.

    I totally agree with you that many organizations (and specifically their selection and staffing departments) are guilty of over-selling the positions that they are trying to fill. This is especially the case in a tight labour market like we are currently experiencing. I’m sure that there are a lot of disappointed new employees out there!

    I think though that it is a bit unfair for you to single out government as a prime offender in this respect. I think that government certainly has its challenges with bureaucracy and a need for linear logic but government certainly does not have a monopoly on these problems. I truly believe that all large bureaucracies suffer from this. I’ve worked in large private-sector organizations that suffer from the same problems that you’ve described of government. The issue is size (scale and scope) that becomes increasingly difficult to manage — thus the need for lots of controls and linear logic.

    Anyway, if you could shed some more light on where you and your previous employer just weren’t compatible and why you think this is the case, I think that this would provide all of your readers with some insights into themselves and their future career plans — or at least a better ability to properly evaluate their future career plans.

  2. Nevin #

    What a constructive suggestion Chris. I need to write a post to adequately explore that. I should say that I immediately think I too unfairly characterize my experience with the public service. I received profound growth, experience and life lessons while there. Looking at it two weeks removed, I am grateful for those chapters of my career because it’s why I can do what I do now.

    Some of that growth came from experiences that were unhappy at the time, but I also received investments in my development, huge levels of responsibility and, most importantly, met some brilliant, inspiring people. It’s only fair that I provide a more objective analysis of the experience, good and bad. Perhaps I’ve been guilty of sharing only the observations that I thought offered a certain… lurid quality. Thanks.

  3. 3

    Good post! I just think that hiring people in job interviews will say anything to sound good and positive and to agree with “visionary” statements so as not to scare you away and honestly have no idea what the hell is even coming out of their own mouths. My experience is that most HR people are full of hooey and managers will smile and nod and agree as if they’re high on helium or free lunch but the cold hard truth of the workplace is that it’s not about you at all and never will be until you own the company or run the Ministry.

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