You go to work. Monday through Friday. You do your job. You don’t complain. You don’t ruffle feathers. You come in, do your tasks, clock out and leave. You’ve never called in sick.
You don’t like to attend the after-work parties or cocktail hours if you can help it. The company Christmas party is torture enough. All of the gatherings are giant drunkfests that make your skin crawl.
You don’t golf with your boss. He’s invited you a couple of times and eventually gave up and stopped asking. Finally. Someone in his golfing entourage keep asking you, too. “No, I don’t even know how to hold a club.” You like to avoid the boss and the asshole golf dudes as much as you can and spend time with the family.
You eat by yourself at your desk and read. Why listen to a bunch of whiny coworkers babbling about nothing? You’ve been reading an average of one book every other week. Gives you time to just relax and think in the middle of the workday.
The quality of your work is fine… nothing above what you’re supposed to do, but nothing below, either. When they hired you they gave you a list of responsibilities and you have stuck to it. You’d be a schmuck to do more and an asshole to do less.
The day is here. Promotion day. You had a great annual review and the boss is calling a meeting to announce who in the group gets bumped up to the two open positions in the management group. Every other year they rotate people in and out of groups to keep things fresh. If you do well in the management group, you eventually get into one of the six figure executive jobs everybody dreams about.
You’re pretty sure you have one of those two spots this year. You’ve been around the longest. Both you and Gary do the best work. They’d be idiots to not promote both of you. You have a seat next to Gary in the conference room. He’s sitting up front like always. His arm around the person next to him. Gary always charms the people around him. You like Gary… he’s a cool guy.
The boss gives the usual BS about profits and losses. Budgets. Project goals and achievements. Finally after the first coffee break he gets to the good stuff. “Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I’m just going to get right to it … and say a very big congratulations to both Gary and Dennis for earning a spot into our management team. We’re lucky to have them aboard!”
You start clapping along with everyone else. Somebody in the back is pumping their fist and barking. You start to do the same but have no idea why. Problem: You’re not Dennis. You’ve never been Dennis. Your name sounds nothing like Dennis. This has to be a mistake.
You see your buddy Gary standing up and shaking hands with the boss. His grip is so firm his knuckles are turning white. His teeth are also white as snow. Shoes polished. Wears a tie every day. Gary is a good looking dude. Everybody likes him. Sigh…
You take the long walk back to your desk. You slump down in your chair and just stair at the book you just finished over your lunch break. You wish you lived in that imaginary world of elves and wizards. Seems like a simpler time… except for the dragons and regular deadly battles.
“Come on, my friend. Let’s go for a walk.” It’s your best office buddy, Sandra. Sandra has been with the company a long time. Worked her way up from mail clerk to now management. She’s a good 20 years older than you. A mother figure.
“I know you’re pissed about getting passed up. You didn’t hide it too well. You didn’t hear the boss calling for you as you were walking out? Don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything. He just wanted to tell you that Gary will be your boss now. You’re lucky. Gary likes you a lot and he’s a good dude.”
You nod. Still very bummed. Another two years before you get a chance at that promotion. The promotion you fucking DESERVED now.
Sandra sees you seething. “Alright, look. You and I need to have a talk.”
She grabs your arm and leads you into an open conference room. She flips the sign on the front to “occupied” and shuts the door, loudly. “SIT. DOWN.”
You get wide-eyed and have a seat. This isn’t going to be good.
“Are you one of THOSE guys?”
You’re genuinely confused.
“You know… one of THOSE guys that thinks that you can just come in here, do your job, keep to yourself, and everything will take care of itself? You’re not that guy, are you?”
You manage to stammer out “Well… yeah? Why the fuck wouldn’t I think that?” Sandra is the only management person who welcomes cursing and you do it every chance you get around her. It’s now habit. You once saw her at the grocery store and yelled “How the fuck are you?!” She had her kids with her.
“Well who the hell told you that’s all it would take?! Have you SEEN anybody in management that you would say is quiet and keeps to himself and doesn’t talk to other people? Do you?!”
In an instant you are shocked. She’s right. You’re not cut out for management. You never have been. You’re in a dead end job. What the fuck were you thinking?
She notices your shocked face. “Yeah… you thought you could get comfortable here. Amigo, this is the CORPORATE world. This is kill or be killed. These guys here will chew you up and spit you out. The second they feel like they get all they can out of you, they are DONE with you and you’re taking your stuff home in a box and trying to explain to your wife why you’re home early.”
You feel like your heart is stopping.
“Your call, tough guy. You want to play along and get ahead and stop bitching… or do you want to be one of THOSE guys who sticks to himself and complains every time there’s a promotion he gets passed up for?? You can do your own thing if you want, my friend… but that shit ain’t gonna work HERE. I’ve seen way too many good people come in here and get passed up and get depressed and end up getting fired.”
She said it. The F word. This is real.
“I’m not asking you to be somebody you’re not. I’m telling you that the writing is on the wall and it’s up to YOU whether you want to play by the rules the rest of us follow, or the rules you’ve written in your own little head. Because, frankly, seeing you mope around here is getting old. You’re too good for this little game you’re playing. Wake up.”
You finally look up at her.
“Okay… fuck it. I’m ready. What do I do now?”
I’m always amazed at just how much a relationship is like a JOB for a man.
So many guys grinding it out in their job. Playing by the rules. Being the “good” guy. In the end… the gold watch, a pat on the back, and if he’s lucky… a pension. Or, he becomes obsolete and gets fired. Either way, he spends the rest of his days pleading with his grand kids to never give up on their dreams.
The same occurs in a relationship.
Men are lulled into a state of either “I’ve made it. This is good enough” or “Why is this relationship not what I want? I played by the rules. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. Eventually the relationship will come around.” Either way, it’s a fantasy land conjured up by the dude who is too lazy and too comfortable to flip a switch and fucking MOVE and do something about it.
Your boss looks at you as a resource. You are the thing that costs him $65,000 a year and in turn makes him $200,000 a year in extra revenue. You are a good investment and a valued team member. That is until a younger and spunkier version of you comes along. One that wants $100,000 in salary, brings in the same $200,000 in return… but also is fun to be with, shmoozes with the executive team, looks nice and flirts with all of the ladies in the office. He’s the shinier, quicker, sleaker model Ferrari that makes people say “Ooooo… nice.” You’re the dependable station wagon. Nobody gets wet over a station wagon.
As the male half of a relationship, you are only as good as the resources you provide… as well as the confidence and flair you bring to life. Stop kidding yourself. Everything in life is a sales job. It’s a game.
The game is going on whether you like it or not.
Your wife/girlfriend will surely appreciate all of the things you do for you as a couple… but she will frustrate you by continuously bringing up just what a charming and funny guy that dude Brad was at the party. She’s subconsciously saying “Be more like Brad, okay?” You left one of her many needs unattended.
Same thing with your status at work. You thought you checked all of the boxes on the good employee checklist, but you completely skipped over the “be a charming and fun guy that everyone wants to be around” and “learn how to be a more powerful person in the office” boxes.
You’re surprised when the boss says “Yeah… we’re gonna need you to take the office in the basement. Behind the furnace. Next to the stacks of toilet paper and copy machine toner. Thanks.” You’re shocked when your wife says “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”
Both of them are saying the same thing. “Yeah, I may not be able to explain why exactly… but I don’t feel like you’re a good investment.”
They lost attraction to you. You can’t negotiate attraction. No amount of begging with the boss or the wife will get them to suddenly change their mind. They may say fine and keep you around a little longer, but the clock is ticking, as the comedian Chris Rock so eloquently puts when describing the differences between men and women.
Just as with the wife, your boss is rarely going to pinpoint WHY he picked Dennis over you for the promotion. It may come down to something vague like “Dennis is just a real team player. He gets things done. He’s going places. I can see him being on the executive team down the road… I know he won’t let me down.”
Your wife may bang Brad from the party and rationalize it away as “He just understands me. He gets me. It’s not you, it’s me.”
Both sides are telling you the same thing: You neglected a particular need that they had. You didn’t play the game properly. They’re not about to TELL you what those specific needs are.. because they may very well not know how to verbalize it themselves! Chad just… he’s just.. Chad. Dennis.. is just cool. You.. are dependable.
You’re THAT guy. Don’t be THAT guy.