I must have been brought up wrong. I was misled. I believed working hard and doing my best was the key to success. For decades, it was true. Then the world changed — and I learned otherwise.

Many (most?) companies no longer tolerate excellence, much less encourage it. Excellence upsets the balance of office relationships. It makes less talented workers uneasy. They take your excellence as a personal affront. It makes bosses nervous, too, because they are often less competent and knowledgeable than the people they supervise.


Out in the marketplace, it’s dog-eat-dog. To be a contender today, you should drink the company Kool-Aid. Fit in with the company culture. Be careful how well you do the job because excellence stands out, and that’s dangerous. People who stand out get laid off first (or never hired at all).

Don’t complain. Turn out volumes of work and keep your head down. Worry about quantity, not quality.

Smile. You’re sure to make it to the top.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

38 thoughts on “I COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER”

  1. You know you really have something there. It is better to sometimes just let the others get on with it and say nothing. Let the boss think he found the solution, although you knew it all the time. I realised something when I was laid off, although not really laid off, I was treated fair after 30 years. Business was generally not good, a recession and the company had acually bitten off more than they could chew. So who did they keep – the ones earning less, the yes people, the noddies, it was clear to see. I was lucky, almost retirement age, but I felt sorry for the younger people. Life is sometimes really not fair. If you are good, you can go.


    1. No, it’s not guaranteed success … but it does come with a lot of freedom. But, not a regular paycheck. I wasn’t a great business head. I tried. I experienced some minor success. Not enough to give up my day job.


        1. I get that. I was a contract worker or freelancer most of my career. I was ALWAYS starting a new job. Always looking for the next gig. It’s awesome when it works out, but it is a lot of stress, too. But. So is having some asshole telling you what to do.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. A great piece and sadly very accurate. I openly encourage my four adult daughters to stop the world and jump off because it isn’t the world I signed them up for!


    1. We taught them the wrong things, it seems. I suspect they think we lied to them, but it was true … or we thought it was. I hope it will be true again. I think it still is, if you are a bit lucky and land in the right place.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember the transition from the old work ethic to to modern template for success. Individuality died during Japan’s takeover of the marketplace. Their manufacturing work ethic was conceived under W. Edwards Deming, an American genius who couldn’t sell his push pull methods of manufacturing to the United States but was embraced openly in Japan. It was all about teamwork in Japan while individual hard work was rewarded in the United States. Once Japan proved profitability came through the teamwork process the United States had to change or lose its dominance in manufacturing.

    With the emphasis on teamwork the individual initiative was squashed, deemed obsolete, even though Deming’s philosophy never addressed the loss of worker initiative. Now it’s he who squeaks the loudest that gets up the corporate ladder, whether they’re a good worker or now. We’re rearing a generation of ass kissers, not hard workers IMHO!


    1. We are very important someones’s in our own books and each others’s. Is that grammar or what (I think maybe it’s “or what”). Both of us got dumped for costing too much and working too slow for the new “do it fast and dirty” corporate mantra. He couldn’t figure out what important facts to omit when they gave him 45 seconds to sum up 40 years of history. I couldn’t write a book without checking it for accuracy. Go figure, right? By the end of our careers, we had become liabilities. How quickly they forget.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I retired form my last, and longest, employ due to a combination of “it’s time” and “personal harassment”. the last “boss” I had describe me to those in charge as “Ben has done some pretty good recordings using marginal equipment” and then he began the campaign to move me out. Truth be said at the time of my “pretty good recordings” we didn’t have the budget for more than “marginal equipment”. Never the less this backhanded compliment turned out to be just that. And so here I am happily retired.., sort of. I do only projects I want to and don’t punch a time clock. In addition I

    Liked by 1 person

    1. managed to acquire superior gear over the years due to not being restricted to purchasing only “new” (State University Policy). So I guess the “silver lining” thing can apply to being under appreciated by forcing you into where you should have been a long time ago.., independent.

      (Sorry, somehow hit the wrong button and had to continue through “reply”)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I got laid off from my last job (very last) because ostensibly I couldn’t read engineering blueprints (I couldn’t, but they knew that when they hired me). Actually, it was because the boss’s son wanted my job. But it’s not legal to fire you for being in the way of nepotism.


      2. What “Bossy Poo” didn’t realize is that I often used some of my own superior quality gear, from used sources, to obtain better recordings for the station.., and didn’t charge them a dime either.


    2. Ben, I remember the suit looking at me, sincerity in his eyes and saying “Garry, you’re the face of this station. You’re a household name. You’re a legend. We appreciate all you’ve done for us. Sorry, we’re going in a different direction……”.


      1. It’s always voluntary. You’ve developed serious personal problems that require full time attendance. Not that they are dumping your ass for being too old. Couldn’t be THAT because THAT would be illegal.


  5. That happened to me in Austria. I was working for McDonalds. I had expressed a wish to progress up the ladder. I got sacked instead, while on holiday. Then when I tried to find another job they would say that I got sacked for stealing from the till. I found a lawyer – got compensation. Then a year later they wanted their money back. I was pregnant. I didn’t hear back from them. I can’t bear to eat their burgers now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I work part time for Home Depot for 12 bucks an hour (less than minimum wage in most Provinces here in Canada). The Assistant Manager just discovered that I was working 20 hours a week. I’ve been doing this since I started – a year and a half ago. But says this violates company policy whereby I can only work 16 hours a week as a part time employee. He therefore cut my hours yesterday – by 16 hours a month.

    WHY? Who cared? God? Anybody? His dog?

    And what did he achieve? A badge?

    Nothing. It just screws me out of $192.00 a month.

    in most large companies/corporations, there is a massive disconnect between the guy (employees) on the ground and the Gods in the penthouse. And you can ALWAYS judge a company by who they permit (or seek) to ascend to positions of authority (power). If these positions are peopled by what I call Company Men – the greatest insult I could ever bestow on a co-worker (robotic idiots with no people skills), get out fast. You are certain to be screwed at some point.


    1. Work is scarce. That’s the problem. It’s a buyer’s market, so job seekers and employees are in no position to bargain. It’s an old sad story … and makes me even more glad I don’t have to fight that battle anymore. I fought for so long. And I lost. We all lost. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later.

      Liked by 1 person

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