The right to disagree

This is an epilogue to: “A letter for your continuous improvement”

I was fired.

Of course I would be.

I had a long discussion with the HR person and we agreed to disagree on our ideals. She perceives values in human interactions and harmony. I perceive values in measurable results and efficiency. While I believe self-satisfaction can be negotiated, she believes one’s joy at work cannot be compromised. And the pinnacle of our differences came down to a comical compare and contrast between EQ and IQ.

“Do you know what EQ means?” she asked.

“You mean Emotional Quotient as oppose to IQ?”

“EQ measures your ability to socialize and interact with other people. It’s a highly valuable metric in today’s job market. You should consider taking a course on EQ training,” she proposed.

“But, pardon me, supporters of IQ would argue that there’s no data to support your claim,” I said.

“Not everything in the world needs evidence and data to be true. You’re free to look for data yourself. I feel it in my heart that it is true.”

Which closing statement I recognized as a hand-wave, a way of saying “I don’t want to deal with this guy anymore”. Fortunately, so am I; I don’t want to deal with nonnegotiable cultists anymore than they want to deal with machine-like rationalists.

It was still a shame, though, as I know many people who work there are competent and open-minded. I missed the opportunity to work with them.

Over the years, I had encountered only eleven truly competent and responsible people. Three of them are not in engineering and of the eight who share my passion in engineering, only four I can meet in person. They are rare breeds, people who can shoulder the workload, people who know what need to be done and do so before I can ask them to.

And let’s once again revisit my favorite recruitment motto: “The last thing we want is hiring a liability. That happened before, trust me, it’s not pretty”. The opportunity cost of this incident was my chance to work with one of these four competent individuals and the fact that I was denied of the chance by the very kind of closed-minded people I despise irked me greatly.

So back to my dismissal, what did I get out of this unfortunate event? Well, a damn fine hand-on experience for my second novel Sasaki, of course! It’s a modern day workplace drama and office romance story after all. I supposed no one would want to read a rosy success story; all success stories start with a setback and this whole deal will make a fine setback for the novel.

In my short one-week period in this job, I was made to aware of how useful the snippets of life I collected as writing material are in making small talks. I was able to gauge my technical competence, which is surprisingly high at entry-level but lacking for true professionals. It puts me in an awkward position where I charge forward at full speed, leaving my teammates struggle to keep up.

And shattering other people’s confidence, pride and belief brings me hatred and subsequent repercussions. This experience certainly gave me a fresh understanding of Margaret Heffernan’s TED Talk about Super chickens and the pecking order at work. It’s a fascinating experiment indeed.

There’s a thing about me that I have recognized for a few years now: I work on the principle of disagreement and duality. I’m both a pessimist and an optimist. I disagree with ordeals by grasping for the silver lining. I disagree with complacency by foreseeing the worst-case scenario. This mindset has kept me alerted through the ebbs and flows of life.

Perhaps, the fact that I have experienced a disproportional number of ebbs for my age is a tad bit alarming.

When asked the question–to which the popular answer had been obvious to me–“What is the most important day of your life?” I took the bold to disagree with the expected answer: “Today”. My answer to the CEO of BOSCH was “Tomorrow”, for I am neither grievous of past failures nor satisfied with present successes, the future is the most important to me and I think no one wants to be told “You have no future”.

This is the price I paid for the right to disagree.


P/s: While searching for a video of the TED talk, I stumbled upon another talk by the same speaker on the topic of disagreement drives collaboration. I wholeheartedly agree with the speaker.

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