Bad Actors

In Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, The king of Scotland, Hamlet’s father is killed by his brother and his

wife in order to take over the kingdom.  After which the two marry and encourage Hamlet to get over his

melancholy feelings for the loss of his father.  However Hamlet is visited by the ghost of his father and is

told of the evil actions of his uncle and mother.  Hamlet seeks revenge for the murder of his father and to

expose his family’s treasonous betrayal.  Hamlet arranges a play to be performed at court for the

entertainment of his mother and uncle.  In the play, an old king is murdered by his brother and wife

mimicking the real life events.  The acting is overt and shallow.  The wife in the staged play cries and calls

in an audacious mourning over the loss of her slain husband.  While watching and in response to this

display, Hamlet’s mother chides the actress for her display and states, “Lady thou doest protest too much

methinks.”  Not realizing that the play is a trap setting her and her new husband up to be accused and

proven to have done exactly what the characters in the play have done.  Queen Gertrude unwittingly

indicts herself with her indict of the charters in the play.  It was simply bad acting on all accounts.  

I had started a new six month contract with a government department and after just a few days I had

already wanted to quit.  It was a small team of only about 10 so the work environment was going to be

close and interpersonal.  I had been brought in as a senior SQL developer with the purpose of taking

some of the load off and adding a more logical structure to the database of a custom web application.  

From the beginning, I ran contrary to the lead GUI developer.  Outside of stinking, and having an

unpleasant physical presence, she was overly dominant in her personality to the point of being obnoxious.  

Combining that with her relative lack of experience in the work place as a programmer she presented an

unnecessary challenge to the contract.  I had all but made up my mind to quit the contract at the end of the

first week.  It was a struggle to come in the following Monday as I debated the pro’s and con’s of quitting

without another contract lined up.  The money might be a concern, I thought, but no amount of money

would be worth the torture of having to deal with her on a daily basis for six months.  Arriving late that

morning, I ran into the project manager, ostensibly my boss, coming out of the front doors of the building

as I was walking up.  He looked at his watch and made a comment about it being nice to have banker’s

hours.  I responded with an issue of traffic and he said, “It was ok, he didn’t care anyway as he was not on

the project any more.”

It caught me off guard and saddened me a bit.  I was thinking this would be a perfect time to express my

issues about the lead developer and the project as a whole and to present my thoughts about leaving.  I

had noticed a nervous frustration in his manner as he had come out of the building and I realized he was

out but not in a happy way or by his own design.  I took the opportunity to ply him for information.  The

reason on the surface was that the project funding was tight and they could no longer afford him.  He filled

in the story of how he had been bumping head with the lead GUI developer and how she and the

operational manager had buddied up to press him out.  I took the moment to vent my frustration of her as

he would be a sympathetic ear.  He agreement with all of my grievances and sarcastically wished me well

with the project.

I left him outside to deal with his grief and I went inside.  I dropped off my stuff in my cube and went for

coffee.  Along the way I passed the lead GUI developer who was anxiously looking for the development

manager the overall boss as I filled my cup I heard her talking to him about the decision to drop the project

manager.  It was obvious she was not only aware of the situation but instrumental in its coming about.  

Later that morning the team gathered for the regularly scheduled meeting but this time the development

manager was there.  After the normal wait for everyone to arrive and get settled.  The development

manager timidly announced that the project manager was no longer on the project.  The reaction from the

team was the most telling.  The operations manager had no real reaction it was, yep… he is out.  We made

the choice.  Most of the team was caught off guard and responded with that unpleasant silence that follows

bad news that you would like to acknowledge as such but by doing so you might jeopardize your own

position with management.  However, the lead developer’s response was the most amazing to watch as the

development manager began to talk she dropped her normal blusterous pose and looked intently

interested with every word he would say.  It was almost like the look a dog gets when you are talking to it

and it cocks its head a bit to the side.  Intently connected but with absolutely no understanding or real

interest.  Then just prior to the words coming out of the development manager’s mouth.  She flew back in

her seat, raising her hands in the air with a motion of gestures that overtly conveyed a sense of both

what?, what’s going on? and oh dear God why?  Then fallings forward again leaning on the table she

immediately developed a look of baffled confusion and contemplation that would express to everyone that

she had no idea what was happening or why.  It was a truly well thought out performance which did its job

and cleared her of any suspicion of involvement or wrong doing.  That is of course, if I had not already

known that she knew and was at the heart of the decision.  It lead me to ponder why she would go through

such an elaborate ruse.  Most of the team was too busy trying to avoid eye contact with the project

manager or management to really notice her and if they did notice her they were too busy wondering

about their own security to care how she would respond.  No, the real reason was all too simple… it was

guilt.  It was fear of reproach from the other members of the team.  She wanted to be able to get her way,

get ride of him, and still be thought of as a good person.

The Point:

If the actions of a person, reactions to a situation, or behavior of those involved does not fit the normal

bounds of a situation then there must be something a miss or at least going unsaid.  If it smells fishy or

seems out of the ordinary it usually is.  To coin a phrase, “If it don’t fit you can’t acquit.”

The Lesson to Learn:

With intense study and concentration you can discern with some certainty the specific motivation of most

people but it would be a waste of time.  For the more likely answer is usually correct and will suffice for the

vast majority of situations.  When it comes to peoples interactions and there expressions know that we are

all actors on a stage whether we recognize it as a show or not.  Some people are more conscious of it and

some people go out of there way to portrait themselves in a certain light.  In all cases there is a motivation

behind the behavior.  And behavior is the window to a person’s intention.

The Brutal Truth:

You can’t trust that how someone is acting is how they truly feel.  It is acting after all.