I was working as a project manager is a small retail marketing company when an opportunity to climb the
corporate ladder seemed to present itself. Being the young go getter I was at the time, I had to take the
leap and jump for the high bar. Through the complicated and messy process that lead me to be working
there, the CFO had been tied to a failing customer service application and development project. The
company had sunk close to a half million dollars into a software application with nothing to show for it.
They had a disk that was supposed to contain a beta version of the software but the IT manager could not
get it loaded and running on any of their computers. I had been brought in to help resolve this problem
and along the way my efforts inadvertently lead to the CFO being let go. In hindsight, I realized that using
me to justify getting rid of the CFO was part of the owner’s original intentions. In any case, the CFO was
out and an opportunity was in front of me. I had just implemented a new software system for the
accounting department and although I was not an accountant I thought I was up to the position. I spoke
with the accounting supervisor and first asked if he was going to throw his hat into the ring for
consideration. He was the most likely candidate. A good guy with all the knowledge and skills for the job.
Had he said yes I’d of supported him completely. However like many in the accounting field he was not
overly daring nor was he going to move quickly. Time was of necessity as the owners would soon reach
outside the company for a new hand picked person.
I went to work. I began talking to the various managers in an attempt to check the climate and encourage
support. Although the owners would make the decision themselves a good word at the right moment, I
thought could make the difference. In the end, my political jockeying actually worked against me in a game
that I had already lost as it was never open to be played. But in the mist of my attempt, I was included in a
meeting with the owner overseeing this issue, the senior manager of the company, and the accounting
supervisor. Though, I was included, my presence, I realized was not desired by the Owner who had
already made up his mind as to what he wanted to do and who he wanted to fill the position.
It should be noted that people in that sort of position don’t like to have to think of alternatives or change
their mind. Most Owners falsely believe that they know best. That’s why they are the owner. So I sat
there for a little while as the Accountings supervisor walked through the business and status of the
situation in accounting and with the company finances. I followed the lead of the general manger and
waited for the right moment(s) to make a good point and show my worth. Oddly enough nothing I said
seemed to go over well.
I have always been good in meetings even ones where I had no clue about the topic of the meeting. This
one however was different. Every comment I made no matter how small even if I was just repeating or
agreeing with some else went over like a lead balloon. Each one was a conversation killer to the point
where I realized that my very speaking was a problem. I grew quit and settled back into the strategy of
simply asking question. My thought was that by asking questions I could both glean knowledge and direct
the conversation until I could find my moment to make the wining comment and rejoin the discussion in the
Time went on and the term GAP come up. To be frank about it, the term was not fresh on my mind. It
sounded familiar but I could not lock it down. The owner seemed pleased with my obvious lack of
confidence every time it was mentioned. I played along with it until I could divine the meaning from the
context of the conversation but to no avail. As the meeting went on I pretty much just shut up and said in
the back of the small office. Again realizing the situation, I looked for the opportunity and at the first
chance lull in the conversation, I excused myself to attend to some urgent need.
I was not one to give up and in any case I don’t just slide away with my tail between my legs like a
whimpering pup. When I have won, I have won well with humility and in a similar fashion when I have lost
which I have done often and big; I stand up and take my hits like a man. This was no different. Some days
later after the company leadership had moved on and knew they had, I forced my hand and pressed about
the position. I got called into a closed door meeting with the Owner I had met with before and he explained
that I was not going to get the position as they had already chosen another candidate. I accepted it well
and agreed that it was for the best. With the difficult part over for him and feeling confident that I was not
going to quit over the situation. They still critically needed me in the position I was in. He was feeling as if
he had put me back into my place.
He said, “Besides you can just tell when some knows what their talking about or if they don’t. You can see
it in their eyes that they don’t know what’s going on.”
It was a direct reference to the meeting and my glossing over the term “GAP” which I had immediately
looked up when I left the office. Generally Accepted Practices… a business term more then an accounting
term and apparently designed with all pretensions to make those who use it feel superior to those who
speak in plan language. I will admit when I am wrong or don’t know something, I have plenty of confidence
in my own knowledge but I will not be backed in to a corner.
So instead of putting my head down as if I admitted I was stupid I sounded up and confidently inquired,
“Are you referring to the GAP principle? Are you kidding? Are you trying to say that because you heard
about an acronym on some self help business video that you are smarter then me?”
I said, “You do realize that I write code for a living and that you pay me a pretty decent salary to do, not
what you don’t want to do, but to do what you can’t do? Right!”
He was pretty much slapped back into reality at that point and there was little he could do. He was just one
of six owners and I had already made a lot of progress turning there half million dollar loss in to a success.
I felt safe in the knowledge that the other owners would not get rid of me because I had dared to speak
back to him. At least they wouldn’t do it right away not until they felt they had gotten the software problem
fixed and gotten their money out of it. Of course, I also knew that I was not long for that job and I had just
made a sever enemy.
Knowledge is a dual edged blade that is most often used to stab and cause injury to someone. We seek
education in order to gain a higher wage from employers. We seek education to garner respect from co
workers and society in general. We use knowledge to build ourselves up and tear others down. In all
cases we use knowledge to create circles. Circles we can then use to include or exclude others at our own
choosing. This is especially true for industry. Every industry has created an entire language unique to
what they do. In some instances, it’s for clarification but I’ve found that in most casers it’s a way of
excluding those who have not yet learned the language. Instead of calling a spade a spade you call a
spade a spanner and that way the new guy has no clue what your talking about. When he has been
around enough and picked up the language then he can be included. It also allows those in the know to
make stupid or at least less then the best decisions and no one else would know because their not in the
loop. Most of the time this industry Jargon is a hindrance and not an asset. But as they say, your either in
the know or not.
The Lesson to Learn:
That the Jargon, acronyms, and various terms used in any given industry are generally used as a test of
your fitness to be included. These pseudo languages will be used to test you on a daily basis. Learn the
Jargon but don’t think too highly of yourself for it. It does not make you or mean that you are smarter.
The Brutal Truth:
Knowledge is power and power is most often used in a detrimental way and not with beneficial intentions.
In the corporate world knowledge or at least the appearance of knowledge is used to increase pay, gain
status, and secure a positions. It is done sometimes through hard work and proper application but most
often through influence, perception, and duplicity. It is the negative use of knowledge that cuts the