Psychological Self-Help

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little training, could do a very acceptable job in most of the positions
just mentioned. 
Our leaders are not incompetent, although Peter (1970) suggested
that leaders get promoted until they can't handle their jobs very well.
And, there they stay--at their "level of incompetence." Actually, most
leaders, like the rest of us, have some special talents. My point is that
ordinary people are not nearly as incompetent, relative to leaders, as
we seem to feel. Many ordinary workers could supervise at least as
well as their bosses; many students could teach and administrate as
well as their instructors and deans; my father, a farm laborer with an
8th grade education, could probably have been just as good a state
representative, governor, or even president as the actual leaders--a
business man, a congressman, a general, an actor, a lawyer, etc. (He
would have certainly been harder working, less self-centered, and
more honest!) We must stop putting ourselves down and pumping up
people who are in "superior" positions. Frederick Douglass, a black
Abolitionist in the 1850's, contended that the oppressed handed over
the power to the tyrant through their own self-depreciation and
subservience. I think Douglass was right. At work many of us are still
in master-slave relationships. Why? Partly because we sell ourselves
short and have not yet assumed the responsibility for running our lives
at work. Our welfare, as well as the owner's profit, depends on the
quality of our product at work. 
Work is so important: (1) it is where we spend much of our lifetime
and utilize our talents, (2) it is our primary way of doing good for
others beyond the family, (3) it is a major determinant of the quality
of our lives, and (4) it is often filled with opportunities to relate to
others and to gain real satisfaction. It is pathetic when people spend
50 years doing something they don't like and have little control over. 
It would be worth a great deal of planning and energy for each of
us to make our work enriching and enjoyable. How? (1) Select your
career carefully, finding something interesting and challenging.
Prepare for the job well--planning superior training for your life's work
is your responsibility! No one else can or will do it for you. Then, do an
excellent job and be proud of your work. (2) Keep in mind the benefits
others get from your work; this will increase your intrinsic satisfaction.
The benefits would be more clear if the dress-maker occasionally got
to see women trying on clothes he/she has made, if the farmer got to
see hungry people in Africa being fed his/her grain, if the worker in a
pharmaceutical plant got to visit hospitals where his/her drugs are
saving lives, etc. (3) Assume more responsibility for producing a better
product more efficiently and in a more satisfying manner. Ideally,
everyone should be involved in decision-making at work (see decision-
making methods in chapter 13). There is solid evidence that good
group decision-making is superior to decisions by individuals in power
(Janis & Mann, 1977). Perhaps every boss should be just as
accountable to subordinates (who would serve as an executive
committee) as to his/her supervisors, both groups should be able to
advise and fire him/her. 
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