Monday, August 05, 2013

And This Is How You Don't Make Fun Of Random People On the Internet

There are certain categories of behavior the internet was basically designed to mock, all of which fall under the heading of douchiness. The people who use their blogs and the various newfangled whosawhatsits that came after blogs to post photos of themselves in designer clothing, in bathtubs full of $100 bills. The people who park their cars so as to take up two spots (and it may be a life's work, but if I can manage not to do this...). The people who throw fits on commuter trains, bragging about how educated they are, belligerently, to their fellow commuters. We can have a discussion of the ethics of these pile-ons, particularly when the individual in question is identifiable, and maybe just having an off day. That discussion would conclude with me saying that it's iffy-to-plain-wrong to engage in this behavior at all, however douchetastic the recipient. But the issue here is, the rule of this is, douchiness is what one might plausibly call out in this context.

Which is why this post - "And This Is How You Don't Follow Up To A Job Interview" - fails so miserably as an addition to the genre. It's a letter from an applicant to an entry-level job. The applicant is furious about having not heard back after two rounds of interviewing, and fires off the email to them that is in the mind of people in that situation, but that should - and this is supposed to be where the humor comes from, I take it - obviously not be written, let alone sent.

The hilarity of this is supposed to be, whoa, look at the entitled millenial! But the comedy fails, because of the utter powerlessness of this young person who, it seems, is all kinds of desperate for an administrative job. The tone of the letter might be entitlement, but the gist of it is worker rage - or, I suppose, unemployment rage. Would I want to hire this applicant? No - unhinged is never appealing. But how can you read the letter and - no matter how ridiculous you find it that the email was sent - not feel kind of sorry for the person who sent it? How can you not think of the tough times for post-2007 graduates? The email was certainly ill-advised, but it fails the douchiness test by such a long shot.


i said...

I'll tell you how you read it and not feel sorry for that person. You remember other narcissists you have known in your life, their smarter-than-thou, let-me-tell-you-why-you're-stupid attitude, and their barrages of verbiage directed to everyone who doesn't immediately appreciate their marvelousness. Then you notice that this email fits right into the pattern. Then you join the non-profit in relief at having dodged that bullet.

(I'm biased here -- I had one of these people as my father. I guess you could use the present tense. This sounds like every email he ever wrote. If I received this correspondence from anyone I would feel it my duty to warn everyone the fuck away from him -- for it is usually a him.)

Phoebe said...

I think it's possible both to 100% agree that the non-profit dodged a bullet, and to think someone whose entitlement expresses itself as, they feel entitled to an entry-level admin job, cannot be roasted online for douchery. The power asymmetry inherent in this situation - a low-level job-seeker vs. those hiring - makes this situation, I suppose, inherently pathetic, even if this isn't someone anyone would want as an administrator in their office.

Because is it really narcissism if you've been looking for work for however long, and after X months or years, reach a breaking point? Bad judgment, poor self-control, yes, but narcissism? If you recast the email as something the frustrated job applicant had merely said to a friend, replacing the pronouns as appropriate, it doesn't strike me as terribly strange. What's strange is sending along these thoughts to the company. But long story short, to me this read more as unemployment flameout than overinflated ego. So while I'm totally in agreement that this person would have been a mistake to hire, I do feel sorry for the person all the same.

i said...

Because is it really narcissism if you've been looking for work for however long, and after X months or years, reach a breaking point?

No, and many of the comments on the post attest to just that kind of frustration, and to the desire to send just such an email. The thing is, there is no information in the post whatsoever to suggest that this person had searched for a long time. In fact, somewhere in the comments, the OP says the person was just out of college, so I'm going with entitled douche on this one.

Just for the record, I don't think any angry outburst is indicative of narcissism. It's the particular quality of this email, with its lengthy explanation to people of how they should do their job, and the faux concern for other applicants. ("I'm so enlightened that I'm looking out for those poor dupes too.") Also, the hints of paranoia and persecution complex. The company actually did keep in touch with him, and let him know the boss was traveling, but the moment they didn't keep to a tight deadline, he assumed *everyone* there had been lying to him as part of a company-wide conspiracy to screw him over. That rings bells for me.

If he had any emotional intelligence or ability to imagine himself in another person's position, he might have thought: "Gee, I'm really annoyed and feel screwed over by this. But wait a minute, they did say the boss is traveling. And they're a non-profit, so they might not have a ton of employees with extra time on their hands. And oh wait, maybe the fact that they're hiring a freakin' office assistant means that they're understaffed in things secretarial, so they won't be as good at keeping in touch until they actually hire someone. Maybe I should send them a polite note..."

There's a big difference between what you bitch about to your friends, and what you send to your prospective employer. Most people who really need jobs try to keep those separate.

Phoebe said...

I mean, the person seems nuts, and the email was entirely inappropriate. That much is clear. And I suppose you're right that a careful read of the email suggests something larger amiss. Lots of people would be annoyed not to hear back after interviews, but who would think to phrase things like that? Even dividing into two issues - the sending of the email and the thinking of the things in it, it does kind of look like much of the content, at least how it's phrased, would be odd to say even to a friend.

But argh, even so, the power asymmetry is what makes me feel at least a little bit sorry for the person, or at any rate sorry enough for the person that I don't find mockery from the perspective of the employer all that charming. Virtually anyone applying for an administrative job - and anyone that invested in getting a particular one - is sufficiently low on whichever totem pole that I'm just not comfortable laughing at such an individual from the perspective of those already employed, and at a higher level. And I wouldn't take the outburst to mean this person doesn't "really need" the job, but rather the contrary - thus the aggravation. Reasonable aggravation plus baseline unreasonableness equals that email.

And, the email aside, I don't think it's narcissism for an applicant for an admin job (or any job!) not to have a clear sense of what goes on behind the scenes, even if it seems obvious to those who are behind the scenes. There was reason enough not to send an email along those lines. But I don't think we can blame the applicant for not intuiting the invisible reasons behind the delay.