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Hidden Backed-up version of an article with which I received insults....


Until recently, I have never been allergic to anything.

But since I have several years of experience and I better understand what managing a company or a task is all about, over the years, I believe I have developped a kind of very specific allergy : Allergy to Superficiality.

The situation is the following : you start talking with someone about his projects and you want to know more : you will than dig with the 7W questions 7W (Why, What, How, Who, Where, When, Which).

From that point there are 2 possibilities :

The person understands you have interest in his projects and tries to establish a dialogue. You have a plaisant conversation. The person stays superficial and the conversation becomes sterile or even turns into a battle because you feel a tension, the responses are not "intellectually honnest", it's unplaisant.

Why/When are people superficial ?

People have multiple reasons for being superficial. I see at least 2:

  • they are incompetent but they are not honnest enough to tell you and they try to hide it, so they stay at a superficial level and talk with "buzzwords". After some time you will suddenly realize that they don't understand the discussion. I already experienced this when giving math courses to bad students : they can't solve equations because at the basis they don't understand that (something/something) = 1, whatever the something. So when you figure out the real level of your student, you can adapt and re-start the course at the right level.
  • they don't want to talk to you : they hide you things because they don't want to disclose you information. So by challenging you on vague requirements they hope you will get you lost. But if like me you are rational, you go to a clash...

In both cases, superficial people are not "intellectually honnest" and I really don't like it. In both cases I feel this as a lack of respect.


The extreme case of superficality is to talk about the weather. Immediately after the weather episode, you will see if the discussion reflects a superficial relationship or not. If you can't identify a common subject to go on (familly, holidays, work...) the discussion is over : a common competence area couldn't be found. Alternatively, if the person doesn't want to talk to you. The only discussion will be over the weather. If you ask more questions, answers will stay superficial until you get bored and go talk to someone else...

Why have I become allergic to that kind of superficiality?

I'm from the worst generation since years : Energy problems, Employment problems, Nature problems, Health problems (AIDS). All at the same time... People of my generation have become capitalistic fighters : If you want to do well you need to start well-off, work hard, be smart, make good studies, talk multiple languages, be open, be commercial while knowing a large portfolio of "solutions", be flexible, achieve measured objectives, manage your manager... When after having achieved all this, when I meet someone who doesn't respect my competences and doesn't even want to talk about "the real stuff" with me, I feel ofended. Just like when I hear IT managers who don't like to talk about the T of IT (see Why decision makers need to understand the technology). But what would IT managers manage if there was no T in IT ?

Superficiality Vaccine

Not being superficial is being able to say :

  • "I don't want to talk about this topic with you, it's not a relevant discussion between you and me". (Which is not nice to you but has the advantage to be "intellectually honnest").
  • "I will not tell you, it is confidential".
  • "I don't know"

My allergy will get better !

Since I'm allergic to superficiality, I will look for people who aren't superficial. The good news is that I think I'm going to encounter less and less superficial people with time.

My belief is that, in the professional world, superficial people are not to stay anymore. They know it and if I were them I would be worried. (They are really worried and that's why they will never say "I don't know". They prefer to say "You don't understand what I really discuss,you are too "technical" - (or whatever adjective that says "different from me")". But it's not because you know how it works that you don't know why it's needed. The real objective is to exclude you from a conversation where you could be perceived as more competent or more important).

The increasing pressure on profitability will decrease the number of employees. The employees who will stay will be multi-task : they will produce and manage at the same time, they will be empowered to take decisions, they will have no time to have superficial meetings and discussions.

Problems will more and more have to be solved ASAP. Therefore the approach and the strategy will be transparent and will be subject for optimization at the right time at the right moment. Instead of structured armies with several levels of commandment,companies departments will become flat like specialized commandos. Instead of reporting to a manager, work will be monitored automatically allowing to be benchmarked in real time against colleagues and competitors. Roles & responsibilities will no more be applied on superficial criterias but on established track records and direct performance.

People of my age are ready for that and are waiting for it. And it won't take long. The Papy Boom will care for bringing up people who can communicate and work in a non superficial way where everything is formalized, measured and subject to openess and a strong professionalism.

When all superficial managers will be out, it will be the era of the Operational Manager. All the trust will be put on the people who actually know how it works and are able to actually run the business. It will be the era of the factual ! Facts are not superficial.

Last edited on Thursday, June 05, 2008 at 12:48:16 pm.