He (or She) Who Wears the Pants

Dear Dr Bruce

I have recently moved into a role where my predecessor excelled and bowed out on top. I am struggling under the weight of expectations. How do I succeed in this situation? – Tentatively Accept

shutterstock_217416853Living up to a predecessor’s standards can be a lot of pressure. Ask Gae has been the pulse of Actuaries magazine for many years (unlike The Pulse, which is more like the navel, its purpose long forgotten and gathering lint). Gae’s legacy is seen in the comments about Dr Bruce’s promotion: “You’re not Gae”, “Where’s Gae?” and “Gae, your hairline has receded since we last met”.

You must convince yourself that your promotion was warranted. For example, I believe that I have been recruited for editorial balance. Before my arrival, the 2014 Actuaries magazine was veering back towards 20th century ideas like facts and objectivity. Dr Bruce is here to inject some 21st century sensibility with a heavy use of personal pronouns and aggressive ridicule of those who do not support my gut-feeling.

In order to succeed, it can be helpful to remind yourself why you were offered the promotion. To give yourself confidence, you must believe that your capabilities won you the job.

Of course, the truth is desperation on their part and a willingness to work for nothing on your part. When your boss cites “prestige” among the benefits of a position, you’re not going to be paid. But, she argues, “think of all the contacts you will make; this will be great for your career; this is a means to an end”. This is usually a red flag. When your boss says “a means to an end”, she invariably intends your means but her end. You must bury these thoughts. Confidence, whether justified or not, is required for success.

Your letter reveals the importance of relative performance. Success and failure is not absolute but measured alongside your peers and those who have come before. Your 10 second sprint is not impressive when Bolt can do it in 9.58, your flubbing of the lapse rates is not so dire when the entire industry does the same, and your wife isn’t going to love you that much while that damned dog is still around.

Relative performance has gotten you into this mess; relative performance can get you out of it. Once your predecessor has gracefully exited the smearing can begin. For example, Gae’s final words were “I’ve had enough of these idiots and their whiny letters!” You, dear readers, deserve better. Dr Bruce finds all of you plebeians delightful.

Once your predecessor is discredited nobody will begrudge you taking credit for her accomplishments. Just stamp your name all over them and defend ownership to the hilt. As they say, success is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent aggressive patent protection. Good luck.

Dear Dr Bruce,

The firm I work for has a casual dress policy. I take this to mean dress how you are most comfortable. Is it okay to wear thongs to the office or is this taking the casual policy too far? – Can I Havaiana some advice?

To clarify, you intend thongs of the foot variety. The other variety of thong is to be worn at your own discretion so long as it is not worn exclusively. For those unfamiliar with the Australianism for this minimalist footwear, we’re talking about flip-flops. I prefer the New Zealand term, jandles, as it avoids confusion and is a neat contraction of Japanese sandal, eh bro.

Despite the casual policy, do not wear thongs to work. You’re walking into a minefield – wearing thongs. You’re inviting avoidable negative impressions and fungal infections. Is it really worth it? The adage ‘dress for the job you want’ applies here as you should take cues from the boss that you’re scheming to overthrow. Unless your boss is a lifeguard, thongs are for the weekend and public showers.

My opinions on office attire, however, may be passé. I’ve only recently discovered that you can wear just leggings instead of actual clothes. Even then, it pays to be cautious judging from the reaction to my leggings – it must have been the leopard print.

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