Why being wrong can be right for your career and your life

by Simon Henry @simlington

Here are two ancient rules for success in the corporate world:

1. Avoid the blame when the s*** hits the fan – and don’t be the cleaner.
2. Take the credit when things are a bed of roses – and don’t be the gardener.

Office life used to be called the ‘corporate jungle’.

And speaking of jungles, monkeys enjoy climbing trees, eating bananas and peeing on passers-by on the jungle floor.

This of course is still reasonable behaviour for back-end developers.

But how true are these two rules when offices are air-conditioned, and gardening is actually a reasonable career choice for the middle class?

In the City and organised crime (the same sector?) it still helps to be a lying, manipulative and disgusting bastard in order to get anywhere.

Elsewhere, thankfully, something called ’emotional intelligence’ is becoming more important.

So what is it? And can you buy it on the internet? And if you can buy it on the internet can you get free delivery?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to actually care about other people – rather than not giving a toss about other people, or pretending to care about them for your own selfish ends.

An example of emotional intelligence is not laughing when someone stubs their toe, or suffers a bereavement.

And here are some examples of basic emotional intelligence in the office:


– Not burping, farting or practising martial arts at your desk.

– Not bringing your pet cat, dog or snake into the office – except on designated ‘Bring your pet to work’ days.

Around 40% of office workers lack this basic level of emotional intelligence – exactly the same percentage of the population that votes Tory, BNP and UKIP.

Strange, that.

Meanwhile, advanced emotional intelligence involves being compassionate, altruistic, reflective and charitable.

Examples of this advanced behaviour include:

– Taking the blame when something goes wrong – even if it’s not your fault.

– Allowing someone else to take the credit for a success – even when you deserve the pat on the back, promotion or pay rise.

– Bringing cakes into the office – even when it’s not your birthday.

Very few people can actually do any of these – but if you can develop these skills you’ll be in high demand and, more importantly, happy.


Because your colleagues will not only like you and respect you, but you’ll be making your world a better place.

And, strangely enough, offices where emotional intelligence is valued are happier, more productive and more creative.

And old school noobs who take credit and avoid blame don’t fit in at all well.

This idea comes from the Buddhist practice of Tonglen – or “taking and receiving”.

Tonglen inverts our usual habit of desperately clinging to what we like, and rejecting what we don’t like.

It’s an experiment in turning our life upside down for a bit – and seeing what happens when we give away what we want and welcome what we don’t want.

Go on – have a go. See how right it feels to be wrong.

Take the blame. Avoid the credit. Your world will love you for it. Especially if you buy the cakes.


Pema Chodron is a really great teacher of Tonglen. I heard about her while reading about Mindfulness meditation. It’s not weird or wacky. It’s just a way of changing the way you see the world. Her talks are easy to understand. I’ve been practising it for a while and I think I’m a bit more chilled out than I used to be. I really think the world can learn from this sort of stuff.

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Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014


3 thoughts on “Why being wrong can be right for your career and your life

  1. Pingback: Office life: 6 reasons to love your workplace even if the air con is bust | Smile, laugh, giggle, wet yourself

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