Too much honesty
September 25, 2013
Partially related to all the recent discussions and thoughts I’ve
had about the overall notion/idea of professionalism and libraries
and that whole racket we call ‘being a good productive cog in the
One thing that has got me in trouble more than a few times in my
work life, thus far, has been being too honest.
It started way back when I was working at a cafe, gosh, when I was
18, and got in trouble for my boss over giving honest assessments
of the sandwiches we had just started to sell (if memory serves,
they weren’t very good and I told people that). Apparently
encouraging people to eat shitty food is better than telling the
Since that point, being honest has continued to bite me in the ass
and cost me opportunities. I think the next major incident was
when I was in an interview and was (not joking) actually asked
what race I was because I looked ~exotic~. My response was “Um,
you aren’t allowed to ask me that question.” Didn’t get the job.
Next… was probably after I had broken my hand and finally
finished phsyiotherapy, but my hand was still not all that great
(indeed, it actually sustained some permanent loss of mobility). I
told my interviewer about this. Didn’t get that job either.
Other jobs I didn’t get were because of being asked that
ridiculous question “How are you at multitasking?”. This question,
let me tell you, annoys me because there is [some evidence that
multitasking is a myth](http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95256794).
Even if multitasking is something people do, it isn’t something I
do. So when asked the question, I usually respond “I suck at
multitasking, but I make up for it by being very efficient and
prioritizing my time.” Which amuses me, because according to the
linked article above… People who think they are multitasking are
just switching between tasks very very quickly. But, may the
ancestors help you, if you dare mention that to a potential
Nowadays, I’m a little better at understanding what kind of
honesty people find desirable and what kind of honesty doesn’t get
you a call back after an interview.1 However, after 30 years of
trying (and largely failing) to figure out where the line is
between them, I’m ready to throw in the towel. I’m out. I’ll be as
honest as will allow me to respect myself and I’ll be honest in
the only way that actually makes sense to me.
At this point, looking back with that 20/20 hindsight, I sincerely
doubt that this will make a significant impact on my professional
life. What it will do, however, is decrease a lot of the anxiety I
have about these situations. I seriously think I spend more time
trying to toe a line I can’t even see than actually makes any real
sense when I still regularly fail to stay on the right side.
(It will not surprise me if I end up working at Starbucks next
year. Which, to be brutally honest, I wouldn’t mind. At least I’d
have health benefits.)