Note from Nima #1: Professionalism

Nima Gardideh
October 21, 2021

I spent a few days of my vacation speaking to a few friends about organizational structure, and forms of management and leadership— trying to find a better way to explain how I've been feeling about the way work has been done throughout all of my career.

The one thing that's clear to me is that there are plenty of different cultures that can be "successful" in the traditional sense (convincing a large number of people to work towards a goal to create value and/or surplus revenues). We see it in our clients, whether it’s a somewhat fear-based culture, a more traditional political culture, or a more ruthless NPV-based (net-present-value) decision-making culture.

However, they all (at least the companies I've studied/interacted with) seem to have focused their management thesis on how to make the best decisions for the shareholders. This may be a North American thing in general, and it seems to be related to the Friedman Doctrine (original essay), which has influenced the professional culture of America.

My issue with this thesis is that there are no humans I know that care about “what is best for the business" one-hundred percent of the time or who are even capable of making purely rational decisions. Furthermore, the actions of businesses affect both the employees of that business as well as their customers, the environment, and society at large.

We cannot be purely rational, especially when almost every friend I have that works in a corporate environment seems to have to show up to work wearing a mask of personality that fits the mold of what is expected of them as a "professional." They fake rationality even when decisions are emotional or political in nature or aren't able to grow in the company because being authentic or discussing the emotional or political implications of their decisions doesn’t conform to this culture.

"Professionalism" is further seeped into global work culture through TV shows, movies, and books. Dr. Brian R Little refers to the changes we make to ourselves (sometimes at work) as “free traits,” or “culturally scripted patterns of conduct that are strategically crafted to advance projects about which a person cares deeply.” We end up having to express the traits we believe will help us at work. People pick up free traits that match this professionalism culture to be good at their jobs.

This has resulted in people having two personas: the work version of themselves and the real version.

Reading Permission To Feel and Connect – it's more clear to me than ever that the emotional state of people has a big role in how they make decisions, how well they connect to their friends and colleagues, and how much meaning they find in their life.

“Our emotional state determines where we direct our attention, what we remember, and what we learn. Second is decision making: when we’re in the grip of any strong emotion—such as anger or sadness, but also elation or joy—we perceive the world differently, and the choices we make at that moment are influenced,” states Permission to Feel. We need to be emotionally present and aware to make smart decisions. 

The problem lies in this: you cannot be emotionally present and aware if you're expressing free traits and living through a mask. We can’t create the smartest work possible if we’re worried it will be seen as unprofessional. This is what has to change.

If you've read all the way here, I might as well mention this again: we're working with "whole people" at Pearmill. You bring your talent, intellect, energy, and grit into our community, and in return – we all commit to helping you go through life alongside us. We welcome you as you are and hope this allows you to do the best work possible. 

I hope as we grow the company we can find a way to create and keep such a culture. For us to go through this journey together, as a community.

Originally published: Feb 19, 2021

What’s a Note from Nima? 
Each week I write a “Weekly Pulse” for the team. We thought it could be interesting to share these essays on our blog to help people get to know us. We updated the content slightly to add context, protect identities, and make more sense when needed. Thank you for reading. Feel free to reach out and say hello, we’re hiring.