Introducing: "Landersnatch" - the new choose-your-own-work-venture
Updated: Jan 16, 2019
Like the thousands (millions?) of others, I was immediately drawn to the choose-your-own-adventure Bandersnatch episode of the anthology science fiction show, Black Mirror. An avid fan of the series from the get-go on Channel 4, my interest was piqued further by the interactive concept afforded by the programmes switch to digital-only service Netflix.
I won’t spoil the show for those yet to experience it, but it did leave me to ponder: What would happen if the same 50/50 selection process was applied to real-life decisions?
I hereby introduce you to, Landersnatch – a game of two halves (or is it?)…
Your boss has sworn at you in a room full of people – do you:
a) sit back in your chair, bite your tongue and try not to succumb to the growing chasm of embarrassment and anxiety opening up beneath your seat, or;
b) call them out for unprofessional behaviour and politely ask to be treated with the same level of respect that they afford to friends, family, clients… pretty much anybody outside of the four walls of the office environment
Landersnatch presents us with two options – the instinctual response (option b) and the more measured, forward-thinking act of self-preservation (shown here in option a).
Now, I’m pretty positive that the majority of employees would choose option “a”. It’s the path of least resistance, after all – you avoid causing a scene and maintain your decorum whilst hoping to ensure the longevity of this particular professional relationship.
But why? For the most part, context is key.
Was your boss having a particularly stressful day and you knew they’d apologise later? Or, is this inappropriate treatment a weekly fixture at the team meeting with no afterthought to your wellbeing once the office lights are switched off for the weekend?
It’s the everyday equivalent of taking a breather from a tricky project versus throwing coffee over your computer. The latter is a rash and impulsive decision with dire consequences. Or so we’d be led to believe. Perhaps if our Bandersnatch protagonist Stefan had chosen this option he’d have avoided a far worse fate than just a broken computer and an unfinished video game.
One of my favourite film quotes of all time comes from the so-bad-it’s-bloody-brilliant 1997 disaster movie Dante’s Peak:
“My 9th grade science teacher once told me that if you put a frog in boiling water, it'll jump out but if you put it in cold water and heat it up gradually, it'll just sit there and slowly boil to death.”
“What's that, Harry, your recipe for frog soup?
“That's my recipe for disaster… if we got here today, we'd know we were in hot water and we'd put this town on alert!”
By allowing an aggressive atmosphere to cultivate over time in the boardroom – dusting it off as “how things have always been” – employees are effectively sitting in cold water waiting to be burned at some unspecified point in the future when tensions finally reach boiling point.
Tempers and tantrums should have no place in the work space, and whilst you may not feel strong enough to call your boss out on it at the time (very few are), it is a flashing warning sign that needs to be heeded. If your boss doesn’t respect you during your day-to-day work, this can be reflected in everything from your pay packet to your annual leave allowance to your unpaid overtime.
Perhaps option “c” should exist within the world of Landersnatch – to politely move the conversation on, work your notice and join a company that genuinely nurtures your talent and appreciates your effort.
A potential client asks for complex and time-consuming work at reduced rates – do you:
a) accept and be grateful that somebody wants to work with you even knowing that you won’t ever be able to charge your true rates afterwards, or;
b) outright reject the work
For me, this isn’t so much of a quandary as a no-brainer.
Customers do not step into the Apple Store and demand a premium MacBook Pro at 50% off. Or if they did, they’d likely be laughed off the shop floor.
Why should freelancing be any different?
Day rates are consummate with experience and expertise. They are not a figure randomly plucked out of the air or a hypothetical number to be chanced at. Costs have been carefully considered and calibrated to offer – as Bryan Mills AKA Liam Neeson would say – a very particular set of skills. Skills that have been acquired over a long career.
By accepting reduced rates, freelancers are in effect devaluing their position and compromising their ability to attract valuable future work.
Landersnatch would therefore again offer a third choice – option c: turn down initial cost reductions but work with the client to establish where their challenges lie. Could value be added in other ways? Could less time be spent on the project? Could certain elements be outsourced to reduce costs?
Saying an outright “no” to a client is burning a bridge - something that the residents of Dante’s Peak would say is a very bad idea. You might need that bridge later on...
Instead, take the time to get to know potential clients – where they most require support, what their blockers are and how you can help.
So, if Bandersnatch / Landersnatch has taught me anything, it’s that clear cut decisions don’t exist. Life isn’t a series of a or b options: coffee or tea, drive or walk, Sugar Puffs or Frosties… Instead, looking beyond the black and white can allow you to make sensible decisions that bolster your self-worth and job satisfaction.
And so, a new motto for 2019: Never accept less than you’ve earned. Respect or otherwise.
And no - you should never throw coffee over your boss. Nor tea...