The image of the hero capitalist, made famous by Benito Mussolini, is in peril. The façade around Elon Musk’s genius has come crashing down, Jordan Petersen can’t stop crying, and Andrew Tate is in jail. The idolatry of powerful men, captains of industry, stalwarts of the capitalist order, is facing an unprecedented crisis. Where do we look for inspiration, now?
As leadership is in crisis, worker power is increasing. And with it comes a new set of frightening demands — fair compensation, dignity, inclusion, participatory decision-making, etc. — to be wrestled away from hapless, unsuspecting CEOs who otherwise think that everything is fine. If CEOs don’t cater to these demands, they risk the greatest menace of all: erasure.
I mentioned three great men who have fallen victim to this alarming trend, but these are examples of individuals who have been “cancelled” loudly. There’s a more frightening phenomenon lurking in the shadows and you, YES YOU, could be the next powerful man to be crushed by its own power. In fact, it may have already gotten you. Most people don’t realize what has happened until it’s too late. The phenomenon is question is called quiet cancelling and no one is immune to its reach.
Quiet cancelling is your worst fears realized. It’s as if your reflection has come to life and laid bare your deepest insecurities to the masses.
As a leader of a large organization, you very well know that your own incompetence haunts you. You know deep down that you nor anyone on the planet could possibly account for the complexity of life today. There’s just too many variables, too many things to account for! So you created an image of yourself as the hero, the visionary, the one who really does have the answers. And as a part of this ploy, you projected all of the failings of the organization you run onto your direct reports. Failed to meet your targets? It’s time for a reorganization, it’s time to downsize, it’s time to work longer hours, pay cuts, whatever. “It’s not me, it’s all of you!” you scream. This is, of course, unsustainable. The velocity of the period between rise and crash is greater than ever. You can be found out at any moment and before you know it, you’re the next Elon Musk.
Well, you have been found out. You were found out long ago, and everyone in your orbit has conspired to undermine your heroic image. You have been cancelled… quietly. Every day those in your circle, those whom you trust with that image and everything you’re propagandized about yourself, are chipping away at it. It’s just a matter of time until the rumors of your incompetence spread and eventually become public.
What can you do to inoculate against the virus of quiet cancelling, what I once called the “greatest anti-bro trend of my lifetime?” Here are three steps you can take to avert calamity:
- Embrace the change. The worst thing that can happen to you is that everyone views you as a rigid dinosaur that cannot adapt to current reality. So just give in. Give in to worker power. You can’t fight the inevitability of workplace democratization. Trust me, it’ll be so much better for you in the long run. If you’re part of a collective, making collective decisions, sharing collectively generated wealth, then all of the stress, the responsibility, the prying eyes will be distributed among the many. The load you carry will be so much lighter. Your insecurities will be reduced to a temporary lack of skill that you can choose to develop, or not, whatever.
- Please just be honest with yourself, and with all of us. It’s OK to be completely overwhelmed. The world is very complex, we get it. No one person can navigate all of it, so you rely on your peers. One person doesn’t have the answers, but you know who may? Us, all of us, collectively, have a better shot at figuring it out than you, or anyone, alone can in several lifetimes. Also, people expose lies. When you’re truthful about your power, what is left to expose?
- Stop hoarding wealth. You’re literally doing this to yourself. You may have concocted this paranoid delusion that your employees are just jealous of your success, but the truth is, they’re just mad at wage theft. They’re upset that you haven’t adequately compensated them for the true value of their contributions, their labor. They’re upset about the extractive, machismo-driven, oppressive environment you created in order to drive them to maximize the wealth of the company, which by the way you are essentially robbing with your compensation package.
What did you think I was going to give you tips on how to save your image or how to fight back against employees who are plotting against you, leaving to compete with you, or planning to buy you out and turn your company into a worker-owned collective? No, I actually support all of those things.
I completely fabricated the term quiet cancelling as much as you have fabricated your public image. It’s a made up alarmist term to satirize the barrage of new HR jargon that is emerging to undermine the needs of the working class. Your employees, though, they’re real. Their goals are real. Their values are real. Their need to enjoy life is real. And so long as you, as a “leader” are an impediment to that, you’re actually the problem here.