Jessica Miller-Merrell | , ,| By
There’s a group of my very close friends who refer to the endless congratulatory bullshit that happens in a lot of places where influence and knowing who you know is king. We refer to it as “circle jerking.”
First off, this article and post is totally suitable for work or SFW. It’s not about that other type of circle jerking… I’m talking about influence, relationships, and circle jerking in the context of business and business success.
Circle jerking is about limitations and the echo chamber that sometimes these close relationships and group-think often bring. Myself even as an introvert, I am all about meeting new people, building new relationships and making connections but sometimes it’s your community or group of friends that’s holding you back. This is really much of my now job as a sort of ambassador and anthropologist for HR. The circle jerk is keeping you from being authentic, getting uncomfortable and doing great things. My close group of besties are strong, powerful and successful business persons, both women and men who’ve experienced circle jerking first hand and have chosen to break out of the echo chamber individually and separately resulting in a very eclectic, honest and candid conversations about reflecting on circle jerking.
Backstabbing at Work
The circle jerk is a group of individuals who just stroke each other’s ego, telling everyone within the circle they are awesome and then behind their back, talk – saying horrible things. All the while stroking their own ego, talking down to others they are often jealous of without considering the feelings or life of those they are potentially hurting and damaging. The circle jerk is drama, negativity, and just all the kinds of bullshit that sometimes people who appear to support another might bring.
While the original context of circle jerk is not suitable for work, my definition is about about group appreciation, recognition within an echo chamber that’s truly self serving…
I work very hard to be an authentic person online and in real life, I find it extremely draining the roles you have to play and politics at work. I don’t follow the politics or games played on a daily basis. It’s one of the reasons I was promoted in my career quickly. I told it like it was. I got shit done. People like my brazen honesty and the chances I took but these are also the very reasons why I got fired from my last job as a practitioner in HR and Recruiting. I blame the circle jerk of workplace politics. It’s just not for me. Honesty and being genuine and happy in what you do in work and life is the best policy.
The circle jerk often infiltrates communities, friends and groups of individuals, and it’s only when looking back that you really understand the ugliness and hurt that the relationships actually bring. Circle jerks are like a bad addiction. Sometimes it takes a group intervention of true friends, and individuals working through some sort of twelve-step program to remove themselves from the addictive negativity.
A couple years ago, I was invited into the circle of someone I admired very much. This person was someone I looked up to, I admired and followed their career online, but meeting them in person I felt manipulated, violated, and just ugly inside – which was the tradeoff to being in the inner circle of this particular circle jerker. For me, the cost of admission into the circle just wasn’t worth it.
So I avoided the circle, took stock and really thought about the toxic circle and realities of influence I see, while being personally smack-talked and smeared by said circle jerk circle because of my choice to not accept the invitation or to participate in the toxic and negative community. My decision was used against me in the form of nasty whispers and conversations reported to me only after the fact. I was hurt. I cried a lot. I was angry, and I made the decision to avoid the drama and not fuel the negatively by not engaging. I was naive and learned this ugliness is often the price one pays for personal success, being unique and different bring. So I unfriended, removed myself from conversations and now choose to rise above these negative conversations and attacks that were happening.
Circle Jerk Meet Crabs in a Bucket
The funny thing about circle jerks is that the community in question often wants the same things. Fame, money, a job, fortune, status, stuff or a happy family. We seek comfort of the circle jerk to reside in the power of group think or reassurance and when there are things we covet from those others who are part of the circle jerking. We spend time complimenting, promoting while exhibiting characteristics of jealousy, anger, and just out right nasty. The circle jerk is like a steaming pot of crabs who are desperate to leave the pot no matter what the cost may bring. Instead of helping the collective and lifting each other up, outside of the pot, we pull the crabs down back down just as they are about to escape finding success, opportunity, and possibility.
That’s the truly evil side of circle jerking and the ugly side of success and influence I never considered when I first started working, blogging or even thought would happen in sharing my ideas, opinions, success, or community.
Who and What’s In My Circle
I believe communities especially those of influence should help not hurt the members of said community, but benefit them and give back intensely. Those who are truly successful not just in business but in life focus on elevating the individuals who contribute, take ownership and are a part of said community. Real success isn’t contributing to a circle jerk and being just one of the girls or guys but creating your own circle where you can influence, grow and make memories with a group of friends, colleagues and people who are interested and have a passion for the same things. This, my friends is the foundation of my blog and the amazing community of writers, contributors, comments and friends I’ve built through elevating and helping others to form our own circle jerking-less circle by being honest, kind and open to collaborating with others regardless of their influence or perceived success they might bring.