The term “don’t drink the Kool-Aid” became popular in 1978 when over 900 cult members of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple committed suicide by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. The world was shocked and mystified. Since that time, the term has been used as a way of saying “don’t be fooled” or “don’t be a
fool”, “don’t be taken in”.
EVERYDAY IN WORKPLACES EVERYWHERE, EMPLOYEES DRINK THE KOOL-AID OF SELF-DECEPTION. This “Kool-Aid” is a mixture of ego-boosting feedback laced with deceit. It is served liberally by some supervisors, managers, and executives as they dangle carrots of opportunity – a promotion, a pay raise, or inclusion on the “A” team .
Over the years, I have been served a lot of Self-Deception Kool-Aid. From time to time, I have even taken a sip or two. I am eternally grateful to mentors, family, and close friends who stopped me from gulping it down. THEY HELPED ME KEEP MY EYES WIDE OPEN, AND MY FEET PLANTED ON THE GROUND AS I MOVED UP EVERY RUNG OF THE CORPORATE LADDER. They gave me honest feedback and helped me see the games that had been played with others might be at play with me.
As you start to move up and around in the workplace, the easiest way for those in power to control you is to have you think you have a chance of sharing power. THEY KNOW THE STARVED EGOS OF MANY WOMEN AND PEOPLE OF COLOR, DEPRIVED OF POWER FOR SO LONG, WANT BADLY TO BE FED. They know this before we admit this to ourselves.
HAVEN’T YOU SEEN PEOPLE WHO ARE CLUELESS ABOUT THEIR REAL POTENTIAL IN AN ORGANIZATION? They seem to be the last to know they are not in the running for certain jobs. The last to know they are not in the real “inner circle”. The last to know what those in power (and others) say to their faces is nothing like what is said behind their backs. They avoid any kind of critical self-assessment. Instead, they feed their starved egos with deceit-laced feedback from those who are gifted at dangling the carrot of opportunity. They drink the Kool-Aid of Self-Deception!
• KNOW YOURSELF BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE KNOWS YOU. STUDY YOURSELF. Know what makes you tick. Know you have an ego in need of feeding.
• BEWARE OF 100% POSITIVE FEEDBACK. If all feedback is wonderful with not a single improvement point; and you are told you have a lot of potential but nothing happens – you’re being served Self-Deception Kool-Aid.
• STAY CLOSE TO A FEW PEOPLE WHO WILL BE BRUTALLY HONEST WITH YOU ABOUT YOU.
• FEED YOUR EGO FROM A VARIETY OF SOURCES. Do not rely solely on what happens at work to boost your self-esteem and ego. Volunteering in the community is a great source.
• Finally, DON’T LET THEM KNOW YOU KNOW ITS KOOL-AID!