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Nickelback's Lesson For the Modern Workplace

A Finnish researcher is out with a new study that explains why everyone's a critic when it comes to the Canadian band Nickelback. Yeah, that band.

Finnish doctoral student Salli Anttonen strums the right chords in a paper entitled "Hypocritical Bulls— Performed Through Gritted Teeth: Authenticity Discourses in Nickelback's Album Reviews in Finnish Media." In the paper, she explores why Nickelback gets such a bad rap among dedicated music fans.

For the record, I'm not a Nickelback hater but I'm not a huge fan, either. The band has some catchy tunes, and they've sold a lot of records. If a Nickelback song is on the radio, then I'll usually let it play in the background. But we all know someone who would sniff, "Why are we listening to Nickelback? All their songs sound the same!" before immediately changing the car radio to Rush.

Why all the hate? Why does Nickelback get criticized while other bands get a free pass?

Anttonen concludes Nickelback's problem is that it is a little too good at following musical convention. So good, in fact, that the band's songs come off to many listeners as somehow...inauthentic. Some might say like a fork in the proverbial eardrum, but I'll let drop the beat on the phenomenon:

"Nickelback is too much of everything to be enough of something," Anttonen continues. "They follow genre expectations too well, which is seen as empty imitation, but also not well enough, which is read as commercial tactics and as a lack of a stable and sincere identity."

But this isn't Pitchfork, this is a random workplace blog where The Imagine Dragons are playing in the background as this post is in progress. Now that I've just lost all my music cred, the question is: Can highly-talented employees suffer from a "Nickelback effect" at work? Is it possible to follow job expectations a little too well and end up on the outs with our peers?

Yes, I think it can happen and the average job description isn't helping matters. Today's job descriptions require applicants to be too much of everything instead of enough of something. Though layoffs and attrition, employers have been able to meld five jobs into one over the last eight years, which means each new hire must be some sort of workplace virtuoso -- or at least, a very quick study on a wide range of incredibly discordant work tasks.

From SEO to marketing to accounting to selling to coding to managing, it's all right there in one entry-level job description, daring us to do it all well and top the charts.

It's the rare employee, however, who can rock every requirement in today's nearly-impossible job descriptions. Most employees have weak spots, because we're human. So when we encounter the slick co-worker who rocks all the work charts, we begin to doubt their authenticity. We wonder what they're about, exactly. Is this person for real, or is he simply an empty suit? Is she really that good at her job, or is she simply faking it?

Maybe the key is to rock a job just enough -- and no more! -- because hitting every note in a disparate job description is a great way to create disharmony with co-workers who want to see a few minor chords added to our broad range of work riffs? You know, just to shake things up and come across as...authentic. Sniff.

Considering the most popular post on this blog is how to deal with jealous co-workers, getting criticized at work for being undeservedly successful could be the power ballad of our times. Just ask Nickelback.


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