Six signs you’ve just encountered a “computer says no” person at work

“Sorry, he’s no longer with us.”

It’s the email I dreaded. We’d done a lot of good work together over the course of two years. I got paid well to create content for their business. We had an idea to perhaps create a course together. He introduced me to many helpful contacts to expand my business. Sending messages late at night for sh*ts and giggles was our pastime.

The replacement started. I sent an email to introduce myself and provide context. Silence. I followed up. Silence. I got my previous contact to prod him before he exited for good. Silence. I then went one level above him. His boss told him to respond.

The tone in his reply email could have made hell freeze over. He made the white walker zombies from Game of Thrones sound nice to have dinner with in comparison. Pretty soon my gig was gone. I had no idea why. The replacement put up a brick wall between the business and content creators who’d help them build it.

The replacement guy is what’s called a “computer says no” person. This term became well-known when the British tv show, Little Britain, aired an episode that mentioned the phrase for the first time.

The main character Carol Beer, played by comedian David Walliams, worked in a hospital. A mother and young child came to reception for help. Every question Carol answered was robotic and lifeless.

She saw a number not a human. Carol would search her computer for answers as she couldn’t think for herself. The computer would always come up with an error, so Carol would say “computer says no” to the small child.

Before this tv episode aired, there was no easy way to describe these strange species of humans that sit in offices all day and warm seats, while leaving a trail of devastation behind them, and secretly destroying the customer bases of some of the biggest companies in history.

Here’s how to identify a computer says no person so you can save yourself.

They worship rules

A computer says no person goes overboard with rules. They forget rules are a guide. I remember working with one editor five years ago at a traditional publication. They used rules from the 90s to make decisions about content.

“There’s got to be a deck, some boldface, a byline, a kicker, below the fold content, regular Op-eds, and syndication stories.”

Content online is nothing like newspapers. They’re dead. They kill trees. This editor lived in the newspaper factory next to the morgue. Instead of updating the glossary of out of date terms, they worshiped them. Compliance with the rules mattered more than relationships or a quality experience for the reader.

The editor never asked themselves “but why?” They never thought to check whether things might have changed. They never realized quoting rules turns good people away, who simply go to other places where the rules make more sense. Eventually the business starts to go down. Nobody knows why.

The answer is simple: computer says no people kept enforcing out of date rules, rather than update them or use commonsense to make exceptions when it mattered.

They don’t see their privilege

Many computer says no people, by sheer luck, get to be in positions of power. They warmed the office seat long enough and ended up being in charge of something or someone, or god forbid, a department.

Through this stroke of luck they don’t see their privilege. They have zero gratitude for how fortunate they have been. They start to believe they’re entitled to this luck and this power — like they earned it somehow or deserve it (they don’t).

Privilege blinds us from progress. Without progress, things die.

They stupidly use logic as a weapon

The world is binary to them. You’re either a one or zero. There’s no one and three quarters. If your name is not listed as a contact they need to know, they pretend you don’t exist. They see a disconnect between their KPIs and humans who show up in their inbox.

Black and white vision is why we have racism in the first place. It tries to place people into categories when the boundaries are blurred and we are global citizens of the same planet.

Logic is full of assumptions, and assumptions can be horribly wrong. Logic gets updated regularly by changes in culture and society. Button-pushing jobs will be given to robots in the future according to historian, author and futurist Yuval Noah Harari who says:

To keep up with the world of 2050, you will need to do more than merely invent new ideas and products, but above all, reinvent yourself again and again.

Takeaway: Button pushers will be extinct. Innovators will struggle. Those who understand self-improvement will thrive.

They assume you’re dumb for not understanding their view of the world

They don’t say it but they communicate like you are dumb. Their view of the world is all there is. In that view they see themselves as a pharaoh and the rest of us as slaves who will do as their told.

It’s not only their communication. In a room with a computer says no person, they stare at you like something is wrong. They give off rude vibes. They use angry body language. You are a parasite they can squash with their boot.

Intelligence rather than compassion is used to make decisions. The trouble comes when they need compassion. When their loved one dies or when they lose their job, nobody comes to save them. They become lonely and they can’t work out why.

Computer says no behavior acts as human repellant.

They forget history

A new person you meet through work could have history with your employer. Computer says no people ignore that history. They see that as the past or they don’t see it at all. All the good work up until you meet them and witness their deathly wrath … is forgotten. There is zero gratitude.

Bottom line: They think they don’t need you, yet they don’t know your value.

They quietly think “don’t waste my time”

They’re quiet productivity nerds. You’re an inconvenience in their day, a thumbtack on their fat cushion office seat they’ve heated for hours with their butt. An email from you is a “please go away moron.”

You’ll be lucky to get a one-sentence answer from them. You’re not worth their time because they don’t understand you, and choose not to understand you. Productivity is nice. But productivity without giving people a chance is stupid.

The people they think waste their time are the same people that guarantee their quiet downfall behind closed doors.

A Quiet Survival Plan

Computer says no people destroy relationships. Relationships are the lifeblood of any business.

I shouldn’t admit this, but I spent a brief year as a computer says no person, where it was my job to assess financial risk. I studied the work of Yuval Noah Harari and learned “the four Cs” and got rid of the disease.

The antidote to the computers says no plague is to practice critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. When you do, you will open your mind and stop destroying the business that pays for your food and shelter.

If you encounter a computer says no person then don’t let them get away scot-free. Challenge them. Say “but why?” Let their behavior be known. Show their employer the cost of their lack of self-awareness.

The computer can say yes again. You’ve just got to disrupt their programming.

This article is from Medium.