The Outsider by Elbert Hubbard

Story type: Essay

When I was a farmer lad I noticed that whenever we bought a new cow, and turned her into the pasture with the herd, there was a general inclination on the part of the rest to make the new cow think she had landed in the orthodox perdition. They would hook her away from the salt, chase her from the water, and the long-horned ones, for several weeks, would lose no opportunity to give her vigorous digs, pokes and prods.

With horses it was the same. And I remember one particular little black mare that we boys used to transfer from one pasture to another, just to see her back into a herd of horses and hear her hoofs play a resounding solo on their ribs as they gathered round to do her mischief.

Men are animals just as much as are cows, horses and pigs; and they manifest similar proclivities. The introduction of a new man into an institution always causes a small panic of resentment, especially if he be a person of some power. Even in schools and colleges the new teacher has to fight his way to overcome the opposition he is certain to meet.

In a lumber camp, the newcomer would do well to take the initiative, like that little black mare, and meet the first black look with a short-arm jab.

But in a bank, department store or railroad office this cannot be. So the next best thing is to endure, and win out by an attention to business to which the place is unaccustomed. In any event, the bigger the man, unless he has the absolute power to overawe everything, the more uncomfortable will be his position until gradually time smooths the way and new issues come up for criticism, opposition and resentment, and he is forgotten.

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The idea of Civil Service Reform–promotion for the good men in your employ rather than hiring new ones for the big places–is a rule which looks well on paper but is a fatal policy if carried out to the letter.

The business that is not progressive is sowing the seeds of its own dissolution. Life is a movement forward, and all things in nature that are not evolving into something better are preparing to return into their constituent elements. One general rule for progress in big business concerns is the introduction of new blood. You must keep step with the business world. If you lag behind, the outlaws that hang on the flanks of commerce will cut you out and take you captive, just as the wolves lie in wait for the sick cow of the plains.

To keep your columns marching you must introduce new methods, new inspiration and seize upon the best that others have invented or discovered.

The great railroads of America have evolved together. No one of them has an appliance or a method that is much beyond the rest. If it were not for this interchange of men and ideas some railroads would still be using the link and pin, and snake-heads would be as common as in the year 1869.

The railroad manager who knows his business is ever on the lookout for excellence among his men, and he promotes those who give an undivided service. But besides this he hires a strong man occasionally from the outside and promotes him over everybody. Then out come the hammers!

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But this makes but little difference to your competent manager–if a place is to be filled and he has no one on his payroll big enough to fill it, he hires an outsider.

That is right and well for every one concerned. The new life of many a firm dates from the day they hired a new man.

Communities that intermarry raise a fine crop of scrubs, and the result is the same in business ventures. Two of America’s largest publishing houses failed for a tidy sum of five millions or so each, a few years ago, just thru a dogged policy, that extended over a period of fifty years, of promoting cousins, uncles and aunts whose only claim of efficiency was that they had been on the pension roll for a long time. This way lies dry-rot.

If you are a business man, and have a position of responsibility to be filled, look carefully among your old helpers for a man to promote. But if you haven’t a man big enough to fill the place, do not put in a little one for the sake of peace. Go outside and find a man and hire him–never mind the salary if he can man the position–wages are always relative to earning power. This will be the only way you can really man your ship.

As for Civil Service Rules–rules are made to be broken. And as for the long-horned ones who will attempt to make life miserable for your new employe, be patient with them. It is the privilege of everybody to do a reasonable amount of kicking, especially if the person has been a long time with one concern and has received many benefits.

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But if at the last, worst comes to worst, do not forget that you yourself are at the head of the concern. If it fails you get the blame. And should the anvil chorus become so persistent that there is danger of discord taking the place of harmony, stand by your new man, even tho it is necessary to give the blue envelope to every antediluvian. Precedence in business is a matter of power, and years in one position may mean that the man has been there so long that he needs a change. Let the zephyrs of natural law play freely thru your whiskers.

So here is the argument: promote your deserving men, but do not be afraid to hire a keen outsider; he helps everybody, even the kickers, for if you disintegrate and go down in defeat, the kickers will have to skirmish around for new jobs anyway. Isn’t that so?

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