This is interesting. But by definition most people/companies adhere to social norms and don’t complain about lemons (otherwise it wouldn’t be abnormal to complain about them). I wonder whether this is actually unhelpful. It makes it harder to know (as an outsider) what is a genuine trend, eg ghosting, and what isn’t. If

9 out of 10 people do not speak about what they observe for fear of negative signalling, then silence reflects social norms and not the underlying truth.

In your interview example, an employer would surely take a dim view of someone complaining of a crap former boss, because, like you say, speaking negatively is just not done in an interview. Yet that same employer would likely believe that same person if they complained of a former boss after having already been hired into the role. Per social norms, we know you present the best version of yourself in an interview and then kind of relax after you’ve been hired. But these norms actually make it harder to hire people, as it takes some skill to penetrate the polished layers a skilled candidate can present and figure out what is genuine about them.

So there might not be much wisdom in the lemon model after all. It would be easier if everyone just told it like it is, lemons and all. But, sure, the world doesn’t work this way…sigh

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Great article, I just discovered your Substack and have enjoyed the two pieces I've read so far!

I appreciate the distinction between identifying and fixing specific problems via constructive criticism, and badmouthing somebody for their ordinary imperfections. I agree with Richard Pickering that it's hard to figure out what "normal" looks like. I don't know that having more tolerance for complaining would really help, though. We already have lots of access to anecdata via our friendships and the media to anecdata about jobs, dating, and more. The question is whether we need more or less on the margin, and in what settings. I'd prefer to see less anecdata on the margin, with more care given to the settings in which we discuss it.

Problems are a fact of life even with above-average levels of overall functionality. The reliable car with the intermittent A/C, the fair boss with the cranky attitude. There's always something to criticize. It just needs to be done constructively, and in an appropriate setting and style. Job postings and interviews are not the place.

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Also applies to every Taylor Swift ex-boyfriend sucking

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