The Sisyphus Test


I believe that if you’re serious about diversity, equity, and inclusivity you have to teach people how to hold the powerful to account: how to organize, publicize, and litigate. If you don’t, you’re ducking the hardest part and leaving people hanging when they need help most. Similarly, I evaluate books and training on how to be a technical manager the same way: if you don’t explicitly cover what to do when your boss or your boss’s boss behaves badly, or pretend it can always be resolved by “radical candor” or some similar bullshit, you have failed your audience.

This has led me to what I call the Sisyphus Test. If you see someone rolling a rock up a hill over and over, do you:

  1. Blame them.
  2. Say, “Someone should do something.”
  3. Go help in order to lighten their burden.
  4. Dig up the hill so no one ever has to do this again.

#1 seems to be most conservatives’ default. #2 is the mushy middle, while #3 is favored by well-meaning people who want things to be better but don’t really want anything important to change. If you pick #4 you’re labelled a radical, particularly if you say that we should also make sure that whoever set the task never has the power to do something like that to anyone ever again. To me, though, it seems like the most sensible option.