It rains because you're sad, baby

Jobs should be fun. Or at the very least, jobs should be socially fulfilling. One of my top criteria for a workplace is a vibrant, happy social scene – I want friends, not just colleagues.

During my last job hunt I mentioned this to my wife. I told her that although I’ve been lucky so far to have found companies with lots of friendly people and a vibrant social culture, every time I change jobs I fear my winning streak will end.

She laughed at me.

Seeing my offended expression, she stopped long enough to explain: I had it backwards. I hadn’t been lucky enough to find workplaces with good social ties – I had brought that with me. I am the sort of person who will chat to people in the kitchen, invite coworkers to lunch, and generally brighten up the office, but I was attributing that to a characteristic of the company, rather than something I caused to happen.

It reminds me of the exchange from Men In Black II (mild spoiler alert) between Agent K and Laura. She tells him that it’s pretty normal to get sad when it rains, but he corrects her: “It rains because you’re sad, baby.”

Agent K talking to Laura, telling her that it rains because she's sad

The sad/rain fallacy

I hereby name this the sad/rain fallacy: situations in which you’ve have the causal relationship backwards, in a way that denies your own agency. (I believe I am the first to identify it, although I would be happy to be corrected!) It stands in contrast to the much more prevalent Illusion of Control, which is the opposite cognitive bias: you think you have more power than you actually do.

Other examples of the sad/rain fallacy

  • “I’m so unlucky in love – all of my girlfriends end up turning crazy and over-possessive! How can I have such terrible luck?”
  • Any HR problem a company faces. Top tip: it’s always your fault, as a manager/company. Always.
  • “All of restaurants in this city are amazing – everywhere I go to eat is just incredible!” (Probably not true; you’re actually just very good at choosing restaurants.)