5150 Business Strategy

Life in the Corporate Fast Lane and Still Remaining Intelligent

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

MTV Real World

Entitlements, that is what MTV, and various other bad girl/boy shows, message to everyone is. You are entitled to sit on your ass all day and party all night in a luxurious house with all amenities paid for. Feel free to go out and get drunk, act bad, and come home to have sex freely and with whomever you want, no consequences since it is always party time.

Is it any wonder that when the “real” real world collides with the MTV Real World that people find out that life is a little more complicated? That in the real world you must take responsibility for your actions and only you can change the course of your life. That no one owes you a job, a house on the beach of your choice, or that going to Clubs 24/7 is a god given right.

It is sad that we have made what people see on the worst of these reality TV shows as something to aspire to. Audition to be on the Real World, Big Brother, The Batchelor, Bad Girls Club, Pregnant at 16, or any number of “reality” shows to demonstrate just how really more dysfunctional you can be. This is what we have come to – let’s all compete to show how desperate and ill-mannered we can be!!! Hey, count me in on this lifestyle – where do I sign up?

What is even worse is the effect it has on the business world. I am not so sure, however, which came first – our knee jerk reaction to preserve individual rights or the reality shows. Terminating an employee nowadays is a major undertaking which many times puts managers in the same place as someone who has been raped.

The insinuation is almost always that the manager doing the firing either 1.) did something wrong during the termination process or 2.)was incorrect in their assessment of the employee being terminated. The manager is put into a position of having to defend their actions no matter how well the process is handled. You are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Much like the person being raped being put on trial versus the rapist.

Why is this the case? One reason is because entitlement makes it OK for an employee to underperform. Why should they be any different from the miscreants they see on TV who are able to get by on minimal effort and still vacation in Cabo San Lucas for what appears to be 365 days a year. It is a sad reflection on current societal trends that work is seen as an entitlement, something which you have a right to even though you don’t perform.

I can count on less than two hands the number of employees I have had to terminate for cause. Without exception every one of those employees deserved to be terminated and for every one of them the spotlight was on me as the terminating manager. Every step and decision was analyzed and critiqued to the point of questioning the final decision. These were slam dunk cases – sleeping on the job, inability to perform job requirements, near assault and battery on another employee, and dishonesty in the hiring process. Yet, the entire process was not one of supporting the decision to terminate but one of questioning the grounds for termination. How many times do you need to find an employee asleep at their desk before it is safe to fire them??

The safeguards we have in place to protect employees has swung so far the other way that to say a job is an entitlement is not an overstatement. Every employee I have terminated truly believed they were entitled to the job and, therefore, saw no reason to change their behavior. They all had a history of being terminated from other positions, which points up another effect of this entitlement attitude. That being, if you don’t recognize you have a problem you are unlikely to change how you behave. Guess what – that means you get terminated over and over again.

We send ambiguous signals to employees being terminated much like breaking up a relationship – hey, it is not you it is me that is the problem. They move on and repeat the same mistakes because they never acknowledge they are the problem. Are we really doing them a favor by muting the responsiblity they bear for their actions?? I don’t think so.

Lesson learned: “Reality Show” is a poor definition for what airs on television these days. “Alternate Reality for a Short Period of Time Show” would be more apropos.

Advertisements

It’s in the Delivery

Jim, it is not your message we don’t like but it is in the delivery. Usually this is said after the umpteenth time I have tried to deliver the message in the most politically correct way possible. This usually is followed by, “You just don’t understand the circumstances”. As if I had not delivered the same message, about the same situation, a million times before. No, maybe it is not me, but you, that needs to wake up and smell the roses, or usually manure by the time we get to this point.

Here is how it typically goes:

First time: Hey everybody, we better watch out for the cliff coming up – don’t you think? No one listens, over the cliff we go.

Second time: Hey everybody, remember last time we went over the cliff, wasn’t much fun was it? Let’s watch out for that cliff, OK? No one listens, over the cliff we go.

Third time: Hey everybody, I am really tired of warning about the cliff, think we can listen up this time and avoid going over? No one listens, over the cliff we go.

Fourth time: OK, YOU FUCKING MORONS I HAVE WARNED YOU ABOUT THE FUCKING CLIFF SEVERAL TIMES, NOW STOP FUCKING AROUND AND STOP!! Response: Geez Jim, no need to get upset about this and we really don’t appreciate how you delivered the message. Plus, you don’t seem to understand the circumstances that precipitated us going over the cliff previously. We would appreciate it if you would not speak to us that way.

No, I think I understand what the circumstances are – a complete lackadaisical attitude of management to address known problems in a proactive and assertive way. Therefore, the problem continues to cause havoc amongst the staff until someone has the wherewithal to question why we don’t change things. Of course, then you get the “you just don’t understand and we don’t like your delivery” speech. It is always flipped over on to the person raising the obvious as if they should just shut up and go along for the ride over the cliff – over and over and over.

I was asked once by a senior manager why I had to address a situation in such harsh terms. My response, because when I have raised the issue in subtle, but less direct, terms you don’t get it. These are the same people, however, who have adopted the attitude that the person raising the obvious is the problem versus the fact that nothing is done to address the real problem.

A classic moment was at the architecture firm that was trying to implement the new ERP system but did not have a clue they were headed towards the cliff. After several months trying to get upper management to see the impending cliff they hired a new IT manager who was charged with getting the mess organized. He delivered the “your delivery is a problem” speech which set me off on my usual response. It did not matter how the message was delivered – nice, slow, articulate, spelled out, in English, in French, with sugar on top, or laced with invective. Of course, the new guy coming in sees the delivery as the problem when the real problem was the inability of management to listen to the input they were receiving in an intelligent manner. Plus, they had succumbed to groupthink which immediately belittled opposing viewpoints.

Isn’t it funny that the delivery of the message is a sufficient enough excuse for people to ignore the obvious problem multiple times? It becomes the standard excuse for why managers continue to make bad decisions. Well, had he delivered the message to me better I would not have made the same mistakes over and over again – does that really make sense to anyone? Mediocre management relies upon this excuse as a crutch to justify their poor practices.

Lesson Learned: question management that uses delivery of the message as a sufficient excuse for bad practice, it never is. It is the ultimate straw man argument.

Post Navigation