O’Pen & O’Nest

September 19, 2010

We’re settling into a weekly pattern, mainly because we don’t seem to be quite underpromoted enough. We even had to use the horrible phrase ‘too busy to X’ a couple of times this week.  None of you are going to get any new book or play or poem experts any time soon, by the way; not even the embryonic start of the children’s book version! Only when 50 or so have read the last excerpt I will start posting excerpts again (but there are always aphorisms).

Unfair?

Certainly!

But you’ll just have to suck it up. I’m not about to do what I”m about to criticize: the annoying custom in the corporate world of saying we need to be brutally & vulnerably honest as intro to being a dishonest power-abusing brute.

It takes a large dose of lack of empathy to rob people of words like ‘open’ and ‘honest’ and use them as a way to avoid an open and honest exchange of ideas. The procedure is simple. There is something awkward to say but saying it might get you into some real trouble (if it wouldn’t have the possibility to get you into trouble it wouldn’t be awkward, now would it?). So instead of saying it you refer to it and then open a discussion in which you ask others to be brutally honest. You may go further than this and include brutal honesty in the corporate values, adequately renamed as ‘lead courageously’ – or something of that order, something empty that sounds well and allows you to claim the moral high ground without ever running the risk of engaging real everyday trouble.

The awkwardness of the topic will, after that procedure, be transferred to the silence that is bound to follow. A silence that will only be broken by the one nitwit that doesn’t understand that the appeal to honesty was merely rhetorical (or, better: that was merely a device to avoid any rhetoric). A discussion will follow where every question to the manager is defused by a reaction of her pretorian guard and where that manager draws an inconclusive conclusion along the lines of ‘good to share insights’ and ‘good points that need to be heard by decision makers and stakeholders’, and maybe even ‘we will come back to this later’.

As everybody knows: whenever anybody says that somebody will come back to that later it means that nobody should ever, at all dare to come close to that as long as the brutally dishonest manager has any authority left. Only the cartoon characters still shout ‘Respect My Authority!’ when they want somebody to respect their authority; any more evolved creature, like a manager, will take care to appeal to her authority exclusively in a non-authoritarian way.

Anyway, there is some solace in all of this as – whenever managers start to say these things – they are about to receive a next promotion that everybody knows isn’t quite a promotion but that everybody feels should be labeled a promotion for reasons of propriety (and maintaining the terrorist threat of the authority of the managerial body) as well as for the somewhat gratuitous comic effect of naming something as the opposite of what it really is (a comic effect that has as its most fortuitous side effect that people will ridicule the promovendus instead of ridiculing themselves for receiving less pay than the person that was promoted into oblivion).

[No, this was not a good week.]

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