photo by Sheri Dixon

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I Guess I'm Just Not Cut Out for Management

I get a little worked up sometimes. I'll be the first to admit it.

Most things I've learned to just let roll off my back, but some things get caught right under my shoulder blades- that spot that's impossible to scratch.

We had to read a little missive called "Who Moved My Cheese?" for one of the management courses I'm taking and the assignment was given to us like this would be a good book to read if you were a manager. Yea verily, the first quarter of the book is accolades from CEO's all over the world singing the praises of this little gem.

Except it's awful.

Not just the message and supposed lesson itself; I mean it's written like a 3rd grader crayoned down instructions on not eating paste for a bunch of kindergarteners. Wait- that would've been more instructional and interesting.

Anyhoo, the assignment after reading the book was to answer the following questions about it. I'll be getting my graded paper back tonight. My guess is that there will be no grade on it at all, just a little note saying I should expect Homeland Security's "Socialist Wagon" to come pick me up any minute.

1. “Analyze why organizations around the world would buy millions of these books for their employees”- I honestly didn’t like the book and agree with every bad review on Amazon (I purchased the Kindle version). There are as many bad reviews as good reviews but I tried to read it with an open mind. The story is not a bad thing, but the pre-story chapter and the after-story chapter were actually offensive to me- very poorly written and just blatantly pounded the message home in every angle possible, like the reader would never figure it out for themselves even though the book is touted as a ‘something to ponder and learn from’ fable.
The pre-story chapter was a pre-emptive statement that said, “If you don’t get anything out of this story- you need it the most”. The story itself is only 20 pages out of the 94 pages of the book, and while it’s mostly benign, I found the following passage truly awful-

“Why should we change?” Hem asked. “We’re Littlepeople. We’re special. This sort of thing should not happen to us. Or if it does, we should at least get some benefits”.
“Why should we get benefits?” Haw asked.
“Because we’re entitled,” Hem claimed.
“Entitled to what?” Haw wanted to know.
“We’re entitled to our Cheese”.
“Why?” Haw asked.
“Because, we didn’t cause this problem, “Hem said, “Somebody else did and we should get something out of it”.
Haw suggested, “Maybe we should simply stop analyzing the situation so much and go find some New Cheese”?
“Oh no”, Hem argued. “I’m going to get to the bottom of this”.

The words ‘entitled’ and ‘benefits’ are there for a reason. That’s not accidental.

In the given context- that of Enron and other corporations that went bankrupt- the workers ARE ‘entitled’ to their benefits. No other business relationship would allow such a breach of contract other than the employer/employee one. Will their suppliers get paid? Sure- they’ll sue to lay claim to the owners’ assets. Will the taxes still be collected? Yes, of course they will or the owners will (or should) be jailed.

Example- in 2008/2009 the clinic I manage was extremely strapped for cash due to the miscalculations of the owners regarding the stock market. There were multiple times I held back my own paycheck till the following weekend (our busiest times) to be sure everyone else’s paychecks cleared the bank. I had made a compact with the owners that I could and would run their clinic without asking them for additional out-of-pocket funds, and as a clinic we had made a compact with the employees to pay them for their work on a certain day of the month. Both of these promises needed to be kept. It was my job to make it work- not to ask the owners for more money, or the employees to go without pay.

Honestly, I believe the reason so many corporations buy millions of these is to ‘gently ‘ inform their employees, “Too bad, so sad- don’t ‘overanalyze’ this- just make other arrangements for your health care, retirement, or even your employment- nothing personal…change is exciting!”. It’s a pass for them to behave badly without taking responsibility for actions they’re causing in direct opposition to their compact with their employees.

That’s probably not what I’m supposed to get out of this, right?

2. “How does this reflect on workers losing their pension funds?” It very nicely blames the victims. Even IF they could’ve seen ‘the writing on the wall’ regarding the companies’ financial health, they had a compact with their employers to give X number of hours for X amount of pay and benefits. The ones who needed to change were the employers- every course I’ve been taking regarding management tells us to take care of the employees- without them the company cannot operate. Employees who are empowered to do their jobs and who feel valued will care for the business. To have your entire workforce always looking for other opportunities in case this one turns out to be lying and/or temporary does not make for a secure and productive workforce. Why should they behave with ethics and morals when those in charge tell them flat-out, “Don’t put all your eggs in our basket”?

The main problem is the entire premise of the book is based on the Littlepeople just stumbling upon the cheese. They claim it, use it and eat it without actually working for it. This has zero to do with anyone losing their pension funds. It is in effect saying, “You all just show up to work and we pay you for that- what you’ve done for the company means exactly nothing- there is no value to your labor.”

3. “What would I do if I were not afraid?” I guess I’m doing it. In the big picture, I’m bettering myself and positioning myself in case of a change- yes: In case my husband dies of his health problems and I need to support our son on my own. That’s an unavoidable change and I would surely be angry about it and never emotionally recover, but on the outside I would roll with it like I have many lesser health-related changes. Change caused by mismanagement accidental or on purpose should NOT be tolerated, no matter how Little the People.

So, I read the book on the way home from Missouri last night in the car and am typing this with 3.5 hours of sleep in me. It may come across as pointier than normal, but the feeling and intent are 100% sincere.

On the upside- she's loved all my PowerPoint presentations. I am a PowerPoint Ninja.

A Socialist PowerPoint Ninja.

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