1975 Office Procedures

If you are old, perhaps, you might remember. It was a better time, a time of absolutes, of structure, of respect.

In 1975 a morning might start, as I walked into my office “Jan, you look absolutely beautiful today”,(you were allowed to say such things then) a cup of hot coffee was waiting on my desk and a wonderful smile from a wonderful person started my day. I loved Jan, (and later Melody, and Rene). They were my secretaries. I know, dirty word! It was not a dirty word in 1975, though.

In 1975 letters were written by a quick call ” take a letter to Acme Steel – tell Carl I want that damned rebar on that site or I will cut his %^%$^ off”   In your “in” box would be a well-worded, properly punctuated letter explaining to Carl that the reinforcing bar was needed immediately and that if not received by Tuesday, he would be found in conflict with 10.2.1 of his contract and charges would accrue against his payable.

In 1975 you could have a blood bath fight and then go to the corner bar and have a beer together and laugh. There was no time for subterfuge. Meetings were infrequent and for specific issues, which were addressed and then adjourned. If you disliked someone enough to complain, you fired them.

In 1975 if you thought that a girl in your office was beautiful you might say “You look beautiful today” she might respond “thanks”. That was it. If there was an unwanted advance she might say “Buzz off” That was it. You had no need to qualify every word. We treated each other as grownups.

In 1975 your boss told you what to do. He didn’t ask your opinion and then interject what might be a “better way of getting there”.

In 1975 you knew who was boss, who was second in charge and who was low man on the totem pole. There was not a discussion about wether that was a logistics problem or if it was a marketing issue.

In 1975 the title “secretary” was not demeaning. They were respected important, sought-after professionals that did things that executives were unable to do as well. The insult that “anybody” could type a letter or check the math on a quarterly report was never thought or uttered. The executive with the best secretary was often the executive that succeeded. (Secretaries were both male and female.) Secretarial work was often the path to an executive position within the company.

In 1975 a person answered the phone. That person wanted you to reach the department or person who you were calling and they spoke to you. Often they recognized your voice. There were no machines to query you and then drop the line.

In 1975 companies were groups of people together to provide a service. They worked together and each had a personal goal, but each, also understood a corporate goal. When the company suffered, each employee worried and considered how best to make it better.

So much has changed. Some is better, some is worse. Perhaps it is time to look into the past and to retrieve the things lost and to bring into the present those with value.

Perhaps it is time to look at all of this failed pandering to manufactured sensibilities and create a workplace where open opinion is welcome and everyone can express themselves. The hurt of an occasional poorly considered remark is far overshadowed by the loss of the joy that is a corporate community with truly open communication and respect for our differences and our personal value.

Scott Cahill

“I am surrounded by IDIOTS”

Frustration – it is the thing that happens when a clear course of action is difficult or impossible to take.

I hear it often “I am surrounded by idiots” and at times – I must admit – I see it first hand. How do people who fail to understand the very basics of a situation get into a position of management and, more importantly, how do we manage them from our subordinate positions?

Often it is the boss who never cared to keep up with I.T. or the government official who failed to read the regulation. They stumble blindly on serving out mandates to us, never seeing their ineptitude. We, understanding the impossibility or the impotence of the endeavor, must placate and maneuver them around to some, any, workable solution.

By now, you are wondering -“where is he going with this” – does he have an answer to the world’s greatest question? Yes I do. GET OUT! Move! Go! Leave! RUN!

It is perfectly fine to not understand many of the intricacies of a particular company or process. Great managers can delegate things that they do not understand to those who do. They evaluate results. They study to understand, but they allow the expert to, in fact, be the expert. A great leader will not dictate the details of a process. He will set up a method to reach a goal and will allow the expert(s) to find the best way to solve the problem. He will not demand adherence to a plan, but will allow the plan to evolve, steered by others.

My father was a great leader. He rarely told anyone what to do. In fact, he more often asked. He used to say to me “you can’t ask a man to do something that you will not do yourself”, and he never did. He would ask “how are you going to solve this problem”, he would listen. He often made suggestions, but the person who was responsible for the task, a vice president or a laborer, knew that it was they who were responsible and it was they who made the decision.

Sometimes they failed. I suspect that sometimes he knew that they would. He never said “I told you so”. He said “that didn’t work, what do you want to do this time”. He never reprimanded anyone for an attempt that failed. Failure was accepted as part of the process, and , in fact, it is.

Anyone who worked for him took a piece of him with them. He was universally loved. He never took credit. He passed it right on down the line. When complemented by a client, he would single out the person who found the solution. He was unassuming and he was quiet. Everyone knew he was in charge.

If you have such a boss, care for him, enjoy him, and tell him that you appreciate him (or her). You are, indeed, lucky. If you find yourself in a position where you have no control over the outcome, yet are responsible for it, RUN.

Scott Cahill

Political Correctness Gone Awry

I am semi-retired – what that means is that I now do things and run businesses that I never would have considered before. One of those endeavors is a small coffee shop in a Planned Unit Development that I am constructing in Ohio. The coffee shop is up and running and I am turning it over to another to run day to day. It will be run by a wonderful company who’s charge is to incorporate those of us with special needs into society. It is a wonderful effort and I believe completely in it.

I was recently approached by one of our best young employees. She asked if she could go to work in one of the other businesses. I agreed immediately because she is clearly a star, and clearly, such a person belongs in the folds of my endeavors.

The reason that she gave, though, was interesting to me. She left because the company taking the coffee shop was sending her to sensitivity training. I believe that she was hurt by this act. This person, like most intelligent, worldly, educated people does not think of race or background or mental peculiarity as a bad thing, but a simple part of the diversity of man. She is above any lack of compassion and she is beyond the period of awkwardness that precedes this understanding.

She is, probably, the perfect person to help in their efforts of integration. Instead, she will soon be managing the business side of a fine restaurant. What did the new owners do wrong to lose their best employee?

I would feel exactly as my employee felt. “If you think so little of me that you must teach me how to treat others, I will move on and find a place where I am thought more of.” That is, after all, what she did. She knew that I would not treat her as a liability that needed “trained” to act properly. She was secure in herself and knew that she would find gainful employment, in fact, she will find great success and will climb to the top of the organizational chart wherever she goes. She chose not to be treated as if she was a lesser person.

I understand that it is good to have a coordinated method to address these things, but clearly, we must find a way to introduce ideas and methods that does not belittle our people.

Long ago those of us who had mental differences or difficulty were completely integrated in our society. They swept walks and they opened doors. They had jobs, and friends, and people who they spoke to every day. Somehow we failed them. We locked them in green-walled rooms and let them glue macaroni onto construction paper. We stripped them of their humanity. Shame on us. I hope that these efforts bring all of us together again in the fabric of society. I want the different in the mix. The world is better and more complete with us all. It is true that those of us who are different are subject to the taunts of the unenlightened. That is bad, but even worse is this cloistering of the different, shunning them from the social world that is their inherent right.

Scott Cahill

Political Correctness is choking us

We are going through a period where professional rapport requires the utmost care in the framing of communication. Any communication can be “misinterpreted” and the problem can shift at the speed of light from “you were late for work” to “you hate me because of my (insert here all ethnic, religious, sex, weight or body shape, hair color, etc. etc.)”

If you are not careful as you waltz on the eggshells that comprise the corporate dance floor, you certainly will find yourself unconcerned with the problem of tardiness. You may be much more concerned with keeping your position, your ability to be promoted, your corporate political collateral. You might even find little interest from your manager in the productivity-based concern, as the more extreme concern of your poorly selected words grow to consume everything that was once good about the position which you hold. It may be better to let them “choose their own hours” after all.

Management is a difficult thing. Managing those who we hold little control over is nearly impossible. I know, they say lead by example, etc. – but really – do those employees come in early because you do?

I see so many managers who treat employees as if they feared them – who, perhaps, do fear them. They tell staff to “avoid” someone, or to not get too close to someone. They give directions that cannot be followed. They never apologize, less they may be seen as “admitting” error.

This is not a healthy environment for business. It also is not a healthy environment for people, who spend a large part of their waking lives to meet a common goal, to perform within. I hope for a time when people again take responsibilities for their own sensitivities. I look forward to a time when people talk again in the work place.

This politically correct experiment has failed. It is time, at last, to admit our humanity and to talk out our issues, so that everyone can be happy to join together to move toward our goal.

Scott Cahill