Things are not Always What they Seem

The reasons management gives for the actions they take are not always completely honest.

I know, "shocking" right?  Spend enough time in a large corporation, and you'll find that consistent application of "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" is something to which few in management appear to be committed.

The thing is, while management seems to opportunistically leave out facts, or allow misperceptions to grow and flourish, I have rarely seen senior managers give outright lies.

I believe the reason for this is not (in most cases) a commitment to being honest, straightforward, or moral, but is instead due to practical considerations -- they know the consequences of being caught in an outright fib, and always want to leave themselves wiggle room in any future, potential mess.

Plausible deniability.

On those rare occasions when I've been privy to the truth and actually seen a bald-faced lie, I thought the liar either was foolish, or believed himself to be invincible.

Being committed to being truthful (which I tried to do as a manager, although not always with 100% success) can be a real hindrance.  I once had one of my bosses tell me that "...sometimes you're just too honest."  This comment came after I talked to a direct report about how poorly he had scored on a survey proported to measure senior management potential.  In another instance, I mentioned several idiotic assumptions in a particularly poorly analyzed project that I'd been saddled with, despite the fact that I knew my boss's fingerprints were all over the original proposal.  In good conscience I couldn't go forward pretending the idea was brilliant, but the execution was bad -- there were too many careers hanging in the balance.

What I've found most interesting are the lies and half-truths provided by others -- sometimes those quite high in the organization.

On of my superiors was "laid-off" when his "position was eliminated."  That was the official explanation, but the entire inner circle knew he'd been fired for trying to go over his boss's head.  The "lay-off" was a laughable fabrication that no one believed.

In another instance, I listened to a senior manager tell employees at a recently acquired company that they were involved in a "merger" of "equals," and that no one needed to fear for the jobs as the companies would be melded together slowly and thoughtfully.  I happened to know the acquisition plan was to close the facility in relatively short order.

The one that amazed me the most, however, involved a distribution contract that had been signed several years before by my boss when he held a different position.  I mentioned that although we seemed to have no record of the agreement, the distributor had shown us his copy and outlined the terms, which were, to put in mildly, terrible.  Almost disasterous, in fact.  I wondered out loud who could have possibly agreed to such a horrible deal.  He commiserated with me, remarking that it was, indeed, an awful contract, and also wondered who could have signed it.  Of course, I'd seen the distributor's copy of the document with my boss's "John Hancock" scrawled across the bottom.  I could only assume he either felt my knowing it was no threat, or that there was no way I'd ever figure out the truth.

When the chips are down, the pressure is on, and the situation holds potentially dire consequences, you should always read the "official" story with a jaundiced eye.  Look for what might have been left out, or what wrong impression the tale might be intended to leave with you .  In business, things are not always what they seem.

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If you are intrigued by the ideas presented in my blog posts, check out some of my other writing.


Novels: LEVERAGEINCENTIVIZEDELIVERABLES and now HEIR APPARENT (published 3/2/2013) -- note, the Kindle version of DELIVERABLES (a prequel to HEIR APPARENT) is on sale for a limited time for $2.99.

To the right is the cover of LEVERAGE   This novel explores the theft of sensitive DOD designs from a Minneapolis Tech Company, and the dangers associated with digging too deeply into the surrounding mystery.

These novels are all based on extensions of my experience as a senior manager in the world of public corporations.