Tuesday, June 28, 2011

BETRAYAL

     "I'm seeing a lot of things I never thought I'd see … No one's explained anything to us … I find it ironic that Mr. McCourt has not come down to address the players at all. I just don't understand that." — Dodgers first base coach Davey Lopes.
    Los Angeles Times  Tuesday June 28, 2011

  The fans will get a new owner.  Players will be paid, traded, optioned, waived, they will retire rich men rewarded for reaching the pinnacle of their profession.  Networks will prosper, advertisers will take a wait-and-see approach, pinpointing the optimum time and place to secure future airtime.  MLB will wipe mud from their eye, Frank McCourt will slink into the desert, withered and shriveled.  Jamie?  Nothing that a good salon makeover won’t cure; a new hairdo, facelift, clothes and shoes from Rodeo Drive, sell a house or two, Louis Vuitton bags to hold the cash.

     Who gets hurt?  Hot dog vendors, parking lot attendants, ticket takers, suppliers of food, beverages, souvenir gear—caps, jerseys, miniature bats, t-shirts, mugs, cups, beer glasses, etched glass pennants and paperweights and keychains, stuff we all buy when we’re at the ball park.  Ushers, elevator attendants, bartenders, luxury club box staff who radio in when their famous guests are safely suited in luxo-comfort. 

     Yes, they’ll be paid.  Most of them.  Maybe not all of them.  Not right away. 

     More painful, though, is that we never forget betrayal.

     Bankruptcy is designed to prolong the inevitable, in this case, non-payment.  In the end, bankruptcy court is all about who gets paid, what, when, and how much.  Often times, it’s fractions on the dollar, little more than enough to satisfy a court order, wipe your hands clean, be done with it.

     What hurts more is the psyche of those whose livelihood, or at least a seasonal portion of it, earned over years and decades of dedicated service, is dismissed as unimportant, un-appreciated, or perhaps worse yet, un-acknowledged.  The small vendors who supply food and equipment, the cleaning service people who haul trash and sweep the aisles, security guards who patrol the facilities, the parking lots, the stands, the press box, these part-time seasonal folks who come in every home stand and do their jobs.  These people will grumble, mutter, speak in low voices among themselves, and confide in one another about the unacknowledged horror of an institution that not only has let the community down, but has let them down.  And nobody will say a word.

     Senior team management will button down, hunkering in the power-grab mentality that creeps in quickly when the bankruptcy word is spoken.  It is the cancer of corporations.  It is the enabling force that ushers in gamesmanship among the troops, survival mode tricks, power plays, management shuffling that eliminates those they think are unproductive, loose cannons liable to leak information to the media—sources who speak without attribution because they are unauthorized—the inside politics of sinking organizations can suck the life out of plain folk.  Nobody is equipped to deal with the simmering anarchy that heats up around the core like a runaway nuclear reactor.  You often can’t see it, but its deadly effects will sap the strength from working people and play into the hands of the manipulative, who control the ultimate future of the organization. 

     Why?  Because there is no one with whom they can trust.  The head of the organization has lost credibility; hence, everything out of their mouths is incredible, unbelievable, unworthy of future buy-in.  When its clear leadership is only out to protect itself, no one is safe.  No one.  Not the employees, not the vendors, not the customers.  Nobody will come forth to issue the statement; ‘We have failed in our leadership, and therefore have turned this over to XYZ’.  No, they will try and convince staff that they are indeed capable of turning things around.  Hope is just a day or two away.  These measures are temporary, they are told, intended to allow the organization to continue, to survive, and eventually to once again prosper.  It’s all bullshit. 

     In true bankruptcy, people do not always get paid.  Past due invoices are often factored, paid pennies on the dollar, tied up for years in endless negotiations between attorneys offering cash-poor settlements, fractional percentages in future endeavors and stock offerings based on projected earnings.  The litany is sordid and unfair. 

     Key to all of this unhealthy angst is acknowledgement.  All too often those in whom we entrust our values fail, and never admit their transgressions.  Worse perhaps, are the senior managers and middle managers who are forbidden to speak of failures and misdeeds, sworn to tight-lipped adherence to talking points that spell out the company line, written by corporate public relations teams and press relations hacks.  No one dares speak the truth.  If one is paid, one is tied.  If one speaks, the management shuffle ensues and the musical chairs of re-organization begins until the mouthy middle men are put down and ushered out.

     Failures of leadership are particularly painful because we’ve been asked to believe in Mission Statements, sometimes to the point of even carrying cards or plastic-coated ‘Employee Bill of Rights’ messages that we are assured are adhered to up and down the line.  Whistle blowers are encouraged, we are told, to tell the truth, seek out advice, watch for malfeasance and rub out fraud and harassment.  Then, we are harassed in the worst possible way.  By our leaders.  The Mission Statement turns out to be a fraud, Whistle Blower protection rights a sham, open door policies are not so open, the trust of management and worker broken.  We’ve invested those extra hours, invigorated our customer interaction with positive enthusiasm and win-win outcomes, surpassed customer’s wildest dreams with superior service worthy of a new book on corporate management.  When the curtain is pulled back, and ugly truths revealed, we are told to continue to hew to the corporate cry. 

     We recover from financial disasters.  Americans are hardy, worthy people who seek opportunity, and seek the truth.  We are largely accountable, responsible, loyal and believe in earning our way, securing our futures, and protecting our families.

     The deadly curse of management failure and the resulting black hole of silence is the nightmare of corporate America.  From which, we never wake up.

     Tell the truth, tell it often, empower your people.  It’s all you have.     

 

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