For the last few weeks I have been considering how it is impossible ‘to do the right thing’. I guess everyone has tried to do it at least once in their lives, only to find that it got kicked back in their face with such ferocity that one is reluctant to try again? While you are probably remembering such an incident, I want to ask you a question:
Do you think that it is possible to take a positive action without it having a negative impact somewhere else?
The more I consider this question, the more convinced I am that the answer can only be ‘no’.
Imagine, if you will, a positive action; perhaps an act of charity? Now think of a negative consequence it can have somewhere else. Keep trying this until you find a positive action that has no negative side affects at all…
Many years ago I negotiated an extremely attractive pay rise for a group of employees. The rise was long overdue but the company I was a director of was extremely short of cash, so I had to find very inventive ways of raising it and at the same time convince the rest of the board to let me spend it.
The net result of my extremely hard effort was that I ended up with a little more than expected and so had the possibility to supplement everyone not only with a higher than expected pay rise but also a sizable voucher to spend in a wide variety of stores.
Just when I was settling back in my executive office chair, looking forward to receiving congratulatory thank you e-mails and to telling everyone that 'it was really nothing apart from my shear negotiation brilliance', my office door was flung open by a group of angry employees. Apparently the pay rise I had negotiated was kind of OK for them, but “why had I extended it to the US office, after all they were still loss making and behind their targets?” Apparently their reasoning was that the money I had needlessly given away to their American colleagues could have been better spent on R&D in Europe.
After getting over the shock, I reminded them that they too were still running at a loss and that their targets had only just been met after a great deal of dubious debating over the interpretation of them!
Not long after another person came to see me. He complained that his wife never shopped in the group of stores that the voucher supported because she did not agree with their policy of sourcing products from a specific Middle Eastern country! To top it all, one of the board complained saying that she thought that the rise was only going to be implemented after the dividends had been paid, meaning her dividend would now be lower than otherwise! I assured her that we quite plainly agreed to pay it before the dividend calculation. And so it went on.
Eventually I came around to the conclusion that maybe the whole idea of trying to do the right thing was ill conceived. Even though in my heart I had believed it was needed because by having delayed the pay rises time and time again, I was on the verge of losing some employees whose loyalty had been stretched to their limits.
In conclusion; when people today ask me how it is I can predict resistance, I tell them that as long as you try to make a difference in life, you will always meet resistance. So as long as you remember the roots from which resistance comes, you can predict (at least most of the time) a negative response to every conceivable action. Even when they are supposedly positive. In Dutch they call this ‘Stank voor dank’ or, in English ‘a bad smell for thanks’!
Have a good week,