Showing posts with label integrity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label integrity. Show all posts

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Why I Refuse to Stoop to President Trump’s Level

Biden hugs an attendee of a campaign event in Ames, Iowa (Al Drago/Getty Images)


“Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.”
-Franklin Roosevelt
 

My friends and my family don’t understand why I refuse to rage against Donald Trump and publicly denigrate him, insult and spew venom at his supporters; which is now de rigeur in all of my friend and family circles.

Many years ago, I was faced with an ugly and untenable situation at work. I had an erratic, nasty and underhand boss. He lied, actively worked to undermine me and regularly took credit for my thinking. He scheduled meetings, so I would not be able to attend. Unaware of his malicious intent, I went to him to understand how I got left out of important client meetings. He claimed the client rescheduled at the last minute and forced him to share the work and he was unable to contact me. I took him at his word because we did have a really difficult, unreasonable and demanding client.

But after this started to happen regularly, I learned from my client that my boss was telling them that I was unavailable for the meeting. Armed with this information I confronted him. First he stood firm and blamed the clients. When I divulged the information I had, he claimed that the client was lying in a bid to undermine my relationship with him.

At this point I decided it was time to go to Human Resources and file an official complaint. They showed concern and listened empathetically, and then offered a solution that amounted to shifting responsibility. They asked that I sit down with the managing director, my boss’s boss, and share my problems with him.

In good faith I went to the managing director. He too listened patiently and at the end of our session stated categorically that my boss’s behaviour was unacceptable, and that it would not be tolerated, but went on to add that the client relationship was tenuous and that rocking the boat might result in losing one of the agency’s largest accounts.

Seeing my crestfallen face, he offered to keep an eye on the situation, saying that he would ask my boss to make sure I was invited to all client meetings. Engulfed with a sense of hopelessness but not being a quitter, I decided seek my father’s professional advice.

My father was my hero and he was a man of unquestioning integrity and principles, one of the wisest people I have had the privilege of having in my orbit. I miss his counsel. He told me two things that I have never forgotten.

He said, “Son, rarely, if ever, in life will you be able to choose the people you work with or have to deal with. If you are lucky you will encounter well-meaning and decent people, but more often than not you will have to deal with liars, backstabbers and dishonest ones. We don’t get to choose who we work with, but you always have a choice about how you react and respond.”

You can sink to their level, respond in kind by undermining them and by being uncivil in return, and even convince yourself that your bad behaviour is justified by theirs. Or you can refuse to compromise on your integrity, decency and professionalism even as you stand up and face bullies like him.” 

The second thing he said is that because we are highly charged emotional beings, we should always step back and assess such situations objectively before deciding on a final course of action. By consciously detaching our emotions it is not that we ignore them, but we give our brains time and space for our rational side to weigh-in, and avoid reacting and making decisions clouded by the haze of emotion.

I took his advice and slept on it. With raw emotion no longer clouding my judgement, I found clarity. I realized that if I walked away, the amazing team of young kids reporting to me would be put in the line of fire. Plus I really enjoyed my job and was not willing to let a bully take that away from me. I had the power to take action, and now I needed a game plan. 

The managing director was well-meaning, but he could not police every meeting. So I would use him strategically for the wars, while starting to document my daily battles. I decided to make myself indispensable to my clients and internal teams, while also collecting evidence to record my boss’s erratic, unprofessional and damaging behaviour. 

My goal was not to make life easier for myself, but to ensure that this man would not be able to make anyone else’s work life miserable. I established a direct line with senior clients, careful never to bad mouth or share my internal problems with them. Most importantly, I was clear that I would never lie, be rude, undercut or undermine my boss or behave like him. I was resolved to do my job to the best of my ability, but keep my eyes open to better navigate obstacles I knew he would put in my way.

After this, my boss’s behaviour started to become even more erratic and hostile, because I refused to engage on his terms, play by his dirty rules or react to things he would do to trip me up. He started sending me late night email missives and leaving drunken voicemails and seemed completely at a loss about how to handle my refusal to take his bait. After a few months he started taking sick days, leaving early and often not showing up to work at all.

It was in that moment that I realised the wisdom of my father’s advice. Had I retaliated, based on how he had treated me, I would have placed myself outside my comfort zone and would be playing by his rules. By not doing this I had also set an example to the young people around me, who could clearly see the difference between professionalism and his unprofessional behaviour.

Had I stooped to my boss’s level, I might have made myself feel better for a few minutes, but I would have done nothing to solve the problem, would have set a poor example and would have felt shitty for betraying my professional integrity.

Six months later I was able to go back to HR with evidence in hand. They put my boss on official notice, pending a three month probation period. At the same time they found an opportunity for me on another business. It was a promotion and a better career opportunity, but I was ready to move because I had stared down a bully, on my terms, and done the hard work to ensure he would never do this to another person at my company. A month after I moved off the business, I heard they fired my boss.

So what does all this have to do with Donald Trump?

President Trump is a bully. Over the years I have dealt with many bullies; from bosses to clients to colleagues, but never once did I compromise my integrity and sense of decency in standing up to them.

There have been times when my job has been on the line, but for me it is not about the cost or the outcome, but about who I am. I would rather lose, than win by behaving in a manner that requires me to conduct myself in ways I don’t respect in others.

I will always stand and fight but never treat those who have hurt, harmed or insulted me with the same lack of dignity they have shown me. That is the difference between me and people like that and it is a line I will never cross, no matter the cost; career, family, country or life.

This is why I support Joe Biden. He has been clear that he will not play by Mr. Trump’s rules and will never stoop to the President’s level by insulting him personally or denigrating his supporters. Win or lose, Mr. Biden has a line he will not cross because if he does, he understands that he can no longer claim a difference between his and the President's behaviour.

By refusing to take the bait and attack Mr. Trump personally, unlike Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden has also succeeded in pushing the President outside his comfort zone. The President does not know how to respond or fight back, and we can see his desperation growing. Mr. Trump has become even more erratic and self-destructive. Whether it is begging suburban women to vote for him, or saying that he is no longer willing to negotiate a stimulus deal, something that will hurt him and cost him more votes than Mr. Biden.

For me the bottom line is this: the day we start to justify our bad behaviour and forego our sense of decency based on Mr. Trump, or anyone else's bad behaviour, is the day people like that can truly claim victory over us.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Vicious Cycle of Stupid Capitalism



“To live fully, we must learn to use things and love people, and not love things and use people.” 
John Powell 

Work. Earn. Buy. Work harder. Earn more. Buy more. Want more. Work even harder. Wages stagnate. Prices go up. Use credit. Want more. Use more credit. Buy even more. Prices rise. Wages stay stagnant. Start giving up essentials; use more credit to buy more stuff. Get deeper and deeper in debt. Repeat.

Therein lies the vicious cycle of the stupid, wasteful, excessive consumptive capitalism that we have become trapped in. One in which companies are driven purely by profiteering based on selling us more stuff; no longer innovating or solving real problems but simply updating existing products with more memory, larger screen sizes or higher definition. We in turn want to keep up with the Joneses and even though there is absolutely no reason to discard your iPhone 5, ROKU 1 or 2009 model 40” LG flat screen TV, we want the newest gadgets and products because everyone else has them.

Even if you try to resist the urge to constantly consume (like our family does), companies have started to ensure that we have no choice. Many now make products with shorter lifespans, that fall apart in a less than a couple of years. I still remember when all white goods and even clothes and furniture from my parents’ generation lasted for decades. My father’s shoes and shirts lasted him more than twenty years; mine last less than two. My mother’s fridge stayed with us for more than a decade; our last one broke in one year. My last laptop died two years after I bought it. I had to buy a new one after Lenovo told me that the cost of replacing the broken part would be more than I paid for the laptop. In fact, it has gotten so out of hand that leading up to the financial crisis people were buying and selling homes as regularly as people upgrade iPhones.

Today, it is as if companies exist purely for profit at all costs. Consumption and consumerism has reached a fever pitch and are now bordering on insanity. Amazon just introduced a DASH button that allows you to re-order household products the moment you start to run low (Source: TechCrunch article). God forbid we ever run out of paper towels or washing detergent, the world might end; toilet paper is another matter entirely.

Perhaps, it started with Wall Street’s introduction of quarterly earnings results which were presumably designed to gauge the health of public companies and create greater transparency. Somewhere along the way it became a measure of profits, with growth expected every quarter. Shareholders started to expect their piece of this pie via an always rising share price and dividends every quarter. 

The problem with this model is that companies realistically cannot grow at such a frenetic pace. Such rapid rate of growth is neither realistic nor feasible and leads to putting the kinds of pressure on management that always lead to ill-conceived and myopic decisions at best and totally dishonest, illegal and fraudulent ones at worst. Essentially, we have created a system where we reward short-term success, at any cost, and penalize long-term or strategic thinking, the type that leads to real and sustainable growth.

This is not a viable model of capitalism and more importantly it is based largely on false premises and unrealistic expectations. It is not the fundamentals of capitalist theory that are in question but the people applying them who seem to have become increasingly devoid of ethics, morals, principles and personal responsibility. We have created a system where winner takes all, at the expense of everyone else. If we continue down this path we are putting the wonderful system of capitalism on a path to failure and also creating conditions for major social unrest across the world.

It seems that all sins are permissible as long as companies continue to produce profits. And when senior leadership fails, they simply move on to the next job with a golden parachute, instead of into management oblivion or jail where they really belong. After Enron, every senior executive learned to never leave an email or paper trail; when topics broached sensitive territory in e-mails, they would often write ‘LDL’—let’s discuss live.” (Source: New Yorker). It used to take generations to amass substantial wealth. Today, between Wall Street hedge funds and Silicon Valley startups Rockefeller and Vanderbilt-like wealth is being created in a matter of years, and is often based on valuations pulled out of blue sky or based on misleading small investors.

Even the world of academia has succumbed to this growing greed and worship of money. Colleges, whose critical role was to broaden minds beyond traditional spheres of influence and thinking and to encourage generations to discover, are busy peddling sophisticated financial models that help companies evaluate ‘risk.’ Professors have become advisers to large corporations, showing up on company boards and espousing ‘financial and economic’ expertise via regular columns in newspapers or appearances on television and basking under the bright lights of six and seven figure celebrity. 

There are numerous reports of how talk of becoming a doctor, public servant, poet or teacher has long disappeared from the modern day dorm rooms. Today, it is all about how kids can make their first million dollars before starting their sophomore year in college. 

We have moved away from the notion of steady, honest hard work as the key recipes for success to a model that supports fast, easy, reality-TV-type do-nothing success. Everything is about an exit and not about building companies that span generations. Bluster wins the day while substance, it seems, is considered old-fashioned and outdated.

With this approach to success we have washed away the fundamental human values and principles that used to govern our inner consciences. We are looking out for ourselves (in much larger numbers than generations before us) and worried less about improving the lives of our employees, communities and children.

So we can blame our politicians, the business elites, media and everyone else for our woes and push for stricter laws and more stringent regulation, but I don’t believe this will solve the deeper underlying problem we are facing; we have made money our new God. It is this greed that we need to tackle; one that forgoes ethics, principles and decency in a bid to get ahead. 

Until we remember that each of us has a greater responsibility to society and to the generations that follow, we will remain plagued by this imbalance in our lives and in our little global village.