Never be Funny: The first rule of Public Relations
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about customer service "fluffiness." One of the comments I got was a bit of ersatz shtick from Wayne Yoshida about empowerment. Wayne never responded to my reply, which I thought would be the case from an "empowered" type. They tend to like the new business concept of "ghosting," like a junkie on crack suddenly coming down off the high and disappearing from your doorway.
My thesis, a bit like the Dilbert cartoons below, is all that bullshit flies out the window once the budget comes under scrutiny or there is a management push from some quarter.
Wayne Yoshida is a fan of pushing Jocko Willink stuff - "extreme ownership." Jocko happens to be a long time navy seal, so one of his honed talents is to be able to function well under intense pressure. He's not actually "empowered by someone else, he is the "power (or special force)." Jocko either wins or dies (there are no do overs). Jocko doesn't really equate to most corporate hacks or hack culture but people who live the middle management ethos have always drooled over Patton, Rommel, or more recently, Tim Collins or Schwarzkopf (not the hair guy). They also have a Tom Brady fetish that they can't admit because he is a mite-too-pretty, tall, blonde, white guy married to a super model.
Interestingly enough the global military tradition has enveloped the profession of PR to such a degree that they can tell the workers (soliders) to take less pay, less loot and less pillage than in a military campaign 500 years ago, and still be satisfied that they're doing the right thing. While the loot itself gets boxed up and sent back to the people who sent them out in the first place...that is cool shit.
And if you're 20 and lose both your legs and your brain is fried to the degree that you can't compete effectively with regular civvies in later life, then you're a "poster boy"for the "cause." I don't have an issue with militarism, it is a pragmatic business, but a business it it.
There is a binary construction (applied in comporatism also) money and cause on two ends of a continuum. The more you push for money and the less for "cause," the more expensive you appear to be. Conversely, the more "cause" oriented, the cheaper and malleable you appear to be. Nice. So, big up your commitment (even fake it - they can't squeal, they're faking it too) and you will progress up the ladder more easily.
When I used to go to interviews with those sincere 27 year old recruiters, the issue would come up in hushed tones,... so what is "your salary expectation?" My blank face answer was often; well how much have you got? You could see the little dears begin to twitch and their hackles rise immediately. I used to giggle (on the inside). Nothing worse than an expensive asshole who won't play ball, especially when it's your game.
"I am the law"
I have a story to relate along somewhat more banal lines from many years ago that illustrates a point, I think.
I was running night security at a cheap hotel. One of the customers came back about 3 am after the night clubs and asked me for her room key. I looked on the board. Couldn't find it. I opened the booking sheet and saw she had paid. So, asked her to wait while I addressed the issue. I took the master key and went to the room. Locked from the inside.
I knocked a few times on the door and got no answer, so I pushed back the inside key and opened the door. Inside was Tom (another employee) and his girlfriend. I told Tom to pack up his stuff and "take a hike" and for his lady friend to do likewise. Tom told me to "put her" (meaning the customer) in another room. I was a bit itchy to slap the shit of Tom at this point. He had taken the woman's stuff from the room, took over a commercial property and left me to deal with the result. And was quite a bit blaze.
Remember it is 3 am in fully booked hotel, so I'm restrained in what I could do. I said; "Tom, tonight I am the law. Get your gear and go"or...(the rest was more Irish in nature but involved "...kick you up and down these stairs"). So, both of them gave me the "eye" and got moving. I fixed up the room and returned the original customer's stuff, before going downstairs and "apologizing for the mix up."
Next morning, Tom went to the manager bright and early. Twisting the story (always common in corporate land) into how I physically abused him, declared "I was the law" and threw him and his poor, fragile friend out of a "free room." Kieran, the manager, didn't know who to believe. He knew I was a skin headed TKD guy, a bit rough, while Tom was a nice English chap with good manners. Who would you believe on first instance?
The part that really got them going was the "I am the law" bit, which was a direct quote from the very mediocre Judge Dredd/Stallone movie that had come out a few months before (I was actually trying to be funny and lighten the situation when I said it, so my timing was a bit off). I didn't mind that he would try to take a room for a forbidden tryst. I was more annoyed that he would wake the house with his effort to keep it after being found out.
Kieran (The manager) was quick to tell me, I should be fired for "abusing" my colleague, who now didn't want to work with me "out of fear." Tom's girlfriend had come in on top saying how aggressive I appeared to be and professed to be similarly fearful when I was on duty. We never really discussed the customer or the original issue, just the politics and the hierarchy. That is very corporate. I wasn't fired (because they needed someone for the regular drunks and frat boy stuff), but Tom gained a certain measure of power from his victim-hood at my hands.
When you're dealing with people, you have to "play the game." The game is the culture of that group. You need to understand the hierarchy and dynamics. In short: empowerment is about as useless as a hammock in a hurricane. It is a bromide. Most people know that and dispense with it as a kind of corporate fig leaf fluttered by bullshit artists. It actually becomes a sign of "bullshit coming."
Experience makes you more slick, but you do tend to have to watch people and look to their hidden game. When you're younger, you're more naive (at least some guys are).
“Sincerity - if you can fake that, you've got it made.”
So, what is the end point of this little trip off in a quaint direction. There isn't one actually. It is more of the you live, you learn type. Despite all the bull about empowerment, I've met plenty people who did a solid job, avoided the politics and went home to their hobbies with enough to get by on.
Those are not the public relations types. They are the solid Johns and Josephines. Their solid dependability makes them fodder for the players higher up the food chain, the management cadre.
Even if they were "empowered,"they wouldn't gain the credit of their endeavors. Like Napoleon, a long time ago, they'd get gilt medals and the generals would get the loot.
The ratio is inverse; the more talk about X, the less actual X.
That is not really in question. What is in question is why you would want to collude in a fantasy fiction about "empowerment" which really only works for a certain percentage of high achievers and in certain industries. Because you want to sell something else, your "new, better, faster, improved way.