Second Hand

The applause subsides. The executive thanks the masses and launches into the sunshine blowing presentation that has been rehearsed, presented to the analysts, and is now delivered to the employees.
The “all hands” meeting is a forum to pump up the troops under the guise of a communications session. The executive describes how great the quarter was and how thankful he is to the strong team that made it possible. He explains how employees are the foundation of a great company, and that a company is only as good as the people who work there. So congratulations are in order. It is you, the employees, that made this (including the nice executive bonus) all possible. Unfortunately, going forward (that is a favorite term of executives) there are challenging times ahead. The good news is that the executives have done the really tough work and put a plan in place. Now, all that is left is for the team to execute to the plan. “Just execute.” he pleads.

All hands meetings typically end with a “Q and A” session. This is a question and answer session in which anyone in the entire organization may question directly the executive management. There are rarely any interesting questions, and most people just want to leave the meeting. The session does get interesting when that one employee that has an ax to grind, decides to take off the gloves and take on the big wigs. He has had enough, he is not afraid; he is going to put this executive on the spot. This will get the respect of all those downtrodden individuals in the company. Scenes from Norma Rae flash though his mind. In his best Wolf Blitzer investigative tone he questions the executive like a journalist at a presidential press conference. “Why is it, that the executives of this company ride in limousines and fly first class, while the rest of us face cutbacks and now have to bring in our own toilet paper?” he boldly questions. Time to watch the executive squirm.

The problem with this plan is that the executive did not make it to their level by accident. These folks are good. Executives field pointed questions from board members, analysis, brokers and journalists all the time. One little stinger from an itchy employee is nothing for these folks to field. “That is a very good question, and I am glad you brought it up” the exec responds with a smile. “While myself and many executives would very much prefer to drive ourselves to the airport, unfortunately, liability and insurance concerns prevent us from doing so. The bylaws of the company require that professional drivers transport executive members to and from the airport.” He continues, “Due to the volume of business we do with the airline, we have a strategic relationship in which first class travel for executives is provided at no additional cost.” The executive shifts gears to rally the troops, “As you know, we highly value the health and wellness of our employees. We provide state of the art restrooms, available 24/7 for all employees. We have spared little cost in the most efficient and health minded fixtures to promote good health and wellbeing for all our employees. To help offset costs in difficult times, the employees are asked for a minor contribution. It is a small gesture that means a lot to the bottom line but, more importantly, this is a way in which everyone can contribute and be a part of something great. It is teamwork like this that has made us great and will continue to make us great. Thank you for your participation in this endeavor and for that great question.”

Nice try. But you are not going to beat these guys at their own game. You will never get the answer you would like. No executive is going to say, “You know…you are right! We will stop doing that immediately and give everyone a raise instead.” Get real… and get back to work!