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September 22, 2008

‘Yes We Can!’ But You’d Better Not!


Nothing good ever results when three department managers come to see me together. It means one of two things. One is bad, the other is worse.


The bad possibility is that they’re not getting along and it’s gotten so bad that they’re coming to see me because they think they need a referee. I don’t want to be a referee. Have you ever seen the way those guys get treated – especially when one of their calls gets overturned by instant replay? It’s not pretty. That’s the bad one.


But the worse one is that they have been getting along – so well that they’ve come up with an idea that they can all agree on. That’s almost unbearable. Because they are three totally different personalities, and any idea that they can all agree on has to be the result of watered-down insipidness, taken to such an extreme that the mere thought of implementation would be enough to send a CEO to the executive lunatic asylum.


Of course, some people think I maintain permanent residence there, but what do they know?


“D.F., the three of us have been talking, and we’ve all collaborated on an idea we’d like to ask you to consider,” said the production manager.


Oh no. Just as I’d feared. It’s the worse one.


“We’re not turning three-day weekends into four-day weekends!” I blurt out.


“Oh no, we wouldn’t ask for that, D.F.,” said the marketing manager. “We know how you feel about that. We think you will like this idea. It has nothing to do with people taking time off. It has to do with people being motivated to work harder.”


I sat up. Maybe, I thought, this will be worth listening to. I should have known I wouldn’t think that for long.


The HR director explained: “We want to put up a banner in the lobby, over the reception desk, that says . . .”


At this point, all three of them raised their hands in the air and said in unison, “Yes We Can!”


“Yes you can what?” I asked.


“Yes We Can!” said marketing. “That’s what the banner will say!”


“Why?” I asked.


“Because we can!”


“Not yet!”


“D.F.,” said production, “have you ever noticed how sometimes people take on a defeatist attitude? You know the kind of thing I’m talking about. Where they just act like every challenge, no matter how manageable, no matter how important, is just too great for them?”


“You know,” I said, “it’s funny, because I’m getting that feeling right now!”


“D.F.,” said HR, trying her best to reason with me. “A banner like this provides a common sense of can-do purpose for the entire team. It reminds us all that we’re in this together, that there’s no hill too high for us to climb, and that yes, we can.”


I wanted to slit my own throat for having hired these three.


“So you’re telling me that if we put this banner up behind the reception desk, people will have a can-do attitude and they’ll do their jobs better?” I asked.


“Well,” said production. “We can’t guarantee that, but it will be an ever-present reminder of what is possible.”


“What is possible?” I asked.


“That we can!”


I sat and said nothing for a second. They watched me.


“So?” said HR.


“So . . . what?” I replied.


“Can we?”


I stood atop my desk and leaned against the wall like I was unfurling a banner. It was huge. Like 70 feet long and 25 feet wide. I carefully affixed the imaginary banner to the wall with imaginary high-tech clips. Then I jumped down from my desk and went over to the opposite wall, where I could measure it and make sure it was straight.


Then I turned to my executive team and implored them to look at the wonderful, invisible banner I had hoisted up.


“Look!” I said. “N. O. No!”


And they left. Sigh. I hope they start fighting again soon.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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