Op-Ed: Positions of distrust
Assume for a moment that a company has just recruited you, after being thoroughly evaluated by its directors and after having competed with dozens of candidates aspiring for the same position as you. One of your responsibilities is to establish the company’s operations and criteria, its vision and mission, organizational culture, effective resource management, selection of the best talent available and making the new business the most efficient.
Imagine that as soon as you’re selected for the position, you start calling friends you have trusted for so long, who have done you favors, whom for some reason or another you are indebted to for some deal and you offer them a job. Let’s also say that you call family members who are in a difficult situation, and in turn, you start to receive calls from friends, that while may not need to work, they start asking you for a hand for a cousin, nephew or friend to give them “a little chance.”
Add to this that people who in turn have to recruit others under their supervision, in turn hire, not the best candidates, but the closest and most trusted.
“Everything’s beautiful,” as one of my coworkers would say.
On the company’s first day, it turns out that almost everyone knows each other and the atmosphere of trust is felt among hugs and kisses and complicity. You tell your superiors they have recruited the best existing talent and are ready to undertake operations, ensuring them it will be resounding and inevitable success.
Action and reaction
Imagine then that some of their relatives, and relatives of other relatives, as well as friends, suppliers and indirect beneficiaries, begin to cut corners. Some start by being absent due to personal situations, others find it difficult to stick to the company’s culture, as they were recruited out of trust (not their skills, talents or knowledge), others begin to make contractual commitments lacking reasonable sound management processes, and suddenly there is a welter of contradictions, mismanaged resources, loyalties that question positions and a sense of permissiveness that supports those who against all odds have been there for you.
Suddenly, company directors start to question some of the acts of its staff: one of its employees was arrested for violating a law, another made a comment that lacerated the company’s image, another was caught in an act socially frowned upon. But you haven’t done anything because it is your staff in positions of trust.
Imagine then that managers, worried and upset over the series of events that have happened, begin to put pressure on you, but you wave your contract at them, which was for a specific number of years, without allowing them to remove you from your post.
So, and gradually, the spirit of helping those you most trusted continues to grip the corporate spirit and the principles for which you were hired in the first place. Processes, protocols and services offered by the company have been conditioned to your attitudes and perceptions of how things should be done.
And suddenly, you feel like the lord and master, because you have the pan by the handle, and while it lasts, you will work to safeguard your image, and of so many friends who will be there for you, tomorrow.
This is the dysfunctional way that politics work. We, the people elect those who lead us so they make efficient use of resources and watch out for our best interests, not theirs. They in turn, employ those they trust. And beyond the events that tarnish ethics, principles, morals and integrity, we remain under a system that is not participatory, but it is, in its essence, the “godfather” system of the example above.
Things like an ex-Sergeant at Arms of a Legislature granted to a mayor’s son after proving positive to drug use, a professorship to a governor’s son along with the publishing of a book with no financing, condoned expressions of racism by the right hand of a representative, an engineer who is not an engineer who profits and goes unpunished, and the hundreds of jobs that are screwed in place every four years, again disregarding their talents, knowledge and skills, as their reason for them having a job has little to do with their academic qualifications, but rather, for their political affiliation and the number of raffle tickets they can sell.
I think eliminating that work culture, which is the antithesis of private enterprise, takes more than will: it takes time and takes establishing norms and behaviors that are similar to the procedures of companies focused on performance and managing their assets and resources. It takes managers that demonstrate their true role as employers and who discourage employee groups belonging to one color or another.
Reponding to whose trust?
Whose trust should employees in “positions of trust” respond to? What if we put together a citizens panel to evaluate candidates proposed by those we chose? What if the positions are posted openly on the Web and in classifieds to get the best resources available in the political branch? How about if we leave recruitment to those outside of politics? Perhaps, once and for all we may manage to end the struggle by employees divided by color.
We must put an end to cultures where the will and disdain of their respective positions undermine the productivity of that great corporation that the government should be. We must look for options for this inefficient company, full of rivalries across organizational charts that do not promote competitiveness.
That same government corporation that claims to be “participatory government” is referring to those who participate in marches, and fundraising activities for their employer, which translates, after a roll call, into performance assessments of hundreds of employees who have no choice to they keep their jobs at all costs.
Let’s promote and support a change in government culture that is closer to a company that encourages and rewards those who truly stand out.
We can, of course we can. Let’s not stop dreaming. Let’s not stop doing. Let’s not stop trying.