Power of guilt is a valuable business tool

   I have an idea for a book. Since Iíll never write it. I might as well go ahead and give away the title:
   Management by guilt
   Make Your Employees Feel Bad
   And Then Watch Them Produce
   I humbly admit Iím a master at the craft of making people feel remorseful. And after years of practicing at home, first with your pets and then with your spouses, you too can transfer the art to the workplace, where it can do wonders.
   There is a price to pay, however, and sometimes itís steep. The target of your attack must have done something really stupid before the guilt will work. But remember, the damage done by the stupid act can be far outweighed by the accomplishments triggered by the guilt.
   Confused? Let me give you an example that actually happened last week involving Ralph, my general manager, and me, the Master of Guilt.
   Ralph and I decided it would be a good idea for me to fly to San Diego to attend the Action Sportswear Show, which generally consists of booth after booth of young, voluptuous, hard-body models displaying the latest line of swimwear sold in one of our retail stores. Usually Ralph goes to these trade shows, but he was busy. I had some other things I needed to see in San Diego, so I gallantly offered to go.
   Since he gets all the literature for these shows, I asked him the exact dates. He told me it ran through the 15th. We talked about it again a couple of days later. He confirmed the dates. I asked him if he was certain. He was.
    I booked a room at the San Diego Marriott, next door to The Convention Center, for the night of the 13th. They were surprisingly eager to hear from me. I flew to San Diego that morning and checked in, amazed at the depth of the recession. A major convention was going on next door and the Marriott looked like a ghost town.
   But the hotel looked positively bustling compared to the scene that greeted me when I walked over to the Convention Center. There were no bikinis, no sportswear, no action, no nothing. The doors were locked. That dreadful feeling began to set in.
   The only hope was that the show had been moved to a smaller location. That must be it. I knew it had downsized over the years; it must have a new venue that Ralph had neglected to mention to me. Or else Ralph had given me the wrong dates. Nah. I had asked him at least four times.
    I called Ralph from a pay phone. "Thereís nothing happening at the Convention Center," I said. "Did they move it?"
   Ralphís first reaction, of course, was that I had screwed up. He wanted to know what city I was in.
   "Iím in San Diego," I said, my teeth growing tighter. "Why donít you find the literature for the show and check the location?" I paused. "And while youíre at it, check the dates."
   Ralph, his confidence fading by the millisecond, started rustling papers. "Iíve got it right here. Hold on a second." Long pause, and then a notable clunk, probably Ralphís head. "Uh-oh. Youíre going to kill me. The show ended yesterday."
   I said nothing. The silence was deafening.
   "I am so sorry," Ralph said. "I donít know where I got the idea it ran through the 15th. I was positive."
   Now here is where my book, "Management By Guilt," kicks in. The damage is done. Make the most out of it. Many managers would throw a tantrum, screaming and yelling. Others would try to say something positive, like, "Donít worry about it, Ralph, everyone makes mistakes. Learn from it."
    Not me. Ralph and I have been together for over 10 years. We have mutual respect. I would never yell at him or sugar-coat his mistakes. In these situations, with people you respect, honesty is the key.
   Thatís why I let the silence hang for a few seconds, and then, through clenched teeth, summed up the chain of events.
   "You stupid idiot," I said. And then I quickly hung up the phone.
    But thatís not where it ends. The key is not calling back. In fact, I had no communication with Ralph until I returned to the office two days later. He didnít know if I was still fuming or if I had pardoned his huge error.
    When he met me as I got out of my car and offered to personally pay for my airfare, I knew I had him. "Management by Guilt" was just beginning to reap its rewards.

 

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