Chapter 1: Expedient Nod
“How Mr. Nod, the Culprit of Corporate Expediency, Demoralizes the Best Employees”
Profile of Expedient Nod
AKA: The Pusher of Corporate Expediency
Occupation: Perpetrating ethical misdemeanors
Slogans: “Nobody’s perfect” and “At least I’m getting the job done..”
Modus operandi: He makes his home in buildings where people are too busy to stop ethical lapses. He uses small compromises to destroy morale and reputations.
Gray graduated from college this spring—an associate’s degree in anthropology. He wrote a paper about the family values of Australian aboriginal society and his favorite professor worked with Habitat for Humanity. He volunteers at the dog shelter and his goal in life is to make a difference.
He discovered your company during Earth Day, when the public relations department was out planting trees. He passed your company’s pre-employment character assessment with flying colors, scoring 110 percent—he answered the bonus question correctly.
You hired Gray last week, and you should be proud of your decision. It was a good one. He’s ready to serve your customers and increase your profit. But what will he understand about your company as soon as he’s settled in? Maybe it’ll be something you don’t see—a villain called Expedient Nod.
Dory sits quietly monitoring calls. “I’ve only got six more to go and I’ll be done for the week. If I hurry, I can be done by lunch. Oh, what did he say just then to the customer? Oh, no matter. I’ll mark it as “needs coaching.” I think he flubbed it in some way. Besides it only counts as two points. I really need to get these done.”
Hunger, time pressure, burnout…. All excellent reasons for Dory to receive a visit from Expedient Nod.
Martha is in her office completing annual performance reviews. “Man, these are really tough to complete so that each one truly represents the person’s contribution to the organization. I should have kept better records throughout the year. I’m glad they give us a lot of different phrases that we can use in our evaluations. They might not exactly reflect the person’s performance, but they are pretty close. Only three more to go.”
Martha has been a manager for three years. The first year, she kept excellent records and made an effort to know each employee. The second year, she met Expedient Nod and discovered short cuts in conducting performance reviews. Because she could see no outward effect of her shortcuts last year, this year, she did not even try. Here employees were becoming a little more cynical, but they are all getting a little older and wiser too.
Even front-line agents like Ruthie are susceptible to slip-ups. Ruthie is a telephone agent with two incoming lines on her phone. While she is talking on Line One, Line Two rings and she put the first call on hold, switches to the second call and disconnects it.
Line Two rings again, and she disconnects it again.
Her manager expects her to answer all calls within three rings. Unbeknownst to management, she collaborated with her team (and Expedient Nod) to implement a procedure to avoid hitting that third ring—a procedure she calls “the courtesy disconnect.” She proudly explains that her team is meeting its metric—answering (or disconnecting) every call before the third ring.
She says that when customers called back to complain, the team blames the disconnection on the telephone company, which had such bad service that her excuse is believable.
Expedient Nod is a dishonest dude, but he’s not in the big-time. He presides over the less-than-honest decisions made because:
• I’m in a hurry.
• I don’t have all the information.
• I’m oblivious to the fact that I’m making a decision.
• The decision is (quite frankly) not important to me.
• I’ve forgotten (or simply ignore) prior commitments that affect this decision.
• The tyranny of the urgent has taken hold (the urgent has crowded out the important in my life).
• I rationalize that the effect of this decision is not such a big deal anyway.
In the next part of Chapter One we will take an honest look at the small less-than-honest shortcuts that permeate many of our organizations.
P.S. The story about the "courtesy disconnect" is true. You can't make these things up.