We had the team building meeting I mentioned a few posts down on Friday. In some ways, it wasn't as bad as it might have been. We didn't role play. No one was asked to fall backwards into someone else's arms. It could have been worse.
It's all about perspective, he told us. Try and see things positively. Stop holding onto the past, we were told. "In the surveys, people brought up something the head manager said five years ago as proof of his unreliability. Do you not think a man can change in five years" He steered us away from rocky waters. It ended with feelings of warm and fuzziness and appreciation for his skill. We would meet again.
It's all about perspective, and the only one that mattered was his. Let me offer my perspective. Let's start with the "a man can change in five years" thing. Yes, a man can change, but what was it he said to us back then? Promises about the way he would run the store. He broke them all. Either his word means nothing to him, or it means nothing to his bosses. Either way, he has proven himself untrustworthy. Perhaps the Christian thing to do would be to put that behind us, to forgive and forget, to take a leap of faith that he can be trusted now. Perhaps. But there is also some wisdom in the saying "Fool me once, shame on you. fool me twice, shame on me." He has shown, repeatedly, and more recently than five years ago, that he cannot be trusted. Even if we were to go by the biblical seven times seventy seven, he would be running low.
I was actually deeply impressed by the guru. One rarely sees such skilled manipulation these days. so skilled was his manipulation few of the workers saw that we were being lead over a cliff, and the few who did were quickly silenced. The meeting started with a seething anger. The results of the surveys were handed out, but not the managers surveys. They saw our answers, we did not see theirs. As this was being done we were told, and I quote, "Trust is a two way street." Our survey results were, on the whole, very negative, which is why we were encouraged to change our perspective. But, the guru admitted, the results were even more negative than the handout showed. Some surveys were too inflammatory, and were deemed unhelpful and sarcastic, and omitted. Perhaps it would have been a bad idea to introduce these survey results, but even so, some people were silenced, their views passed over. We then broke into groups, where we were to discuss the problems as we saw them, with management forming one group, and the rest of us broken into groups of five. Each group was to nominate a representative, who would present our findings to the whole meeting. Management went into a separate room. Our room seethed with anger as we went over our problems (each problem was the variation of a single source problem: gross managerial incompetence.)
When the time for the group meeting was over, management came back into their room, and the leader of that group (the head manager- incidentally, the worst public speaker I have ever heard. I wish you could have heard some of the inept priests and terrible lecturers I have heard down through the years to understand the full depth of that statement) gave an overlong presentation, as he has a tremendous inability to make a point. Then the guru decided it was time to step in and give his own little presentation- about, you guessed it, perspective, and the need to understand each other- and then it was time for lunch. When the meeting reconvened, the guru decided to go off in another direction, and have everyone, management included, discuss a few problems- as he said, challenges- that the bookstore faced. The results of the group discussions were never presented.
Perhaps the guru thought that our discussions were too inflammatory, and would result in a flat out fight. It was a tense situation, and he defused it very well. At least, that's their perspective. From mine, he manipulated us into silence once again.
Three of us, myself included, tried to raise this point, but we got nowhere. We want to play nicely, we were told. We need to build peace. The word "healing" was tossed out. Perhaps we would have ruined everything. Perhaps we would have started a war, but I see no reason why we shouldn't. We may not be able to win a war, but we sure are losing the peace.
We had a chance to speak, to send a message to our incompetent managers, instead we were lead away into everyone giving everyone else a warm, fuzzy hug. We were manipulated into participating in our own silencing. We deserve whatever happens next.