Politicians will lie, their messages will be spin, they can’t be trusted. Many are corrupt.
Companies with progressive social initiatives will do so as window dressing. It’s all about boosting benefits, or avoiding bad press. Those big guys are an insincere and disingenuous bunch.
For corporations, Corporate Social Responsibility programmes are only good as long as they boost profits.
Unions will be a pain, they will only obstruct serious renewal and transformation
Bankers will be unethical; will only care about fat deals and commissions
Pharmaceuticals will be interested in prolonging or creating new illnesses. They all bribe doctors and will charge exorbitant prices.
The default position is not that everybody is innocent until proven guilty, but everybody is deceitful until proven otherwise. I am talking about fundamental pillars of societal life that include business and its management and leadership.
The trouble is that every time that a bad example makes the headlines, the paranoid assumption is reinforced. And cases reinforcing each of the above statements really abound. People have not woken up one day and decided to assume bad faith. The stereotypes keep reinforcing themselves for very good reasons.
But whatever critical thinking capacity is left in our brains, it should trigger the question, what if this X,Y,Z is genuine, honest, sincere, and in the quest of some goodness? I know, shocking!
In a Sunday paper today there was a full page dedicated to Starbucks experimenting with ‘conversations over coffee’ about racial equality. The hashtag #RaceTogether was launched with such efficiency that their Director of Global Communications had to delete his twitter account due to so much abuse. For some, ‘how dare them?’ –insert here any reason why ‘they’ should not dare, I suppose. For others, a righteous Harvard professor for example, ‘OMG, you are going to open the door to all kinds of people holding you to all kinds of different standards’, followed by the apocalyptic warning from the sane honourable Business school, ‘Small things can trigger great rage’. Starbucks, you are warned.
What if CEO Howard Schultz was genuine? I am picking on Starbucks as an example because it was in front of me today, but this pattern is everywhere.
For every reinforcement of deceit as the default position, we need to bring some dose of hope, and force ourselves to the perhaps shocking ‘assume goodwill’. This is the only way to leave behind a legacy that our children may be proud of receiving.
Funny, in the same newspaper, an interview with author and playwright James Graham had as a headline his statement: ‘ It’s easy to be cynical. It’s lazy. It’s boring’.
I agree. It’s also a learned response that we are perpetuating by accepting the default position of deceit, making us responsible for an entire generation of disengaged citizens. Most of them in some sort of payroll. And then we expect ’employee engagement’.