How staff can manipulate managerial “optimism”

In a recent post, I suggested a few ways of managing pessimist people and managing in pessimistic cultures.

As mentioned in that post, there is a plethora of tools which exist to promote optimism, wow wowism, and getting people “on board” and highly engaged. Often these tools are used wisely; often however,the creation of optimism is a manipulation to get people to sign up for busting their ass against all odds at a huge personal sacrifice.

However, many employees have learnt to beat the system of “overdosing on wow wowism”. A short case will suffice.

Tony manages a software team composed of Russians, Israelis and Americans. Tony has given his software team a “somewhat demanding commitment which I am sure you guys can make, if we do our best. I believe if anyone can do it-it’s you”. (This means work on weekends for the next 6 months and monthly trips to Lagos. (That ain’t fun).)

Tony has convened a meeting to get “input” on obstacles to meeting the “aggressive” schedule. His team in the past has been cynical and pessimistic.

Russian Igor, Israeli Sivan and American John had lunch before the meeting with Tony and built a strategy to deal with the expected pressure. Two years ago, they had faced the same  scenario. At the time, when they raised a whole list of obstacles, Tony made them work 18 hours a day for nine months. in today’s meeting, the plan to go with the flow.

The meeting with Tony just ended. Tony was surprised as how well it went. Igor said he will do his best and sees “nothing substantial” to cause delays. Sivan simply said: “can do, boss; looks good”. John said he has a plan to make it work. All three said told Tony he can “sleep well”.

This strategy will appease Tony, and delay the bad news for a few months. In a few months, the three will surprise Tony with huge delays; Tony will need to surprise the customer.

In the first few months, the three do not even plan to work hard at all, so that Tony will need to “slap” a huge delay on the customer.

The customer will then demand more realistic deadlines and proper negotiation will occur internally.

 

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1 thought on “How staff can manipulate managerial “optimism”

  1. My French clients, who seem to be more on the side of “universally doubting” than “pessimism” have an expression to refer to “wow wowism”: They call it “organizational boy-scoutism”.

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