Select Page

They say that breaking up is hard to do… But staying together may be even worse

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Neil Sedaka has often been likened to management guru Peter Drucker for his ability to clarify, quantify and reinvigorate the central conundra of modern business ethics.

Here’s Drucker:
“Management” means, in the last analysis, the substitution of thought for brawn and muscle, of knowledge for folklore and superstition, and of cooperation for force. . .

And here’s Sedaka:
They say that breaking up is hard to do
Now I know, I know that it’s true

As we know, western civilization is predicated on fear – driven mainly by such a high proportion of people living above the first two levels Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, while being left with a cave-person brain and physiology that is still wired to respond to threat. If it’s not the deadly peanut allergy or, God-forbid, a lethal germ near the common-or-garden toilet bowl, it’s the rampant threat posed by an outside possibility that bees are going to be wiped out and all food will disappear. Yes, it seems if we’re not being chased by an angry sabre-tooth, we just have to invent something to keep us in fear.

And, putting aside the fear of terrorism, war, nuclear armageddon or the merest hint of a wrinkle on the face

[pass the botox, please]

the number one fear in America is…

[drum roll]


Watch the news. Manufacturing jobs going to China. Minimum wage transgressions. The surging population of hispanics who are {quote} Taking Americans’ jobs {unquote}. And the subtext beneath them all? That’s right, you could end up…


And because of that fear, ask yourself… Why are your employees working for you? Is it because they have a passion for the mission? Is it because they would walk through the door to do their job even if you weren’t paying them?

[pause… Let it sink in… Concerned eyebrows]

No, we didn’t think so.

The vast majority of your people are staying with your organization because they don’t want to end up…


Better the devil you know than the risk that you may be one of those unlucky people that the media tell you all the time are substituting the Emergency Room for Primary Healthcare. God forbid that you might end up unable to claim your liposuction as a necessary quality-of-life, stress relief treatment.

What to do, what to do, what to do. Well, like it or not, you’re not going to change the culture – that’s an ocean with no intent of being boiled. So, given that the majority of your people don’t want to be with you but are, in fact, just terrified of the alternative scenarios, you have a very simple dilemma to navigate.

Do you compound the misery, or do you do whatever is in your power to even up the scales?

Think of how many times you’ve read a paper about cultural change. Go on, think of how many times you’ve read something that just makes good, plain, common sense. There are lots of them, aren’t there. Many, many words. Many, many discussions. Over the years. Books and CDs and DVDs of them.

You would think by now that the world would be better, wouldn’t you?

But it isn’t, because we never learn. Human beings are not genetically wired to work in corporations. Human beings are not genetically wired for elaborate hierarchies and control structures. Human beings are not genetically wired for goals and performance related pay.

Human beings are wired for collaborative, cohesive societies built on mutual survival and individual accountability for the collective good. And before you say it, that’s not communism; we are older than modern political credos. Regardless of labels, our genetic basis causes us to resent those who would have us working far from our natural selves.


The research is proven – emotional resentment breeds punishment. Punishment in the modern corporation takes the form of sabotage, resistance, productivity breakdowns and purely pissed-off customers. So, ask yourself. These genetic animals, the humans, who inhabit your organization, wired to respond to fear, inventing fears where none realistically exist, these folk you take for granted and diminish at any given opportunity… What culture are you driving within their ranks?

Because if you’re building a culture of resentment, you’re compounding an issue of which you may not even be aware.

I only work her because I need a job
Can you believe the shit they try to pull?
Yeah right, like I’m gonna put in extra hours
You’ve gotta be kidding

Sounds like a lyric Neil Sedaka might have considered before he turned to management theory.