20210211 Of Bulls and Bias.

His offence is real: from his exalted position, he responded to a poll of the staff attending the meeting as to how they were handling the pandemic. As followers of my blog will be aware, it was as early as April last year that I warned that CoVid-19 would result in a long-tail problem of both claims in respect of poor working conditions when forced to work from home and serious mental health issues. In the poll, it is reported, more than half of the staff described themselves as ″we are either ‘hanging in there’ [or] ‘drained’. ″

Michael’s response was, essentially, to tell them to pull their socks up, to stop moaning and get on with the work. As motivational speeches go, it was pretty poor, made worse by his instruction that the team should ″stop moaning″ about CoVid-19 and the effect of the lockdown and should ″stop playing the victim card.″

In the meantime, other UK broadsheets have picked up the FT’s story. Some headlines have not focused on that, though, because in today’s world it is outrage that sells. They have all focused on a comment that unconscious bias is ″complete crap.″ And where it’s not in the headline, it’s up front in the bit Google grabs.

He left the video conference but returned later to apologise for his words and to send out an e-mail. Then he issued a statement which is clearly taken from the PR handbook: ″Michael said: “I am sorry for the words I used, which did not reflect what I believe in, and I have apologised to my colleagues. Looking after the well-being of our people and creating a culture where everyone can thrive is of critical importance to me and is at the heart of everything we do as a firm.”

The only good thing about that is that he said ″colleagues″ not the odious ″coworkers″ that is sweeping the world. Even though he used an Oxford comma, there might be hope for him yet.

Third, there are those who want to attack him because of his income.

While some may call him a ″fat cat″ who is insulated from his employees by wealth, the Guardian misses its sly mark when it says that his pay last year, less than usual because of weaker demand, was GBP1.7m. The ″partners″ averaged GBP572,000. Yes, it’s a lot but relative to salaries in commerce, industry, the civil service and even the BBC it’s not spectacular and compared to the USA it’s positively pauperish.

Context matters: it’s not always about the audience. But even when it’s not, it can quickly become so.

Michael’s attitude might have been coloured by the fact that he was an early victim of CoVid-19. In March 2020 he was admitted to hospital. He recovered and went back to work.

But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to play on people’s fears of getting it: far too many people have died to be blasé about it.

Worse, there was context: staff had expressed concern about possible redundancies and pay cuts for those that remain.

They have good reason: the past two weeks have seen widespread (but apparently reasonably fairly carried out) bloodletting across Asia Pacific at the world’s leading internet security company, Akamai. As a true pioneer of content delivery systems, anti-hacking and anti-DDOS attacks, amongst much more, in uncertain times, Akamai should be rock solid. But its sales people can’t sell because they can’t make contact with people who are never in the office and don’t respond to cold-call emails even if e-mail addresses can be obtained or devined; no social events mean no building of relationships.

Akamai is just an example. In all fields, companies are hunkering down, cross-selling and up-selling to existing customers: building a customer base is next to impossible. Companies are favouring farmers over hunters and even reviewing managerial workloads and reducing headcount at that level.

Tell me about it: we relaunched our e-learning on 0202 2020 – just as people were leaving for home and many have not, effectively, returned to the office. We are absolutely dependent on passive selling. Actually, that’s worked well in the past. But now everyone who is even a peripheral competitor is doing the same. There’s too much noise and we don’t stand out. It isn’t working. We are far from alone.

Next month, we relaunch the corporate product QuickToLearnMore.com for staff up to and including senior managers. Purchases will require co-ordination across departments in regulated businesses.

We already know that inter-departmental communication has become fragmented during the pandemic. Decisions are difficult to get and it’s often easier within companies for inertia to take over than to properly review options at the end of an existing contract.

Within the big accounting and consultancy companies, one of the duties of consultants is to up-sell and cross-sell. It’s why I have refused to join them when they have asked and it’s why a number of people I respect left them. Professionals serve the client first; the big consultancies serve themselves.

And so, Michael’s comments were exactly in line with how companies like his view their ″consultants.″

Get off your arses and sell shit. Given that at that level consultancy is at least in part designed to hook the customer so it becomes dependent on the consulting company, you might expect to hear the language of the drug dealer.