Are you angry? AIG bosses got $165 million in bonuses. Even though the money was part of legal contracts, Americans were outraged. Would it be better if the execs didn’t get the bonuses? Of course. But, the money represents less than 1/1000 of the bail out billions. The legal costs to fight the bonuses would cost more than the bonuses. Yet, the perception of the public is the one that counts. They’re the ones who are angry so it looks like the bonuses will be history. What does this have to do with you? Everything. It just confirms how powerful perceptions are.
I was at a meeting this week and was talking to a senior executive in two Fortune 500 companies before he retired and began consulting. He is now advising senior executives in transition. If you have never heard that term, in transition are the code words for getting laid off. For some of these senior executives, laid off is also just code words for getting fired. The senior executive I was talking with has his work cut out for him. His job is to hone the skills of his clients to get them rehired in executive positions. He’s part of a team of consultants who work with clients.
You can imagine the delicate emotional condition that some of these former executives are in. The males have delicate, brittle egos because for many it’s the first time they’ve been bounced. In many cases they didn’t want to go. For the women, many are used to working and they’re bothered by the idea that life as they knew it, at least for the moment, is over.
Now imagine that you, in this transition state, are approached by one of the consultants who announces to you that she is there to help you find your next job. She tells you she can help and announces, “I am a social worker.” Yup. That’s how one of the new consultants is introducing herself to these senior executives. Has your jaw dropped? I can imagine the looks of shock on the faces of these former executives when they think about their futures depending on social work.
I know of no senior executive who would want the help of a social worker. None that I know think of themselves as needing to be fixed either. Whether or not he or she participated in dysfunctional behavior, none that I know would ever admit it. Needless to say, this “social worker” has been met with resistance from clients who prefer not to work with her. It’s pretty clear to her management that her clients don’t want her social work help.
Even her peers are uncomfortable with her presentation. How would you like to be part of a senior business team where some members are positioning their consulting as social work? If I were trying to be perceived as a high powered consultant, the title social worker gives a perception of something completely different.