By Tim Hayes
Saw another one the other day – one of those announcements about some higher-up who got sacked at some company.
“Mr. Doe has left the company to pursue other interests.”
HA! What a crock! No one – and let me clarify this – NO ONE believes that nonsense.
It’s incredible, meaning it has no credibility. It’s offensive, because it so obviously smacks of falsity. It’s actually insulting, since it cannot in good faith be accepted at face value.
Many years ago, while part of a large company’s communications team, we occasionally got the assignment to write one of these whoppers for release to the news media. One of the guys in our department always threatened to swap out the “pursue other interests” line with something like, “Mr. Doe has left the company because he gave everyone here a colossal pain in the ass,” just to see how far it would make it up the approval chain.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if companies, or presidents, or diplomats, or anybody with power over other people, would just come out and tell the unvarnished, unapologetic, unwavering truth? What would happen? Would it be like ripping off a Band-Aid – a quick, intense moment of pain, followed by…what? Nothing!
Or have we been so desensitized – unless it’s a matter of being overly sensitive, perhaps – that, like Jack Nicholson’s Col. Jessup in “A Few Brave Men” shouts, “You can’t handle the truth!”
No, I mean it. How would people react to a dose of hard reality, verbalized with no softeners, no qualifiers, no decorations? Do we really need a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down?
What if “He left the company to pursue other interests” became “Our share price has fallen 25% since this guy took over, and the board is sick of having our investment portfolios destroyed”?
What if “Your employment is terminated due to substandard performance” became “I just don’t like you, and I can fire you, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it, so take the severance you’re lucky to have, and get out”?
What if “We are very pleased to announce this treaty agreement” became “We don’t trust this bunch as far as we could throw them, but they’re too important a trade partner, so we’ll make do with this crappy deal and hope for the best”?
Speaking truth to power. The truth will set you free. When all else fails, try telling the truth. You can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own truth.
Why is truth such a challenge? Would the world, and the billions of human-to-human interactions that occur all over it every single day, be better off if the truth were permitted to tip-toe into the sunlight every now and then?
Or is the truth like gingerbread?
There’s a reason sweet icing and juicy raisins get spread and sprinkled over gingerbread cookies. You ever eat plain gingerbread? It’s terrible. Bitter. Nasty.
But you can still handle it – even enjoy it – as long as it’s covered in something sweet. In our lawsuit-happy, easily offended society, I suppose it’s unavoidable. Like “pursuing other interests.”
Copyright 2016 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting