Friday, November 16, 2012

"The [Victim] Made Me Do It!"

Decades ago, Flip Wilson got a lot of laughs for his character who blamed all her overspending and other glaring mistakes on an invisible person: "The Devil made me do it! I told him not to talk to me, but he made me buy that dress." This week, it seems the "devil" is alive and well, still. There are no laughs though.

Hostess CEO Gregory F. Rayburn blamed the union's strike for forcing Hostess into bankruptcy and a sale of all the assets. Anyone who has had any mental health counseling knows this is false. No one else makes us sad, frustrated, happy, euphoric; we choose our own attitude. Anyone who has read Covey's book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People knows we're not forced into any option. No one else "makes" us choose one option. No one else makes us go to work, take a vacation, buy a dress, or sell all of a company's assets. We are response-able. We choose one option because it accomplishes the end we have in mind. We choose an option because it's what we want to do. Rayburn and the board wanted to liquidate the company at this juncture.

Maybe they wanted to punish the union. Maybe they wanted to play the victim and hide any leadership inadequacies. Maybe they had tried all the other options and couldn't persuade the union to stop the strike. Maybe they tried to sell the company to someone who could work with the union. None of those choices were in the control of the union. Hostess' board had much to do with the path they're on now.

There's more to the story I'm sure. However, it's bad leadership to blame someone else for a failure to finish the negotiations. I doubt the board and Mr. Rayburn will suffer as much as the bottom-tier employees. They are the true victims with a lot of families being affected. They aren't going to walk away with savings from six- or seven-figure salaries, golden parachutes or other means for a decent retirement.  Perhaps the union didn't want to negotiate. Nevertheless, it appears weak to blame the real victims.

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