A well known sports figure and successful speaker is booked to speak at corporate meeting. The meeting planner pays the speaker’s fee in advance. Later, the meeting planner asks the speaker not to come. Why? Because it might raise the question, “How much did you pay the speaker?”
This is perception paranoia at its worst. Thanks to a few knuckleheads like AIG and the subsequent non-thinking condemnation from our leaders in Washington, D.C. of corporate meetings in general, hospitality and restaurant employees, meeting planners, production companies, entertainers and speakers are all feeling the fallout.
If you’re bankrupt or unprofitable, celebrating with an offsite event is irresponsible and reprehensible. But what about those companies that are profitable and want to reward employees for their hard work? What of those organizations who have a thoughtfully budgeted meeting designed to improve knowledge and skills? Why should they be condemned?
The answer: perception paranoia. Heaven forbid some non-thinking regulator, journalist or shareholder should take offense.
We now live in an age where perception is more important than reality. We’ll forgive you for being bad as long as you don’t appear bad and we’ll punish you for being good if your behavior suggests that what you’re doing might be bad.
Did you bite off a mortgage you couldn’t afford? The government will bail you out using the money of responsible taxpayers who didn’t overextend themselves.
Run a company that has been unprofitable for years? Goodness, you need help…at the expense of those companies who don’t need bailed out.
Make a lot of money? Here’s a beaut: in the future you can’t deduct all the money you give to charity anymore. What imbecile in Washington hates wealthy people so much that they plan to diminish charitable contribution deductions? (Homework assignment: look up the charitable giving as a percentage of income of those in Washington elected to lead us. I think you’ll find it eye-opening.)
I’m not just alarmed that this thinking has become common; I am alarmed that this thinking has become unquestioned and accepted.
Despite the differences in the challenges we currently face as opposed to those of the past, there are some universal laws that still hold:
1. There is no free lunch. When somebody eats for free, somebody else pays either because they want to (philanthropy) or because they have to.
2. There is no free money. You can print it but it has a price. (And “something for nothing” is still a lie, too.)
3. You get more of what you reward. Reward irresponsible or unprofitable behavior and–surprise!–you’ll get more.
4. You get less of what you punish. Increase taxes on individuals and organizations for being more productive and profitable and they’ll soon stop trying to hard.
It is time to call the blowhards and posers to task. Blanket indictments of anything are a bad idea. Pushback when someone says something is “right” when you know it isn’t. Challenge those who have easy answers for tough problems.
And most importantly, hold yourself to a standard of rational and responsible behavior. Don’t allow perception paranoia to rule you.