Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Wearing the Juice
In 1995, McArthur Wheeler walked into two Pittsburgh banks and robbed them in broad daylight, with no visible attempt at disguise. He was arrested later that night, less than an hour after videotapes of him taken from surveillance cameras were broadcast on the 11 o’clock news. When police later showed him the surveillance tapes, Mr. Wheeler stared in incredulity. “But I wore the juice,” he mumbled. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler was under the impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to videotape cameras. (source)
As a manager, this is physically painful to read. When people have shortcomings of which they’re aware, it’s possible to train them. When they have shortcomings of which they’re unaware, several possibilities exist:
- they never thought of it, they’re glad to have it pointed out, they’ll get right on it
- they never thought of it, they don’t consider it important, please go away now
- they deny it and move on
- they indignantly deny it, dig in their heels, and question your motives
You’ll notice that three of these four possibilities are negative.
The last response, which is the most common, is also the most frustrating. It casts the manager as the villain and the underperforming employee as the victim in a bizarre psychodrama.
It’s worse when you’re relatively new to the scene, you’ve inherited the employee, and the previous managers all pretended not to see him when he wore the juice. Now, in addition to tweaking insecurities, you’re also breaking precedent. What a horrible person you are! How dare you?
Now imagine that the juice-wearer in question has tenure. And a litigious temperament.
I think I need something a little stronger than juice…
"Actionable" means, roughly, "worthy of litigating." And that decision can be based on umpteen factors, but the primary one is usually financial. Can the client pay? If not, and the case is taken on a contingency basis, is there a significant probability of payola?
Now of course, there are hungry, inexperienced lawyers who will take a case that someone more seasoned would pass on. So I'm not suggesting you blow off every threat of a lawsuit. But if someone is frequently suggesting they need to resort to a lawsuit in order to solve problems with their dean, they probably could use a reality check.
Next time they hint at dropping the L-(lawsuit)-bomb, offer to refer an attorney. In my experience, people who threaten to sue usually have no idea what it means to sue someone and have never consulted a lawyer to find out how lame their case really is.
I sympathize with your predicament. It doesn't sound like this juice wearer will ever be receptive to feedback.
My email is ccdean(at)myway(dot)com.
Nothing new here