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General Executive Interest

He drives a Tesla. She drives a Leaf. His is leased, hers was bought outright. He wanted to drive in the carpool lane (without the extra passenger). She wanted to contribute to cleaner air. He got the top-speed model to go zero to 60 in under three seconds. Hers can barely make it in ten.

Yet, she dry cleans her jeans, colors her hair with peroxide-based dye, and orders take-out food three times a week. He loves to cook every night with organic ingredients, drops his clothes off at a fluff-and-fold that uses earth-friendly detergent, and charges his car with a solar-panel system.
 

Remember during your employee orientation when your company reviewed their Code of Ethics with you? You know, the short list of basic ethical guidelines to follow when conducting business on behalf of the corporation? I didn’t think so! 

Most corporations have Codes of Ethics or Ethical Conduct hidden on their websites, or on their internal intranet buried within their “Values” statements, or somewhere within their Employee Handbooks. But, they rarely call attention to them. Corporations figure their new hires and current associates all have a ‘moral compass’ or they would not have been hired in the first place. However, events in today’s business world demonstrate how a simple slip in ethical conduct can doom an entire company.

In these contentious times, when almost every topic—even the weather—has become controversial, it is edifying to read about a merger that sailed through the shareholder approval process with near unanimity. On Tuesday, July 19, EMC shareholders voted overwhelmingly and without debate to approve a $62.3 billion merger into Dell, with 98 percent of votes affirming the deal, and almost as many approving golden parachute payments to EMC executives in the event of job loss post-closing. The deal received U.S. and European antitrust approval in February and is on track for approval from Chinese antitrust authorities in time for an October closing. The new company, Dell Technologies, to be chaired and led by Michael Dell, will be privately owned.

When did “how to win friends and influence people” mutate into “how to exclude people and persuade others to join you”? Was it when SCOTUS struck down the Defense of Marriage Act? Or was it on September 11th when people from sixty-two foreign nations were among those who died.

Office politics is an unfortunate workplace reality. It’s a phenomenon that leads us to behave in ways that might not qualify as totally ethical, and it encourages certain co-workers to indulge their inner Faust.

I’m guilty of it to some degree. I calculate people’s likely responses to business proposals in advance, line up allies, and prepare responses and rebuttals for those who are sure to disagree. It’s self-preservational. But it’s directly related to accomplishing what I think is right for the company, regardless of whether it’s right for a particular colleague.

The irony of this digitally connected world of ours is that devices have installed distances between people who work in proximity and shortened distances between people who work remotely. How often have we had neighbors send us emails, WhatsApp messages or text messages, only for an annoying outburst from a third colleague who enters the exchange wondering why people don’t just talk to each other. At the same time, aided by tools such as telepresence and video conferences, colleagues who work remotely no longer perceive the same distance that our predecessors experienced.

I have dealt with colleagues who work remotely for more than 16 years. Based on my own experience, here are a few tips on leading colleagues who work remotely:

The demands of the quarterly cycle of business push leaders to operate in the here and now of the short term. However, innovation demands being able to take a long-term view. Innovators have to be able to see beyond the current horizon to innovate. We need to have the resilience to act beyond immediate gratification to create new products, services and markets.

Although I research and teach about emotions, I also have clients, colleagues, and a family (including two cats, two dogs a husband, and an almost four-year-old), so I can very well understand why we all struggle sometimes. This afternoon, my son has been in the house for 15 minutes, has spilled water all over the kitchen floor and then walked in it with his dirty feet from outside, screamed (happily) about 100 times (or so it seems) while playing with one of the dogs, whined about having his nails cut and has been singing in between it all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful to be able to work from home some of the time and have him come by for a hug once in a while and to just be here in the midst of the craziness of life.

Walmart may not have been the first company whose pricing policies forced suppliers to send jobs overseas, but it was, for years, the one with the highest public profile. Yet, like so many things involving marketplace dynamics, the issues that attracted the most attention had to do with the wages and benefits that Walmart offered employees. It’s a subject that makes good press but, ultimately, bad economics. By contrast, with the impact of offshoring, though, it’s almost insignificant.
 

The Good

I just don’t have the time.

We all say it, or at least think it, every day. We have to make some hard decisions on how we use our available time. We have to prioritize.

Our jobs and careers demand that we set priorities, too. I hear it every day from friends and colleagues – especially when they try to explain why they aren’t more involved with their industry associations.