Merge's Blog

The piss-off factor. Short-sighted stupid actions by people in management

Aerial view of downtown Calgary on June 28, 2013

As most of you reading this blog probably know by now, much of the city of Calgary AB as been in a state of emergency since Thursday June 20 when heavy rains across southern Alberta lead to widespread flooding.  Downtown Calgary was evacuated that morning as flood waters breached the banks of the Bow River and groundwater began to swell.  Basements and underground parkades filled up quickly and water rose several feet in the main floors of many buildings.  In fact, as you can see in the photo, at one point, downtown Calgary streets could have been mistaken for the canals in Venice!  Starting last week, power has been restored to many neighborhoods and the giant clean-up effort has begun.  A few offices in downtown Calgary opened for business again on Tuesday June 25, and as the week continued more followed suit as additional buildings were cleared for safety and other requirements.  By all standards, this is probably the worst disaster Calgary has ever faced in its history as a modern city.  Which brings me to the subject of today’s post!

The piss-off factor.  I’ve blogged about the piss-off factor before (in fact, just last week) – it’s when short-sighted and small-minded managers do stupid things to discourage and turn off their employees.  Well, it’s alive and well, and surfacing yet again!  A blog reader sent me a mass distribution e-mail she received from her company on Monday evening, the day before their corporate office in downtown Calgary was to reopen for business.  It contained information about the status of roads and buildings in the city’s core, but it was one sentence that got her attention (and ire!):

Unless unavoidable due to personal circumstances, we expect that every employee will be productive and useful and that it will be business as usual tomorrow, Tuesday, June 25, 2013.

Really?!  Was it absolutely necessary to put that sentence in?!  I’m all for the importance of clearly articulating what you expect from your people (in fact it’s one of the key principles I teach in many of my leadership courses), but there’s a time and a place for everything.  When virtually half of the one million people in this city have been impacted either directly or indirectly by this disaster, is this statement really needed?  At best, the likelihood that this sentence will actually change anything that happens in the office on the first few days back is slim to none.  People WILL stand around the water cooler and share their personal stories and experiences.  At worst (and far more likely), you’ve turned off a whole lot of employees who are, for the most part, dealing with the most serious catastrophic situation of their lives.  At best you’ve accomplished nothing, and at worst, you’ve brought down morale when people are already at their lowest!

Well, what do you think?  Do you think this reader is over-reacting?  Or is the piss-off factor alive and well in corporate Calgary?  I would love to hear your reactions in the Comments below.


  • I do not think the reader is over-reacting. Upon reading this sentence, I sense assumption, lack of consideration, respect and trust, and an overall negative connotation.

    Too bad, I wonder if the writer/s really thought this out or even carefully reviewed the message before sending.

    A more appropriate message may have said,

    “We understand that, under recent circumstances, it will take many of us time to recover. And, while it will also take some time for our company to resume “business as usual” we offer our support during this process. As a company we accept this challenge and as a team, we are confident our employees will help us overcome this.
    We look forward to seeing you tomorrow.”

  • OMG Cindy, your version is exceptional! Simply by choosing different words, you changed how people will receive the message. Your version shows caring, respect, trust and consideration — all things that were missing from the original! Thank you for proving yet once again that leadership is about the HOW (while management is about the WHAT). You changed the HOW and you changed the message.


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