Click here to download a .pdf version of this newsletter.

Return to Main Page

In My Opinion
Grover’s Observations

I pass along some observations that I have made in the workplace over the years. Hopefully, you will find them useful, or perhaps a source of discussion.

Grover’s Observation #1: There are no contradictions.
There are hidden agendas, preconceived preferences or ideas, erroneous information, and other factors, but there are no contradictions. Period.

Another person’s logic is not the same as yours. Everyone is logical in their own mind, even crazy people. Any time you think you have found a contradictory situation, you may have discovered a lack of information, which could be on their part or your part:.

  • Someone acting with erroneous information.   
  • A hidden agenda.   
  • Someone whose “logical thinking” is not the same as yours.   
  • Preconceived preferences or ideas—in short, prejudice.

Regarding that last bullet, I don’t just mean racial or gender bias but all sorts of other biases—background, professional standards, and other paradigms, including things people learned as children that they have long since forgotten.

This lack of information leads to my next observation.

Grover’s Observation #2: Each person in the organization values himself more than the organization.
How much more they value themselves varies. This is often referred to in writings as the “principal-agent problem,” and is a form of conflict of interest. Some examples are:

  • Some people who would never eat at expensive restaurants at home will eat steak and lobster on the expense account.   
  • Some people who always carry their luggage into the hotel while on vacation will expense the bell boy and the valet parking while on a business trip.   
  • Some people who really don’t need to make business trips will do so, just to rack up the frequent flyer miles.   
  • Some higher-ups who keep the resort locale offices open, in spite of minimal volume and high costs, because those branch offices are near their vacation condos and they can have the company pay for flights there.

And the list goes on.

Why is this important?

Because some of your findings will result in recommendations that are simple and obvious from a business or profit point of view, however, they will be met with resistance out of proportion to the value of the proposition. This leads to my third observation.

Grover’s Observation #3: When the reaction is out of proportion to the stimulus, something else is present.
I once attended a seminar where the speaker told us to think of other people as having garbage bags on their heads. The size of the bags can vary, but all day, people are putting “garbage” into those bags—a hurtful comment, frustration with something that doesn’t work, something they ate for lunch that didn’t agree with them, and more. All day they keep getting things stuffed into those bags. Then, all of a sudden, something small gets stuffed into the bag and it splits—all of that garbage comes out.

It occurs when you make a seemingly insignificant comment to someone and they blow up. The reaction (the blow up) is way out of proportion to the stimulus (the comment). This happens at home as well as at work.

Grover’s Observation #4: Not everyone in the organization is qualified to be in the position they hold.
In Good to Great, Jim Collins refers to this as having people in the right seat on the bus—having the right people fill each important position in the organization.

There are dishonest employees, incapable staffers, and more people who should not be filling a given position than you care to realize. These people exist—just don’t be one of them.

Grover’s Observation #5: Bad news does not naturally travel up the organizational hierarchy.
Good news seems to have a natural tendency of traveling up the levels in an organization. People like to tell others, especially those at higher levels, of their good accomplishments. But poor performance is covered up, sometimes actively and sometimes by simply not being reported. Managers must find a way to find out the “not-so good” things that are going on. Otherwise, they will find out about them only when they become so large, so severe that they can no longer be covered up, and usually that is when the damage is too great to be overcome without great expense. Sometimes the expense is to one’s personal reputation.

And for my last observation (for now):

Grover’s Observation #6: Things are not always fair.
I hear “that’s not fair” a lot from my grandchildren. People at work have other ways of expressing the same feeling. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, fair is often in the mind of the individual. What I think is fair you might think is a gyp. I do agree that there are a lot of things that happen that are truly not fair, and that there are a lot of inequities in the world.

And so I conclude with a paraphrase of the Serenity Prayer: seek the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you should, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Click here to write a Letter to the Editors

Copyright © 2018 Casualty Actuarial Society. All Rights Reserved.