by The Inmate
It is perhaps a general rule that where human uniqueness is impaired words are emptied of meaning.
—Eric Hoffer, Working and Thinking on the Waterfront
For discerning employees the acceptance speech is the best initial indication of a new manager’s competence. The general rule is this: the shorter the speech the more likely this person will not insult and hinder employees in the future. If, when introduced, a new manager smiles hesitantly and only nods his or her head –celebrate. Cry openly. Hug your co-workers. Thank God you are alive on this day–even if you don’t believe in God. Who knows? Maybe after such an event you will.
The most inspiring speech I heard by a new manager consisted of two words: “Thank you.” He then proceeded to work and work well. He listened too–imagine that! He gained a lot of respect before he said anything.
Long speeches are generally meaningless and nauseating. If your new managers drone on about how glad they are to be here, how they have heard great things about this crew, how they are interested in talking to each and everyone of you about any suggestions or problems you have, how their door is always open, how great the business is–but how much better it could be and about “challenges” and “the competition” and “new ideas” and all that other crap–clean out your locker or your office or the cardboard box you received when you were hired; turn in your keys, your uniforms and your company car; bid your colleagues a hearty and swift farewell; then get on the nearest interstate and drive–drive like a lunatic–drive until you have crossed over a dozen state lines, then pull over to the side of the road, get out of your car and laugh, my fellow inmate, laugh loud and long. You are lost. You are homeless. You have to pee. But you have escaped the plague.
Managers who make these speeches resort to clichés because they have few thoughts of their own. “Corporatespeak” thinks for them. George Orwell wrote, “A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance towards turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself.” These phrases and words which had real meaning when they were first used, no longer do because managers repeat them like parrots. There is nothing, no conscious thought, no consideration, no real intention behind the words to sustain them.
The worst acceptance speech I heard came not from a new manager but from a new sales representative. This man spoke like a preacher in the pulpit of a Baptist church with a nationwide television audience. I’m a delivery driver. In his attempt to motivate us he said, “And don’t any of you think you are not as good as UPS, because you are. I know what you can do. I used to work at UPS and you are just as good, if not better, than they are.” What he did not understand is that none of us cared about comparing ourselves to UPS. We consider other drivers at the competition our colleagues. We know who the enemy is and it is not the person out there working as hard we are to pay the salaries of managers who perform meaningless tasks in order to give executives impressive looking resumes. The enemy is always closer than you think.
There are two ways to survive long acceptance speeches. The best one is to go to the rest room and rest. Have a seat, pull out a book and wait. Be patient. If anyone questions your trek toward the throne give them a pained look and say quietly, in a whisper, almost under your breath, “Diarrhea.” Whoever asked does not need to know you were thinking, “Diarrhea of the mouth.” This is simply information that is not necessary for them to conduct their job.
The second way, sometimes more fun and rewarding, is to stand at the back of the audience with several like-minded people and make cynical, sarcastic comments. The laughter you provoke may actually distract the speaker into saying something meaningful. Okay, it’s unlikely, but at least you’ll have a good time.
As the new CEO at The Corporate Asylum I want to take a moment to talk about where we’ve come from, where we are and where we are going. All great endeavors require great people to blah blah blah blah blah our most important assets blah blah blah significant efforts blah blah your full potential blah blah blah blah it is critical that we re-focus blah blah there are no problems, only opportunities blah blah employees who interface with our customers blah blah blah important contribution blah blah our greatest success comes from employees who feel valued and involved in helping achieve our goals blah blah blah strategic repositioning blah blah made significant strides blah blah as we gear up for new challenges blah blah the importance of teamwork blah blah overcome obstacles blah blah we can be proud blah blah blah blah the future begins today . . .