BPC and What It Means to Me
This is a half-formed idea (I have some “friends” who are now asking if I’ve ever had a fully-formed idea), but what better way to approach it than to throw it on a blog in front of millions of people. (Tens of people?)
While I think we can all understand the basis for political correctness (the need to turn from hurtful and harmful words and concepts), I think most of us can also agree that it may have gone a bit too far. If someone calls me “an old geezer” (I am over 50 and the hair turned from grey to white a long time ago), I will take the comment within context and my anger will come from that overall situation, not the use of a single word. Yet, I have heard people complain regarding the use of such an “age-ist” word. That is by no means the worst of political correctness gone bad, but I’m sure you can fill in your own stories here.
Beyond that, I have begun wondering if our focus on political correctness — our bending over backwards to keep from offense — is an indicator of a larger problem within our culture. I’ll call it our business political correctness (BPC). BPC is the translation of our fear of offense in every day life into the way we act in the business world. In other words, BPC run amuck is people taking the caution they have exhibited in the real world — the need to find just the right way to say things so that no one is offended — and applying that to the way they handle business situations. And the bad news is that good business is (and good businesses are) built upon positive conflict. And effective positive conflict includes not being overly concerned about offending. Too many “yes” men spoil the broth, the board room, and the multimillion dollar company. But, stop to consider: Do you see more people willing to stick their neck out and offend or “yes” men intent on making sure no offense is taken?
Our aversion to conflict is disguised in many ways — getting along with the internal customer, internal politics, marketing the department — but I’m wondering if it is indicative of our overall aversion to giving offense. And, this leads to the question, “Was BPC one of the many attitudes that helped create the meltdowns and business failures we are currently seeing?” Those who saw flawed strategies, yet suffered from BPC, are even now still trying to figure out the best way to step forward.
And from this point, we have to ask the follow-up question, “How complicit is every audit department in accepting a company’s strategic course because it would not be the right political move or our customer might turn somewhere else? Are we suffering from BPC?” About 10 years ago our department was trying to write our reports in a positive manner. In the audit I completed, we found they weren’t completing appropriate account reconciliations. I wrote something to the effect that controls could be strengthened by the completion of the reconciliations. My boss quickly removed it and explained that we needed to write they were not doing the required reconciliations. His point was that, in sugar-coating (putting a positive customer spin on) the finding, the impact and subsequent actions would be diminished. Ask yourself how similar BPC efforts have impacted the effectiveness of your internal audit department?
I’m sorry; these are only half-formed thoughts. And I would be very interested in what anyone else thinks — whether you can fill in the thoughts or explain that I’m already full of something else. Am I trying to draw too perfect a parallel between political correctness and BPC? Am I casting stones where no sin has been committed? Or have we become so nice a society that our businesses may suffer? And feel free to offend me — you can even call me a geezer.
Posted on Jul 6, 2009 by Mike Jacka
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