More bad news coming. The internet will expose more institutional spin

I know my institutions and can read their behavior

Many years ago, I friend of mine was negotiating his salary with his employer.  To aid his efforts, he paid a friend who was an employment agent to advertise a job just like his and to offer a wonderful package.

My students at the time were all excited.  The advertisement vindicated their choice of major.  Yes,  if they worked hard, they could follow an institutional path and be rich!!

Not even knowing my friend’s devious scheme (I found out later), I dismissed the advertisement with a contemptuous, “It’s a scam”.

See, I knew three things that my students didn’t know:

  • The prevailing salary rates, not just in my profession, but in sister professions of accounting, marketing, etc.  I knew what the market thought was reasonable.
  • Business conditions and the amount of gross profit available for institutional careers (you know the one’s guaranteed by the taxpayer no matter how much you mess up)
  • That people run institutions lie.

Before I worked as a work & organizational psychologist, I too thought institutions were honorable

I remember the first time I fell for an institutional scam.  It was a painful experience and it took me years to get over it.

We trust institutions

When we are young, we believe that institutional leaders are honorable.  Institutional leaders go to great lengths to make us believe that because that is their job.  After all an institution is only an institution if it is stable and trusted.  So they will tell you anything to have you believe they have done their job.

But we should remember that to check whether they are trustworthy

And that is why we must not trust them.  We must ask for evidence.  Hard, cold evidence.  What are the career paths in the organization?  Where are the statistics?  What are the future scenarios for the organization?  Can you look at them?

An institutional leader cannot use his own spin as evidence

Lord Mandelson is doing the right thing by making universities show students the destinations of graduates An institutional leader cannot hold up his own spin as evidence that he has succeeded in making order and stability for us.  He was to show us the evidence.

In the days of the internet, data on the institution’s performance should be freely available

And I am afraid that if that in the days of the internet that if that evidence is not freely available on the internet in slurpable form – meaning that you can download the  input data, not the processed data – then they obviously have something to hide.

Harsh words, I know

But remember my friend, and remember how my students were taken in.

Ask questions and the first question is ~ what happens when I ask?

First sign of scoundrels running the organization

If they don’t want to answer, or if they set up a meeting where we are doing all the answering and our questions come after they have made up their minds, then they are frauds.  Then they are frauds and and we have found them out.

Disappointing, of course.  Doubly disappointing.  Trebly disappointing.

  • We don’t get what we want.
  • Institutions by definition should be honorable.  So we don’t get what we want AND we know we have frauds in our midst.
  • Institutions are usually paid for by the taxpayer.  We don’t get what we want, we know you are trying to cheat us AND we are paying for you.

My priorities when you use public money to cheat me

Hmmph.  Well for now, my priority must be to get what I need and want.  Then I will participate to clear out the rotten institutions.  Then I will think about recovering my money from you.

Is that the right order?

For the young & inexperienced

And if you are young and inexperienced, stop trusting institutions who don’t trust you with hard, cold data.  Spin that they have done their job of making a safe, orderly environment for you is not evidence. Ask for the evidence.  If they don’t have it, act accordingly ~ warily ~ get what you need and in due course, expose their shenanigans.

 

Pretentiousness: don’t spin and scam in a world governed by necessity

Pretending to be what you are not

We do it a lot.   It is the hallmark of our institutionalized society.  We have these ‘roles’ which we think we are supposed to fit into.  We think other people expect us to fit into those roles too.

So we try to dress the part, look the part, say the right things.  Why?  So we will be treated as if we are the part.  We are part of a large scam – and we know it.

Economic and other shocks reveal the Emperor’s clothes

When our lives are upset in some way – when our expenses are challenged, when our business model is scuppered by the internet, when our business contracts and our spending power takes a dive through a leaner cash flow or outright redundancy – we often find ourselves unduly taken up with  “how will people treat me?”.  Will I be taken seriously without my big car?    <Panic and dismay>

But don’t make it worse by concentrating on the wrong thing

When someone has the rug pulled out from underneath them, it is sad to watch.  Not because they lose their status but because they hang on to an irrelevant formula.

Get your priorities clear

Mate, just get your priorities clear.  If a tsunami had swept over your town, you wouldn’t be stopping to blame yourself or to score points over you neighbour.  You’d get to fundamentals.

  • Where are the people I love?
  • What are the immediate threats?
  • What do we have to feed us, wash us, keep us safe?  Where is clean water?
  • Who around us needs help and can we help them?

Get real!  It is so much easier!

Stop acting.  Spin and scams looked good but it is time to get real

If you are feeling very uncomfortable in your skin or in your current circumstances, maybe stop acting.  The old model is broken.  Well, and truly bust.  Don’t spend another thought on it.  The tsunami has come . . . and gone. We are dealing with the aftermath.  We can reminisce later. We can ask the climatologists what happened later.  For NOW, we only want to know what happens NOW

Judge people by what they can deliver now.  If they want you to play a part, do you really believe they have anything substantial to offer?  Really?

Imagine arriving at a Red Cross tent after a tsunami and dealing with an official who is pretentious – who makes you fill in daft forms  and play games.  You will be quick to work out whether they have food for your children in their tent or not.  And you will do the minimum to get it.  You will get it, but you will do the minimum.  These are clearly not people to be bothered with.  You may be shocked that the aid workers are scam merchants but, really, you will be busy, so you will put aside the shock and concentrate.

If there is another tent where food is handed out briskly and you can get on with your life, you would choose that tent.   Vote with your feet.  Hanging around a badly run tent full of pompous officials who demand you look the part in some imaginary narrative will not get you anywhere.  The tent might look good, but hang around only so long as they deliver what you need NOW!

Challenge your own pretensions

It really is important to get real.  No one owes us a living, as the saying goes.  Do today what needs to be done today.

We also owe a living to no one except the young, the sick, the infirm and the aged who cannot contribute any more.  We have to learn to give unto Cesar.  Pay the tax that we have to pay. Fill in the forms that we have to fill in.  To use the contemporary expression “fake like they are human”.  But ignore them otherwise.  You are too, too busy, coping with what needs to be done today.

If they think less of you because your world has fallen apart, that is their lookout  They are just not helpful.

But don’t lose more friends because you are worried about spinning and scamming in a world governed by necessity and real challenge.  Attend to what is real.  Leave the spin merchants to their imaginary life.

Will you look back in wonder? Or are you sleepwalking through an institutionalized life?

Is your life institutionalized?

Some many of us are institutionalized.  We live our lives as if we are on a long distance flight.  I am travelling from Heathrow to Auckland via LA.  My, doesn’t that feel good.  I am going somewhere you want to go, on a route you would like to follow.

But that isn’t life.  That is sitting in a sardine can for awfully long time doing what we are told.

In real life, we set out, much like Dick Whittington and his cat.  We are going to London.  We don’t have a map.  In truth, we aren’t really sure that London exists.  But we know we are going.

How do you cope with the muddled narrative of an open ended adventure?

Because we are going, but are quite sure where and how, when people ask us what we are doing, we sound muddled.   During the journey, we know what we have just left and what we have just seen.  We know the obstacles that face us right now and that might bring our entire project to an end.  People expect to hear our destination and our route.  Without an institutionalized storyline, we sound disjointed!

If our story is clear, it is yesterday’s action!

It is only at the end of the journey that we can tell the whole tale and give it a beginning, middle and an end.

I am still tidying this blog and re-sorting posts I wrote as much as two yeas’ ago.  Each post has been about something I did during that day, or read, or thought.

As a I look back, I am amazed.  Did I really get involved in that and did we think that clearly?   It seems so.

And example of looking back in wonder

Here is a post from over 18 months ago in the aftermath of the March 2008 election when Zimbabweans around the world were in a hiatus without widely accepted election results.   We were writing to the late President Mwanawasa of our neighbours, Zambia, who was chairman of SADC at the time.  SADC is the southern African equivalent of the G20.

  • We were involved.
  • We were imaginative.
  • We were positive.

Beat that can you?  I am impressed with us. This is a fantastic case study of positive psychology of collection action in dire times.

But note at the time, this post got hardly any attention.  Yet, what we were doing was quite revolutionary at so many levels.  Real life is muddled.  Real life is unpracticed.

When it is smooth, when it is definite, it is not real life.  It is just the unthinking sleepwalking of institutional existence.

 

A plan big enough to include now!

Feb 8 2009 High Street South & Steeple snow pi...
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Will your degree really take you where you want to be?

I’ve just read story in the TimesOnline about a mature student who returned to university and read psychology, very successfully, only to find that there are insufficient places for students to complete their professional qualifications.

I am sorry to hear this story. There is a breach-of-confidence here that shames us all.   When students go to university, they accept in good faith our implied promises of progression within their degree and access to their chosen profession.

Very sadly, these promises are often made lightly.  And quite often universities deliberately conceal the facts, if not by commission, then by omission.  They quite consciously don’t collect information on student destinations, and they just as consciously don’t make these facts available.  It is certainly time for regulators to insist that these facts are published on University websites and kept up-to-date!

Not only do I think publishing student pass rates and destinations should be mandatory.  I think universities should loan fees to students and recover the loans themselves!

Caveat emptor

Until the day that regulations are tightened up, then I afraid it is a matter of caveat emptor, buyer beware.  Students need to be wary of making large investments in services that have no warranty!  Should they discover that the university’s promises are inflated, they will be able to recover neither their money nor, more importantly, their time.

Craft a life plan that is far bigger than uni and the professions

So what can students do to avoid this trap?

The advice from contemporary positive psychologists is this.  Don’t plan your university studies around a specific job and employment route! Neither is guaranteed.  Indeed, we have seen from the banking crisis that nothing in this world is guaranteed.

Rather, see your university education as a supplement to your life plan.  Let me give you this example.

Young Nick Cochiarella from my village of Olney has already launched his first social network, SpeakLife while he is at college.  He’s a hardworking guy and he also has a job at the local Coop.  He is taking a slightly circuituous route doing technical training before he goes to university.  But he is not waiting for anyone.  It is true that his hard work still guarantees him nothing.  But he is not deferring his dreams, and his university training supports, rather than defines, his life’s purpose.

But I need a job now!

It can be tough to start living our dreams.  We often get into an enormous tangle.

The biggest distractor is the desperate belief that we will somehow be safe when we follow a road carved out by others.  But it is not safe, as we have seen.

And even if it were safe, why do we think that other people’s dreams will be enough for us?

Wouldn’t it be better to have our own dreams and to work with others to find where we can temporarily work together to make the path easier and broader for both of us?

A plan big enough to include now

Ned Lawrence has been challenging me to refocus this site on the needs of the ordinary person – the person who lives these dilemmas.

What do you think?

Is it possible to make a plan that is big enough to include now?

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