Friday, February 22, 2008

Tales of In-duh-viduals?

Just received the latest issue of the Dilbert newsletter. One thing that often annoys me slightly is the section titled "TALES OF INDUHVIDUALS." People send in stories about people they encountered were clueless in some way. However, this is also an opportunity to judge other people favorably. Just because someone appears to not understand something does not necessarily mean that he in fact does not.

Two cases in point:
"Locally we have a grocery chain called Bi-Lo. We were sitting around the office one day talking about living on farms and drinking milk from the cows. One girl said she wouldn't drink milk from a cow, only milk from Bi-Lo. The stunned silence was deafening."
Yes, what a dumb woman. She does not know that milk from the grocery store comes from cows!

But while there perhaps are indeed such people, that does not mean that this woman was one of them. There is an emotional, visceral, psychological difference between getting milk from the grocery, in which case it comes from cows, but that is in the abstract, and seeing those cows and seeing the process by which milk is extracted from cows. I once visited a goat farm, and the goat farmer asked person X (who was fairly young at the time) if he wanted goat milk. He said yes (he had been drinking goat milk solely for a while), but then she milked the goat into a cup, and handed him the frothy glass. His reaction: Ew! The goat pished into a cup! (As I noted, he was young at the time.) He did not drink goat milk for many months afterward.

And seeing the operation of milking cows up close, where you have to shpritz the udders with iodine (IIRC) and wipe them with a paper towel, prior to attaching the milking machine, is enough to potentially turn one off of milk for a while. How much dirt and feces gets into the milk?

Besides this, of course, there is pasteurization and other steps taken for quality control, which one benefits from when purchasing milk from a grocery, but which one might not have when getting the milk directly from the cow.

All in all, a bunch of people misunderstood a psychological point of some substance put forth by this woman. And yet she is the one labeled an induhvidual.

Another story:
"We were given our yearly evaluations and handed our objectives for the upcoming year: "Everyone must exceed the Team Average in sales dollars." My boss explained that this was not a case of exceeding a previous average; all ten of us were expected to be above whatever our current average was."
Hah! What a dumb manager! He is mathematically ignorant, and does not understand that you cannot have everyone above average!

Unless... unless the issue is not the meaning of "average," but rather the meaning of "objective." If this was an objective for the team as a whole, then obviously it is not satisfiable. But if this was an individual objective, but given to each member of the sales team in turn, then it makes more sense. It is not necessarily a good management idea, but just might be. That is, there obviously will be one person at least who fails to meet his objectives, and that would carry whatever repercussions that carries. But since each individual salesman has that goal and that motivation, each salesperson will try to compete with others in the same office, to do even better.

So in both cases, it may well be that the person telling over the story simply did not understand the meaning of the purported "induhvidual's" words.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin