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When Did “Mute Moron” Become a Marketable Skill?


When Did "Mute Moron" Become a Marketable Skill?

We had drinks with a friend of ours recently – a highly successful business woman – who was frustrated over the state of the world, the economy, the repeated scandals in politics and business. She said, “They want mute morons. Where has the judgement of individual contributors gone? Why is it when we walk through the doors to the office, we check our values at the door?”

Bad behavior happens in good organizations. Bad behavior happens in bad organizations.

This is for all the people doing the right thing – in spite of all the bad behavior.

Yes, it’s a dedication. But it’s also a rallying cry in which we pledge never to become mute morons.

We get it.  It’s simply easier to go with the flow, blend in, don’t make waves.

It’s a royal pain in the ass to get out of our chair to go ask the boss why she changed the analysis reported in the presentation to something that is now factually inaccurate, or to send the email pushing back on the co-worker who is suggesting that cutting corners will get the project finished on time.

We face professional challenges every day that require judgement and discretion. Presumably we were hired to use those skills. Oddly, we find ourselves in professional situations where being a mute moron is preferred – colleagues that expect you to blindly go where they say and question nothing.

We’re calling bullshit.

How not to be lulled into the deep sleep of complacency

Moronic behavior comes in varying degrees.

Maybe sweater vests are all the rage among your company’s C suite executives. We think it’s kind of moronic to join in on that micro-fashion trend, but certainly not unethical.

On the other hand, maybe your company’s controller asked you to book journal entries based on notes written on a Post-it. Doing that is definitely moronic, and is not going to pass muster with the audit team; and, depending on the entry, may be illegal. 

There is certainly a continuum of how far off the rails things can go in a workplace. On one end is unprofessional conduct, and on the other is Madoff-style fraud.

So let’s just face the fact that the human race seems to produce a disproportionate number of members who will compromise everything to do the wrong thing. The question is why?

It’s astounding to watch them in action.

  • They think their actions will never be discovered and therefore they can get away with it.
  • They think their actions are harmless if they are acting in the company’s “best interest”.  
  • They believe their company will protect them if discovered.
  • They would rather be one of the herd doing the wrong thing than stand apart and do the right thing.

And they’re counting on the rest of us to be mute morons.

Why do we abandon what is most important to us when we need it the most?

It’s hard. It takes extra effort. It’s not always the popular thing to do.

Nonetheless, some people do it.

Most of you doers of the right things are doing it quietly and consciously every day. That’s the way it should be:  Facing professional challenges head-on and solving the problems those challenges present.

To you we say, “THANK YOU!”

For those of you who may be thinking, “I’ve been a bit more complacent than I’d like to admit,” welcome to the club. We too have found ourselves waist deep in situations that we knew were wrong and realized it was time to correct. Here are some suggestions.

Change now. It’s never too late to change course. Leaving the herd of blockheads behind and acting on your good judgement and discretion will bring your work life into congruence with your personal values. The benefits you get from that are priceless.

Speak up. You can do it professionally and with conviction. Sometimes that’s all it takes – one person speaking up – to let others know they are not alone.

Look around you. You can probably identify those who are doing the right thing. Get to know those colleagues. Support each other and learn from each other.

Mark Twain said, “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

And that’s the damn truth.

Because if we all wait for someone else to stand up and step forward to do the right thing, we may just have to wait forever.

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