People face tough decisions every day in a wide array of scenarios. It may relate to health, business, relationships or money. Should the aggressive cancer treatment be undertaken despite the risks? How many people should be trimmed now the business has been taken over? Do we send in troops against the enemy on foreign soil? Do I give her another chance despite her infidelity? Does this blue or pink shirt look better? President Obama explained that by the time a matter was referred to him for an outcome there was no easy decision.
This is because people are troubled by conscience. A conscience is that thing which causes you to frame your own decisions as if someone was watching what you are doing or thinking, even though you are alone. People make decisions tougher than they need be because they are worried how people will react, how it will make that person look in front of others, how it will impact on other people and whether they will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. These considerations do not trouble my kind and me.
My kind and me receive a lot of bad press about the things we say and do. Of course you will not be holding your breath in the expectation of some kind of apology because that is just not going to happen. I do know however that you are a reasonable person who looks at matters in a balanced and fair-minded fashion (it is just that I tell everyone else that you are crazy harpy who is out of control). With that in mind, you really ought to give thanks for people like me because we can be relied on to make the tough decisions that have to be made.
For example, imagine there is a redundancy situation in your department and in one particular team four people are at risk of losing their jobs. Two positions have to go and one of your friends is in this pool of individuals at risk. How would you go about deciding who is selected for redundancy and who is not? That part of you that is dedicated to fairness and the correct way of doing things would decide that a prescribed selection criteria should be applied to all four who are at risk. You would apply scores for each person to the criteria and the two lowest would be then selected for redundancy. The empath in you knows however your friend will face serious financial consequences if he lost his job now, notwithstanding the redundancy package. You also fear you will lose your friendship if he is made redundant. You agonise over what you should do. Should you apply the scores fairly and then be beyond reproach in the event of a legal challenge to the decision but risk losing your friend and causing him severe problems? Alternatively, should you massage the scores bumping up a couple of his and reducing a couple of someone else’s? Who would know if it is just a few points difference? What about speaking to the head of the department and trying to save one of the jobs so there is only one casualty? In such a scenario you know your friend will be safe as one of the candidates is poor at his job and is nailed on to be chosen. I know that you would face quite a dilemma in trying to make this decision and ultimately you would probably pass it on to someone else citing a conflict of interest.
What about me? What would I do? Would I apply the criteria and the poorest two lose out? After all, surely we want the best employees and if there is dead wood it needs to be cut out irrespective of any friendship that may exist? Would I instead apply my own criteria of who will provide me with the best fuel in this office dynamic and allow that to influence the supposed objective scoring? Would I make the decision that suits me the best and then reverse engineer the situation to give it the veneer of legitimacy? I should imagine that you will be inclined to think that I would do the latter. If so, you would be wrong.
I would fire all four. Their work would be distributed to other people in the department on the basis that they would receive a small bonus if they achieve certain targets. The business makes a greater saving by losing the foursome and four other employees become very grateful to me, thus giving me plenty of fuel, as a consequence of this incentive. I then contact two of the four and explain that if they bide their time I will ensure they can be re-hired in a few months’ time, before the pay-off has been depleted and thus they will actually find themselves in a better position. I will recruit those two in the new financial year so the previous year’s savings remain good. The re-hired individuals will be eternally grateful to me, ensuring loyalty and further fuel, plus I shall ensure they become my lieutenants as repayment for me looking out for them. The hold I have over my higher-up will ensure the recruitments go through without incident and are done outside of the time allowed for the two who remain out in the cold to bring a tribunal claim.
What about the friend in all of this? Who cares? He should have fuelled me more and he might have been saved. As it is, I have found some new friends who are ever so grateful for my largesse and who are perfectly content to propagate my explanation that the friend was released as a consequence of some behaviour that cannot be expanded on but let us say is outside the range of normative behaviours of decent people in society. When the friend comes calling to vent his spleen at me, well his anger and insults are all good fuel aren’t they?
The way you are wired causes you to make decisions tough.
We, by contrast, make the tough decisions.
You really ought to thank us.