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The CEO Conjuring Trick

May 21, 2015

Yesterday, whilst watching the news, I had one of those “frozen in my chair” moments. I was viewing the CEO of Thomas Cook deliver his apology for the death 9 years ago of two children whilst they were on holiday in one of his company’s properties. The freeze moment? He started his apology with “As a father myself” and went on to say that he wanted “to help the family move on”.

Sounds familiar? It is identical to the letter Katrina Pearcey, CEO of Southern Health wrote to Connor Sparrowhawk’s family. She wrote, ” as a mother & CEO”. And later, wrote about “supporting the family to move on”.

In 2010, having just announced they were moving Steven to Wales, I received an email from the social worker. She was proposing a meeting between just herself and me. The email starts, ” As a parent, I can understand that this is a difficult time for you”, and goes on to offer her support “through this process”. I politely wrote back, declining a meeting and pointing out that as she was the cause of my distress, she was the last person I wanted to talk my distress through with.

Here are my few rules of thumb for this sort of manipulative bollocks:

1. Using a parental association in an apology immediately renders the apology meaningless. It is the presentation of empathy to disguise a completely unempathic motive.

2. When an organization in these dreadful circumstances uses the word ” genuinely”, that is an immediate alert that darker motives are at play. People who are being genuine, don’t announce they are being genuine.

3. Trust your instinct. If your instinct is to scream “fuck off” when being given a “genuine apology”, you know you are being shafted.

4. An organization, whose actions have caused you unbearable pain and distress cannot possibly ” support” you with that pain and distress. The opposite happens – your pain and distress will be increased and prolonged.

Why oh why oh why do we keep falling for this corporate conjuring trick? Why do we expect these organizations to respond with humanity and integrity. Unfortunately, our own expectations adds considerably to our distress.

These large organizations do not have a commitment to be humane. Their main priorities are not to the people using their services. They are not in the business of integrity or empathy. They are in the business of business. They are in the business of making money for themselves, their shareholders, their hedge fund managers, their private equity firms. The death of a customer is only relevant in the impact it may have on the profit margin.

Every time we engage with a fake apology we are hurting ourselves. Every time we build up an expectation of how these organizations should respond, we are opening the door to more distress.

We have to stop doing this. Our sanity and reality depends on it.

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From → Social Care

4 Comments
  1. lisa permalink

    Oh Yes. Mr Neary you nail it, right on the fucking head, over and over again.
    Thank you .

  2. Shirley Buckley permalink

    I screamed fuck off down the telephone 10 times to the stupidest care manager there was. She hung up on the 6th fuck. My solicitor apologized in writing for me, said the language was wrong but the reason for it was right. And how about this CSSIW “we make a CONCIOUS effort to involve not only each individual but also their families” And Mr Justice Charles vice president of the Court of Protection “Mrs Buckley believes IN HER MIND that all her sons problems stem from his epilepsy”

  3. My old boss (CEO in a Local Authority) was an ace at manipulating meetings. Whenever he leant forward confidentially, lowered his voice and said “Now I’m going to be completely frank with you …” , I knew he was lying. Happened every time & depressingly it usually worked.

  4. Sally permalink

    Brilliant Mark. “I’m a parent myself” is much used and is manipulative bollocks on so many levels ! Not least because if you convey that you are notinterested in bonding with them as a fellow parent it means you are presented as a bad person who has rejected a professional who is sharing their vulnerability with you etc etc. Comes with “We really want to support you with thiis” after they have done something which will cause you and your family terrible pain.
    . It is as painful and hypocritical as being knocked down by a mugger who then leans over you to ask if you are OK. (I have a wallet myself, Mr Neary, I know how you feel.”)

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