Mistakes Were Made

[As we await this afternoon's emergency Regents meeting, we'll bump this FanPost!, written yesterday morning, by famed BHGP diarist Bellanca. We're also doing this to open a new thread while we try to figure out where the heck to go from here. Thanks to all our readers for keeping your comments civil yesterday, and we look forward to more of the same today.--OPS]

In the language of bureaucracy, the ugly is transformed to the bland.  The logic and imperative of individual moral action are replaced by collective procedure, bled dry of conscience.  Leadership is fled, because in the culture of bureaucracy, a mania for collective credit requires that no single person ever stand and say, "Wait a second, this has gotten out of hand, and I don't care how many careers and how much money are at stake."

So.  Hypothetically, now.  Say you're the executive of a small, 150-person outfit and a couple of your staff are accused by a young woman in your office, sitting there with her dad now, of a violent crime.  Wait, not a "violent crime".  Felony second- and third-degree sexual assa ult.  Wait, that's more euphemism.  The young woman there accuses someone who works for you of raping her while she is insensate in one of your company buildings.  She doesn't know how many men raped her but others of your staff say they know that it happened.   She is accusing your staff of a violent crime and others of your staff are saying, "Probably."  She woke up alone covered in blood.  In the bed of one of your staff, in your bricks and mortar.

What do you do?

a.  Whip out the policies and procedures document prepared by the bureaucracy's career legal staff, which parses carefully the definition and "context" of degrees of "non-consensual sexual activity", and offer the alleged victim an "informal policy response" to the "activity" that no one really need learn about.   Other truly brilliant strategems include not informing the board of directors, which later convenes an inquiry, of everything that has happened, and hiding files containing primary communications with the victim's family.  Hey, mistakes were made.

b.  Apologize for her obvious distress, and, after you return from the bathroom where you've been throwing up, because you have children this age, and you're questioning how you came to employ people capable of this behavior, say, "I don't know what happened and frankly, neither do you, but something bad has happened and it is entirely inappropriate for me to be involved other than as follows.  I will make every one of my staff available at any time to answer any questions the police may have.  I am not in the business of finessing allegations of violent sexual crime -- rape -- just because some cubicle-bound lawyer in Dockers wrote a manual telling me how to do so, and others of this administration say it's okay.  I urge you to go to the police because this is so far removed from a workplace discipline, internal-response type of problem, that even discussing it makes me queasy.  I will go with you and your Dad, if you wish."

Later, reflecting, you send some dipshit hotshot new hire back to South Dakota for stripping off his clothing in an alley at 3 a.m. while on an orientation visit, and fire his supervisor (who is a close friend).  You tell the other middle managers what Urban Meyer tells his position coaches: you want to work here, you better know everything there is to know about every single one of your staff.  You may not survive your decision to violate bureaucratic omerta, but at least the bullshit is gonna stop and you have a better chance of looking at yourself in the mirror each morning.  Then you call this guy Bob Downer who is on your board of directors and offer to help in any way you can.  Downer is a good guy.  His firm used to be called Meardon, Sueppel, Downer and Hayes, back when Jim Hayes defended James Hall in the Sara Ottens case.  He will think carefully and well.  You think you need someone with a moral compass to talk to, who will tell the truth, and speak plainly, and cut through the fog of equivocation and self-justifying bureaucratic happy-talk that emerges each and every day from all the suck-ups, poodles and cube-dwelling ninnies in this metastasizing bureaucracy by the river.  Some days you wake up and realize you have no idea how you got to this place.  Some days you have the sense, as Sherwood Anderson put it, remarking on his abandoned industrial life, that everyone around you is talking under water.  Their lips are moving but there's no sound.  What is everyone doing?  Some days manifest just the machinery and inertia of an attenuated organization, ungrounded, drifting free of sense, serving self-interest.  Those days are bad.  That would be today.   Today is bad.

Unless otherwise expressly indicated by BHGP editors, this FanPost is strictly the viewpoint of the author and is not endorsed by BHGP in any way.

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