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4 It’s All About Me: Whine, Whine, Answer My email or I’ll Be Hurt or Self-Esteem is not about avoiding failure

September 19, 2010

It’s All About Me:                                          
       Whine, Whine, If You Don’t Answer My email, I’ll Be Hurt
Self-Esteem is not about avoiding failure

September 19, 2010
Journalism Student Won’t Leave Steve Jobs Alone – By Alexia Tsotsis

One reads all the time that in the ‘90s and ‘00’s, the aging baby boomers and gen-xers have been very concerned that they (i.e. their kids) “self-esteem” not be impacted. A recent article on a blog highlighted how some people’s expectations are clueless as they expect to be the “center of the universe”.

Student: why won’t big Apple spend time helping me?

The article talked about how a “poor, simple journalism student” at a small college didn’t get her questions answered by Corporate Apple nor by personal email to Steve Jobs… assuming that the student really did have Job’s email address and wasn’t simply going for 15 seconds of fame by emailing TechCrunch.

Apart from the cluelessness of expecting a media department having the time/resources to respond to lazy individual (ever hear of “Google”, “Bing”, …), the concept that simply finding the email of someone, especially a senior business manager, means that they have the time/energy/resources/inclination to respond, is so ego centric that it boggles the mind.

Andy Grove and the Student from Podunk U

This reminds me of the time when a sophomore at a small New Hampshire college managed to get an email to Andy Grove proposing that Intel give him a system so he could do his undergraduate research into “neural nets”.

Win the lottery: find senior business person’s email

Dr. Grove, being very busy and not having a clue about what the guy was saying, noted the “system” and “donation” so forwarded it on to the Intel Academic Relations group that handled donations to top tier universities in conjunction with key research grants. He added “is there any value in this?” to indicate complete lack of info on the email.

This is called “delegation”, and, in this case, likely a “dump and run” delegation where no follow up is planned (or he would have also said “let me know”). This is a classic method for a senior manager to handle email overload if they aren’t sure it is spam.

(actually, many senior managers now have assistants to filter the emails, Andy didn’t… at that time)

Total processing time: 10 seconds @ $3000/hour

Yesm, Mr. Boss Man, right away Mr. Boss Man

The problem was that the recipient of the email seems to have dropped into bureaucratic suck-up mode. He promptly (it was from Grove and was the top of the “handle” list) forwarded it to the all the “Research at University” technical managers asking if we should donate a system to this clown.

Total processing time: 10 minutes @ $500/hour.

Why did you bother me with this foolishness!

Now, one of the Research managers (me) quickly did a 30 second web check, and then replied

  • The NH college is so far off the radar screen that 0/zero/no time should be wasted on it
  • Intel does not give systems to undergraduates even at top schools like MIT, CMU, UofWash.
  • Finding Andy’s email address should not be “winning the lottery”: this email is not business/job/corporate related or legitimate email to Andy and thus qualifies as spam.
  • If any response is made, it should appear to be a form letter pointing the NH student at a standard Academic Relations entry point. Send him a mouse pad from “marketing”.
  • Be very, very careful not to encourage these behaviors since Andy (Andy’s admin?) doesn’t have time to handle multitudes of stupid emails.

Total additional processing time: 5 minutes @$500/hour

Not a “team flunky”; the Boss Asked a Question

My response was not well received by the bureaucrat’s mindset: what do we tell Andy (should he even ask/remember)? He was actually a bit embarrassed by my response realizing how silly he looked, which, of course, meant that he was cranky with the responding Research Manager.

What the bureaucratic thinking didn’t take into account, besides the foolishness of the whole thing, was that the student was “fishing”. He would have liked to get a new system feebie (win the lottery) but I seriously doubt that any response would have let him brag a bundle.

Bottom Line: People are Busy, Chaff is plentiful, you are likely insignificant

One reads all the time that in the ‘90s and ‘00’s, the aging baby boomers and gen-xers have been very concerned that their (and their kids) “self-esteem” not be impacted.

But, as a senior manager, I know that “self-esteem” is not about “avoiding failure”, it is about “achieving success”. Yes, if you achieve success you must avoid most unsuccessful actions, but if a person’s goal is to “avoid failure”, they are unlikely to learn the skills, inclination, drive to “achieve success”. The burnt finger teaches best: people learn by “doing and failing”.

The whining of the student to Apple is a clear “avoiding failure”: “might have a bad grade, might not get a good job”. It is “all about them” and in no way justifies why the corporation should spend hundreds of dollars to have one of their people help with the homework.

The situation is that corporations need to survive: they have only so much employee time available and that time is needed to focus on keeping the corporation successful. While PR to individuals is important, it needs to be “bulk PR” aimed at larger groups in order to justify the expense. One-offs and word of mouth is important along with personal contact, but that is what retail stores take their margin to provide.

And, to the student, best of luck on winning the lottery by sending emails to upper level management: as P.T. Barnum attributed quote concludes, they might also be clueless.

Carpe Diem: What you can envision, you can achieve!sm
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