THE children of a rich political dynasty decided to give their father a book of the family’s history for his 80th birthday. They commissioned a professional biographer to do the work, carefully warning him of the family’s “black sheep” problem—Uncle George had been executed 50 years ago for murder. The biographer assured the children:
“I can handle that situation so that there will be no embarrassment to the family. I’ll merely say that Uncle George occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution. He was attached to his position by the strongest of ties and his death came as a real shock.”
If you are willing to do the same thing to a non-profit organization that was previously administered by some people who are accused of incompetence and corruption, then how would you whitewash the situation, assuming that you are a willing biographer of a dead stooge?
The reason I ask is this: There comes a time in the life of every human being that your patience will be tested in a telephone survey. I was informed by a young woman’s charming voice that I was chosen based on their scientific and strict screening process, which I suspect to mean only two things: Somebody gave my number to her or, if not, it was simply dialed at random.
Ha, ha, ha! I was overjoyed. I was chosen as a telephone respondent out of 100 million Filipinos. “Do I get paid for this?” I tried to play along while laughing. “I’m sorry, sir. We regret that we can’t give any as this is for a non-profit organization,” she said in a polite manner.
I didn’t lose my kindness. Contrary to what some people would do, I don’t have the heart to drop the call right away. After all, I’m a journalist trying to understand how organizations really work, no matter how stupid their processes may appear to some people.
So I figured the least I could do was to listen, which means imposing two major conditions on the telephone interviewer’s part: She had only five minutes to make her spiel and never to call again.
That’s what I did when most people under the same circumstances would have simply hung up and uttered a four-letter word at least three times. You know what I mean. Today, aside from traffic, the leading causes of anger are loud telemarketers and survey takers. When I was a junior corporate manager, my problems were encyclopedia salesmen or insurance agents.
But, anger would not do you any good. If you keep it bottled up inside, it eats you away until you become a nasty, malevolent, hate-ridden person working in a government agency.
The survey taker was hired to do a study on good governance. Some lazy academics agree that the most productive and professional way to understand “good governance” is to click Google right away. The key here is timing. Fortunately, I was in front of a computer where I got the acronym IMF in 106 million entries in 27 seconds.
Why not? The International Monetary Fund has the best parameters on the subject defining the close linkages of governance and corruption. IMF claims that “where there is poor governance, there are greater incentives and more scope for corruption. Thus, the promotion of good governance helps combat corruption.”
Technically, most people in government and in non-profit organizations—I won’t go naming them here except to say that some of them are getting money from unsuspecting, if not willing, foreign donors who don’t understand “due diligence” for reasons I can’t understand—are no strangers to corruption.
Of course it’s unbelievable. It will probably come as no surprise to you that I will not accept the job of a janitor to whitewash the trouble in any organization, both private and public, and regardless of whether it is a profit-oriented or a non-profit one.
I added a friendly “ha, ha, ha!” to reassure the telephone survey taker I was all for good governance, no matter what. Nevertheless, the five minutes were up. And I proceeded to accelerate the interview to its rushed conclusion. Definitely I would recommend taking a brief call from anyone calling for help, even from survey takers. You’ll never know what you might discover otherwise.
Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused specialty. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.