Murphy’s Law: if anything can go wrong, it’s your fault

Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

I WAS terribly disappointed. Was it me or some people? I tried hard not to blame others. After all, I’m fully responsible. Or maybe I expected too much of others. Last Friday was an important day. I had an important management event attended by more than 73 corporate decision makers and professionals, including 18 Japanese. Let me tell you that it was not comfortable being on stage, where you can’t go ballistic against miscues and missteps.

One hour before the program started, the sound technician was being surprisingly creative and suggested that we play the national anthem of Japan and the Philippines, knowing that we had a good number of Japanese participants. “Wow! Thank you.” It was not in the program, but I gladly accepted the idea on the spot. How can you refuse someone who has that bold initiative? After all, we need more people to come out of their shell to suggest new ideas to management.

I believe in industrial democracy and I should be the first person to invite ordinary people to come forward to give their thoughts for the betterment of a management program.

My disappointment started when the Kimigayo (Japan’s national anthem) was played but stopped after 30 seconds. Boom! What’s happening? The technician’s gadget lost power despite the fact that it was connected to an outlet. What went wrong? It beats me. Was it sabotage? The show must go on. Should I sing a cappella or force the sound technician at gunpoint to sing the two anthems?

I pretended not to be bothered by it. I suppressed my nervousness doing the opening ceremonies. I think was able to present a façade of a professional with the cool poise of a young groom walking down the aisle without knowing that I had nine feet of toilet paper behind me. Were the people laughing? No, probably not. I think they were crying.

Of course, it was only a wild guess. No one revealed their reaction against me even during the break because everyone appeared busy with the soba noodle, gyoza, sushi, and wasabi cake. Did the food save us from further trouble?

After the break, once again, the hotel audio system sounded like high school students who got 75 percent in their vocational project installed it. There were several times when the wireless microphones can’t be used—either it was not properly loaded with fresh batteries or the electronic parts were all made in China, with due respect to the Chinese people. The audio technician did his best by working (or pretending to work or shall I say experimenting) on all the equipment to please us.

Despite that, the acoustic problem persisted. At times, I tried sending dagger looks at the poor technician to no avail. He was evasive.

At the end of the seminar, there was even one participant who claimed in his seminar evaluation form that the audio trouble occurred as often as 236 times! Again, how can you argue with a person who claimed to know how to count? Surely, he had the right to complain as a loyal patron of our seminars.

That was the time when I remembered Murphy’s Law. You know what I mean: if anything can go wrong, it will, no matter what you do to correct it. The hotel technician was there to correct the trouble. But still, he failed to decipher what was happening. He did everything, but the problem persisted. As if, even if he knew that something can go wrong and apply due solutions to avert it, something else will still go wrong. If not, another problem would arise.

In events management, the sound system, including its related facilities, is a big deal. When the hotel sales manager met me for the first time, the audio services should have been the first in our agenda. But I became complacent. After all, I felt comfortable because it was our eighth engagement for the year in that hotel.

But there were also some really positive aspects in last Friday’s event, among which is that people were too shy to raise questions during the open forum that I was constrained to do a lot of ad libs to maintain the momentum. Now I know. Still, subtlety and temperance are strong characters of a Filipino, which is one reason why dirty politicians tend to abuse us.

Not me. I encourage criticisms. They help me do a better job next time. Besides, Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller are right when they claimed, “A complaint is a gift.” As long as you accept the blame and promise not to do hara-kiri, then everything would be alright . . . hopefully.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in HR and TQM topics, trying his hand in humor writing. Send feedback to or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.


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