Do the Fans of Fred Flintstone Live on in the Executive Suite?

I recently overheard an executive reprimanding a seasoned veteran lower level manager. I was struck by the curtness and severity of the dress down as well as the trite and overused comments utilized in the humiliation. What bothered me so much wasn’t the fact that the manager was being told about some error that had occurred but rather the snotty tone of the remarks and the snide insinuation that the manager was somehow intellectually deficient and inferior to the executive. I will admit that I did not know the entire context of the situation at hand but definitely noted the arrogant demeanor of the executive as well as his smartass comments:

– I don’t think you have your arms around this business.
– Results are what I pay you for.
– If you don’t know the answer, who does?
– You’ve taken your eye off the ball.
– This should have been a slam-dunk.
– You just don’t seem to get it.

These were just a few of the barbs thrown at this manager. Sound familiar? What struck me the most, aside from the arrogance of the executive that I have now become inured to, were those comments. Lately, it seems that I keep hearing these expressions parroted over and again by certain executives in the ivory tower. Sometimes they’re slightly modified or used in conjunction with other statements of a similar nature but there seems to be a flood of them and delivered with the same demeaning intent.

The use of words and phrases by powerful people must be treated with careful thought and reflection. Now we all know that the executives in question have been endowed with above average intelligence and innate managerial skills. How else could they have possibly risen to such exalted positions without these characteristics? I cannot explain the explosion in the use of these phrases and comments nor can I understand the need to use them to humiliate others and showcase how intelligent they are. We all know how much smarter they are than us mere mortals. What is with this sudden need to prove it to everyone?

I was reminded of an old Flintstones episode where Fred inadvertently became the boss of the quarry. Mr. Slate, the real boss, was away or something. I can’t quite remember the circumstances that put Fred in command. Fred buffaloed his way through the situation by the continual use of several comments and expressions. I can’t quite recollect who coached him in this charade. Perhaps it was Mr. Slate himself. I might be wrong here but I believe that were three expressions that Fred was taught to use in any situation dealing with the other managers around the quarry:

– Whose baby is that?
– Let’s run it up the flagpole.
– I’ll buy that!

Fred was very successful in using these words with the other managers. In fact, it’s all he ever said to them. Because of Fred’s position power, the other managers groveled at his feet all vying to answer “Me” to the question “Whose baby is that?” or beaming when Fred would say, “I’ll buy that!” Fred was getting a lot of mileage out of these words – and he didn’t even know what he was talking about. I do seem to remember his head swelling due to the attention. He began to act like a real “big shot” and of course thought of himself as superior to the others. Now Fred Flintstone was not the smartest guy in the quarry. He did not possess an executive MBA or come from a fortune 500 company. Fred’s “connections” with Mr. Slate were no more useful than to earn him the privilege of being used as a temporary dupe. Of course in the end, Fred learned his lesson, went back to his steam shovel-asaurus and we all got a good laugh. It’s funny how I remembered that particular episode, those words and the impact they had on Fred’s co-workers as well as Fred himself.

Words spoken by those in powerful positions carry a lot of weight. I would like to think that the executives in question here realize this and are just not aping these comments and expressions like Fred Flintstone to make themselves “feel important” by humiliating others with words. Come on folks. We all know how smart you are!

Here are some other expressions that might replace those in your arsenal. You might even really feel a lot better about yourself when using them, particularly if they result in the desired effect:

– We seem to have a problem here. What can we do to prevent it in the future?
– Let’s figure out how this happened. Perhaps collectively, we can come up with a permanent solution.
– Please make sure to let me know if you need my support in this.
– We must do something to stop this in future. Any thoughts?

Give it a try! Even a caveman can do it!


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