Never underestimate slogans’ power

When they announced our office was moving, fear and trembling spread like the plague through the corridors. You see, creatures of the corporate world fear change. We’re like hamsters. If you take away our treadmill, all hell breaks loose.

Everyone panicked when the dumpsters were rolled in, and we had to discard years of accumulated junk, not to mention files and assorted foodstuffs with expiration dates from the Vietnam era.

My workspace has always been cluttered. I guess you could describe it as “messy,” sort of like my backyard after Super Storm Sandy blew through or the trunk of my SUV, where I store everything from fly fishing equipment to my sleeping bag and a collection of junk food, along with extra clothes in case I get stranded when there’s an earthquake or a Black Friday sale at Wal-Mart.

I had so many paper clips, glue sticks, pencils, ballpoint pens, pennies, toothbrushes, plastic forks and spoons in my desk that I just pulled out the drawer, closed my eyes and emptied it into the dumpster. Freedom. Catharsis. Nirvana. Thoreau would be proud; so would my mother, God rest her soul.

In their zeal to get rid of stuff, my colleagues deposited it in my office when I wasn’t looking. For a week or two, I found flotsam and jetsam on my desk when I arrived in the morning — old Bic pens, an assortment of Bigelow tea bags, Dr. Scholl’s foot pads (probably used), coffee mugs caked with crud and a few other questionable gifts from the local magi.

Someone also left several plaques with inspiring slogans like “Change is inevitable, growth is optional,” and “What is the biggest room in the world? The room for improvement.” A greeting card writer at Hallmark probably thought them up before he got fired and took a job as speechwriter for presidential candidate Donald Trump.

There were others with pithy sayings like “It CAN be done,” “It’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it,” and “Believe in miracles.” These are the same slogans that organizational development trainers drilled into us years ago, when I attended management charm school, where I was required to learn touchy feely techniques so I wouldn’t scream at my staff.

Everyone expects the boss to have a plaque on his desk. It says a lot about a person’s management style. Which boss would you prefer? One whose slogan is “Be afraid. Be very afraid” or “Smile, God loves you”?

I have a collection of corporate bric-a-brac stored in my attic, along with a mood ring I got from human resources. They said if your ring turned blue, you were a cool manager with self-control. If it turned black, they advised you to get out of management and check into the nearest cardiac-care unit. Mine was usually black.

A few plaques have traveled with me throughout my career. One says, “Live free or die,” which is the motto of New Hampshire. Unfortunately, I’ve never lived free, but I’m still around. Another says, “No whining,” but I can’t help myself, I love to whine. Then, there’s a famous quote by Bette Davis, who wisely observed, “Old age ain’t for sissies,” and I’m beginning to understand what she meant. I also have one of Thomas Jefferson’s, who said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

I was raised in a home that had slogans everywhere, largely because my father was in Alcoholics Anonymous, and they reminded him of what he had to do to stay sober. Sayings were plastered all around the house. There was the classic, “You are not alone,” which you see at 12 Step meetings, along with “First things first,” “A day at a time,” and “Live and let live.”

Never underestimate the power of a slogan. A few words can capture profound truths. Probably the most meaningful for me, which came from my father’s AA collection, are “The attitude of gratitude” and “Let go and let God.”

Those phrases have inspired countless people and sustained them through the storms of life. They’ve helped them endure pain and suffering and a lot more … even office relocations.

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