FUNNY BUSINESS

A80pxtreere you anti – business? Are you pro-business?

What does these terms even mean?

The ‘anti-business’ phrase has been used by Yvette Cooper about Ed Miliband, by George Osborne about charities, by Republican businessmen about Barak Obama, and increasingly by certain journalists about anyone who questions some of the complex, sub-optimal, aspects of current working life.

Let’s imagine.

Penny Hunt's business anti-opacity tool.If ‘anti business’ meant a life of motivated pursuit of non harmful personal interests; creative, constructive and collaborative life-enhancing endeavour; fulfilling exploration of everybody’s skills…..well who wouldn’t sign up for that?  But like a lot of the weird non-language currently in use by our political – and business – leaders at the moment, nothing is at it seems.  And the ‘anti-business’ simplification begins to affect how everyone can behave, and indeed feel.

In my leadership work, I’m seeing an emerging pattern of institutional dissembling and non – commitment.  Anti- business, in its current use, is fast becoming a shorthand for criticizing those who should be beyond criticism, for biting the hand that feeds, and for being de facto a sort of naïve anti-market rebel.  The pattern I am seeing is that as soon as the phrase ‘anti business’ is uttered, constructive discussion and questioning is immediately squashed.

I would like to reclaim the phrase.

There are some perfectly legitimate questions to be answered.  Is a business successful and sustainable if some of its operating costs are borne, unquantified, by the consumer?  (What is the true saved cost to a business of all those documents you print out at home – statements, tickets, policies etc?)

Is a business successful and sustainable if some of its operating costs are borne, unquantified, by its staff?
(The mentoring programme that is an unpaid training scheme, the client response record that relies on senior teams of people monitoring their smart phones constantly at weekends.)

Is a business successful and sustainable if it is receiving hidden subsidies?
(The IMF estimates today that fossil fuel companies are receiving global subsidies of $10m every minute of every day. http://uk.businessinsider.com/afp-global-energy-subsidies-to-hit-5.3-tn-this-year-imf-2015-5?r=US  What is this ‘funny business’?)

This mood music of less than full disclosure, of important questions being off-limits directly affects employees and the work culture profoundly. When the ‘business’ is unable to commit to truth and discussion, then neither are individuals able to do so. At any level.

Isn’t this the root of the current productivity conundrum that so many businesses are said to be facing? Being anti opacity in business seems to me to be not only desirable, but a duty.

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