Delivering Disappointment: Want Some Cold Fries With That?

Steve Boese Engagement and Satisfaction, HR (& Life!) Advice, HR Tech, Steve Boese

You know what job sounds pretty cool?

Professional advertising photographer.

No, not a high fashion photographer who spends his days in exotic locations taking ‘action’ shots of the world’s top models garbed in the latest ‘you can’t really tell, but it is quite likely that swimsuit is see-through’ outfits. That would rise to the level of ‘incredibly awesome job’, a much more attractive destination than simply a ‘cool’ job.

I am talking about the photographer who shoots ad images for things like orange juice, fast food, or even casual dining restaurants.  The men and women who can make a Burger King Whopper look like it should be sharing a pedestal with a classic Greek statue.  The artists who can make a couple of drive-thru burritos resemble the finest food available from Rick Bayless.

The Alphaila blog recently ran a piece comparing the ‘official’ images used in advertising for Whoppers, Big Macs, etc, to the ‘real’ images of these items as they are actually purchased and carried home.  The results are as you’d expect, with the ad images appearing so incredibly more appealing than what even a skilled photographer, using advanced equipment and techniques could create with the ‘real’ products. The blog’s author even characterizes the fast food companies as ‘the most reliable distributors of disappointment’. Whopper1

But who doesn’t know that the promise in the ad copy for a Big Mac, an assurance of wholesome, fresh, and juicy goodness is never going to be fully realized in the execution and delivery of the actual product. We’re not dumb. Or that naive.  And besides, despite the obvious differences in the appearance of ads to the real thing, the real thing is still pretty good, it usually tastes how we expect it will taste, and the payoff or value we derive from the Royale with Cheese is largely complete.  We don’t expect much, and what we do expect is delivered, and even if it wasn’t, we would not get all that nuts about it anyway.  Most of us.

But the Bait and Switch, when it happens for things we really do care about, things that make an impact on our lives beyond the three minutes sitting in the Mickey D’s parking lot at 3:00am, things that matter – then it gets really important.  And it is all too easy in the world of work and management and even workplace technology to fall prey to some classic bait and switch scams.

The posted job ad that promises ‘opportunity to work with cutting edge tools and technology’, only to find out that to that company, IE 7 is what passes for ‘cutting edge’.  The recruiting video starring the company CEO who talks about ‘family values’  but what he really means is that his family values the $20M comp package the board just approved.  Or the pitch from the HR software salesperson who assures your team that once this new system is purchased, configured, and deployed, that a nirvana of automation, efficiency, and insight into the key talent and workforce issues will suddenly be illuminated. But they forget to mention the eighteen month implementation timeline, the seven-figure price tag, and the small army of vendor and third-party consultants you’ll have to spend so much time with that at least one of them will be at your house for Thanksgiving dinner.

I was at a pretty big HR conference recently, the kind of event that had the requisite and expected sessions about compliance, workforce development, and advice on achieving the long sought after but seemingly elusive ‘Seat at the Table’.  I’ll pause while you all shout ‘Bingo’.

But the conclusion to so many of the discussions and debates, and the message when distilled to its essence was ‘Be decent’.  Be decent, don’t try and hide behind some ideal you don’t really believe in, some values statement you don’t uphold, or some fake notion of care and concern if you really don’t intend on taking the hard actions and sometimes painful positions to support.

Don’t sell some glossy, photoshopped, and idealized version of the truth – just be truthful.

If the bun is soggy and the fries are cold don’t try to hide it, it doesn’t work for long anyway.