Magazine article Management Today

Home Truths

Magazine article Management Today

Home Truths

Article excerpt

Let's call it the Claims Direct culture. I refer to the insidious trend in Britain towards seeking someone else to blame when things go wrong.

In an uncertain world, where events conspire to make earning a living more difficult than we would like, it is inevitable that sometimes we suffer misfortune's slings and arrows. Life is not fair, and those who expect it to be so have missed the point.

Yet, many are no longer prepared to accept that, as a movie criminal once put it, 'shit happens'. Far from it. With Claims Direct and its rival ambulance-chasers telling us 'where there's blame, there's a claim', those who have been the victim of bad luck are increasingly encouraged to find a 'culprit' to pay compensation. This corrosive process helps to rot Britain's social fabric, corrupting positive values, such as taking full responsibility for one's own actions.

The desire for self-exculpation cuts across class and income boundaries. At the top of British industry, company directors will often perform intellectual back-flips rather than own up to having dropped a clanger. Something out there in the vast unknown has confounded their masterplans; so who or what can be blamed?

In recent years, the public relations industry has developed the manufacture of excuses into a perverse art form. Britain's railways cite leaves on the line for late autumn trains, a furniture group claims we stopped buying sofas because of national depression over the death of Princess Diana, and a range of non-agriculture businesses blame their underperformance on the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Recent brazen excuses included a cracker from British Telecom chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield. Having paid [pound]10 billion for a third-generation mobile telephone licence (looks expensive now, doesn't it?), he lashed out at the Government over the auction process.

Sir Peter complained that 'everybody has been surprised at the amount governments in Europe have extracted from our industry'. True, and none more so than British chancellor, Gordon Brown, whose Treasury coffers banked an eye-popping [pound]22 billion from the 3G auction. But this was no state-sponsored mugging. BT was not compelled to bid and could have walked away at any stage.

Yet to hear Sir Peter grumbling that 'obviously we will get a lower return than we were originally thinking', you could be forgiven for believing that Brown had staged a smash-and-grab raid.

The hunt for a culprit to pay compensation is no less intense at the other end of society, among the ranks of hourly-paid workers. …

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