I need to be careful about how I write about this week’s Worst Idea since it was provided to me on a samizdat basis, and I don’t want my source to get into trouble. 

Courtesy of that source, here’s a portion of an email that was sent last month to all employees of a Midwest-based company:

“As part of our ongoing efforts to increase levels of employee engagement, we are introducing the ‘Executive Partnering Program.’  Those selected will have the opportunity to spend three full working days partnering with a member of our executive team.  Over that time, the selectees will be able to see what life is like for their executive partners—the types and numbers of issues that our executives deal with each day and how they go about doing so.   As a result, the selectees will have a better understanding of the bigger picture and be better able to connect the dots between what they do on the job and our overall business results.”

While the impulse to want people to have a better handle on the bigger picture is a correct one, pretty much everything else about this program seems to me to be about 180-degrees off kilter.  Why?  Because the presumption that informed the birthing of this program seems to have been this:  If only our people understood how difficult our executives’ jobs are, they would be better at their jobs.  And while I suppose that’s true as far as it goes, it also exhibits a level of self-absorption not seen since Donald Trump last took a selfie while looking into a mirror. 

With just a few minor editing changes, that paragraph could just as easily been used to announce the company’s “Take Your Child To Work Day!” program.  And that’s the real problem with this program—its condescending tone.   Grown-ups don’t like to be treated like children, and their antennae are finely tuned to pick up such signals.

The good news is that another set of different—but still minor—editing changes can salvage things.  Instead of having “selectees” spend three days tagging along with an executive, have those same executives tag along with the selectees, i.e., the people they are supposed to be leading.  Let the executives see the types and numbers of issues their selectees deal with each day.  Help the executives become better able to connect the dots between what they do on the job and overall business results.

Net net: The Midwest-based company is this close to a good idea.  Trouble is, the one they’re going with is exactly wrong.