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Beating The “Whatever” Factor

Teflon.  It’s on the ears, the hands, the eyes.  “Whatever” Teflon  – Yeah, I care but there’s a limit.

You know how it goes.  There’s an issue with a recovery.  But it’s got a little hair on it.

Take your best shot.  Go ahead, make my day.  Fill your boots.  Whatever…

It’s all flowing from the same root and it is a more recent development – perhaps a symptom of  our age of skimming.  No one reads anymore.  Many have a limited tolerance for detail – they just want it to happen.

But what needs to happen, what has to happen is more complex than formerly.  So one trend is going one way – the need for speed and ease – and the accelerating level of detail to power through getting projects accomplished.

We send off venue requirements when facilitating an event.  If it goes to a “professional” site – a hotel, a private club – the recipients – catering offices handle it.  There are particular requirements developed over long experience that make for an effective meeting.  Some, like diet restrictions, are essential to the well being of attendees.

When we arrive, we see what has been done.  In some cases, we see that the catering group has “their” way of handling the instructions.  If what we ask for, like round tables, are available there and fit within their usual practice, they directly provide it.  We want a large whiteboard 4 X 16.  Most places just produce something approximate.  “We couldn’t find one of those [they are commonly available through AV companies], so how’s this? [pointing to one of those combo white board screen cabinet jobs]”   Whatever….

Others are real pro’s.  they keep going until they have it to the letter.  The very best I’ve ever seen is the White Oaks Conference Centre in Niagara Falls.  Wow.  These guys do lots of meetings.  Lots of meetings.  They’ve actually taken the time and built the processes to deliver what facilitators and convenors of corporate gatherings need and want.    They don’t stop until they have exactly what is asked for.  And they don’t “thrutch” it.

This latter is a term from British mountaineering.  It means when you get to a rough patch, and don’t have an elegant approach or technique, you just “thrutch” it – get through it any way you can.  Many many service organizations do much of their “finishing” by that means – really any means.

Beyond not getting what is needed is at a deeper dismissive level.  “whatever” says, I care – to the extent I am required to care.  I’m paying you attention – as much as I feel like it.  I will serve you – but there’s a limit – and you’re there.

The “Whatever” syndrome is a reflection of our society’s swing away from compelled action.  We have suffered the excesses of people telling other people what to do.  Our era has righted that by giving the “told” the conviction to fight back.  With the conviction of the righteous  – folks can refuse to be directed.

“Whatever” is anti-community.  One can only do “whatever” if she is sure she will never need to rely on me for anything.  The rock of reciprocity we rely on in communities is now gone.  I will never see you again.  So I can afford to blow you off.

And “whatever” is a cowardly backhanded way of asserting that.  It dismisses someone trying to be particular about how something should be done for them or with them.  Those specifics are not always just to appease their petty preference!

“Whatever” means “Your fussy preferences are not mine.  If you’re lucky, I’ll give you the basics, do what I provide for everyone.  Beyond that,  look after yourself.”

However, what is dismissed as persnickety particularity is often not.  It is necessity.  If I have a peanut allergy, that is a life and death matter to me.  If I say I need a white board of a certain size, a centerpiece of the experience I am designing keys on the availability of that equipment.

And more – the “Whatever” person is now gone.  They have inflicted the cost and the damage of ‘Thrutching it” to get what is required onto me.   They never wear the cost of their neglect – unless the laws of karma hold true.

The antidote to the “whatever” factor  is engagement, empathy, and empowerment.

Engagement:  If I am just another data point in an endless stream, you don’t mean anything more to her than any other person or thing. “Efficiency” in the name of customer service has come to be measured out in time per service incident.  Throughput is everything.  But, if she has the disposition, training and room to come full face with me, listen to me and make note of what I am asking, not just checking off a box, then a vastly more satisfying experience will be shared by both of us.

Empathy:  If  If she can identify with you and your situation – and make it hers, care increases.  It’s harder to blow you away.

Empowerment:  If she has the power to implement flexibility and discretion to accommodate you, it’s more likely that she will.  Confronted with a limited menu and no command of resources, she won’t.

“Whatever” is not an idle affliction.  The costs of making up for it are significant, in actual dollar terms as the customer grits their teeth and escalates until their point is taken account of.  In customer impression, which once soured, is impossible to restore.  And reputationally, as the victim tells and retells the story of “Whatever”  to whoever will listen.  And they do….


Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

What’s Our Business?

Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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