Monday, January 7, 2013

Hidden Institutional Problems Easy to Publicly Deny

Part of the difficulty the common man faces – and on any situation where you are not on the inside, you qualify as the common man – is that there are built in institutional biases often traditionally necessary to that undertaking, but also quite often unfair.

Unfair?  In what way?  The playing field is not level.  Let me give you an example drawn from business experience.  Anyone who has done business traveling and has been involved in contractual work or sales of a product knows that quite often the best negotiations and sales are done in a bar!  The Good Old Boys gather in an informal setting that is part of the implicit formal structure, loosen up a few inhibitions with booze, tell a few jokes in a relaxed atmosphere and … then seal the deal.


So, in what sense is this problematic?  In the sense that many are not included in the little get together.  They may be part of the “competitive” presentations, but they do not have access to the behind the scenes bargaining where the decisions and agreements are often worked out.

Now, who might not be included?  Depends.  In the traditional setting, those Good Old Boys are called that because they are men.  More restrictively, they are white men in American culture.

How does this change to give everyone of merit an equal chance?  Look at the new American Congress.  There are more women and people of color than ever before.  Our President is of mixed racial heritage.  Every time you turn on the TV and see images of intelligence and capability in anyone who is not white and male, it makes a difference, especially to the young who are much more accepting than prior generations.

But, don’t think it does not still exist.  And … don’t think that it is not fair.


  1. Oh, I do agree with you. Being on the inside is very important to be in with a chance. In so many situations.

  2. My personal experience over a life time of selling various things is contrary to your observation. I used the bars for personal relaxation with friends and scrupulously excluded business contacts. There is another colleague of mine Nandu who will bear this out as being his personal experience too. Perhaps it is a cultural difference or just that, most of both of our working lives was with a British organisation.

    The old boy club syndrome if at all, exists only in our political and bureaucratic life. And that is the institution that is under attack from the middle class of India.

    Being fair is a different cup of tea altogether. What you observe happening in the USA is happening here too with more minorities getting to be visibly successful in all walks of life. A lot more needs to be done nevertheless but it is happening.

  3. This has always presented a problem for LDS members who don't drink. In China they are insistent that everyone drink to "seal the deal". They often get offended when LDS members refuse to drink alcohol.

  4. @Rummuser

    My experience with my own business over the past 20 years is not consistent with this, either. However, it was a part of my experience with work for a larger entrepreneurial corporation in Silicon Valley in the 1980's, and much of it was with the formation of partnerships between companies, not the sales per se. In other words, that is where the forging of familiarity and alliances often happened when the larger corporation such as Sun or Microsoft would bring the smaller partner in on a job.

    These sessions were the informal gatherings where creative brainstorming would happen and then the formal process of inclusion in formal meetings would happen, invitation extended in the informal setting.

    We have a controversy over our port commission doing business of this type in Houston strip clubs, since the funding for these "business gatherings" is by tax payer funding. Several have been fired and one has left the country as this has come to light.

  5. @Maria Perry Mohan

    Yes, there are many ways to be on the outside, even if what you have to offer is very worthwhile.

  6. @Delirious

    I can see how the LDS members would have difficulty with this. Absolutely!

  7. But Fos - bidness is simply bidness -and bidness fossils are reluctant to change! Just as gay unions are much less offensive to our kids generation - so to will the business cycle be dragged kicking and screaming into the new world. Change is the ever larger snowball roaring downhill at breakneck speed.

  8. @shackman

    Absotively and posilutely the case! Most of the time it is not all that nefarious. It is only when it is coupled with negative reasons, like racism or sexism. But, evolution happens nonetheless and it is happening right before our very eyes.

  9. I love that word - nefarious - just sounds so deliciously evil.

  10. @shackman

    Yeah, one of my favorites. Kind of the Sam Spade type of opponent.


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