NINE SCORPIONS IN A BOTTLE and other workday issues!


It’s said that the former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes referred to the nine sitting Supreme Court justices as ‘Nine Scorpions in a Bottle”!.   Why?  Because each is expected to render an opinion and thus form the basis of a vote for or a dissent against the issue or case at hand.  Have you ever had a staff meeting and felt that you were dealing with people that were motivated solely by their desire to destroy you?  It may be that they just have strong opinions (i.e. they are a scorpion)!

I touched on this subject in my post ‘House of Cards’ (great for re-reading).  I’m starting to think that we need to earn a psychology degree along with our accounting degrees.  What I do know is that there are so many problems that can be avoided by structured and routine communications between you and your people.

I subscribe to some newsletters, both written by business coaches.  Their newsletters are of the ‘Dear Abby’ format where employees and employers write-in about their work problems.  One of the most common themes I see is the one about ‘my manager won’t manage us’ or ‘we have too many meetings’.   Sometimes the complaint is ‘we never meet’.

As a controller, no matter the size of your staff, you must communicate with them on a regular basis.  However, even more difficult is to hear the dissenters during these meetings.  Even the people who feel it cannot be done.  Have you ever been involved in a major software or system upgrade or new implementation.  When you start meeting with the users of the system, you will almost invariably meet with strong opposition.  Can your staff also carry the flag for that implementation and help you meet that resistance.  Do they know enough about why it is important.  If you find you do not want to deploy them as your ‘PR’ people because they really don’t understand the why or the how……………you have failed to communicate it properly.

Are you reading the accounting magazines, articles, blogs, etc. all talking about the changes we are going to see as we evolve towards the cloud?  Are you seeing articles about why we shouldn’t trust the cloud?  What about articles asking if you really need to buy a new server? Print these, or cut them out of a magazine and present it at your next staff meeting.  Get opinions,  and ask for their frank opinion.  These kinds of subjects are not fraught with politics or hidden agendas.  They are what they seem to be and the issues they raise…………you are going to be faced with them sooner rather than later.

‘Nine Scorpions in a Bottle’………….how does the Supreme Court ever render a decision?  At some point there is consensus for them at the end of the day.  They render their opinions, deliver their verdict and move on.  So it is in our line of work.  There is room for philosophical discussions regarding accounting methods and practices.  Spend some time hearing what your staff people really think.  It’s just another learning process for everyone.


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