Collusion Levels – four tales

Level One –  a tale of fake niceness

A lecturer hands out feedback sheets at the end of a college course. Students know their exams will be marked by this lecturer who has also marked their term-time coursework. Despite assurances the feedback sheets are anonymous and will only be analysed once they have been put into a computer, students don’t wish to risk their handwriting being recognised. Although many students have critical feedback to give on the quality of teaching, they hold back and even praise the lecturer and the course, just in case someone should recognise their handwriting before the exam. Just in case…

The course comes out after analysis as “excellent” with “praise across the board apart from one or two exceptions”.

The course leaders take this as a sign to continue delivering the course in much the same way. Disgruntled students mutter under their breath.

Level 2  – a tale of false revelation

A management team hold an away day to discuss what needs to change and improve in their business. The hotel conference room is well chosen with room for plenty of flip chart paper to be put up on walls. A facilitator breaks the ice, gets the conversation going and everyone is very honest. The news is by no means all good – in fact some radical and very direct truths are shared and “captured” on the walls, in what is described by all as a very frank and revolutionary day. At the end of the day the facilitator is praised and thanked for drawing out the real issues and capturing them. One member of the team takes all the flip charts away and gets an assistant to type them up into a report. Everyone praises each other for their openness and honesty. The report is printed off, copied to everyone, filed away and then…nothing happens.

Level 3 – a tale of diluting

Two friends have a heart-to heart chat. One is being very honest with their friend about the state of their health. A recent doctor’s appointment yielded some worrying results with a warning that one friend really had to change their lifestyle – diet, giving up smoking and cutting significantly down on drinking. The one friend is telling the other they have to follow the doctor’s advice this time as their health is not in a good state at all. The other friend agrees. She leaves the conversation and buys an exercise video and a diet book. After a week, she has reduced smoking from 40 to 35 a day, watched the exercise video three times and has cut down from two large glasses of wine to one per day, with a bottle on each day of the weekend. Both friends meet up and one friend congratulates the other on the “big steps”. The other coughs and looks out of breath…

Level 4 – a tale of reverting and fading

Having decluttered his office and started to file his inbox in terms of priority, the managing director is now on top of things and customers chasing orders has fallen significantly. He no longer makes social calls at work and focuses on prioritising the business while at work. It’s all working well and cash flow is improving as payments in and out start to flow more effectively. But old habits die hard and his secretary and other colleagues are scared of him and his temper. Soon enough the phone rings and its an old school friend. They chat for an hour. During this time the post arrives and there’s a lot of it. Without thinking, as he chats away to his old friend, he takes the pile of post and puts it on a filing cabinet, not realising he will forget he put it there when he puts the phone down. At the end of the call, the phone rings again and he deals with a problem, but his mind is really on the conversation with the old friend. More calls follow, texts – some work-based and some social – he’s in the “phone and text” zone!. A week later, some customers are chasing their orders, which sit, forgotten on the filing cabinet. Within a month, the manager is back to his old ways, and the office is as cluttered as ever…

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