Pride Goes Before the Fall

“Pride goes before the fall” is conventional wisdom, often told to children to help them understand that arrogance will generally come around and bite you. The same conventional wisdom can be applied to corporations, especially in the slowly-recovering economy. I’ve had two conversations about corporate arrogance over the past week, so the resulting blog post stems from these discussions. Namely, the the companies in question are about to fall flat on their faces, due in part to their arrogance.Why is their pride about to lead to a fall?

Arrogance is off-putting. It’s a well-known fact that no one likes a bragger, so rolling up in your Lambo while the client is driving their old reliable Honda and then bragging about your new Ferrari sitting in the garage generally leaves a bad taste in the client’s mouth. This can foster an attitude of wanting you to fail, just so that you’ll be brought back down to reality. Do you really want your clients resenting you from the start? It goes back to knowing your customers. One company mentioned in the recent discussion with a colleague related that a corporation wanted to get more money from a client. The President of the client’s company always road coach, drove a sensible car, and made it clear that he was just a hard-working, normal individual. The corporation flew a private jet to the client’s headquarters, signaling that they were superior in work and lifestyle to their client. How do you think this affects the business relationship?

Arrogance reveals incongruence. As in the story related above, the corporation’s arrogance showed that their interests were not really aligned with the client’s interests. If the client is trying to make wise financial decisions to try to weather storm, a corporation’s careless spending does not signal an opportunity for a strong business partnership. Similarly, if you don’t treat your front-line employees well, a client might worry that those people will jump ship. This again signals a poor foundation for a business relationship, since the goals are not aligned from the top-down. The same is true of inter-company interactions. Top management may say they are committed to building and maintaining a talented team of satisfied individuals, but they can’t do that if they’re constantly flashing six-figure bonuses and denying reasonable compensation and perks to lower-level employees. Are you really keeping the company’s and employees’ best interests in mind when laying people off due to “budget restrictions”, while taking a huge bonus and buying fancy toys? This inconsistency leads top performers to seek an environment where top management’s goals are more in line with their personal goals.

Arrogance leads to isolation. Both discussions lead to comments that employees were leaving the company left and right, since management didn’t value the employees. These employees took their customers with them, since the corporations weren’t doing anything to make the customer feel valued. Guess what… with no customers, and no employees, you don’t actually have a successful corporation! The big bonuses and flashy lifestyle that accompany a big paycheck rely on the “little people”… you know, the customers and employees? If you’re so amazing all by yourself, customers and employees are happy to go to a place where they’re needed and appreciated. Since arrogance is off-putting, people will try to get away from the discomfort, leaving an arrogant corporation without a means to support the “stuff” that made them arrogant in the first place.

It’s one thing to have options, which makes you confident and successful. It’s another thing to be so full of yourself that you think you can’t fail, which causes you to alienate customers and talented employees. Recent discussions about corporate arrogance have proven that pride really does go before the fall.

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