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No Tricks, Just Tofurkey

Tue, 11/17/2009 - 5:14am
by Anna Wells, Editor, IMPO

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Ever. In fact, I find watching sports and eating carbohydrates to be two of the most enjoyable activities in which to indulge during winter. Each year I pretend to help with the cooking, eat, doze, and then force my grown adult brothers to watch the cartoon version of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The running family joke as the platters of food are spread out across multiple tables is directed at me and my vegetarianism. Invariably each year, someone makes a joke about whether or not I will be eating a “tofurkey.”

Now, I am pretty sure this food item exists somewhere—a tofu-based bird type construct to serve as a replacement to the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal—but I have never, ever seen it. In my mind, it exists like an urban legend. I’ve cooked and consumed my fair share of tofu, but at no point did I ever generate a desire to mold the watery goo into the shape of an animal. Why? Because it’s so obviously fictional—it’s not real, and everybody knows it. There has never been a point throughout the 12 years since I put down my last steak sandwich where I wanted to be lulled, through trickery, into consuming a costumed animal equivalent. I’ll fill up on mashed potatoes, thanks.

I found myself considering this a few days ago when I confronted a job task that I find to be particularly dreadful and tedious. While considering how I could pass it off onto IMPO’s associate editor, Joel Hans, I engaged my creative positioning chip: How would Tom Sawyer get Joel to paint his fence?

As I mulled over the ways in which I could phrase the request in order to make it sound less miserable, I started to feel ridiculous, specifically because Joel is a smart person and would see right through my crafty delivery.

Why dress up tofu as a turkey and then expect that nobody is going to notice?

I enjoyed a recent interview with the surgical equipment technology company, OmniGuide, of Cambridge, MA (see IMPO’s November/December issue for the full story), where we discussed company culture and the impact of change. One of the most interesting points we discussed had to do with continuous improvement, and the difficulty in convincing some team members that the company was not going to ‘improve’ them right out of a job.

OmniGuide’s approach was consistent communication and engagement between management and employees—no tricks, no lies, no bribery… no tofurkey. In the end, it’s just a bit easier to digest.

Nobody likes to bear bad news, delegate unsavory tasks, or propose major, potentially disruptive changes, but a direct approach will perhaps save you some uncomfortable moments later. The other great thing about being direct: If you’re in a situation like OmniGuide’s, your skeptical employees will place a little faith in you, even if they’re not fully onboard yet with the new projects. Being a straight shooter gives a little credence to your word, and that’s a huge gain with a potentially frustrated and cynical recession-hardened workforce.

Thankfully, my parents never tried to fake me out or question my dietary choices. Little do they know that when everyone else is drifting off into a tryptophan-induced catnap, I’m sneaking extra pie.

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