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Examiner
  • Jeff Fox: More tax-payer funded foolishness

  • It’s happened to all of us at some time.



    The upper-ups have targeted the office for bonding, team-building or, heaven forbid, aligning our synergies and energies to the organization’s true north, positively impacting stakeholder outcomes.

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  • It’s happened to all of us at some time.
    The upper-ups have targeted the office for bonding, team-building or, heaven forbid, aligning our synergies and energies to the organization’s true north, positively impacting stakeholder outcomes.
    Yes, there are people who talk like that.
    These things are always awkward. Kick off the event by telling one thing about yourself that no one in the group knows. It’s an icebreaker. There’s the classic “fall back and trust us to catch you” bonding exercise.
    My personal favorite – and I have endured this – is to get everyone in the group standing on a big log. Now, without setting foot on the ground, rearrange yourselves chronologically by birthday. And no groping. HR is probably taping this.
    Why, friends? Why? These things are painfully awkward, and anyone with a shred of dignity wants to run and hide. Is that helpful?
    But the corporate chiefs understandably want to shake things up now and then, and there are consultants selling retreats, secret wisdom and the path to profit, so what the heck?
    The problem is the government. It’s always trying to glom onto whatever trendy notions the private sector has already thrown out with last season’s fashions. But these eager beavers are tone deaf and never get it right. Besides, it’s one thing if the company wastes its money, but something entirely different if the government wastes our money.
    This brings us to the IRS, which is getting entirely deserved grief for politically boneheaded decisions that at the very least trampled on the idea of fair play. Oh, and for wasting piles of money on corporate-like conferences. Piles of money: $50 million for at least 220 conferences over three years. The tawdry details are sadly predictable, like the speaker paid $17,000 to talk about “leadership through art.”
    In other words, stuff that in hindsight no one will be proud of. Lots of potential for embarrassing YouTube moments. Lots of “what on Earth were you thinking?”
    Not only is $50 million too much, but 10 cents is too much. This is a government agency, not a business. Dispense with the foolishness. Leave that to the experts in the private sector. And go sharpen that government-issued pencil again. It’s still got a little life in it.
    There is a national, professional conference I attended yearly for about the first 15 years of my career. It was excellent: presenters with practical advice, rousing luncheon speeches from industry graybeards calling us to our better selves, and over-a-pitcher conversations that etched out just what the standards and expectations of the craft of journalism ought to be.
    And no dippy team-building. Pick your seminars, sit down, take notes, ask questions, learn something.
    Who paid for that? Like most of us there, I did. I figured it was an investment in my career. (OK, less than a wise choice.) If I could catch the editor in a good mood and the editor could catch the publisher in a good mood, maybe the paper would pay for the conference registration, but that was rare. It’s life at a small newspaper. So I’d burn a couple of vacation days and a weekend, and pay for airfare, food, registration and three nights at a high-dollar hotel.
    Page 2 of 2 - My wife would grumble at a four-figure expense, but I argued it was worth it. I’m very glad I did it.
    So those of us who pay our way have little patience for this IRS nonsense. These clowns wasted money that wasn’t theirs and, by all appearances, learned nothing. And so it goes.
    Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @FoxEJC.
     
     
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